Introduction / History Omani Arabs represent a small percent of Djibouti's total population. It is believed that they immigrated to Djibouti from Oman during the nineteenth century. The Omani are set apart from other peoples in Djibouti by their unique use of the Arabic language and by their culture. They have a reputation for being excessively generous and polite, while still remaining impersonal.
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? About three-fourths of Djibouti's inhabitants live in the capital city, which is also named Djibouti. It is plagued with poverty and has an unemployment rate as high as 80%. Since educational facilities are limited, illiteracy is high.
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 Arabs 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 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? Most of the people living in Djibouti, including the Omani, are Sunni Muslims who practice a moderate form of Islam. They adhere to the five "pillars" of Islam. These include reciting prayers five times a day while facing Mecca, observing the prescribed fasts, giving alms to the poor, and making at least one pilgrimage to Mecca.
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? There are only a handful of known Omani Arab Christians in Djibouti. Prayer is the key to penetrating these precious people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Prayer Points * Pray that the Lord will send forth many laborers into the harvest fields of Djibouti.
* Ask God to give Omani believers living in Djibouti opportunities to share the Gospel with their own people.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio among Omani Arabs.
* Ask God to soften the hearts of Omani Arabs to the Gospel as it is presented to them. * Pray for translation of the Bible to begin in this people group's primary language. * Pray for the availability of the Jesus Film in the primary language of this people.