Omani men chat in the small village of Ghala, near Muscat, on October 27, 2017. AFP / GIUSEPPE CACACE
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Omani Mahmoud bin Youssef Temtemi found himself in a pastoral predicament this fall – his neighbor's flock of sheep had overrun his farm and gobbled up his crops, threatening his income.In Ghala, just outside the capital Muscat, the sheikh humbly brings breakfast for meetings of the council.The fellowship broke the ice for the mediation Temtemi sought. Oman's sabla is a unique form of consensus-building that many see as central to the Gulf country's traditions, and which some want to see adapted to the age of the smartphone.Nabhani said the history of the sabla goes back "ages," but some 40 years ago – after Sultan Qaboos took power in Oman – it was granted a degree of government recognition.Hilal al-Siyabi, an Omani community activist, believes the sabla can – and should – keep up with the times.Under Qaboos, Oman has not replaced the sabla – now a "benign form of assembly," the analyst said, but institutionalized it, with modern forms of government continuing to function in the same patriarchal and hierarchical way.Even the modern Shura Council, Oman's only elected body, is dominated by tribal heavyweights – not the technocrats and intellectuals found in the Council of State appointed by the sultan.
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