Rituals of Royalty and the Elaboration of Ceremony in Oman: View from the Edge

Date: Oct, 2008
ODID Working Paper No. 173
Author(s): Dawn Chatty (QEH)

Ceremonial and elaborate protocols are commonly associated with kingship, authority and power and imbued with a sense of an ancient past. Yet traditions, particularly as pertaining to European practices, are often made up, choreographed and then formally instituted in a matter of a few years. Throughout Europe and the developing world, traditions have been, and continue to be, invented and kingship, oligarchy, and other institutions are set up, supported and occasionally simply maintained by such ceremony. Once established these rituals tend to take on a life of their own, sometimes thriving in an inverse relationship to the actual realities of power and authority. In the Middle East few studies exist which examine the study of royal rituals - invented and derived. Morocco, perhaps more than any other state, has been the focus of a number of such studies a few others considered aspects of ceremonial and monarchy in Jordan. In the case of Oman, however, there are no studies at present which consider the relationship between created ceremonial in the consolidation of power and authority in the perception of the citizens of that state. This article will briefly explore the creation and elaboration of ceremonial and court ritual in the Sultanate of Oman after the accession of Sultan Qaboos bin Said in 1970. It will attempt to show that while the creation of rituals of royalty were important for building a sense of national belonging among even the most remote communities in the country, these same ceremonials and created traditions developed lives of their own, stultifying courtly behaviour, and contributing little to the organic sense of Omani citizenship.

ODID Author(s)