Oman Zaman - Book review by Maggie Jeans


June 20 2024

Oman Zaman -Traces of the Past - Recollections of an American Family in Oman 1948 – 1983​ by Margaret Kapenga Shurdom

Review by Maggie Jeans OBE

This delightful exploration of Oman's recent history shares an enchanting window into the vanished world of Oman before the modern age. Through the personal photo archives of the Kapenga Shurdom family – beautifully presented alongside an engaging text – we discover the heritage and history of the Sultanate in an account that is by turns informative and heartwarming. A feast of a book for all who love this remarkable land.

"In January of 1948 when my parents, newlyweds Jay and Marjory Kapenga, stepped off the British India boat, Barpeta, in Muscat harbour to work with the Arabian Mission of the Reformed Church of America (RCA), no one imagined their stay would turn into a 35-year love affair with Oman. At that time, the country was ruled by Sultan Said bin Taimur. There were few roads, few telephones, no banks, no air conditioning, little electricity, and no city water supply. My parents always remembered life at that time as being difficult but good. ​

During that time, Muscat and Mutrah were considered the two main towns along the coast. Nizwa was the major town in the interior and the commercial hub of many other towns. But as foreigners were not allowed to go far into the interior without permission from the Sultan, our family rarely saw that part of Oman. Later, when the country opened up with the coming of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, we were finally able to venture into the interior and our parents spent eight years working with the weavers in those once remote areas."

The book is filled with photos giving a rare glimpse of Oman between 1948 and 1953 through the recollections of the family of a Reformed Church of America Mission.  It has been compiled & written by their daughter, Margaret Kepenga, who was born in 1950 in Michigan USA.  She grew up in Muscat and was home schooled until the age of nine when she was sent to an American boarding school in Kodaikanal, a hill station in South India.  This large 335 page book has been published and can be purchased from the Oman Ministry of Tourism and Heritage  Note that “978” is the newly introduced ISBN country prefix for books published in Oman.  

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