An invitation to explore Omanis’ relationship with the sea

There is a strong connection between Omanis and the sea. It is no coincidence that Oman bears the title of “the Sultanate of the Sea.”
The famous Sinbad character in the book “Thousand and One Nights” is inspired by the story of an Omani sailor from Sohar who, in 750 AD, made his first cruise to the Chinese city of Canton.
Oman’s relationship with the sea can be traced back to the third millennium BC, when Omani merchants carried goods overseas to all parts of the world. Oman’s strategic location has played a major role in many campaigns and regional conflicts in this region.
Oman overlooks the Arabian Sea, the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Gulf. It also controls the Strait of Hormuz, which is one of the most important facilities in the region, linking the Sea of Oman with the Arabian Gulf. The Strait of Hormuz is a gateway to all ships coming from the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.
People in Oman especially those who live near the shores refused to move away from the sea, spend most of their time in its turquoise blue waters, since it is also their main source of income relying heavily on the bounty of the waters.
This relationship has been explored through the collection of photographs displayed at the National Maritime Museum in Paris which recently launched ‘Oman and the Sea Exhibition.’
The Musée national de la Marine is located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris in the Palais de Chaillot, Trocadéro in France. It houses hundreds of models of small crafts indigenous to different locations of the French Empire including paintings and other naval installations providing a timeline of France’s proud naval history.
During the exhibition, navigation equipment, photographs and documents, which reflect the richness of Oman’s maritime heritage, which attracted many travelers, including the French Admiral Francois Edmond Paris, who visited Oman two centuries ago and without vital information about the design and construction of Omani ships, were on display.
On one the corners of the museum’s hallowed halls are daily scenes from Oman — ranging from hard working fishermen engaged in different fishing activities to children frolicking in the country’s gentle waters.
The exhibition has demonstrated clearly how generations of Omanis passed down traditions and the love of the ocean to their children. It also showcased, despite the years of development and technology, the thriving old methods still being used by local fishermen.
Photographer Khamees Saleh al Fakri feels fortunate that several of his works became part of the exhibition.
He agrees that since many Omanis live near the sea, a lot of them also has this ingrained mentality that they belong to the sea and therefore it is important for their children to learn how to live with the sea.
Al Fakri shared that for most of these fishermen, they have a romantic relationship with the ocean, scenes which he tried to capture on photographs.
“I’ve taken a series of photos of the fishermen at Almusenaa. It documented many aspects of their daily life. It showcased how they wake up, start their day, go fishing and come back home. These are regular people doing daily chores but it showed how they are passionate about the sea and the marine life that they get to enjoy,” he said.
The Oman and the Sea exhibition serves as an invitation to the French people to travel to the Sultanate, and guided by the items on display come to the country and see for themselves the strong relationship between Omanis and the waters that surround them.

SIHAM AL SAIDI