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Crafts in Oman

(Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP)

Traditional crafts such as shipbuilding, metal, copper, silver- and goldsmithery, weaving, embroidery, and pottery making have always played an important role in the urban, rural and pastoral economy of Oman. The skills were handed down from one generation to the next. Some date back as far as the 3rd millennium BCE. The country preserves and encourages craftsmanship, which is viewed as part of Oman’s cultural heritage, despite the fact that craftwork, for example silver work, is executed by migrants.

Silver jewellery is produced in a large variety of forms and decorations. Bracelets, rings, necklaces and hair or forehead decorations are the most popular, which are chiselled, engraved or embossed with geometric and floral patterns. Besides a beautiful and personal adornment, jewellery for women is also an investment, which can be brought to market in times of financial need. Mainly for this reason silver is gradually being replaced by gold jewellery and other decorative items.

Throughout the centuries, wool production of sheep, goat and camel hair has provided the inhabitants with mats, bags, clothes, tent lining and other useful, warm and long lasting products. Bedouin women still mostly do the weaving; settled (hadar) men also work with ground looms, and the pit loom in particular. Motifs are mostly geometrical and resemble decorative Bedouin patterns all over Arabia, although there is a distinctive Omani touch. The dominant colours are black, red, and white.

The government, represented by the Public Authority of Craft Industries, sponsored a series of Craft Revitalisation Projects to encourage and support traditional artisans, including the Omani Heritage Gallery, the Silver Revitalisation Project and the Copper Revitalisation Project. The aim of the Authority is to develop handicrafts. Training programmes for craftsmen enhance their skills in order to develop quality products that are in demand from consumers. Craft centres have been established in various parts of the Sultanate to protect the crafts, for example in al-Dakhiliya and Musandam for weavers and potters, and in al-Sharqiya for the production of wooden ship models and handmade carpets.

 

 

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