Foodways and Society in Southern Oman

My current research focuses on food practices in the Dhofar region, specifically how food is used to show personal generosity and how eating together defines and enhances social relationships. As part of this project, I will discuss photographic representations of food and food-related practices and spaces.

Conference – “Foodways and Society in Southern Oman.” accepted for the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies Annual Conference, University of Leeds, June 24-26, 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.]

Article submitted to academic journal – Generosity

Abstract: This article begins with an explanation of the necessity of being generous with food among one group of tribes in southern Oman. Generosity with food is obligatory for both men and women and can be divided into four categories: required, balanced, unplanned and planned. Further, food is one, but not the only, way to affirm and strengthen personal ties and there are religion-based benefits relating to food generosity. Showing generosity is not about the cost or presentation of the food but about the actions and implications. People are not judged on what they give so much as the when, how and why. This work has evolved from an odd contradiction I have observed over the last twelve years when having meals with the Dhofari men in my research group: the men both hate to waste food and always make much more than in necessary in case anyone comes by chance.

Article submitted to academic journal – You Are Who You Eat With

Abstract – This paper will explore the practices and perceptions of eating dinner among the tribal Gibali-speakers of Southern Oman. Gibali (also known as Jibbali/ Shari/ Śḥeret) is a non-written, Modern South Arabian language spoken in the Dhofar region. The article describes in detail one aspect of daily life for a group of tribal, Arab Muslims, then uses this description to gain insights into Gibali understandings of social relationships, focusing on how the presentation and sharing of food is used to show respect and solidarity within Gibali cultures.

Short essays

Food Terminology: Life is not Life, Curry is not Curry, Chutney is not Chutney

Foodways and Society in Oman – Food and Culture

Foodways and Society in Oman – Pragmatics of When and What to Eat

Foodways and Society in Oman – Changing Food Choices

Breakfast is ready!

Lunch is ready!

Snack is ready!

Cooking is a Language – Excerpt from the essay “The Culinary Triangle: What can Claude Lévi-Strauss teach us about food fads today?” by Sara Davis

quote on entertaining from Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford (1853)

Considering Cartoons/ Graphic Art about Foodways

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

Selected References

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Boxhall, P. G. 1966. Socotra: ‘Island of Bliss’. The Geographical Journal 132.2:  213-222.

Brown, Victoria. (2014). Language: A Taste of Reality. One Dish Closer. http://www.onedishcloser.com/food-anthropology/2014/3/19/language-a-taste-of-reality.html

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

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.

Cleveland, Ray. (1960). The 1960 American Archaeological Expedition to Dhofar. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 159: 14-26.

Ciezadlo, Annia. (2011, April 25). Eat, Drink, Protest: Stories of the Middle East’s Hungry Rumblings: Buying Peace, One Feast at a Time. Foreign Policy 186. https://foreignpolicy.com/2011/04/25/eat-drink-protest/

—. (2011, March 15). Eating My Way Through the Cedar Revolution (excerpt). Foreign Policy. http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/03/15/eating-my-way-through-the-cedar-revolution-2/

De Regt, Marina. (2010). Ways to Come, Ways to Leave: Gender, Mobility, and Il/legality among Ethiopian Domestic Workers in Yemen. Gender and Society 24.2: 237-260.

—. (2009). Preferences and Prejudices: Employers’ Views on Domestic Workers in the Republic of Yemen. Signs 34.3: 559-581

Deeb, Lara and Jessica Winegar. (2012). Anthropologies of Arab-Majority Societies. Annual Review of Anthropology 41: 537-558.

Elie, Serge. (2006). Soqotra: South Arabia’s Strategic Gateway and Symbolic Playground. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 33.2: 131-160.

Ferguson, Priscilla. (2011). The Senses of Taste. American Historical Review 116.2:  371-384.

Fieldhouse, Paul. (1998). Food and Nutrition: Customs and Culture. Cheltenham, UK: Stanley Thomas.

Fisher, Jennifer. (2003-2004). “Arabian Coffee” in the Land of Sweets. Dance Research Journal. 35.2: 146-163.

Fox, Robin. (2018). Food and Eating: An Anthropological Perspective. Social Issues Research Centre. http://www.sirc.org/publik/foxfood.pdf

Maclagan, Ianthe. (1994). “Food and Gender in a Yemeni Community,” in A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East. Sami Zubaida and Richard Tapper, ed. New York:  I.B. Tauris Publishers. 159-72

Mauss, Marcel. (2011/ 1924). The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. Mansfield Centre, CA: Martino Publishing.

Mbaga, Msafiri Daudi. (2015). The Prospects of Sustainable Desert Agriculture to Improve Food Security in Oman.  Consilience 13: 114-128. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26427275

Meneley, Anne. (2007). Fashions and Fundamentalisms in Fin-De-Siecle Yemen: Chador Barbie and Islamic Socks. Cultural Anthropology 22.2: 214–243.

Mintz, Sidney, and Du Bois, Christine. (2002). The Anthropology of food and eating. Annual Review of Anthropology 31:99-119.

Morris, Miranda. (1997). The Harvesting of Frankincense in Dhofar, Oman. In Alessandra Avanzini, ed.  Profumi d’Arabia. Rome: L’Erma Bretschneider: 231-250.

—. (1987). ‘Dhofar – What Made it Different’ in Oman: Economic, Social and Strategic Development, B.R. Pridham, ed. London: Croom Helm: 51-78.

Nagy S. (2000). Dressing up downtown: urban development and government public image in Qatar. City Soc. 12(1): 12 5—47

—. (1998). “This time I think I’ll try a Filipina”: global and local influences on relations between foreign household workers and their employers in Doha, Qatar. City Soc. 10(1):83—103

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 ion the Sultanate of Oman. Marine Resources Economics 11 1996: 203-210.

Popp, Georg. (2018). Notes on the Omani Kitchen Eating with Tradition. Just Landed. https://www.justlanded.com/english/Oman/Articles/Culture/Notes-on-the-Omani-Kitchen

Rodionov, Mikhail. (2012). “Honey, Coffee, and Tea in Cultural Practices of Ḥaḍramawt.” Herbal Medicines in Yemen: Traditional Knowledge and Practice, and Their Value for Today’s World. Ingrid Hehmeyer and Hanne Schönig, eds. Brill: Boston. 143-152.

Roseberry, William. (1996). The Rise of Yuppie Coffees and the Reimagination of Class in the United States. American Anthropologist, New Series, 98.4: 762-775.

Rubin, Aaron. (2015). Recent developments in Jibbali. Journal of Semitic Studies 60: 431–441.

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

Stoller, Paul and Cheryl Olkes. (1986). Bad Sauce, Good Ethnography. Cultural Anthropology 1.3: 336-352.

Stork, Joe. (1973, March). Socialist Revolution in Arabia: A Report from the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. MERIP Reports 15 1-25.

Tabook, Salim Bakhit. (1997). Tribal Practices and Folklore of Dhofar, Sultanate of Oman. Unpublished PhD thesis, Faculty of Arts, Exeter University. same author as below)

vom Bruck, Gabriele. (2005). The Imagined ‘Consumer Democracy’ and Elite Re-Production in Yemen. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 11.2: 255-275.

Watson, Janet C.E. (2013). Travel to Mecca in the pre-motorized period. In: Venetia Porter & Liana Saif (eds), The Hajj: Collected Essays. London: The British Museum. 96–99.

Watson, Janet C.E. & Abdullah al-Mahri. (2017). Language and Nature in Dhofar. In: Simone Bettega & Fabio Gasparini (eds), RiCOGNIZIONI. Rivisti di Lingue e Letterature straniere e Culture moderne (University of Turin). 87–103.

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.

Weir, Shelagh. (2007). A Tribal Order: Politics and Law in the Mountains of Yemen. Austin: University of Texas Press.  21 and 42

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, ed. New York: I.B. Tauris Publishers. 159-72.

Blogs – Omani Food

Mariya. Omani Food. https://omanifood24.blogspot.com/

Omani Recipes. (2015). Arabic Recipeshttp://www.encyclopediacooking.com/recipes_in_english/omani-recipes-53-1.html

Traditional Omani Food. (2008, March 1). https://ward-traditionalomanifood.blogspot.com/

Yasmeen. (2018). Omani Cuisine. http://www.omanicuisine.com/

Blog – Food and Anthropology

Brown, Victoria. (2018). One Dish Closer. http://www.onedishcloser.com/

Omani Restaurants

The Jungle Restaurant. (2018). https://thejunglerestaurant.wordpress.com/category/traditional-food-in-oman/

Kargeen. (2018). http://www.kargeen.com/en

Websites – Expat, Tourist and Commercial

The Delicious Cuisine of Oman! (n. d.). Holidify. https://www.holidify.com/pages/omani-food-230.html

Food and Drink – About Oman. (2018). Rough Guides. https://www.roughguides.com/destinations/middle-east/oman/food-drink/

Guide to Omani Cuisine. (2017, June 14). Expat Woman.com. https://www.expatwoman.com/oman/guide/guide-to-omani-cuisine

Medhat, Gehad. (2017, Dec, 27). The 10 Best Coffee and Tea Shops in Salalah, Oman. Culture Trip. https://theculturetrip.com/middle-east/oman/salalah/food-misc/

Medhat, Gehad. (2017, Dec, 27). The Top Restaurants in Salalah, Oman. Culture Trip. https://theculturetrip.com/middle-east/oman/articles/the-top-restaurants-in-salalah-oman/

Oman. (2018). Countries and Their Cultures.  http://www.everyculture.com/No-Sa/Oman.html

Omani Food. (2015). Best Country. http://www.best-country.com/asia/oman/food

Omani recipes and cuisine. (2018). Nestle.  http://www.nestle-family.com/english/omani-recipes.aspx

Popp, Georg. (2018). Notes on the Omani Kitchen Eating with Tradition. Just Landed. https://www.justlanded.com/english/Oman/Articles/Culture/Notes-on-the-Omani-Kitchen