Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Festival of Negroes this Friday!

Yes, there's actually a festival in Salalah called 'Festival of the Negroes' or مهرجان الزنوج. And it's happening this Friday. I hate the name and feel it's derogatory. Sometimes it happens once a year, other times twice a year. Sometimes years will go by without a festival. In all cases, it only takes place following a royal order from the palace. The festival basically is a gathering of hundreds of former slaves and their descendants in the centre of Salalah to perform traditional dances (influenced by their African heritage). I find the whole thing disturbing because it has 'slavery' written all over it. The dances are beautiful. It's absolutely fascinating to watch. That entire area will be extremely crowded, so if you want to watch, get there early.
. Location: The huge empty parking lot (at the intersection that joins Al Nahdha Street and Al Montazah Road). Keep driving past the Family Bookshop on Al Nahdha in the direction of the ocean, and the huge parking lot is on your left (opposite the Shell petrol station).
. Time: It starts after the afternoon prayers (4 p.m).
. Photography: allowed of course. Oman TV will be filming. If you're taking photos and want to send some to me with your name on the corner of the photos, I'll publish them on the blog. I'd love to see the dances, but it's definitely taboo for a Dhofari girl to go.


  1. Wow, and weird, a little.

    Did this festival begin to celebrate the freedom of the slaves or was it something they were forced to do way back before slavery was abolished in Oman?

  2. What a nonsense "'s definitely taboo for a Dhofari girl to go." Go and watch!!! Is it harming anyone? Or you don't have girlfriends from black people? I think it's normal to go n watch them dances and nothing wrong with it!

  3. Wow! Sounds fascinating. Thanks for sharing the info!

  4. I think it is great.
    Oman should never be allowed to walk away from its history of human trafficking and slavery.

  5. Go, take pics and come back and blog about it. Id like to understand how this is respecting ex slaves when its well known in dhofar that black people are called ABD -SLAVE till today.
    Seriously im disgusted by the narrowminded and unislamic manners that are still being used in present day in regards to people whose family members were slaves. Its just so pre islamic. I could curse the devil in jebali right now.

  6. Dear Pearl,

    You write that "It's just so pre islamic"....1970..when Oman finally made salvery not exactly considered "pre islamic"...there was..and is.. simply no excuse...

  7. Slavery is still alive and well in Oman.
    You pay someone 80 rials a month for a 100 hour week!
    That's still slavery in any decent man's eyes!

  8. I don't know if I am so fascinated I want to learn more about this festival or disturbed that something that would have an appeal from an historic angle is still being continued today.

  9. Well, I went to this “festival”. I would have to guess that there were a maybe 1,000-2,000 people there. About 45-50% of the people were woman. The “dances” did not appear to be planned or rehearsed or even organized in any way. It was simply maybe a couple hundred people walking in a large circle doing basically anything that they wanted. And the “movements” they were doing-if you can call them that—were simply being made up as the participants walked around and around and around… Mostly, the young men, which made up the overwhelming majority of the participants, were simply goofing off and playing around.

    The most bizarre aspect of this spectacular was the women and little girls. Dressed up in the very, very , very heavy white “Kabuki” style makeup on—I see this all the time at Omani weddings but this was the first time for me to see such young girls (as young as 4 or 5 years old) wearing the heavy makeup and blond wigs. White faces-that turned green in the afternoon sun—and black feet and hands—and blond wigs. This aspect is definitely not African…and really sad.

    There were no “beautiful dances”—it was all rather sad. Young men just runny around and women sitting in the sun looking like something out of a sci-fi movie.

  10. The festival was fantastic! Thank you so much for letting us know about it. Wonderful singing and drumming and dancing! Oh, and there were plenty of Dhofari women there!

  11. In response to 'Clashing in the Gulf' - it's true, it wasn't an organised performance, but I thought the sound & movement was great. It felt authentic, energetic & joyous and they certainly all looked like they were having a good time. I have to agree though - the styling of the young girls was bizarre and I'd love to know what that's all about. They looked like scary beauty pageant queens with their fake blond hair, tonnes of make-up and tiaras. Is this a new thing? Is it traditional? I don't understand it.

  12. In response to the the comment directed at Blue Pearl, the racism in Dhofar is preislamic, not the condition of slaves existing there;)

  13. "AnonymousFeb 8, 2012 10:42 PM
    Dear Pearl,

    You write that "It's just so pre islamic"....1970..when Oman finally made salvery not exactly considered "pre islamic"...there was..and is.. simply no excuse..."

    yaakh iblees - if u know Jebali then ull understand why i say this to you.

    Slavery was made haram - forbidden by Islam..Omani government didnt make it haram till 1970 because Islam was scarce in Salalah except for a few sufi persons who in the previous hundred years had come and gone teaching very few things about Islam. Ive met with one of the few women of Salalah who was taught to read Quran in 1970 in arabic and then went on to teach other women.

    I cant turn a blind eye to slavery be it in salalah or uk. Human Rights is a priority in my life.

    Allah yehdeehum, those who still accept slavery and enjoy calling others Abd -Slave. Truley its unacceptable.

  14. I am somewhat new to Oman but I plan to go to this festival if it is sanctioned by HM. I am looking forward to seeing if this is pure buffoonery or a real cultural experience that is African centered. In 3 months I have yet to meet an Omani who is "obviously" of African descent with any sort of black consciousness.