Wednesday, February 8, 2012

مهرجان مسقط

Every year, Mahrajan Muscat (Muscat Festival), is held in several locations around the region. One of the locations, in Qurum Park, is home to the Traditional Village. This contains many features of typical Omani village life. People from all over Oman come for the festival, and from what I heard sometimes they even plan their schedules to fit it in. I visited with my host sisters and it was definitely a great experience!

I went on a weeknight, so apparently there were fewer people than there would be on a Wednesday or Thursday. That being said, there were thousands there. Surprisingly to me, very few of the people were foreigners; practically everyone was Omani.

To my host sisters, who attend every year, the most exciting part of the festival was the food. We waited in massive queues to get food, all of which was traditional Omani food. We had three dishes: beans, chickpeas, and a special kind of wafer-like bread spread with egg. There also was of course a massive halwa stand, where men stoked fires under massive pots—easily containing 20 gallons of halwa apiece.

For me, one of the most exciting parts was the traditional village itself. There was a traditional Omani well: these function with the assistance of animal power. Donkeys and cows are hitched to ropes, and men walk them back and forth. The walking allows buckets to be dipped into the well and then pulled back out, so that water can be harnessed. Also, there was an animal-run sugarcane mill, a traditional dhow, and a “Bedouin camp” with camels. All very exciting, because it was right in the middle of Qurum!

These two pictures are of the traditional well.

Sugarcane mill

A traditional dance!

And of course, I cannot forget to mention the souq of the traditional village. First stop was to the Dhofari souq. One thing I strongly recommend when shopping in a souq is bringing an Omani along! They aren’t given the tourist price, and they can bargain. Basically, the price can drop by as much as half. In the Dhofari souq, I bought a jingly ankle bracelet and some bakhoor (incense) for a grand total of 1 Riyal, 500 baisa (about 5 dollars). After that, I went to a different section and made my favorite purchase by far: a traditional Omani burqa. Now, this is not a burqa as many Americans would think of it, in the Irani style. The Omani burqa is merely a face mask, and is worn by Bedouin. I bought two of them, one being a very-covering traditional black one and the other being a thinner, fancier gold one. I would have to say that these are two of my favorite purchases thus far. So, to those of you who I promised that I wouldn’t ever be wearing a burqa in Oman… well, I am afraid to say that it appears that I have lied to you.

And the more decorative one. Not a mustache, as is commonly believed (according to my Facebook friends)

The festival was definitely an amazing snapshot of traditional Omani life, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is in Oman!

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