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Literature of Oman

Oman’s literary heritage is extensive. Most written texts used to centre on the subjects of religion, history and culture. One of the earliest surviving manuscripts dates from the 9th century: al-Siyar al-Umaniya (Omani Lives) by Abu al-Muthir al-Salt al-Bahlawi. Ansab al-Arab (Arab Genealogies), attributed to Salama al-Awtabi, is of great value for reconstructing the history of the tribes in Oman. Al-Awtabi lived in Sohar in the 11th century. Other important writers for reconstructing the cultural history and genealogy are Oman Sirhan ibn Said, who purportedly wrote Kashf al-Ghumma (Dispeller of Grief, later published as Annals of Oman in 1728) and 19th century Salil ibn Raziq (History of the Imams and Sayyids of Oman).

Since the 1970s, there have been several attempts to found a writer’s organization. The National Cultural Club was founded in 1975. Early magazines include The New Culture and Algadeer, founded by Ahmed al-Falahi. In 2008, the Omani Society of Writers and Literati, which publishes The Noon, was established. It also promotes Omani literature on the international stage. Nizwa is another literary and cultural magazine that aims to encourage Omani writers. It also publishes work by writers from other Arab countries as well as Arabic translations of texts from other languages. Its editor-in-chief is poet and prose writer Saif al-Rahbi. He also works as a journalist for Banipal, a magazine for modern Arab literature translated into English, which is published in the United Kingdom. In 2008, the newspaper Times of Oman started publishing Beacon, another literary magazine.

In 2007, with the support of the Emirates Foundation in Abu Dhabi, the prestigious International Prize for Arabic Fiction was established in association with Booker’s. In 2009, there were 131 entries from sixteen countries, including one Omani author. The aim is to reward excellence in contemporary creative Arab writing and to encourage wider readership of quality Arabic writing internationally. It also promotes publication of Arabic literature in other major languages.

Poetry has always been the major literary form in Arab culture and poets enjoy great respect and esteem. There are many well-known contemporary poets, such as Abdullah al-Taiey (who was the Minister of Information in the early 1970s), Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali al-Khalili, Abu Surur Humayd al-Jamii, Mahmud al-Khusaybi, Hilal bin Badr and Muhammad Amin Abdullah. The Ministry of Heritage and Culture organizes an annual Poetry Festival that aims to encourage Omani poets and to promote Omani poetry. The festival is popular and attracts leading poets from other Arab countries.

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IBN RUSHD/AVERROES (1126 – 1198)

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