Houseways: ‘Homespaces’ Away from Home

plans by Maria Cristina Hidalgo, https://www.mariacristinah.com/

This essay focuses on areas which are perceived as a home. For both picnics and camping, all the general understandings of etiquette followed in houses apply although usually everyone takes on the role as host to some degree. For example, rather than the host pushing people to eat or drink, when any person opens the coolbox, they will act like a host (asking each person what they would like) before they take something to drink. Food that is opened is passed around before the person who opened the package takes any. The man who is cooking might ask a man who comes late to bring fresh bread or more supplies such as water although no one would ever ask a “guest” to bring anything to one’s house.

Further, the cook decides when to eat, but unlike inside a home, in which the hosting family must do all the work, all the people should share by clearing space on the mat, setting out a plastic cover, getting the hot sauce, cutting the limes, etc. And people should, of their own accord, help with the clean-up.

In general, picnicking in open space means creating a private salle. Dhofaris on picnics see themselves as inhabiting a homespace which is inviolate. The space is always clearly defined either by bodies (a group of women sitting in a tight circle) or mats; if there are women, the space must never be approached unless there is specific, immediate need. Men will approach other groups of men to ask for information or share food, but not a group of woman. Cars are always parked to block the groups from view.

Some families share one large mat; other families might make two seating areas, one near the car and one at more of a distance. The two spaces act as salle and majlis; as in a house, small children will act as messengers and carriers and have freedom of both mats and the space between them.  

 The exact amount of space depends on the landscape. The zone under temporary control of the family might be very large or, in crowded places like beaches on the night of the full moon, might only encompass a few meters more than the mat with the car at an angle chosen for privacy. In open areas like the desert or near-desert open spaces, people should camp out of sight of others.

Government- and hand-built straha (“hut”) are important in that they are roofed; shade is essential in Dhofar for most of the year. Both kinds of shelters are first come-first serve. Even if a man made the structure himself, if someone has parked in front of it and set up camp, the builder has no recourse and must wait until that person has left. Sometimes, men will leave bundles of wood, their blankets and some supplies in a shelter and go fishing; no one will take the space or steal the provisions.  

Once the car is parked in front; the shelter is treated like a person’s house whether it is occupied for a few hours or days. As with picnics, the car acts as the bab, the gate in the wall around the house. No one will come nearer than the car without calling out loudly and waiting to be greeted. Normally, even if the person is invited to come closer, they will stay on the far side of the car and explain what they want, to ask for something or give away food. Since there are no internal divisions in strahas, the space is like a salle and a man will usually not accept to sit down or come close unless he is a close friend.

Camping is slightly different as there are three layers while strahas and picnics have only the dichotomy of being outside (the far side of the cars, mats or circle of bodies) and inside (where the people are sitting).

The first layer is where the cars are parked, an area that functions like a hosh. Anyone can walk on the far side of the cars without acknowledging/ being acknowledged. On beaches, the area below the high tide mark is see as a free passageway. The passer-by might lift his hand or call out, but a man walking next to the water or beyond the cars is like a man walking on the far side of a house wall. A stranger who approaches a camping area and needs help will not come closer than the cars. For example, he will stand on the far side and call out his request for a tow or a tow-rope.

The second space, like a majlis, is the public area for friends and family, usually delineated by mats in the space bounded by the cars and whatever natural features are used such as the ocean, wadi walls, rocks and drop offs. Once a man has approached, called out and been invited “in,” he may join the group and sit on the mat. If he is older, younger men will offer him their chairs or pillows to lean on. The new-comer, as in a majlis, will be offered whatever there is to eat or drink.

The third space, corresponding to the bedroom, is the area used for sleeping. This can be all or part of the inside of the shelter or the area closest to the overhang and is delineated by either piled or set out sleeping mats, pillows, bags of clothing, etc. This zone should never be acknowledged or approached by anyone who is not spending the night; sleeping bags, blankets and personal gear are treated as invisible. A man might reach over and take his blanket to use as a pillow to lean against, but no one else should touch it unless the owner offers it although food, juice, soda, water and the accoutrements for tea are available to everyone.

Safety on picnics and while camping is first and foremost about wild animals: scorpions and snakes in sandy and rocky places, wolves and hyenas in unpopulated areas. The site has to be chosen with care and a fire needs to be lit after dark. Foodstuffs need to be put in cars or well-packed and placed near the fire/ sleeping people to keep them safe from foxes. Animal attacks are very rare but keeping a fire going is essential in areas away from towns.

Example of picnic site on a beach- note cooking fire is away from mat and cars are parked to provide privacy

Model

Examples of camping sites

 

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Bibliographies on topics connected to Dhofar, Oman

(photo by S. B.)

Bibliography of the Modern South Arabian languages, compiled by Janet Watson and Miranda Morris, updated October 2021

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/345983960_Bibliography_of_the_Modern_South_Arabian_languages_Compiled_by_Janet_Watson_and_Miranda_Morris

Bibliographies I have compiled

Houseways

Pre-historical and Historical Houseways in the Dhofar Region: Selected References

Foodways

Updated bibliography from my research on Foodways in Southern Oman

Selected Bibliography: Animals, Birds and Fish in Southern Oman

What I’ve Been Reading: Food, Cooking, Cuisine, Culture, Anthropology, & History

General

Bibliography of Works Consulted for Research on Dhofar, Oman

Annotated Bibliography of Texts Pertaining to the Dhofar Region of Oman

Short bibliography of books about Dhofar in Arabic

Teaching Literature

Selected Bibliography: Primary and Secondary Texts for Literature Teachers on the Arabian Peninsula

I am pleased to announce the publication of my essay “Questions about Food and Ethics”

“Questions About Food and Ethics,” in Emanations: When a Planet was a Planet. Brookline, MA: International Authors, 2021. 403-408.

(photo by Salwa Hubais)

selection from “Questions about Food and Ethics”

Is there a benefit to stating kind intentions? Should you explain that you planned to do something thoughtful (but couldn’t actually do it) or simply keep quiet? I would like to use this question as a starting point to think about how what’s “good” and “right” in terms of eating and disposing of food as perceptions can change dramatically between cultures.

What interests me about this topic is the question of whose ethics are you talking about? A behavior which makes perfect sense in one culture, looks odd in another. There is no way to resolve the issues with one ‘best’ answer, but I think it’s helpful to see examples of how ethical systems differ.

First, if I bring cookies to a picnic, I don’t want to open the package because if no one wants them the cookies will get soggy from the humidity and the cookies will be ‘wasted.’ This is not acceptable in Oman. I should open the box, pass the cookies around and then set them out for birds if no one eats them.

I don’t want to feed the birds, especially not my prized Fortnum and Mason cookies but in Dhofar it is shameful to bring something to a picnic/ group meeting and then try to leave with it. If you have brought any kind of prepared food or foodstuff, it should not return to your car and be brought back to your home. If I have brought cookies, either the box needs to be opened or I should give the unopened box to one of the men to give to his children.

A second example is that unwanted food is never spread on sand or dirt as that is seen as unkind to the animals. If there are no rocks, the food is left on pieces of plastic. A few times when I have tried to pick up the plastic that leftover food was placed on, not wanting to leave litter, I was told to leave it. The Gibali men in my research group pick up all the trash from campsites, but it is judged worse to put leftover food on sand than it is to leave it on plastic bags.

Leaving plastic on the ground is not just litter; when eaten by camels and cows, it can cause illness and death. But even a man who owns camels will leave food on a piece of plastic so foxes and birds can have ‘clean’ food, valuing the idea of making sure that the food is eaten, more than the idea of keeping the area clean and preventing a possible future harm.

Houseways: House construction, part 1

(photos by Onaiza Shaikh)

This is the first of two posts which show the stages of house construction in Dhofar. I am very grateful to Onaiza Shaikh for taking such clear and helpful photos of several houses to show the basic steps:

1 – prepare the plot by smoothing the ground and outlining the shape in white chalk

2 – excavating the footprint

3 – building a series of cement block squares that are painted with water-proof paint, then a rebar metal frame in placed inside and the inside is filled with liquid cement, then the surrounding space is re-filled with dirt

4 – creating the sub-base (plinth) and foundation slab by packing earth over the filled-in cement squares, then building up a low cement exterior wall (the outline of the house) and low cement block walls (the interior load-bearing walls), each of these sections are filled in packed earth then covered with a layer of cement – rebar is set into this foundation and sticks up from the smoothed cement base – the result is a base about one meter off the ground with smooth cement walls and a surface which is marked by the tops of cement blocks (6″ or more high) which show the outline of the interior walls

5 – building walls of cement block reinforced with columns of steel and cement (created from liquid cement that is poured into wooden forms constructed around the rebar)

6 – the house begins to take shape

(in second posting)

7 – poles are set up to support wooden forms for the ceilings/ roof/ floors of upper stories

8 – the second story is constructed

9 – the roof is poured using a stretch pumper and the roof wall is built

10 – the major construction is now finished and the house can stay in this unfinished state for months

11 – exterior finishing is added: plaster/ paint, windows and doors

12 – the boundary wall is built

Images for steps 1 – 3

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Images for steps 4 – 6

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Foodways: Photos for my presentation “The Costs and Benefits of Fishing in Southern Oman,” ‘Fish as Food’ conference, International Comm. on the Anthro. of Food and Nutrition

“The Costs and Benefits of Fishing in Southern Oman,” Dr. M. Risse

Fish as Food: Lifestyle and a Sustainable Future, International Commission on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition

hosted at the University of Liverpool, Sept 1-3, 2021, http://www.icaf2021.uk/

(photo by Onaiza Shaikh)

Below are a collection of photos to help document the types of boats used and the coastal areas. I am very grateful to Onaiza Shaikh, Hussein BaOmar, M. A. Al Awaid and S. B. for kindly giving me permission to use their photos to help illustrate cultural issues in Dhofar.

Fishing boats and dhows, photos by Onaiza Shaikh

Fishing boats and fish by Hussein BaOmar

Catching sardines and drying abalone by M. A. Al Awaid

Sardine catch and coastal areas by S. B

Foodways: Data for my presentation “The Costs and Benefits of Fishing in Southern Oman,” ‘Fish as Food’ conference, International Comm. on the Anthro. of Food and Nutrition

“The Costs and Benefits of Fishing in Southern Oman,” Dr. M. Risse

Fish as Food: Lifestyle and a Sustainable Future, International Commission on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition

hosted at the University of Liverpool, Sept 1-3, 2021, http://www.icaf2021.uk/

(photo by S. B.)

This post contains:

  • the abstract
  • data set discussed in the presentation
  • selected bibliography
  • list of seafood

Abstract

My presentation discusses two important questions about fishing economics: how much does it cost to catch fish and how does that expense create a social benefit for fishermen, regardless of the money earned from the catch? My research is based in Dhofar, the southern region of Oman, where I have been looking at the theme of generosity, including sharing food, for more than ten years. In this presentation I will explain how much a typical day and season of fishing costs a fisherman, as well as how giving away part of every catch creates a benefit that is more than monetary. Using interviews and personal experiences, I will explain how the cash outlay for gas, nets, bait, etc. is transformed into social, in addition to economic, capital for fishermen.

Data Set

To give an overview of the fishing industry from data collected by the Omani National Center for Statistics and Information (ONCSI), latest available yearly data is 2019, latest monthly data is April 2021:

  • renewed fishing licenses in Dhofar – 2,424 (33%, out of 7,266 for all of Oman)
  • new in Dhofar – 324 (20%, out of 1,607 for all of Oman)
  • renewed boat licenses in Dhofar – 998 (11%, out of 8,847 for all of Oman)
  • new boats in Dhofar – 57 (10%, out of 547 for all of Oman)
  • tons landed by traditional fishermen in Dhofar – 74,400 (14%, out of 550, 210 tons for all of Oman)

In other words, in 2019 in Dhofar 2,748 licensed fishermen using 1,055 boats caught 74,400 tons

Two other data points. First there is a wide seasonal variation because of the monsoon season: approximately 7,794 tons in October 2020 – 10,653 tons in December 2020 – 5,447 tons in February 2021

Secondly, at the last monthly data set available: April 2021: 8,401 tons were landed in Dhofar by traditional fishermen and the same month 1,392 tons landed by all commercial fishermen

information from the ONCSI at:

Selected References about Fish/ Fishing in Dhofar/ Oman (including cooking and historical texts)

In brief, there has been work done on the types of fish along the Omani coast (e.g. Al-Jufaili, Hermosa, Al-Shuaily and Al Mujaini 2010; Choudri, Baawain and Mustaque 2016, Harrison 1980; McKoy, Bagley, Gauthier and Devine 2009) and how fish are sold (e.g. Al-Marshudi and Kotagama 2006; Al Rashdi and Mclean 2014; William and Fidelity Lancaster 1995; “National Aquaculture Sector Overview-Oman” 2019; Omezzine 1998, Omezzine, Zaibet and Al-Oufi 1996; Siddeek, Fouda and Hermosa 1999).

Al-Hamad, Sarah. 2016. Cardamom and Lime: Flavors of the Arabian Gulf, the Cuisine of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the U.A.E. Singapore: IMM Lifestyle Books.

Al-Jufaili, Saud, Greg Hermosa, Sulaiman S. Al-Shuaily and Amal Al Mujaini. 2010. “Oman Fish Biodiversity.” Journal of King Abdulaziz University 21.1: 3-51.

Al-Marshudi, Ahmed Salim and Hemesiri Kotagama. 2006. “Socio-Economic Structure and Performance of Traditional Fishermen in the Sultanate of Oman.” Marine Resource Economics 21: 221-30.

Al Maskiry, Fawziya Ali Khalifa. 2004. A Taste to Remember, 3rd edition. Muscat: Al Nahda Press

Al Rashdi, K. and E. Mclean. 2014. “Contribution of Small-Scale Fisheries to the Livelihoods of Omani Women: A Case Study of the Al Wusta Governorate.” Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries: Navigating Change – Asian Fisheries Science Special Issue 27S: 135-149.

Campbell, Felicia. 2015. The Food of Oman: Recipes and Stories from the Gateway to Arabia. London: Andrew McMeel.

Carter, Henry. 1846. “The Ruins of El Balad.” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 16: 187-99.

—. 1845. “Notes on the Gara Tribe.” Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society: 195-201.

Choudri, B., Mahad Baawain, and Mustaque Ahmed. 2016. “An Overview of Coastal and Marine Resources and their Management in Sultanate of Oman.” Journal of Environmental Management and Tourism 7.1: 21-32.

Clements, Frank.  1977. “The Islands of Kuria Muria: A Civil Aid Project in the Sultanate of Oman Administered from Salalah, Regional Capital of Dhofar.” Bulletin (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies) 4.1: 37-39.

Cruttenden, Charles. 1838. “Journal of an Excursion from Morbat to Dyreez, the Principal Town of Dhofar.” Transactions of the Bombay Geographical Society 1: 184-88.

Ghazanfar, Shahina. 1998. “Status of the Flora and Plant Conservation in the Sultanate of Oman.” Biological Conservation 85: 287-295. 

Gilette, Maris. 2019. “Muslim Foodways,” in The Handbook of Food and Anthropology. Jakob Klein and James Watson, eds. London: Bloomsbury Academic. 48-73.

Haines, Stafford. 1939. “Memoir to Accompany a Chart of the South Coast of Arabia from the Entrance of the Red Sea to Misenat, in 50, 43, 25 E. Part I.” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 9: 125-56.

—. 1845. “Memoir of the South and East Coasts of Arabia: Part II.” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 15: 104-60.

Harrison, David. 1980. The Journal of Oman Studies: Special Report 2: The Oman Flora and Fauna Survey 1975. Muscat: Diwan of H. M. for Protocol.

Higgins, Andrew. 2011. With the S.A.S. and Other Animals: A Vet’s Experiences during the Dhofar War 1974. Barnsley: Pen and Sword Publishing.

Ibn al-Mujāwir. 2008. A Traveler in Thirteenth-Century Arabia: Ibn al-Mujāwir’s Tarikh al-Mustabir 19, Third Series, G. R. Smith, trans. London: Ashgate for the Hakluyt Society.

Ibn Battuta. 1929. Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354. H.A.R. Gibb, trans. London: Rutledge.

Janzen, Jorg. 2000. “The Destruction of Resources among the Mountain Nomads of Dhofar,” in The Transformation of Nomadic Society in the Arab East, University of Cambridge Oriental publications 58. Martha Mundy and Basim Musallam, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 160-75.

—. 1986. Nomads in the Sultanate of Oman: Tradition and Development in Dhofar. London: Westview Press.

The Journal of Oman Studies: Special Report 2: The Oman Flora and Fauna Survey 1975. Muscat: Diwan of H. M. for Protocol.

Kanafani, Aida Sami. 1979. Aesthetics and Ritual in the United Arab Emirates. unpublished dissertation, University of Texas at Austin.

Lancaster, William and Fidelity Lancaster.  1995. “Nomadic Fishermen of Ja’alân, Oman.” Nomadic Peoples 36/37: 227-244.

McKoy, John, Neil Bagley, Stéphane Gauthier, and Jennifer Devine. 2009. Fish Resources Assessment Survey of the Arabian Sea Coast of Oman – Technical Report 1. Auckland: Bruce Shallard and Associates and the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

Mendonca, Vanda, Barry Jupp, Musallam Al Jabri, Thuraya Al Sariri and Mohamed Al Muzaini. 2003. National Report on the State of the Marine Environment. Muscat: Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment & Water Resources, Marine Pollution and Coastal Zone Management Section.

Miller, Anthony, Miranda Morris, and Susanna Stuart-Smith.  1988. Plants of Dhofar, the Southern Region of Oman: Traditional, Economic, and Medicinal Uses. Muscat: Office of the Adviser for Conservation of the Environment, Diwan of Royal Court.

Mintz, Sidney.  1996. Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom: Excursions into Eating, Culture, and the Past. Boston: Beacon Press.

Mintz, Sidney, and Du Bois, Christine.  2002. “The Anthropology of Food and Eating.” Annual Review of Anthropology 31:99-119.

Morris, Jan. 2008/ 1957. Sultan in Oman. London: Eland.

Morris, Miranda. 1987. “Dhofar – What Made it Different’,” in Oman: Economic, Social and Strategic Development. B.R. Pridham, ed. London: Croom Helm. 51-78.

“National Aquaculture Sector Overview-Oman.”  2019.  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations-Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. http://www.fao.org/fishery/countrysector/naso_oman/en

Omezzine, Abdallah.  1998. “On-shore Fresh Fish Markets in Oman.” Journal of International Food and Agribusiness Marketing 10.1: 53-69.

Omezzine, Abdallah, Lokman Zaibet and Hamad Al-Oufi.  1996. “The Marketing System of Fresh Fish Products on the Masirah Island in the Sultanate of Oman.” Marine Resources Economics 11: 203-210.

Patzelt, Annette. 2015. “Synopsis of the Flora and Vegetation of Oman, with Special Emphasis on Patterns of Plant Endemism.” Braunschweigische Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft. 282-317. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281240453_Synopsis_of_the_Flora_and_Vegetation of_Oman_with_Special_Emphasis_on_Patterns_of_Plant_Endemism

Sadeghin, Farideh.  2015, Oct. 27. “The Food of Oman is Too Good to Ignore: Recipe-testing a Middle Eastern Cookbook Gives our Test Kitchen Director a New Love for an Under-appreciated Cuisine.” Saveur. https://www.saveur.com/food-of-oman-cookbook-cuisine-felicia-campbell

Saunders, J. P. 1846. “A Short Memoir of the Proceedings of the Honorable Company’s Surveying Brig ‘Palinurus,’ during Her Late Examination of the Coast between Ras Morbat and Ras Seger, and between Ras Fartak and the Ruins of Mesinah.” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 16: 169-86.

Serjeant, R. B. 1995. Farmers and Fishermen in Arabia: Studies in Customary Law and Practice. G. Rex Smith, ed. Aldershot, Variorum.

Siddeek, M., M. Fouda and G. Hermosa. 1999. “Demersal Fisheries of the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf.” Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 49.1: 87-97.

Tabook, Salim Bakhit. 1997. Tribal Practices and Folklore of Dhofar, Sultanate of Oman. Unpublished PhD thesis, Faculty of Arts, Exeter University.

Thesiger, Wilfred. 1991/ 1959. Arabian Sands. New York: Penguin.

Thomas, Bertram. 1932, reprint. Arabia Felix: Across the Empty Quarter of Arabia. London: Jonathan Cape.

Webster, Roger. 1991, October. “Notes on the Dialect and Way of Life of the Āl Wahība Bedouin of Oman.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 54.3: 473-485.

Wilkinson, J. C. 2013. Water & Tribal Settlement in South-East Arabia (Studies on Ibadism and Oman). New York: Georg Olms Verlag.

Yamani, Mai.  2000. You Are What You Cook” Cuisine and Class in Mecca in A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East. Sami Zubaida and Richard Tapper, eds. New York: I.B. Tauris Publishers. 159-72.

topic – fish types

Al-Jufaili, Saud Greg Hermosa, Sulaiman S. Al-Shuaily and Amal Al Mujaini. 2010. “Oman Fish Biodiversity.” Journal of King Abdulaziz University 21.1: 3-51.

Choudri, B., Mahad Baawain, and Mustaque Ahmed. 2016. “An Overview of Coastal and Marine Resources and their Management in Sultanate of Oman.” Journal of Environmental Management and Tourism 7.1: 21-32.

Harrison, David. 1980. The Journal of Oman Studies: Special Report 2: The Oman Flora and Fauna Survey 1975. Muscat: Diwan of H. M. for Protocol.

The Journal of Oman Studies: Special Report 2: The Oman Flora and Fauna Survey 1975. Muscat: Diwan of H. M. for Protocol.

McKoy, John, Neil Bagley, Stéphane Gauthier, and Jennifer Devine. 2009. Fish Resources Assessment Survey of the Arabian Sea Coast of Oman – Technical Report 1. Auckland: Bruce Shallard and Associates and the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

topic – catching fish

Al-Marshudi, Ahmed Salim and Hemesiri Kotagama. 2006. “Socio-Economic Structure and Performance of Traditional Fishermen in the Sultanate of Oman.” Marine Resource Economics 21: 221-30.

Al Rashdi, K. and E. Mclean. 2014. “Contribution of Small-Scale Fisheries to the Livelihoods of Omani Women: A Case Study of the Al Wusta Governorate.” Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries: Navigating Change – Asian Fisheries Science Special Issue 27S: 135-149.

Lancaster, William and Fidelity Lancaster.  1995. “Nomadic Fishermen of Ja’alân, Oman.” Nomadic Peoples 36/37: 227-244.

Mendonca, Vanda, Barry Jupp, Musallam Al Jabri, Thuraya Al Sariri and Mohamed Al Muzaini. 2003. National Report on the State of the Marine Environment. Muscat: Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment & Water Resources, Marine Pollution and Coastal Zone Management Section.

“National Aquaculture Sector Overview-Oman.”  2019.  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations-Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. http://www.fao.org/fishery/countrysector/naso_oman/en

Omezzine, Abdallah.  1998. “On-shore Fresh Fish Markets in Oman.” Journal of International Food and Agribusiness Marketing 10.1: 53-69.

Omezzine, Abdallah, Lokman Zaibet and Hamad Al-Oufi. 1996. “The Marketing System of Fresh Fish Products on the Masirah Island in the Sultanate of Oman.” Marine Resources Economics 11: 203-210.

Siddeek, M., M. Fouda and G. Hermosa. 1999. “Demersal Fisheries of the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf.” Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 49.1: 87-97.

List of seafood

This is a short list of types of seafood eaten in Dhofar. It is not comprehensive and rough translations are given in italics, A – Arabic, G – Gibali.

abalone – sufela, regulated season for a few weeks at the end of November/ December, depending on quantity, some years the season is canceled

amberjack – A shathruch, G shatrach

barracuda –  A akama/ G ‘eqmat (not perceived as dangerous for swimmers close to shore but possibly dangerous for men diving for abalone as fish is attracted to anything sparkling, might bite hand, for example, if person is wearing something silvery)

belt fish – G sasul

black tip trevally – A thumkeri (thum-ker-ri), G thumkiri (thum-kir-ri)

cuttlefish – A habaar, G tarbha, common, usually used for BBQ (not seen as delicacy)

farsh – A gazelle/ G batemeera (only caught with ‘live’ bait, e.g. cut sardines)

grouper –  andak/ andaka/ G. anthka (usually in deepwater @ 200 meters, comes closer to shore in khareef when it can be caught by line)

hagmam – A shatruck/ G shatraq (2rd or 3rd most expensive fish after kingfish, only caught in boxes)

hamour – G difn (2nd or 3rd most expensive fish after kingfish, caught in boxes or by live, usually favorite fish to eat

king fish – A kanud/ G tharnak (most expensive fish at 3 or 4 OR per kilo, caught by line and net, now protected by a winter ‘season’ [allowed to be caught and publicly sold only at certain times], fairly rare in Dhorfar because it prefers flat, sandy seabeds and Dhofar coast/ seabed is usually rocky except the straight, flat beach between Raysut and Taqa)

lobster – shaarkha, regulated season from March to end of the April

mahi-mahi – A anfluss, G bathubon (caught by line)

mussells – A zukka, G zikt (gathered by women at low-tide, often cooked with pasta, usually found along coast north of Salalah)

red mullet – A and G zajajee (only in deep water, caught in boxes)

red seabream – A  fraha/ G farhat (usually in deepwater @ 200 meters, comes closer to shore in khareef when it can be caught by line)

saafi – A seesan, G seedhob (used to be a very important fish for trading, was dried and shipped to other countries, still eaten but not dried and shipped, usually in 2 – 3m water)

salted fish – A marakh malah – salt and raw fish layered in a bucket, covered and kept for 1 to 4 weeks

sardines – freshly caught are served grilled; air-dried (usually on a beach) are used for animal fodder

sea catfish – A khann/ G gamm – least expensive kind of fish, often 200 or 300 baisa per kilo

shark – not often caught/ eaten, owaal – dried shark (sliced open, cleaned and, with skin still attached, the meat is sliced into thin sections, this is dried in the sun for 2 to 10 days, fewer days with lower humidity)

sheri – A shari/ G hamshk

squid – A habaar, G atharaya – usually caught only in khareef, and further north along the coast than Salalah – often 2-4 kilo, better tasting than cuttlefish

sultan Ibrahim – G. ali br dughun (caught in boxes, not by line)

tuna – unregulated season from the end of January/ beginning of February until end of May, best times are March and April, depending on ocean temperature

trevally – A/ G minaya

Houseways: Talking Privately in Crowded Rooms

In an earlier essay, I discussed how rooms were arranged: https://mariellerisse.com/2021/07/03/houseways-comparisons-types-of-rooms-and-sightlines/

This essay is one of three related pieces about the interplay between behavior and space: how certain behaviors create a need for a certain kind of space (entryways), how a certain kind of space creates the need for certain behaviors (talking in the salle) and the intermix of house design and behavior (front doorways).

A majlis and salle are usually large enough to seat at least 20 people and square/ rectangular with all the furniture pushed against the walls. Houses are built from concrete block and have tile floors, sometimes partially covered with an area rug, thus everyone in the room can see and hear each other – in a sizable, echoing space, how do people manage to have private conversations?

Two types of behavior, non-verbal and talking very quietly, [as discussed in: https://mariellerisse.com/2021/07/03/houseways-comparisons-types-of-rooms-and-sightlines/ ], work for short communications such as imparting information, asking a question and giving a command. In this essay I would like to talk about another strategy: Dhofaris tuning out/ turning away/ politely ignoring visitors. This behavior means that people can have private conversations, after the requirements of hospitality and respect have been met, and that a person who is new to the group has time to adjust.

A female Dhofari friend (A) lived outside of Dhofar for several months where she met an Omani woman (X). When A’s brother (B) came to visit A, he met X’s husband (Y). So when X, Y and their children came to visit Dhofar, A invited them to dinner at her house with the understanding that B would host Y in the majlis with other of A’s male relatives and A would host X in the salle with other of A’s female relatives. I was invited as I had also met X previously.

When X and Y arrived, they were greeted by A and B who stood outside the door, then brought to the respective sitting rooms. When X walked into the salle, all the women (X’s mom, sisters, sisters-in-law, and nieces) greeted X and she was led to a sofa in the middle of the south wall, a few spaces down from A’s mom. A sat in the middle of the east wall and I was in the middle of the north wall. The first twenty minutes was the necessary polite, general conversation in which X asked about everyone’s health and everyone asked X about her health, her family’s health, her trip to Dhofar, where she was staying and did she like the hotel while A was offering drinks and snacks to X and her children. The first round done, the second round started in which more specific questions were asked about X’s health, the health of X’s children and female relatives, their trip to Dhofar and X started to ask about how A’s mother was doing and who were the other women in the room. A’s mother was included in all the questions and responses; X looked at her more frequently than anyone else and the other women, including me, listened to everything with polite attention.

Then we moved to the dining table (on the south side) to eat dinner, then back to the sofas. A few minutes later, with hands washing after dinner and X given a plate of sweets, there was a gradual change in that A’s mother and other female relatives turned their attention away from X by saying prayers using a misbaha (prayer beads), looking at their phone, talking to children or each other. A and X, more than 1 1/2 hours after X had arrived, were able to talk freely about people they knew/ experiences they had had in common.

There were the same number of people sitting in the same places as when X had arrived, but instead of one person talking at a time with X and A’s mother as the twin focal points, now A and X were a dyad. A’s female relatives and I sat quietly, sometimes listening, sometimes talking to each other. As the time to leave grew closer, the talk again became more general with people offering X suggestions about where to go site-seeing and what restaurants to eat at. X was invited back to the house, which she parried with how short their stay was and how they had relatives to visit.

In thinking about this visit beforehand, I had thought that it was too bad A and X would not get time alone (such as meeting at a coffee shop) to catch up. But what happened was that A’s family created that conversational freedom for them, without changing the space or their locations, by shifting their attention away. In a room with 10 women and five children, A and X were able to share reminiscences and catch up on mutual acquaintances.

To look at this issue from another angle, I was once visiting a Dhofari friend when an older female relative (M) stopped by. I had not met M before and was surprised that the younger women (N) with her was wearing elaborate make-up, a lot of jewelry and a highly decorated dress, shorter in front than in usual for normal visiting. My friend looked at me and said, “bride” in Arabic; women who are newly married usually dress up for visits in the weeks after the wedding. N had recently married M’s son and M was bringing N to meet M’s/ N’s husband’s relatives. N sat silently, looking bored, as we spoke; I felt kind of sorry for her as she must have had several of these types of visits with her new mother-in-law.

But about two years later I saw that situation from a different angle. A female Dhofari friend invited me to her wedding; I agreed but with some trepidation as I had not met any of her family before. I arrived at the house for the party and her mother took me into the salle. I could hear quiet comments of women “placing me” (telling each other who I was) as I walked around to greet each woman. But once I sat down, all the women ignored me. This might sound negative, but it was very freeing – I was in a tightly packed room with every seat taken. All the women were in pretty, loose dresses with lots of perfume, children ran in and out, maids came around offering tea, coffee, juice and water, as well as snacks – there was lots of see and do. Women who came in shook my hand and the women next to me encouraged me to eat and drink so I did not feel any hostility, just a sense that everyone had collectively decided to leave me alone. After about an hour, the woman next to me asked me a few simple questions, I think to test both my level of Arabic and my willingness to engage. When I answered readily, other women joined in with questions and we ended up having a lovely time – joking about husbands and driving cars and studying.

As I drove home, I thought about the silent bride (N) and wondered if perhaps what I marked as boredom was relief that the women in my friend’s house had given her the same sort of emotional/ psychological break of ignoring her so she could be with a lot of unfamiliar people without having to make conversation. These were women she would know and visit for the rest of her life and rather than perhaps making a misstep at the start of the relationship, she had the chance to look around, listen to the talk, and start to form ideas/ opinions about the women before being expected to join in.

The spaces within a house for visiting are few and large, thus Dhofaris have created a series of behaviors that make accommodations for others. In certain circumstances, everyone will tacitly ignore 1) people who want to talk about someone that is interest only to them and 2) people who they feel might not want to or be able to join in the conversation. Being able to see and hear others in the same room does not automatically mean it is necessary to engage with them, so privacy is possible even in a crowded salle.

Another example of creating privacy for others was discussed in https://mariellerisse.com/2021/07/10/houseways-who-visits-which-rooms/ . Women usually return to their mother’s house after they have their first child. One family I know lives in a house with a mother, several unmarried daughters and several married sons and their families. When a married daughter came back to stay for a few weeks with her new baby, she and husband met in the majlis. The husband was not a close relative so it would not be appropriate for him to spend a lot of time in the salle and it was not possible for him to come to her bedroom as this would mean entering the private area of the house. The men in the house willingly did not use the majlis at certain times so their sister’s husband could visit her and the baby alone.

Today I will be presenting my talk “Ethical Eating in Southern Oman” for the Just Food conference, hosted by the Culinary Institute of America and New York University.

 

“Ethical Eating in Southern Oman.” Just Food, virtual conference of the Association for the Study of Food and Society; Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society; Canadian Association for Food Studies and the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition, hosted by the Culinary Institute of America and New York University. June 9-15, 2021. 

 

My presentation combines research from the fields of anthropology and food studies to examine the connections between food and morality in Dhofar, the southern region of Oman. Much has been written about Arab hospitality in terms of generosity to guests, but this presentation focuses on two other aspects of food-related behaviors: the ethical way to eat and to dispose of food.

 “Ethical eating” refers to two common behaviors in Dhofar. One is the social pressure to eat in such a way that the left-over food is “clean,” meaning suitable to give to others because it is not touched by people’s hands. A second issue is that the remaining food must be given away, as quickly as possible, following the culturally-accepted sharing hierarchy of friends/ family, other humans, then animals.

 The information discussed has been gathered from formal interviews during 2019-2020 and countless social events with Dhofari informants and friends over the past 14 years.

This work is part of my Foodways in Southern Oman project.

Foodways in Southern Oman (Routledge) examines the objects, practices and beliefs relating to producing, obtaining, cooking, eating and disposing of food in the Dhofar region of southern Oman. The chapters consider food preparation, who makes what kind of food, and how and when meals are eaten. Marielle Risse connects what is consumed to themes such as land usage, gender, age, purity, privacy and generosity. She also discusses how foodways are related to issues of morality, safety, religion, and tourism. The volume is a result of fourteen years of collecting data and insights in Dhofar, covering topics such as catching fish, herding camels, growing fruits, designing kitchens, cooking meals and setting leftovers out for animals.

 

https://www.routledge.com/Foodways-in-Southern-Oman/Risse/p/book/9780367859558

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/foodways-in-southern-oman-marielle-risse/1137456632?ean=97803678595587

 

Pre-historical and Historical Houseways in the Dhofar Region: Selected References

 

 

Al Baleed and Sumhuram

Avanzini, Alessandra. 2007.“Sumhuram: A Hadrami Port on the Indian Ocean,” in The Indian Ocean in the Ancient Period: Definite Places, Translocal Exchange BAR International Series 1593. Eivind Heldaas Seland, ed. Oxford: Archaeopress. 23-31.

—. 2002. “Incense Routes and Pre-Islamic South Arabian Kingdoms.” Journal of Oman Studies 12: 17-24.

Buffa, V and A.V. Sedov. 2008. “The Residential Quarter,” in A Port in Arabia between Rome and the Indian Ocean (3rd C. BC – 5th C. AD). A. Avanzini, ed. Khor Rori Report 2, Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider: 15-59.

Carter, Henry. 1846. “The Ruins of El Balad.” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 16: 187-99.

Cleveland, R. L. 1960. “The 1960 American Archaeological Expedition to Dhofar.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 159: 14-26.

—. 1959. “The Sacred Stone Circle of Khor Rori (Dhofar).” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 155: 29-31.

Costa, Paulo. 1982. “The Study of the City of Zafar (Al-Balid).” Journal of Oman Studies 5: 111-50.

Degli Esposti, Michele and Alexia Pavan. 2020. “Water and Power in South Arabia: The Excavation of “Monumental Building 1” (MB1) at Sumhuram (Sultanate of Oman).” Arabian Archeology and Epigraphy. 1 – 29. DOI: 10.1111/aae.12159

Orazi, Roberto. 2002. “The Harbour and City of Khor Rawri.” Journal of Oman Studies 12: 210-222.

Pavan, Alexia. 2017-2018. “Husn Al Baleed: Civil and Military Architecture along the Indian Ocean in Medieval Times.” Journal of Indian Ocean Archaeology 13-14: 28-41.

Pavan, Alexia and Michele Degli Esposti, 2016. The Urban Shrine in Quarter A at Sumhuram: Stratigraphy, Architecture, Material Culture. Quaderni di Arabia Antica, Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider.

Pavan, Alexia, Agnese Fusaro, Chiara Visconti, Alessandro Ghidoni, and Arturo Annucci. 2020. “New Researches at The Port of Al Balid and Its Castle (Husn): Interim Report (2016-2018).” The Journal of Oman Studies 21: 172 – 199

Pavan, Alexia, S. Laurenza, and R. Valentini, 2020. “Masonry and Building Techniques in a Medieval City Port of the Sultanate of Oman: Preliminary Typological Atlas at al-Balīd.Newsletter Archeologia 10.

Pavan, Alexia and Chiara Visconti. 2020. “Trade and Contacts between Southern Arabia and East Asia: The Evidence from al-Balīd (southern Oman).” Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 50: 243–257.

Pirenne, J. 1975. “The Incense Port of Moscha (Khor Rori) in Dhofar.” Journal of Oman Studies 1: 81-96.

 

Pre-historic Dhofar: Himbert, Rose and Usik

Hilbert, Yamandu. 2013. “Khamseen Rock Shelter and the Late Palaeolithic-Neolithic Transition in Dhofar.” Arabian Archeology and Epigraphy 24: 51-58.

Hilbert, Yamandu, A. Parton, M. Morley, L.P. Linnenlucke, Z. Jacobs, L. Clark-Balzan, R. Roberts, Chris Galletti  J.-L. Schwenninger and Jeff Rose. 2015. “Terminal Pleistocene and Early Holocene Archaeology and Stratigraphy of the Southern Nejd, Oman.” Quaternary International 282: 250-263.

Hilbert, Yamandu, J. Rose, and R. Roberts. 2012. “Late Paleolithic Core Reduction Strategies in Dhofar, Oman.” Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 42 1-18.

Hilbert, Yamandu, V. Usik, Chris Galletti, M. Morley, A. Parton, L. Clark-Balzan, J-L Schwenninger, L. Linnenlucke, R. Roberts, Z. Jacobs, and Jeff Rose. 2015. “Archaeological Evidence for Indigenous Human Occupation of Southern Arabia at the Pleistocene/Holocene Transition: The Case of al-Hatab Dhofar, Southern Oman.” Paléorient 41.2: 31-49.

Rose, Jeff and Yamandu Hilbert. 2014. “New Paleolithic Sites in the Southern Rub’ Al Khali Desert, Oman.” Antiquity 88.381.

Rose, Jeff, Yamandu Hilbert, Anthony Marks and Vitaly Usik. 2018. The First People of Oman: Palaeolithic Archaeology of the Nejd Plateau. Sultanate. Muscat: Ministry of Heritage and Culture

Rose, Jeff, Vitaly Usik, A. Marks, Yamandu Hilbert, Chris Galletti, A. Parton, V. Černý, J. Geiling, M. Morley, and R. Roberts. 2011. “The Nubian Complex of Dhofar, Oman: An African Middle Stone Age Industry in Southern Arabia.” PLoS ONE 6(11) e28239.

Usik, V., J. Rose, Y. Hilbert, P. Van Peer, and A. Marks. 2013. “Nubian Complex Reduction Strategies in Dhofar, Southern Oman.” Quaternary International 300: 244-266.

 

Other selected references

de Cardi, Beatrice. 2002. “British Archeology in Oman: The Early Years.” Journal of Oman Studies 12, 2002.

Charpentier, Vincent, Alex de Voogt, Remy Crassard, Jean-Francois Berger, Federico Borgi and Ali Al-Mashani. 2014. “Games on the Seashore of Salalah: The Discovery of Mancala Games in Dhofar, Sultanate of Oman.” Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 25: 115-120.

Costa, Paulo. 2001. Historic Mosques and Shrines of Oman. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.

—. 1983. “Notes on Settlement Patterns in Traditional Oman.” Journal of Oman Studies 6.2: 247-68.

Cremaschi, Mauro, Andrea Zerboni, Vincent Charpentier, Remy Crassard, Ilaria Isola, Eleonora Regattieri, Giovanni Zanchetta. 2015. “Early-Middle Holocene Environmental Changes and pre-Neolithic Human Occupations as Recorded in the Cavities of Jebel Qara (Dhofar, southern Sultanate of Oman).” Quaternary International 382: 264-76.

Garba, Roman and Peter Farrington. 2011. “Walled Structures and Settlement Patterns in the South-western Part of Dhofar, Oman (poster).” Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 41: 95–100.

Hulton, Jessop and J. Smith. 1830. “Account of Some Inscriptions Found on the Southern Coast of Arabia.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 5.1: 91-101.

McCorriston, Joy, Michael Harrower, Tara Steimer, Kimberly D. Williams, Matthew Senn, Mas‘ūd Al Hādhari, Mas‘ūd Al Kathīrī, ‘Ali Ahmad Al Kathīrī, Jean-François Saliège and Jennifer Everhart. 2014. “Monuments and Landscape of Mobile Pastoralists in Dhofar: the Arabian Human Social Dynamics (AHSD) Project 2009-2011.” Journal of Oman Studies 12: 117-44.

Newton, Lynne. 2010. “Shrines in Dhofar,” in Death and Burial in Arabia and Beyond: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, Society for Arabian Studies Monographs 10. Lloyd Week, ed. 329-340.

Newton, Lynne and Juris Zarins. 2017. The Archaeological Heritage of Oman. Dhofar Through the Ages. An Ecological, Archaeological and Historical Landscape. Muscat: Ministry of Heritage and Culture Sultanate of Oman.

Zarins, Juris. 2001. The Land of Incense: Archaeological Work in the Governorate of Dhofar, Sultanate of Oman, 1990-1995. Muscat, Oman: Sultan Qaboos University Publications.

Zerboni, Andrea, Alessandro Perego, Guido S. Mariani, Filippo Brandolini, Mohammed Al Kindi, Eleonora Regattieri, Giovanni Zanchetta, Federico Borgi, Vincent Charpentier and Mauro Cremaschi. 2020. “Geomorphology of the Jebel Qara and Coastal Plain of Salalah (Dhofar, southern Sultanate of Oman).” Journal of Maps 16:2, 187-198.

Zimmerle, William. 2017. Cultural Treasures from the Cave Shelters of Dhofar: Photographs of the Painted Rock Art Heritage of Southern Oman. Washington: Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center/Liberty Press.

—. Crafting Cuboid Incense Burners in the Land of Frankincense: The Dhofar Ethnoarchaeology Preservation Project. 2017. Washington: Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center/Liberty House Press.