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Jews in Islamic Countries: Oman

The early Jewish community of Sohar became famous through Ishaq bin Yahuda, a Sohari merchant mentioned by Buzurq ibn Shahriyar in his "Kitab 'Aja'ib al-Hind" ("Book of the Wonders of India," c. 950). He writes that the Jewish merchant seaman, Ishaq bin Yahuda, visited China from Sohar between the years 882 and 912 after a quarrel with a Jewish colleague. Ishaq left Sohar in poverty to seek his fortune in China and returned to Oman thirty years later with great wealth. After a disagreement with the local ruler he sailed for China again, but at the port of Sumatra his ship and its contents were seized and Ishaq was murdered.

British Lieutenant J.R. Wellsted mentions in his memoirs, Travels in Arabia, vol. 1, about the Jews of Muskat. He writes, "there are a few Jews in Muskat, who mostly arrived there in 1828, being driven from Baghdad . . .by the cruelties and extortions of the Pacha Daud." Lieutenant Wellsted states that Jews are not discriminated against in Oman as they are in other Arab countries such as Yemen and Syria, and do not have to wear any markings to identify themselves as Jews. He writes also that Jews are not restricted to living in one concentrated area, nor are they required to walk in the road if a Muslim is walking on the same street, as they were in Yemen. The Jews in Muskat were employed in many professions, but many were involved in the fabrication of silver ornaments, banking, and liquor sale. Despite the toleration of Jews, in his book Sohar: Culture and Society in an Omani Town, author Frederik Barth, suggests that the Jewish community had disappeared by 1900.

Sources: Oman Studies Centre for Documentation and Research on Oman and the Arabian Gulf

Stillman, Norman A. The Jews of Arab Lands. The Jewish Publication Society of America; Philadelphia, 1979