Foodways and Society in Southern Oman – Overview and Images

My current research examines changes in food purchasing and cooking during Dhofar’s rapid modernization after the mid-1970s. This includes looking at differences in cooking methods (wood to gas), the expanding selection of foods, and changes in culinary practices as a result of having expats cook in middle-class home. I am particularly interested in how men and women view these changes given that the ease of hiring non-Omanis to buy food, cook, serve and clean-up in the home means some Dhofari women no longer view cooking as something they do not need to know how to do and allows other to monetize food through selling dishes to other women at festivals or via Instagram.

Book accepted for publicationFoodways in Southern Oman. Routledge, forthcoming.

This book explores the practices, objects and beliefs related to foodways in southern Oman among several groups of tribes whose first language is Gibali (Jibbali/ Shahri), a non-written language. Based on the author’s 12 years of experience in the area, this book covers details of food preparation such as who makes what kind of food, how and when meals are eaten, and how Dhofari food traditions compare with anthropological accounts from Yemen and the Emirates.

The author’s extensive research on how Gibalis maintain their independence within a tribal society is brought to bear on the topic of foodways with a discussion of how Gibalis give and receive food in ways to minimize indebtedness and how to be a good host and a good guest. Changes to foodways in Dhofar are explained by first reviewing the pre-1970s, town-Nejd-coast-mountains barter economy. Then the expanding selection of food choices, cooking methods, food presentation and help with food-related chores are studied. The books ends with examples of monetizing food such as women using social media to create home-catering business.

Conference – “Foodways and Society in Southern Oman.” British Society for Middle Eastern Studies Annual Conference, University of Leeds, June 26, 2019.

Abstract: This paper combines research from the fields of anthropology and food studies by examining the connections between food, generosity and social status in Dhofar, the southern region of Oman.  Mauss famously said that discussing gifts affords insight into “all the threads of which social fabric is composed.” Similarly, food connects “all the threads” of a society, particularly religion, family, wealth, traditions, self-worth and culture. This paper will explain how the presentation and sharing of food is used to show respect and solidarity between family members, neighbors and friends. I am particularly interested in how people make food choices to be generous, while attempting to deny any personal generosity.  The information discussed has been gathered from formal interviews during the spring and summer of 2018 and countless social events with Gibali-speaking informants and friends over the past 12 years, as well as Omani food-related books, essays, web-sites and blogs. [Gibali is a non-written, Modern South Arabian language and is also known as Jibbali or Shari/ Śḥeret.]

Foodways and Society presentation – BRISMES 2019 (selected slides)

Selected Images either sent to me (and used with permission) or posted on informants’ social media sites

Linking food/ drinks to hospitality for Ramadan – Images of food/ drink in Ramadan greetings

Images of food used to convey greetings – Examples of typical images for greeting

Images of food used to convey hospitality by depicting “we are ready for our guests” – Images of completed food preparation

Image of food used to convey a family’s joy when a family member is feeling better –  Example of food prepared for celebration of recovery from illness

Images of food and drinks in outdoor settings – Images of food and drink in nature

Example of Kitchen – 1990s/ early 2000s – note: high counters with raised platform for oven, open cupboards (sometimes with sliding doors), small separate storage room, washing machine in one corner, tiled walls

Three wonderful videos about Dhofar – video about sardine fishing

Previous research on food:

“Treachery in the Kitchen”: Traveling Foreign, Eating Familiar – Dr. Traci Kelly and Dr. Marielle Risse; College English Association Annual Conference; March 28th, 2008

Other research on Dhofar

Research on Aspects of Dhofari Cultures

Research on Travelers and Tourists in Dhofar