Examples of Picnic Cooking – Dhofar

On beach picnics, ocean water is often used to cook seafood, for example abalone (seen in photos above and below). Fish is cooked depending on type and how quickly people want to eat. For example, if there are several medium-size fish, they will often be cut into pieces of fish heads, fish tails and fish ‘steaks.’ The bigger pieces of meat are set aside; the heads and tails are boiled in sea water until cooked.

Fish steaks and lobster are usually cooked by simply putting them in coals. Lobsters, with the heads twisted off, are nestled into ashes near coals, sometimes wrapped in aluminum foil and sometimes covered with processed cheese. Fish steaks are doused with salt and/or fish masala powder, wrapped in aluminum foil and baked on the hot coals.

Sometimes fish or meat are cooked on small ‘hibachi’ style grills. Fish can also be grilled by setting a whole, gutted fish into a two-piece, hinged grill which is closed and set on rocks over a low fire. Although it is time consuming and labor intensive, meat can be cooked in the traditional method of being placed directly on heated rocks.

Meat and fish as discussed above are usually eaten with white rice. If the food is boiled, the cooked food is taken out of the pot and set on a metal plate. The pot is rinsed, then filled with bottled water and white rice with a few handfuls of salt. After it is cooked, the rice is transferred to a large round metal plate and “oil” (samn, clarified butter) or margarine is usually added. The fish or meat is put on top of the rice, with bottles of hot sauce and/ or limes placed next to the platter. If there is no rice and the people are picnicking near a town, someone will usually go to buy bread, either paratha or pita (khbus lebnani).

Another type of picnic meal is called a “curry.” One simple recipe is to put chopped potatoes and carrots with a little olive oil in pot which is balanced on three rocks over fire. They are stirred for a while, maybe with water added, then chopped tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, okra, eggplant are added; this is stirred until tomatoes break down, then covered and kept at a simmer. Chopped pieces of meat (cow, camel or goat) or chicken with the bone still attached are added, then salt and, possibly, spices but not necessary curry powder. This is cooked, then poured onto a platter with high sides and eaten with bread.

When the food is ready and the person in charge of the meal has decided it is time to eat, instructions are given to lay the “table” (thin sheets of plastic) and people will clear the area, brushing sand off the mat. The cook puts the food on a platter and brings it to the eating place; everyone else grabs whatever is necessary such as Kleenex, limes, bottles of hot sauce or drinks and washes their hands. Guests have no role beyond perhaps getting up to wash their hands if there is a rice dish. When everything is in place, someone, usually the cook, will say bismallah [in the name of God]; everyone else will repeat bismallah and dig in.

These examples also obtain for mountain picnics, but there meat is usually eaten, not chicken or seafood.

abalone 1

Abalone, a delicacy in Dhofar (which I think tastes like tire rubber, but don’t tell anyone!)

Excerpts from “Issues of Autonomy in Southern Oman”

(photo by M.A. Al Awaid)

Abstract from “Issues of Autonomy in Southern Oman” by Dr. Marielle Risse

Gibali (also known as Jibbali, Śḥeret, Shari and Eḥkili) is a non-written, Modern South Arabian language spoken by several groups of tribes in the Dhofar region of Southern Oman. While teaching in Salalah for more than ten years, I have been working with several Gibali-speaking men researching the culture and life-ways of one particular group of tribes, the Qara. Gibalis, both in interviews and from my long-term observations, see their culture as giving both men and women opportunities to craft their own lives and, specifically, to gain a positive reputation for wisdom.

This paper will explore how the Gibalis create and maintain an atmosphere in which both men and women are seen as having access to positive virtues and some control over their own lives. In addition to my observations and interviews, I will include examples from the fields of political science and anthropology, as well as stories from the first set of written texts in the Gibali language.

I will be presenting at the Maritime Exploration and Memory Conference, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England – Sept. 2018

Accounts from the Journeys of the Brig “Palinurus” Along the Dhofar Coast in the mid-1800s

Dr. Marielle Risse

Although there is a fair amount of written descriptions about the northern part of Oman, there were few travelers who wrote about the southern region of Dhofar until the 1970s. The first sustained exploration by Westerners was done by two teams on the Brig “Palinurus.” Captain Haines and his crew from the Indian Navy surveyed and explored the Dhofar coast in 1834, 1835 and 1836. Commander J. P. Saunders, with the same ship and some of the same crew, continued this surveying work in 1844-1846. Both Haines and Saunders published accounts of their voyages.

The primary focus of these journeys was to figure out how the lands investigated might be of use to the British government and merchant class, as when Haines tried to buy the island of Socotra from Sultan Omar to use as a depot for steam-boat traffic between India and England. But there is a fascinating wealth of cultural and historical information from the articles written by members of the “Palinurus.” For example, the brig’s assistant-surgeon, Henry Carter, wrote up a brief archeological survey of “The Ruins of El Balad” (1846), in which he includes a succession of rulers/ governors of the Dhofari coast. Cruttenden’s short article (1838) details his journey from “Morebat” [Mirbat] to Dyreez [Dhariz],” approximately 71 kilometers along the coast.

My paper will discuss the articles published in relation to the “Palinurus” voyages along the Dhofar coast to compare the details of what was recorded in the mid 1800s to the present day. I will also briefly mention later travelers who came to the region by boat including Theodore & Mabel Bent and Bertram Thomas.


(photo by M. A. Al Awaid)

“I Came to You for Good”: An Ethnographic Discussion of Folk Tales from Southern Oman. RAI, London, October 26, 2017

baby baby

(photo by M. A. Al Awaid)

Risse, Marielle. “‘I Came to You for Good’: An Ethnographic Discussion of Folk Tales from Southern Oman.” Third Joint Seminar of The Folklore Society and the Royal Anthropological Institute;  Royal Anthropological Institute, London. October 26, 2017.


In the 1970s Dr. Tom Johnstone documented the un-written, Modern South Arabian languages of Gibali and Mehri in the Dhofar region of southern Oman by recording autobiographical stories and folk tales. Several of these spoken folk tales were translated into written English and published by Aaron Rubin in 2014. My presentation will explain how these folk tales, recorded just at the beginning of modernization, reflect worldviews that I see daily in my anthropological work in Dhofar.

I will demonstrate how these texts are representative of southern Omani culture by analyzing the various textual elements of the folk tales such as use of setting, characters, plot events and theme. These texts are among the very few documents transliterated in Gibali and help illustrate ways in which the Dhofari culture has, and has not changed, since the rapid modernization after the 1970s. I am specifically interested in how the folk tales reflect still current understandings of the nature of the relationship between married couples and the existence of djinn.