AKR in Oman 4: The Performance of Nationalism, Devotion, Gratitude, and Obedience
I was not allowed to take photographs at the “Programme for the 40th National Day Festival” so I’ll share these images of Nationalism and Devotion from the street.
1. Buildings all over Muscat are decorated with a variety of photographs of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.
Buildings all over Muscat are decorated with a variety of photographs of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.
The woman driving this car explained that is was decorated for "my majesty."
2. A BMW decorated with tributes to as the driver put it in her own words “My Majesty.”
3. Below: A poster of the His Majesty on the back window of Dahaitsu Terios SUV. Cars will be allowed to keep their decorations until January 2011.
Many cars have posters like this one on their back windows.
Now, in your mind picture this:
• A stadium the size of at least 4 football fields framed by mountains and clear blue sky.
• A marching band totaling some 1,500 players comprised of musicians from five detachments from the Omani Armed forces: The Royal Guard of Oman, the Royal Army of Oman, the Royal Air Force of Oman, the Royal Navy of Oman and the Royal Oman Police.
• 31 Folkloric Troupes each numbering in the hundreds, marching in lines dressed in traditional grab, playing drums, brandishing traditional weapons, and chanting poems of honorific praise.
Such was the program for the 40th National Day Festival held at the Al Fatah Stadium in Al Wattayah, Muscat Oman. The level of coordination and the sheer number of participants were perhaps the most impressive elements of this performance extravaganza. The media of expression were predominantly music, military music that is (al-musiqa al-askariya), folkloric troupes chanting praise poetry, newly composed lyrics and music honoring the sultan, and the exquisitely executed precision choreography of various military units. 16,000 were said to be in the program and another several thousand in the stadium the impact of the event was thrilling ~ even for a newcomer to the scene like me.
Azza al-Qasabi, a theater specialist and employee of the Diwan, Royal Court of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, was kind enough to pick me up and bring me to the festival and to deliver me two invitations that had been procured by my hosts for other National Day events. After some confusion about where to park we were admitted into the stadium well in advance of the program. I was instructed to sit in the covered “Ladies Section” apart from Azza who must have sat with her colleagues from the Diwan. I was grateful for the shade and the opportunity to admire the great variety of formal dress exhibited among these family members (women and children) who were associated with the Omani Armed forces or the Government (the Royal Court) of Oman. I sat with a group of older women at first and we exchanged pleasantries but later moved later to a better seat where my neighbors were two young women who are flight attendants for Royal Oman Airlines, the carrier that transports the Sultan, the Royal Family, foreign diplomats, and members of the Armed Forces. While I had been instructed at the entrance to take my camera back to the car, my neighbors had brought in their small cameras and cell phones without problem and offered to take pictures throughout the performance and send them to me later.
In addition to taking notes on the progression of events I followed along with the programs that commemorated the event. My neighbors helped me to read through the lists of
My Documentation Station
performers and the songs lyrics for all of their chats as well as those of the new Qasida Watani (nationalist qasida) that had been composed for the occasion. In our section of elite ladies, we all got new brief cases, commemorating the event, in which to carry our programs. Later I was able to read reports of the programs in the local newspapers and to watch full coverage of the program on television.
Here is my documentation station: you see my laptop in the foreground, a pile of books under my
Some of the English language newspapers.
camcorder in the mid ground and the hotel’s flat screen television in the background. We’ll see if this works.
And here is a sample of some of the news reports that I have been reading:
I’ll follow this with a fuller description of the Oman Tattoo, 2010: Oman Military Musical Festival that I was lucky enough to attend on December 1 and which was more varied and presented on an even grander scale than the National Festival described above: an extraordinary performance of patriotism!