Dr. Sarah Fee, Associate Curator, Eastern Hemisphere Textiles & Costumes, is the first-ever recipient of the YPC Research Fund. This November 2011, YPC supported Sarah’s trip to Oman to research ancient forms of pitloom weaving and the trade routes of the Muscat cloth, which will inform part of a future ROM exhibition.
Submitted by Sarah Fee, Associate Curator, Eastern Hemisphere Textiles & Costumes
November 21, 2011
Over the weekend, I left the capital city of Muscat for the region of Oman known as Sharquya, which is the eastern point of Oman that juts out into the Arabian Sea. I’ve seen my first camels—now used only for camel racing—and Bedouin desert dwellers who now travel by small pick up trucks.
In the ancient oasis town of Wadi bani Khalid I met with one of the last remaining weavers. He works from very humble quarters, just as 19th century texts describe them. He had very good memories of the earlier striped cloth styles which were popular in both Oman and Africa, which he remembers his father weaving. However, his sons, like the young men in Quryat, have received full educations and want “desk jobs” so Wadi bani Khalid may soon be without weavers.
Today I met with three weavers in another town, Samand Ash Shan. They are still actively weaving and so for the first time I was able to observe men weaving, and even give it a try myself. These men receive commissions from the government and are able to make a decent living and continue to produce daily. The two older men also had many memories of the historic traditions and trades. I was able to purchase several interesting examples for the ROM.
I have had the incredible good fortune to be aided in my research by the Ibra office of the Public Authority of Craft Industries. Saif, an economist with this office, has been traveling with me to introduce me to the weavers. Extending the famous Omani hospitality, he insisted that I stay with his family last night—ten brothers and sisters—where I was fed roast mutton and pomegranate and the best dates imaginable, while his sisters convinced me to paint my hands with henna.
All for now. It’s further travels tomorrow!
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