Introduction / History
Omani Arabs in Saudi Arabia make up only a small percentage of the country's total population. They live in the scattered oases of the Eastern province (or Eastern lowlands), located along the Persian Gulf. The Omani are set apart from other Saudi Arabians by their unique use of the Southeast Asian Colloquial Arabic language and by their culture, which has been influenced by the Ibadi Muslim faith.
Saudi Arabia is a large Middle Eastern nation covering three-fourths of the Arabian Peninsula. Most of it is a vast desert where few people live and little or nothing grows. However, lying beneath its surface is half of the world's petroleum reserves. Today,Saudi Arabia exports more oil than any other nation. Wealth from these exports has made it a leading economic power in the Middle East as well as a land of contrasts. For example, camel caravans and mud houses can still be found next to newly constructed highways and apartment buildings.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Omani Arabs living in Saudi Arabia are farmers. They live in rural farm villages or oasis settlements where they lead simple lives. A typical village consists of a cluster of homes made of stones or sun-dried mud. The farmers grow dates, melons, tomatoes, and wheat. The Omani often gather in the marketplaces to buy and sell goods and also to socialize. They love to tell stories, recite poems or verses from the Koran, and visit with their friends and neighbors.
The Omani Arabs live in extended family units. Their society is patriarchal, which means that the husband/father has the ultimate authority over his household. 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 men and women. 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 and children are a considered the family's greatest asset.
The Omani eat mainly dairy products, lamb, rice, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Tea and coffee are their favorite beverages. Islamic law forbids them to eat pork or to drink alcohol. Most of the Omani wear traditional Arab clothes, although many now prefer Western clothing. Men wear white robes and turbans. They also carry 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.
Since the 1960s, Saudi Arabia has used much of its oil income to build modern transportation systems, schools, and communication networks. The government has also taken steps to improve housing and to extend electricity and other modern conveniences to the remote rural areas.
What are their beliefs?
During the seventh century, intense political controversy developed among Muslims regarding how they should choose their leaders. This resulted in the formation of an Islamic sect called Ibadaya. The Ibadis withdrew from mainstream Islam and relocated in Oman and six other Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia.
Today, Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state and the Omani Arabs who live there practice Ibadaya Islam. The Ibadis are more literal in their interpretation and application of the Koran than most Muslims. 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 few known Omani Arab Christians in Saudi Arabia. Prayer is the key to ministering to Omani Arab Muslims with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
* Pray that God will send long-term Christian laborers to live and work among the Omani Arabs in Saudi Arabia.
* Ask God to give a handful of known Omani believers living in Saudi Arabia opportunities to share the Gospel with their own people.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will soften the hearts of Omani Arabs so that they might receive the Gospel when it is presented to them.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that strong Christian fellowships will be birthed among Omani Arabs in Saudi Arabia.