The country of Oman is on the Arabian Peninsula with an encompassing desert, riverbed oasses and long stretches of coastlines on the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman.
One of Oman’s artifacts – the Majmar, an incense burner which demonstrates the culture of its creator and users. As an artefact it offers spiritual protection from evil which is the major use of incense burners.
Today, it has influenced a part of the vernacular architecture of the Dhofar region – the largest of the eleven Governorates in the Sultanate. Local architecture varies according to the different climatic environments of the country and local materials, elements and activities are leaving profound impacts. Mud bricks, which are still locally made and metal work are used up to today on the lower elevations of buildings. Sustainable passive environmental design systems such as irrigational water methods are still preserved and used nowadays in Oman.
Even if oil brought its own rules and notions to locals’ lifestyle and mindset, Omani local people are still having nomadic traces in their everyday modern life.
Omani mysterious culture nourishes local traditions and comes up preserved from dim and distant past…
It became the focus of the Girne American University`s fourth seminar on November, 11th, 2016, opened by Alessandro Broccoleri and the Dean of the Architecture faculty, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mehmet Adil, who spoke about how important such lectures were in terms of learning and information sharing.
Special thanks to Asst. Prof. Dr. Balkiz Yapicioglu who shared the personal experience she gained after one year in Oman and Assistant Prof. Balkiz Yapicioglu who informed lecture participants about sacred Oman artifacts.
As the introduction to the most sacred part of her speech Assistant Professor Balkiz Yapicioglu heightened the senses with the aroma of frankincense and myrrh from the mijmara. Many Westerners known the story of the birth of Jesus when three wise men, the magi, brought the baby gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. All these three aromatic resins are widely spread in Oman.
It is said that ”the fragrance of frankincense” even fills the air the minute you step off the plane. ”A milky white resin that forms pale rocks, frankincense is burnt on charcoal in burners called majmar and these are found in the entrance of almost every building, with the delicate white smoke scenting humble homes and grand hotels alike, so that it all mingles in the atmosphere, enveloping you in its sweet, citrussy perfume.”
Professor Balkiz Yapicioglu was living in Salalah – the city in the Dhofar region where nowadays modern blank architecture is appearing on the streets. However, the local symbol of Omani culture, the Mijmara, is still present in the design of any building. Moreover, governmental buildings in particular are representing local architectural elements of the mijmara in them.
In this respect, we can notice how true the statement of Winston Churchill is: “We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.” – says his quote, mentioned by Prof. Mehmet Adil in the beginning of the seminar.
Therefore, Mijmara, the artifact of Oman, is the element which is used in modern architecture as a trace of the strong vernacular base of the nation and is leaving a strong impact on Omani people’s life today as well as decades ago.
Information mentioned above was gathered on November the 11th, 2016 during GAU Friday seminar.
by Almira Khafizou;