In the souqs of Oman we were very surprised to find a lot of pottery from Belgium and Holland. The Dutch pottery was mostly produced by Regout in Maastricht in the Netherlands . The Regout marks on the bottom of the pottery shown here were in use from around 1883.
Maastricht is only about 10 kilometres away form Luik / Liege in Belgium. The Maas river passes through both towns. During the period the pottery was made in Maastricht, copies of British Martini Henry rifles were made in Liege/Luik by e.g Dessart. These rifles are known by collectors as "Muscat Martini Henry's" clearly made for the Muscat arms market!!!!
One of the bowls has the design "Cenis"and this was used from 1883.The other bowl has the design "Pompeia". This is a design that was first used in the 1850's but in combination with the Regout mark we can conclude that it has been produced from 1885 onwards. During the very early 20th century the Regout Mark changed again, giving an end date for the production.
Regout transfer-ware bowl with design Pompeia (produced from 1884) The design was already first used in the 1850's, but in combination with the Regout mark we can date it from 1884 onwards.
Regout Transfer-ware bowl with design Cenis (produced from 1894)
It is very strange that this type of pottery was exported from Belgium and Holland to Oman, Oman had already become quite poor by this period. Oman was impoverished by then because of the:
- Split of Oman and the much more prosperous Zanzibar Omani colony. Zanzibar had to pay an annual fee to Oman as compensation, but this had stopped after a while (against the agreement)
- Switch from sailing ships to larger steamships (no need to stop anymore at Muscat)
- Continuous fighting between tribes in the interior and the Sultan on the coast (Sultan had to pay off tribes to maintain the peace. If the Sultan did not pay up he was attacked and the money obtained by the tribes through plundering. Even the Sultan's palace was plundered.
- Violent Wahhabi gangs / tribes from current Saudi Arabia also had to be paid off by the sultan to maintain the peace.
- The Sultan did not have sufficient money to pay the previously mentioned "bribes" so he had to borrow from the British and became completely dependent on them.
- Ending of the slave trade. In 1902 the Portuguese captured an Omani fleet 11 ships with 114 Omani crew and 725 African slaves. The 114 Omani from Sur were imprisoned by the Portuguese for a long time. This ended the slave trade from Sur
This also resulted in Omani traders taking up lucrative activities such as the illegal gun trade. In Belgium a lot of guns including copies of Martini Henry's were produced. These guns are even called "Muscat Martini Henry's". Many of these guns were even supplied to rebels fighting the British in Afghanistan and India. For details on the Omani involvement in the illegal arms trade at that time see see Ref 1 Keppel.
It is therefore very likely that loads of pottery from Belgium / Holland was used to fill free cargo space in the ships to supplement the gun shipments. It is also even possible that the pottery was used to hide the guns, but his is pure speculation we have so far not found hard evidence of this.