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Cultural ties key to friendship - Asoka Girihagama

Culture is the identity of a country and cultural heritage and national values are held in high esteem in respect of the history and traditions of the nation. Culture is like a stream that flows to the future by absorbing the changes that take place in the society.

My stint of diplomatic assignment in Oman gave me an opportunity of experiencing unique and different culture in the Middle East region. In comparison, it is interesting to learn about similarities and nuances of the cultures in the Middle East and the Asian countries. I intend to lay down some striking features of the cultures of the two countries.

Traditional dances, food, handicrafts, rituals, ceremonies or festivals of Oman always underline its uniqueness and I always observe different features between the two cultures.

It is inspiring to listen to the Omani folk songs, which are entirely different from those of my country in its rhythm, dance and its usage as well.

I have observed that the Omani folk songs are, on many occasions, combined with dances or some rhythmic body movements.

They are different from region to region depending on the environment and are falling into the categories of the sea, desert, camels, swords, etc.

Sri Lanka has a unique culture influenced by its long history, environment, traditions and subsequently, foreign invasions.

Origins of the Sri Lankan folk songs, created by village peasants in the past, could be found in paddy fields, farms or inland-cultivation.

The peasants, during their work time, had used the folk songs as a mean to encourage their peers, to get rid of tiredness, to overcome the monotony or share their feelings. Notably, feelings, emotions, living conditions or environment have been the basis of folk songs in many cultures around the world.

The Omani people are well known for their hospitality and offer refreshment of coffee (Kahwa) accompanied with dates or halwa to their guests, whereas Sri Lankans use tea as the welcome drink.

Hospitality is one of main features of any culture and these traditional values are handed down from generation to generation. Any society would preserve these traditions asunique
features of their cultural or national values.

Food and beverage have significant value in any culture, whereas many countries are well known for their unique food items. Asian countries generally consume rice and curry as their staple food and in the Middle East region, rice is the main ingredient of their meals served with cooked meat or fish.

National festivals always mirror cultural or religious values of nations and hence, national festivals or ceremonies of a country serve as the best source of information of their culture.

There is an important annual cultural event in Sri Lanka that, I am sure, any foreigner would not like to miss out.

The Kandy procession, featuring many dancing traditions supported by various drums, is an annual cultural event held in July-August period to pay homage to the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha.

Four shrines dedicated to deities, colourfully decorated elephants, fire-dances, whip-dances, Kandian dances and various other cultural dances take part in the Kandy procession, which is the unique cultural symbol of Sri Lanka.

Festivals and processions organised by other religions are not rear in Sri Lanka and these events could be experienced throughout the year symbolisaing harmony and cultural diversity among the communities.

Most importantly, these seasonal festivities are conducted in many areas of the country with the support and participation of all communities of the country. I am happy to note that Sri Lanka is now enjoying cultural and religious harmony due to its peaceful environment. Asoka Girihagama is the ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Sultanate of Oman

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Source: Times of Oman 08 September 2012