Times of Oman
Nov 29, 2015 LAST UPDATED AT 01:05 PM GMT
Oman’s Cultural Legacy
January 29, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Bahla Fort, one of four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Oman. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Oman's edifying heritage is inspirational as portrayed through its lively souks, impressive forts, an assortment of cultural arts, majestic fragrances, affluent architecture, traditional jewellery, folk arts and performances. Omani people take pride in their enriching cultural heritage and make an effort to conserve this wealth.

Oman has garnered global recognition for its literary activities and the Ministry of Heritage and Culture and the Public Authority for Craft Industries administer the perpetuation of this remarkable heritage and tradition in its best form. In addition to this, the legacy continues with Muscat being designated in 2006 as the Cultural Capital of the Arab World displaying its heritage through events conducted throughout that year. Through these events, visitors have been gaining knowledge about Oman's history and traditional festivals every year.

For people who take pleasure in reviving history and have an eye for arts, architecture and niceties of a civil society, Oman is the perfect place. Whether it is the ancient city of Nizwa or the coastal city of Salalah, every area and region reflect Oman's rich cultural heritage and are enriched with pure culture and traditional lifestyle in every facet.

Omani culture takes pride in its roots which is firm in Islam. It developed its individual school of thought, called Ibadism, after its founder, Abdullah Ibn Ibad who lived during the 7th century AD. Not all Omanis are Ibadis, as there are Sunni and Shia Muslims as well. Omanis are not only liberal of the viewpoint of different Muslim sects but are also open-minded towards supporters of other faiths, who are allowed to practice their religion in churches and temples. Islam is based on the accomplishment of the 'Five Pillars of Islam'. A believer and practitioner of these five pillars is considered as a true Muslim.

The Awqaf refers to religious donations which can be property or revenue and are governed by the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs for maintenance of mosques and benefits accrued to the society. Zakat is a charity tax which is given to the needy.

All Muslims are required to fast during Ramadan which is observed in the ninth month of the Islamic year and is regarded as one of the Pillars of Islam. Each year, for 29 or 30 days depending on the lunar calendar, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual desires during the hours of fasting (from dawn to dusk). Ramadan advances 10 to 11 days each year as it is governed by the lunar calendar. Before dawn, Muslims observe a pre-fast meal called Suhoor after which they offer the first prayer of the day - Fajr. At sunset, they break their fast with the meal known as Iftar. They offer extra prayers during Ramadan which are done after the Isha (night prayers) called Taraweeh.

The Haj or pilgrimage is another Pillar of Islam. The pilgrims take a trip to Al-Medina in Saudi Arabia to visit the Prophet's tomb before visiting the holy sites in Mecca. The pilgrimage is facilitated by the Ministry, which ensure the pilgrims' wellbeing and security during their course of stay.

Oman encompasses an unparalleled number of UNESCO-classified World Heritage Sites. Some of them are the Al-Blaid, a site in the ancient city of Zafar; Bat with its tombs dating back to 3,000 years; Bahla Fort and Ras Al-Hadd which is the abode of the exceptional Green Sea Turtle.

Oman's heritage also comprises a well-known sea-faring tradition, as it has 1,700 kilometers-long coastline. Museums and galleries around the secluded and remarkable harbours of Muscat and Muttrah elucidate the significance of the sea and Oman's 5,000 year-old history.

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