Foodways: Catching Lobsters and Diving for Abalone

 (photo by M. A. Al Awaid)

There are two types of fishing that is regulated by the government: abalone (sufela) and lobster. The abalone season is usually 10 days to 3 weeks in November or December, but is only opened if the government deems there is a good crop. Lobster season is from March to the end of April.

The approximate costs for abalone season is about 10 OR daily. About 300 OR is also needed for accommodation and food for the season but this is usually only paid by older, experienced divers who will work for the whole season. Diving is very difficult and many boys and men will join in for only a few days.

Divers wake up at fajr (the sunrise prayer), pray, drink tea and go to the boats, timing their first dive for when the sunlight hits the water so they can see the abalone on the rocks. They will continue for as long as possible; men who are become tired will sit in the boat keeping a look-out for sharks. They will stay in one location until no one can find abalone, then move (perhaps 1 or 2 time during the day), not returning to shore until the last person is out of the water, approximately 4 to 5 pm. Given the dangers of sharks and exhaustion, it is very rare to dive alone. There are usually 3 or 4 men in each boat. At the start of season there may be perhaps as many as 8 or 9 depending on size of boat and engine, but the number tapers off quickly.

The daily costs are about 5 OR for gas for the boat and 5 OR for water and food. For fishing trips, normally the cost of gas is paid from the sale of the fish, with the fishermen then splitting the rest of the profits. However for abalone fishing, the owner of the boat will pay for the gas if he catches a good amount of abalone. If he does not, then the men who rode in his boat will all contribute. Further, the boat-owner will only accept payment from full-time divers. Young men who are learning to dive do not give money.

The costs for the season are for accommodation and personal gear. Any type of boat can be used, i.e. a boat fitted out for throwing nets with no thalaja (built-in freezer), throwing boxes with one thalaja or using live bait with two thalaja.

The main expense is 200-300 OR per person for renting a house or setting up a camp. The costs are usually shared among 4-6 men who are at least in their early 20s and serious divers. Younger men (brothers, cousins and friends) who are learning to dive might come for a few days so there might be as many as 15 men for first nights, but part-time divers don’t pay as explained above.

Sometimes the accommodation costs includes a contract with a cook or a restaurant to make meals for the group of men who are living together: a late lunch around 5pm, dinner at 8 or 9pm, breakfast at fajr and then food packed for the day in the boat. Normally food for a fishing trip is sandwiches, chips, soda, juice, etc. but because of hardships of diving, men usually only take water, drinkable yogurt, bread, and packaged leftovers from breakfast: oatmeal and/ or attriya (also known as balaleet, a dish made with vermicelli; usually it is very sweet, flavored with cardamom and rose-water and served with an omelet on top but for abalone season it is made with milk and without eggs).

The two most important pieces of equipment are the dive suit and knife. Dive suits normally cost around 60 OR and last 3 or 4 years. As it against cultural understandings to wear tight-fitting clothes, the wetsuit is usually bought in a bigger size than needed so it fits loosely. The knife used to pry abalone from the rocks is usually inexpensive (around 3 OR) but men take care of it and try to use the same one for years. In order to collect many abalone, a man has to be able to get the abalone off the rocks quickly so knowing the heft and balance of the knife saves valuable seconds underwater. Men must free-dive; oxygen tanks are not allowed.

Other gear includes flippers (55 OR, high quality pairs can last over 5 years), mask (from 5-55 OR, usually 20-25 OR, men usually bring 2 or 3 in case anyone needs one or one breaks), snorkel (10-12 OR, again, each man usually brings 2 in case anyone needs one or one breaks), mesh bags (7 OR each bought new every year, one is tied to waist to collect abalone underwater and one is left in the boat to hold the day’s catch).

For lobster season, the approximate daily cost is about 25 OR and about 150 OR for the season from March 1st to end of the April. The daily costs are for food and the gas to get to and from the places to throw nets. As with abalone season, the boat does not need to be fitted out in any special way.

The net needs to reach down to ocean floor and be there for several hours, but cannot be used in daylight as fish, squid and octopus will come to eat the trapped lobster. Therefore nets are set down into the water before maghreb (sunset). Throwing can be done by one person if needed and takes about 5 minutes per net. Pulling the net up starts close to (fajr) sunrise and takes 2 or 3 people about 20 to 30 minutes per net, longer if the net is stuck on rocks. Sometimes one man will wear a wetsuit and bring a mask and snorkel so he can go into the water to help free the net from snags. Thus fishermen pay careful attention to time; they need to reach the nets close to sunrise so that there is enough light to see if someone needs to dive to free the net, but not so late that other creatures have a chance to eat the caught lobster.

Fishermen usually return to port around noon, sell the catch, have lunch and rest, then go out again to drop nets for the night. As lobster season starts March 1, nets are first thrown on the evening of the last day in February.

The cost per season is approximately 150 OR for new nets and net repair. A net costs about 55 OR  and it is very different from the curtain net used for fish. The lobster net is smaller with a length of 200 meter and a height of only 5 ba’, the distance from furthest edge of left shoulder to tip of middle finger on right hand. Fish nets are usually 200 meters-wide with a height of 8-12 ba’. Lobster nets are also heavier than fish nets which have to be made from thin/ clear filament which fish can’t see; also, fish nets usually do not touch the seabed. Lobster nets have to settle on the sea floor so they get caught on rocks, meaning they need to be repaired often.

Fishermen usually throw 5-10 nets at one time. Some also catch lobsters in boxes placed in shallow water. The government gives each licensed fishermen 20 boxes for lobster, as the quantity is not decreasing like abalone, but most prefer to use nets.

(photos from social media)

Two articles by D. T. Potts about farming implements and food in the historical record of Arabia

I just found this great article that discusses references to cultivated plants by D. T. Potts [ https://nyu.academia.edu/DTPotts ]

Contributions to the agrarian history of Eastern Arabia I. Implements and cultivation techniques

1994, Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 5: 158 – 168, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0471.1994.tb00063.x

This paper focuses on early agricultural implements in eastern Arabia, examining four hoe blades and an ard share ranging in date from mid-2nd millennium B.C. through the Seleucid or Parthian period. These objects are considered in light of more recent ethnohistoric evidence pertaining to garden cultivation by hand and the plough in the region.

Contributions to the agrarian history of Eastern Arabia II. The cultivars

1994, Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 5: 236 – 275; https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0471.1994.tb00071.x

https://www.academia.edu/1903825/Potts_1994_Contributions_to_the_agrarian_history_of_eastern_Arabia_II_The_cultivars

Following on from an earlier study of agricultural implements and cultivation
techniques in eastern Arabia, this paper presents the palaeobotanical and ethnohistoric
evidence available on early cultivars in the region from the late 4th millennium
B.C. through the premodern era. The introduction of new crops is discussed and,
where possible, the evidence is marshalled which pertains to the origins of those
new introductions and the dates of their arrival in the Gulf region.

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.

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

I will be presenting about Dhofari Fishermen at the ‘Fish as Food’ conference organized by the ICAF, hosted by the Univ. of Liverpool

Fish as Food: Lifestyle and a Sustainable Future

International Commission on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition, hosted at the University of Liverpool

ICAF Conference 2021

Sept 1-3, 2021

 

The Costs and Benefits of Fishing in Southern Oman

Dr. Marielle Risse

My presentation discusses two important questions about fishing economics in the Dhofar region of Oman: 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?  I have been looking at the theme of generosity, including sharing food, for more than ten years and in this presentation I discuss 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 explain how the cash outlay for gas, nets, bait, etc. is transformed into social, in addition to economic, capital for Dhofari fishermen.

 

 

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

 

Foodways: Thoughts on Iftars, Food and Cultures

One aspect of living in Dhofar that can be hard to explain is that people are often judged on the intention, not on the rightness (or wrongness) of the action. I have been the happy recipient of this characteristic as I muddle along trying to do what is appropriate.

A few days into Ramadan my doorbell rang about half an hour before the maghreb (sunset) call to prayer which ends the day’s fast. It was an Omani neighbor who had moved in a few months before. We had waved ‘hello’ but didn’t know each other. He had set a covered paper plate, a small packet of dates and a small packet of figs down on the table next to my front door. I smiled and said, “thank you! Ramadan kareem.” He waved at me and walked back down the stairs.

The plate had 2 pieces of grilled bread with cheese, 2 quarters of a toasted sandwich with sliced hotdogs and cheese, 2 samosas with a hash of meat and potatoes and 3 spicy, breaded, fried mashed-potato rounds. YUM! Neighbors, relatives and friends often give each other plates of prepared food for Iftar, the meal at sunset that breaks the fast. This was a kind gesture and the way it was packaged meant there was no dishes that I had to return.

I knew I should reciprocate, but not the next day (which could lead to a ‘food war’). In Dhofar, with family and close friends, it doesn’t matter if or when you give a return gift, but for people you don’t know well, it’s best to wait a few days and keep the energy causal, not frantically trying to quickly repay.

So I waited a few days and then started to think what I should give. First, I should not give something that I had made as there is often a worry that I might have accidentally added something haram (forbidden). Second, I decided to give items that would keep for a few hours, so if the family already had a plan for Iftar, what I gave could be kept for a later meal or suhoor, the meal eaten before dawn.

As only a husband, wife and small child lived in the house, I went to a well-known Lebanese restaurant and bought a plate of falafels with cut tomatoes, lettuce and pickles, a container of hummus, a container of tabouli, two packets of fresh Lebanese bread and a plate of mixed, fried sweets.

Then, I went to the front of their house and was surprised to see two doorbells on the outside gate, and a low wall dividing the interior courtyard. Because of the relative position of our houses, I had only seen one side of the house, with the kitchen door through which I had seen the three occupants enter and leave. But two doorbells meant the house was subdivided, probably two close relatives and their families, which meant they would be having Iftar together and my food gift was going to be wildly inadequate.

Which is what happened. The people I knew didn’t answer, but a woman from the other side of the house opened a window and as I tried to explain what I was doing there, she said that the woman who I knew was her sister. So I handed over the bags, feeling rather stupid, and went home. Then I realized that I had mis-read the time. It wasn’t 40 minutes to Iftar (a time when most people are up and awake); it was 1 hour and 40 minutes to Iftar, often a time for napping.

But the normal Dhofari kindness won through and about five days later, my neighbor stopped by again with a plate of pakoras, vegetable samosas, triangles of tuna salad on white bread and arays [Lebanese bread sliced open, spread with spiced meat (kafta), grilled flat and cut into triangles]. And their Eid present from me? A very large box of chocolates!

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My favorite Ramadan treat is triangle cheese samosas: the perfect food. Delicious hot or cold and they pair with condiments from any culture: cranberry sauce, mango chutney, onion marmalade, or coconut/ green chili sauce. They are only sold in Ramadan, usually from a road-side stand set up in front of a bakery about two or three hours before the maghreb (sunset) call to prayer, earlier now because of the curfew.

These samosas are a good example of food can get connected and unconnected to religious holidays. I wonder if there are Omanis in the States who mark Christmas time by the arrival of peppermint-mocha coffees or Omanis in the UK who mark Easter by the appearance of Cadbury eggs.

The samosas are also an example of how foods which represent cultures can be very idiosyncratic. “Amazing Italian food” to me doesn’t mean pasta, it means the little stands with a cascading fountain of cool water with small pieces of fresh coconut that I first saw in Florence when I was a teenager. It seemed to me the most perfect snack and I begged my father for cash to buy pieces every time I saw one.

“German food” makes me think of my absolute terror of ordering bread in a German bakery when I lived there. Counter-people and other customers expected you to have your order ready and be able to answer the quick, sharp questions hurled at you. Hesitation or confusion resulted in many baleful glances. I would stand outside and practice saying my order to myself for a few moments before I ventured into bakeries.

(photo of a family Iftar by an informant, shared with permission to use on this website)

iftar - g

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an interesting ad campaign about not wasting food during Ramadan

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