Ethnic Groups in Oman
Oman - Culture
A centuries’ old tradition of trade has left unmistakable traces in today’s society. Alone the skin colour of Omanis ranges through all shades from black to white and bears a telling and unmistakable witness to Oman’s cosmopolitan past.
Alongside the descendants of tribes of northern and southern Arabia, the majority forming Hinawis and Ghafiris, there live today many Omanis in whose veins African blood also flows. They are generally called Zanzibaris and because of their educational advantages they formed the majority of the technocrats within the newly-modernised state. Many Zanzibaris had studied in universities in Great Britain, the USA or in British east Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania). The east African Bantu tongue Swahili is still spoken among Zanzibaris and is kept alive in Oman.
The inhabitants of the remote fishing village of Kumzar on the Strait of Hormuz, the Kumzari, are probably immigrants from Baluchistan and speak a Persian dialect.
Baluchistanis served as mercenaries in Oman and played an important role in the army until the change of power in 1970. But also as ordinary workers they found they had better earning potential here than at home on the Makran coast of Pakistan. The Baluchistanis speak Urdu.
Along the Batinah coast several Indian communities have been established over time. In the past Indian merchants, Banyans, had always played a central role in exchanging goods and were involved in most trade with or via India. The Banyans have been settled in Oman from at least the 16th century and have preserved their Hindu beliefs and language.
The Khojas, also successful Indian merchants, live in a part of town completely cut off from its environment in Mutrah. Until 1970 it was forbidden for outsiders to enter their part of town. Today the gate is always open and their dress and speech is the same as Omani but sightseers are still not welcome in their small walled world.
Numerous other small Islamic and Hindu communities have found their home in Oman. Today what binds the many ethnic groups together is the abstract notion of “Omani citizen”, the most important foundation for a modern nation state.
Excerpt from OMAN (www.oman.de) - the travel guide by Georg Popp, Arabia Felix Synform GmbH
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