Oman is an Arab country located in the Middle East, beside the United Arab Emirates as well as Yemen. Since that is the case, I attempted to focus on Tran- Saharan slavery although after asking my father and sibling questions which consisted of:
- What can you tell me about Oman and slavery?
- Would it be considered part of Trans-Saharan slavery?
- Why do we have many mixed bloods in Oman especially Zanzibari blood?
- Andwhy is there a cast system with last names?
And the response I got from each of them showed two different perspectives.
They both agreed that this was not a part of Trans-Saharan slave trade since that focused on North Africa mostly and what they know about Oman’s history is about its relationship with Zanzibar which is a region of Tanzania located in East Africa. Asking myfather at first, showed how much of a true patriot he is. He told me that Oman was not really involved in slavery, but it was a matter of trade between two brothers, since Zanzibar was colonized by Omani’s, one of our past Sultans chose to run Oman whereas his brother would run Zanzibar and it was purely a matter of trade of goods and services which led many Zanzibaris to come to Oman where they were given jobs and were getting paid for it. This then led me to ask why there was a cast system with last names? Since I’ve heard several stories of girls and boys not eligible to get married to a certain person due to their last names as some are considered “servant” last names.
He responded with telling me that during the 1970’s when the current Sultan Qaboos Al Said took charge of Oman , he made an announcement for all Omanis around the world to come back to the country and claim their Omani nationality, which allowed non-Omanis to come into the country and claiming to be Omani, hence making their own last names close to actual Omani last names such as my last name “Al Habsi” is changed to “Al Habdi” which can apparently be easily traced to not really being Omani, which is discrimination and is illegal in Oman but still unfortunately takes place.
On the other hand, I asked my sister Awatif who is a soon to be graduate from Georgetown University, whom conducted research and interviews of the relationship of Oman and Zanzibar both physically in Oman as well as Zanzibar. Which was inconclusive due to insufficient evidence from both ends as they both kept contradicting one another. She let me know that after conducting her interview and doing her research in Oman she noticed that many Omani’s claimed that it was never a slave trade that took place and there were third parties such as Britain who were intervened in Zanzibar as well who could have been enslaving the people of Zanzibar at that period.
One thing that stood out was when she told me that she had interviewed a man who had written a book on the relationship of Oman and Zanzibar in the 1960’s, who said that all these monuments and tourism places of where Omani’s supposedly kept their slaves in are fabricated to gain merely money. Whereas, when she conducted her research in Zanzibar, she was informed that Omani’s did enslave the Zanzibari’s and she was also taken on the tour to see these artifacts and monuments but kept asking herself whether or not this tour guide is trying to sell her a story or not. She later on told me that her final thoughts on which were that she would consider herself completely in denial if she were to say that no Omanis enslaved the citizens of Zanzibar, so she believes that it did take place but not to an extreme level since some people may have very well been unaware of slavery taking place. She also took the time to point out how different people have different stories and different perspectives on matters like so and she mentioned that since the most people of Zanzibar do not really hold a grudge on Omani citizens since there is so much shared culture and tradition between them and in fact keep pictures of our current Sultan in some stores, I believe that this could have also been a miscommunication or a misbelief between the two regions.
Reading John W. Fields’ Narrative left me sorrowful. He explained his daily routine in the plantation with the mistress and master that were cruel and harsh to them. He explained how the slaves around him including himself would try t educate themselves whenever they would get the chance to and also pointed out the harsh rules and laws of white men educating slaves that would be punished drastically for it. He also mentions that “life as a slave was a repetition of hard work, poor quarters and board” which got me thinking that perhaps when the Omani’s took some Zanzibari’s back to Oman to give them a job they might have been put in horrible places to stay in as well as work hard every day maybe with or without pay. Perhaps even with pay they were probably cheated with what they actually deserved for their labor just like how John Fields was when he ran away and got a job that paid 7 dollars a month for his general labor, which isn’t enough to live by. Which might have been what happened in Oman too, leading the people of Zanzibar to believe it was a part of slavery.
The second narrative read was Tempie Cummins’ narrative which she recalled from since she was a child. One particular part of her story stood out to me, which was when she reported that her mother would be listening to the white folks conversing from the chimney, hearing that these slaves they held were in fact given their rights of freedom but the master still did not want to let them go, because he was still trying to make money out of them. Which one brother named Sayyid majid bin Said Al Busaidi became the Sultan of Zanzibar from 1834 to 1870 which was what my father tried to explain to me, but further research indicates that Zanzibar fell under the control of Oman from1698, so this period runs through when slavery was still not abolished to when it was or at least should have been. This allows the question of whether or not the Omani perspective given was after slavery was abolished and that’s why they did not consider themselves owning or slaves and the Tanzanian perspective is being focused before slavery was abolished, or it could be both because some Omani’s may have still enslaved the citizens of Zanzibar even after it was abolished.
Before coming to the U.S, I was curious of where I could be from and if I was really Omani. Slowing growing up in schools with classmates who were told to be ashamed of being a mixed blood by other students which kept me in denial for some parts of my life and the same goes for the other classmates who refused to admit they were a mixture of both. This led to an identity crisis within each individual since you could either be one or the other, in the eyes of people around you. As we got older though, the more open we were to admit that we were mixed and the more pride you took within both cultures of your family which made me curious to the question of what other ethnicity could be within me?
Coming to the U.S, I kept on seeing D.N.A testing websites being advertised all the time which I saw as an opportunity to figure out who I really am. I used the Ancestry D.N.A site to order the test and find out my D.N.A results which took a while to receive. My D.N.A results overall and exactly state that I am 34% South Asian, 23% Middle Eastern, 23% African South-Eastern Bantu and 7% Caucus, it also includes a Migration sector which for me is African Caribbean’s, letting me know that I may have relatives from that region that were part of that migration. As soon as I received my D.N.A results I was really confused and the identity crisis had come up once more. I understood where the Middle Eastern and African percentage came from since I’ve identified myself as an Afro-Arab girl since my father is Omani and my mother is Ugandan but the Caucus and especially the South Asian percentage, made me go insane with curiosity!
I texted my parents as soon as I could only to get an unfulfilling response. My mother nor my father had the answer as to why these percentages which left me in the dark. Taking Africana 101 is honestly what opened my eyes, reading about Genetics and knowing more about D.N.A made me realize that the results I got convey my families past history and the fact that I can now tell the regions my blood is associated with can open up new doors for more family members and more cultures that I should proudly be a part of. After realizing this I was so happy and absolutely do not regret taking this test, it was worth every penny.