The Muscat Festival of Oman Culture provides some insight into the nomadic lives of the original tribes which roamed freely through the country. Pitching tents in the drifting sands of the deserts, keeping camels, goats and horses, practicing skills and cooking in the traditional manner.
My favourite displays however were the ones which showed children at play, although they were obviously staged for the visitors, it was equally obvious that they were genuinely enjoying themselves.
This group of Omani boys were being coached by a gentleman throughout their playtime. Some of the games being played were recognisable to those we play in the west. They were similar to games of ‘tag’ in one case including the use of a ball to ‘catch’ the the next catcher.
These girls were playing other games, some of which involved sitting in a small circle and singing, it was a little difficult to understand what they were actually playing. One would move around the group touching each friend in turn on the shoulder but beyond that I could not understand the purpose. Possibly it was a just a singing game or a very subtle game of musical chairs, probably not.
It was a pleasure to see children playing traditional games however, youth has forgotten the games we used to play as young children. The only games they appear to be interested in are the ones played on computers or video consoles, this a shame. Video games are great fun but young children nowadays are possibly missing out, these games of tag, team games or hide and seek are a means of socialising with other children, building relationships. Forging bonds seems less likely in the video age.
Storytelling is important to many cultures including the Omanis, it is how their tradition and culture is passed through the generations. Our culture is passed on through television, it is debatable which is most effective.
The genuine joy these children seemed to show in playing the games that were passed down by the parents and grandparents was my abiding memory from the festival.