Since ancient times, Omani women have adorned themselves with kohl, a tradition deeply ingrained in Omani culture.
Recognizing the significance of kohl as an intangible cultural heritage, and in alignment with the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Youth's commitment to preserving such traditions, preparations are underway to register the Arabic kohl element as a common feature in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at UNESCO. In pursuit of this, the "Omani Kohl: Skills of Industry and Aesthetics of Use" workshop was launched in Masirah. It was a two day event organised not only to generate interest among the young Omani but also to ensure that the knowledge of application is preserved.
During the workshop, Jokha Al-Araimiyah spoke about the extraction process of the basic material for kohl from shark liver, the method of its creation, the tools involved, and its health and aesthetic applications. Craftswomen Hamida Al-Wahaibiyya and Khushaira Al-Wahaibiyah shared their personal experiences in kohl production, providing insights into the field of investing in Omani kohl.
Whale or shark liver kohl serves as one of the primary materials for producing eye kohl. It is melted over a fire in a pot, and the resulting oil is filtered from the liver residue. A cotton piece is then twisted, dipped in shark liver oil, set on fire, and immediately covered with clay pots known as "Al-Jahlah."
The burning of cotton generates black smoke, locally referred to as "kohl smoke" or "purple smoke." The cotton is burned repeatedly until smoke accumulates on the pot's surface. It is then scraped, mixed with butter extracted from cow’s milk, and combined with water until a soft consistency is achieved. The resulting mixture is collected into small balls called "dublat." This traditional process was followed by women in the governorates of Al-Wusta, North Al-Sharqiyah, and South Al-Sharqiyah.
Siraj Abu Fateela’s kohl, on the other hand, is crafted from the ashes of the Sufi Siraj wick. The ashes are collected, filtered with a light cloth until smooth, mixed with cow’s ghee and a little water, and formed into balls known locally as "dababil," with the singular being "dubla." This method is preserved in Al Dakhiliyah Governorate.
Dry kohl is imported from Aden in stone-like pieces, soaked in water for seven days, crushed until smooth, and augmented with the roots of a white-flowered plant locally called "faha" after burning, drying, and grinding. Alternatively, charcoal from the roots of the Sagot tree or date pits may be used. The mixture is then combined with water, covered with a cloth, and left for approximately two weeks until it dries and softens, after which it is collected and stored as kohl. This technique is prevalent in the Dhofar Governorate.