Oman’s Cultural Heritage

When I lived in Oman in the late 1970s it was often described as a cultural desert. There were no museums, no art galleries and no theatres. There was just one cinema in Bait al Falaj called the Star which mainly screened Hindi movies for migrant workers, though I do recall seeing a James Bond film there once (Moonraker?). Music concerts were a rarity. Sister Sledge (or was it The Three Degrees?) were scheduled to perform at the Intercontinental Hotel but the show had to be cancelled at the last moment since they were unaccompanied females and could not obtain visas to enter the country.

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Painting by Salim Al Salami on sale for OMR 845 at Ghalya’s Museum of Modern Art in Muscat.

On my short revisit to Oman earlier this year I was pleased to note that the cultural scene is much improved. I toured five museums and art galleries just within the Muscat/Muttrah area. No doubt there are more in the wider Capital Area and elsewhere in Oman. There is even a Royal Opera House which looks very grand indeed. Oman is still a very conservative country but they are proud of the their cultural heritage and have made the most of what they have.

Here are a few of the paintings, photos and exhibits which caught my eye during my look around the museums.

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An old watchtower on the Corniche between Muscat and Muttrah has been opened to the public. There are nice views from the top.
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Photo by Hamed Al Geilani on show at Bait Al Zubair, Muscat.
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‘Fishing Trip, Taqah’ by the same photographer.
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‘Masirah Sunset’ again by Hamed Al Geilani. 
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‘Membam Village’ oil on canvas by Bader Al Atbi on show at the National Museum.
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Eight hundred year old gravestones belonging to Sultan al-Wathiq, son of the Rasulid Sultan of Yemen, who ruled Dhofar from 1293 to 1311CE.  The stones are on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London to the National Museum in Muscat. In my opinion they should be donated permanently to Oman where they will be better appreciated and would be well looked after in this first class museum. 
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Niche (mihrab) from the al-Uweyna Mosque in Saih al-Hail village on display in the National Museum, Muscat.
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Gate of ash-Shibak Fort, Ibra, 1126AH/1714 CE on display at the National Museum. The carving features calligraphic and floral motifs together with a representation of the British Coat of Arms, signifying the strong commercial and political ties between Oman and India during that period.
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A portrait of Sultan Qaboos during his younger days.

 

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