Introduction / History Omani Arabs represent less than one percent of Yemen's total population. It is believed that they immigrated to Yemen from Oman during the 1800s. The Omani are set apart from other peoples by their unique use of the Arabic language. They also have a reputation for being very generous and polite, while still remaining impersonal.
Yemen is located in the mountainous southern part of the Arabian Peninsula. Most of its citizens live in the Tihama foothills and central highlands of the north. The Omani Arabs are located in the less populated southern region. The entire area is extremely hot with temperatures as high as 129F. Severe sandstorms are common during the winter months. Most of the country averages five inches of rain per year; however, it may not rain in the desert areas for as long as five years. Yemen is famous for its mocha coffee, textiles, leather, and iron. Arabic is the national language and Islam is the state religion.
What are their lives like? Most of the Omani are located in the highland valleys and scattered oases of central and southern Yemen. They either live in rural areas on the outskirts of towns, or in small villages located near their farm land. They rely mainly on farming and raising livestock for their livelihood. Coffee, fruits, grains, and vegetables are their principal crops. Those who live in the drier regions raise sheep.
Some of the Omani are craftsmen who make a living by working with leather, iron, textiles, and jewelry. Many of the younger men have left Yemen in search of jobs in Saudi Arabia and other countries. Since the 1980s, the Yemeni have worked to turn the desert areas into farmland by means of dams, irrigation, and other developmental projects.
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. 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 religious services at home. Marriages are generally pre-arranged, and children are considered a family's greatest asset.
Most of the Omani men wear white robes, turbans, and brightly colored sashes. The women wear long black dresses over colorful inner clothes. Some of them also wear black masks over their faces. Their staple foods are rice, bread, vegetables, lamb, and fish. The national dish is a spicy stew called salta. Almost all the men and most of the women chew khat, a leaf that acts as a stimulant.
Most rural children are educated in Islamic schools, while those in towns attend public schools. About one in six people, 15 years or older can read and write. Many people still use camels, donkeys, and horses for transportation, although cars are now available.
Yemen's economy was greatly affected by war in the 1960s and drought in the 1970s. Today, the country still depends heavily on foreign aid and income from Yemeni who work in other countries.
What are their beliefs? Most of the people living in Yemen, including the Omani, are Muslims. Islamic influences are apparent in all aspects of life. The Omani, like other Muslims, adhere to the five "pillars" of Islam. These include acknowledging that Allah is the only god, praying, fasting, giving alms to the poor, and making a 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 Yemen. Prayer is the key to ministering to 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 Yemen.
* Ask God to give the few known Omani believers living in Yemen opportunities to share the Gospel with their own people.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will anoint the Gospel as it goes forth among Omani Arabs.
* Ask God to soften the hearts of Omani Arabs to the Gospel as it is presented to them.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
* Pray that strong Christian fellowships will be raised up among Omani Arabs in Yemen. * 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.