Saturday, July 16, 2011

From the Collection - Children's clothing from Oman

We've collected a lot of children's clothing (though we don't have children!) in our travels.  Why?  Well, this is what I think...20-30-40-50 years ago, the world must have been even more amazing than it is now:   Dutch people walking around in wooden shoes, Indonesian women in dresses made of birch bark, heavily embroidered aprons in Central Europe, woven Kente and raffia cloth in Africa, felted wool caps in Ladakh, and sealskin outfits that kept you warm but let you sweat in the northern latitudes.  Wow.  The world is still pretty amazing, but clothing is not why you go traveling anymore.  Unfortunately, in most places, traditional clothing is something you wear for a festival, a graduation ceremony, a wedding, and most other days you wear pants and a shirt or t-shirt.  (This isn't completely true; here's a brief list of great places where you can still see people going about their lives in the clothing that they've been wearing for the last 200-1,000 years:  Guatemala and southern Mexico, Indonesia, Ladakh, Bolivia and especially India and Japan.  The Persian/Arabian Gulf region is great, too, but traditional clothing is actually mandated by law in many of those countries.)  Something else we've noticed is that when traditional clothing is being worn, it's usually the women and children wearing it.  Men's couture seems to be the easiest to switch to pants and a t-shirt.  Also, children's and women's clothing is amazing because of the care and hard work that goes into decorating it.  And for us, travelling over the last 20 years, women's and children's clothing is really all that's left in antique stores.  The care, hard work and design that go into creating and decorating children's clothing also indicate how much the child was loved.  My guess is that the women doing this work had plenty of other things to do, but they spent a lot of time on these clothes anyway.

So here are a few items from the Sultanate of Oman.  There's a good clothing article with lots more photos here.  And a more authoritative article here (from the government).  The little boy's dishdashah (above) is worn all over Oman, and you see them mostly in white, though sometimes in other pastel colors.  This little girl's thawb (left), is typical of little girls all over Oman, but for adult women it's more typical of central Oman.  It would be worn with loose pants, called al basta. The embroidery on this has been done with a sewing machine.  Not that it looks any easier than doing it by hand--I've got some great examples of extremely intricate machine-stitched embroidery I'll share later.

It dawned on my this morning that you might like to see real children in these clothes.  Fortunately we took a digital camera with us when we went to Oman in 1998 and those photos are fairly easy to sort through (once I'd gone downstairs and dug out the backup hard drive).  First of all, a photo of some children in an oasis near al-Mudhaibi, which is near our favorite souq, Sinaw. The kids were overjoyed because after walking around the oasis for a while we returned to find a goat on the hood of our car!  (Goats will find any method available to get up into the trees for a good meal of leaves.)  I think this photos illustrates my earlier point: most of the boys are wearing western clothing (the only boy in a dishdashah and kuma--Omani embroidered cap--is hidden by the others)...while the girls are dressed traditionally.

But of course we have plenty of photos, so here's a nice one of a boy in a dishdashah and misr, and very cool sunglasses, taken in Sinaw.  The woman behind him is in traditional Bedu dress-up clothes.  The Bedu mostly live in the desert and only see their friends when they come to the souq (which is held weekly), so it's definitely a dress-up day.

Of course it's impossible for me to write a post about souqs in Oman without including a photo of a camel.  And this is my favorite type of camel photo--a camel in the back of a small pickup!  We saw these all over Oman (once we got out of the capitol) and I loved it; what a reminder that you're not in Kansas anymore, huh?!

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