The Omani Arab of Djibouti
Djibouti, a tiny republic situated on the east coast of Africa, is sometimes referred to as "a valley of hell" because it has one of the hottest, driest climates in the world. From May to October, temperatures reach 107° F, and the annual rainfall is less than five inches. Djibouti is an impoverished nation with almost no natural resources. The land is desolate, vegetation is scarce, and almost all consumer goods must be imported. In addition, Djibouti has been adversely affected by regional tensions between the neighboring countries of Somalia and Ethiopia.
What are their lives like?
The remaining one-fourth of the population live as nomads, wandering over the countryside with their herds of camels, cattle, sheep, and goats. Their lifestyle is very difficult due to the scorching heat, the scarcity of water, and the shortage of grazing land in this region. In addition, very little of the land is suitable for farming. The nomads live in small, collapsible huts made of arched wooden braces covered with skins and grass mats. Famine and malnutrition have created a reliance on the distribution of food aid for most people.
Those who live in the city of Djibouti and are able to find work usually have jobs on the docks, in shipbuilding, and as construction workers. The railway and the national government are also significant employers. Many service areas, such as banking, are now being expanded.
The Omani Arab live in extended family units. Their society is patriarchal, or male-dominated. The men do not abuse this authority because they believe that their families should obey them out of respect, rather than fear. Also, there are clearly defined roles for both sexes. Even the children are given gender-specific duties. The men work outside in the fields while women work in the homes. Men and women often eat separately and never pray together. While men worship at mosques, women attend ceremonies conducted at home by female religious leaders. Marriages are generally pre-arranged by the parents. Children are a considered the family's greatest asset because they provide the parents with additional laborers and social security.
The values of the Omani Arabs in the city are not as strong as the values held by the nomads. The city-dwellers are concerned less with hospitality and more with property, wealth, and education.
Most of the Omani wear traditional Arab clothes. Men wear white robes, turbans, and knives in brightly colored sashes. The women wear long, black dresses over colorful inner clothes. Some of them also wear black masks to cover their faces.
What are their beliefs?
The Omani standard is to accept others on their terms. For example, they view anything less than excessive generosity as rudeness. Even Christians are tolerated as long as they are not Muslim converts.
What are their needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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