As you may had read from my previous post, in 2016 we welcomed a delegation of Omanis to Brunei as a part of a celebration of a bilateral relationship between Brunei and Oman. While here, they displayed numerous amount of artifacts and relics (the historical ones are replicas) pertaining to their cultural and historical identities.
Among of these artifacts are a number of metal or silver items, jeweleries and canes. As with other Arab-Islamic countries the Omani art leans to the usage of geometric pattern and vegetal motifs. All of them are intricately carved and decorated mostly in silver.
Perhaps the most identifiable item of the Omanis are their Khanjars; a hook like dagger worn by men on ceremonies. The dagger can be seen on their emblems as well as their banknotes, and worn by men with a belt in the front center of the body. Being an ornamental item as a part of a traditional attire, it is no surprise that the daggers are decorated richly in silver with beautiful hilts made of bone or even precious stones.
This is one example of a Khanjar, with ornamentation of vegetal and geometric designs. The middle band with large swirling designs looks similar if not exactly like the Bruneian motif ‘Ayer Muleh’, which adds to my suspicion that the motif is actually derived from the Arab world.
A Khanji twith splendid decorations in silver.
Along with Khanjits being displayed at the event, there are several, perhaps antique, jewelery pieces made in silver. Among these are anklets, necklaces, rings, bracelets and pectoral jeweleries, richly decorated with silver antique coins called Umla, a widespread way of jewelry making throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa. Coloured beads are used as a part of the jewelry ensemble on some of the items. Some of them are curiously dotted with spikes which gives it a rather frightful appearance. Apparently the spikes, or Boses, was meant to represent breasts and therefore, the jewelry piece in question are meant as a fertility item. They are, as I had been told and as I can see, were very heavy and quite chunky.
A pectoral necklace with small bells and a moon shaped silver piece and a necklace with a large medallion with Arabic calligraphy with coloured beads.
More silver necklaces and pectorals decorated with coloured beads
Large, heavy anklets , silver ‘ spiked’ bracelets and rings.
Canes are also a part of the Omani culture, as they are used for either walking or in dances (as performed by the dancers invited in this event) They too are given attention in regards of the decoration, many of which decorated with carved silver or bones and even precious stones. They are mostly made of wood, but some are made with ebony with tips decorated in silver with vegetal and geometric motifs as well as polished bone and ivorybeautifully decorated canes displayed with other knick knacks.
The handles and tips of some of the canes, impressively ornamented with fine details.
A closeup of one of the cane’s decoration, showing flowers and swirly leaf designs, not unlike the ones that can be found in Brunei!
Oman, like other Middle Eastern countries, have a coffee culture. In this exhibition, they pour coffee from silver pots, under beautiful bedouin tents and low sofas perfumed with copious amount of rosewater and served with a bowl of Halwa, a traditional sweet made from sugar and rosewater with a little chopped nuts, rendering the dessert sweet and sticky with a rose like odour and dizzying perfume aftertaste. The pots, glasses, rosewater sprinkler, water basins and serving trays are also given the Omani decorative treatment, and as with other silver items being displayed, they too are decorated richly in exquisite and delicate carvings. The omanis serve and drink their coffee black, but usually with sugar. If no sugar was added to the coffee, then the Halwa serves as a sweet-but-nauseating perfumed aftertaste.
Silver serving tray, coffee pot, a water basin to hold hot water and a Halwa bowl, beautifully decorated with carvings
A closeup on the lid of the Halwa bowl lid exhibiting vegetal motifs
The silver water basin, again with the swirly leaf design