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Oman Observed As A Safe Friendly Nation By Westerners

Date: 11 Jul 2009

Oman's status as an extremely safe and friendly country that welcomes western visitors is steadily increasing. Usama Bin Karim Al Haremi, of Oman Air’s Corporate Communications and Media said that Oman has gained an international reputation for being a peaceful, settled nation, loyal to Arab neighbors whilst maintaining close, friendly ties with Western countries. Coupled with a population friendly to Westerners he added, Oman offers an accessible, widely unspoiled slice of Arabia for travelers. Al Haremi brings to notice a series of acknowledgments by prominent institutions as well as trusted and respected professionals on Oman’s distinguished status.

After applying for The Joseph J. Malone Fellowship with the National Council on U.S - Arab Relations (NCUSAR) in February 2009, Dr. Joel Shrock, associate history professor, was notified that his application was chosen among nine others to leave March 10 to Oman. The NCUSAR chooses around ten people to attend the intensive cultural immersion program.

Al Haremi noted that the goal of the program was to intensively study and experience the Arab culture of Oman. The group had a series of briefings from the U.S. State Department, Department of Commerce, Middle Eastern scholars, former Omani ambassadors, HE the Secretary General of Omani Foreign Ministry, U.S. embassy staff in Oman, and even retired four-star General Anthony Zinni in the airport lounge in Qatar.

“The bulk of our trip was spent in buses and three SUVs driving all around the country, visiting fishing villages, bedouins in the desert, and commercial cities in order to better understand the country and its people,” writes Shrock about his experience.

“Omanis are an amasingly friendly people–I never went more than a few minutes without someone saying hello–usually in English–and asking where I was from. All were excited that Americans were visiting their country,” said Shrock.

At the end of the trip, the entire group produced a 25 page briefing document that highlighted Oman as a safe and attractive destination, which is lead by HM Sultan Qaboos Bin Said who has significantly modernised the nation’s infrastructure. “The trip has been an invaluable experience to me and will significantly help me to explain Arab culture to my students,” Shrock comments in his report.

Al Haremi also brought to notice the report on Oman by the Florida-based center “Safe Traveler” that provides travelers, high-level corporate executives, government officials and VIPs with a level of comprehensive travel safety, destination and cultural information through its innovative Web site www.safetraveler.com. The report on Oman was produced in partnership with the iJET Intelligence Center based in Annapolis, Maryland. iJET monitors local conditions in countries to provide a level of information that surpasses any available information from other public sources, including the U.S. State Department.

In their report on Oman, Western travelers are provided with the complete and accurate destination-specific information on the Sultanate. After highlighting Oman's strategic location at the mouth of the Arabian Gulf, the report draws attention to the capital Muscat, which, it says, maintains a balance between old and new. The old city retains the aura of traditional Arabian city with its narrow streets and open-air markets. Greater Oman, largely built during the past thirty years, is typified by wide boulevards, well-maintained grass, and modern buildings. Oman long maintained a strong navy that enabled it to become a colonial power and control parts of Arabian Peninsula, Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

During the past 30 years, Oman has developed rapidly under the leadership of Sultan Qaboos and while its economy is largely dependent on the production and export of oil, Oman has quickly developed a reputation as a great tourism destination, also an entrepreneurial business climate. Oman has made many modern advances but maintains strong loyalty to traditions. Omanis are intent on preserving the country's traditional arts, dance and music.

The report draws attention on Oman's main attractions that include its ancient forts and Muslim architecture. "The variety of terrain in Oman makes mountain and desert motoring particularly worthwhile. Beaches and water sports are the recreational mainstay of many of the five-star hotels. Tourists from throughout the Arabian Gulf flock to Oman's beaches on a regular basis to avoid the hot summers in their home countries. Telephone services are reliable. Fax and Internet services are provided in most hotels and business centers in major cities. Internet cafes are located in Muscat and Nizwa. The international airport in Muscat serves flights from European capitals and other major cities. Popular airlines include Oman Air, Kuwait Airways, Middle East Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Air France, British Airways, Gulf Air, and KLM Royal Dutch Airways.

The incidence of petty crime is low in Oman, and violent crimes are rare," the report confirms.

Al Haremi also recalled the series titled My Year in Oman: An American Experience in Arabia during the War of Terror: By Matthew D Heines. Reviewing the book, Dr Terry O'Brien says the answer, surprisingly, is all warmth, no pain, laughter, romance, and high adventure in the Sultanate of Oman. And for Matthew D Heines - a former American paratrooper - it is more than just a cultural shock as he goes on a thrilling ride through the heart of the Arab culture as a teacher, adventurer and all-around wise-cracker.

In the second of a three-book series, Heines breathes the warmth and humour and the heartache of an American with the backdrop of the lifestyle of the 'expatriate’.

Dr Terry O’Brien explains, “The book is based in Oman - the Middle East which he finds ‘extreme and exotic ’. Heines is pleasantly surprised as he discovers Oman - the land of the legendary Sindbad the Sailor - as a paradise full of interesting places and people.”

“This Sultanate is neither the West, nor the East. This is the Middle East, rich in Arabian culture and heritage, where things like schedules and time-tables are considered peculiar foreign concepts,” the writer declares. The book is an attempt by Heines for the world to understand the ‘Muslim culture a little bit better’ perhaps thorough his eyes, one "who lived with and learned to love these people". The book is an attempt to tell a story until the story tells another story: 'I hope my story will also help you to understand their stories,' Heines wished.

“Muscat, Oman is one of the magical and romantic cities I have ever seen," he announces. The romance that bloomed was set in a place that was 'dotted with medieval style castles and forts'. No sky-scrappers please - that was the decree of Sultan Qaboos.

On the series of reports on Oman, Al Haremi brought to notice the report by The Associates in Cultural Exchange organisation (A.C.E) based in Seattle, Washington, produced on March 2009. (A.C.E) helps people and organisations around the world create new connections and build interpersonal networks with those of other language and cultural backgrounds. (A.C.E) helped coordinate a Study Mission, and provided a post trip for 15 delegates from the Seattle Study Mission to Oman.

"This included an all day excursion into the interior of Oman, a coastal voyage, a banquet on the campus of Sultan Qaboos University, in addition to tours of the capital city. The primary objective of the trip was to familiarise delegates with the “heart of Arabia” so as to gain insights into the authentic culture and history of the region, as well as to understand the modern-day potential for developing ties between the Greater Seattle region and Oman," Al Haremi highlighted.

"Arriving from Dubai to Al Suwadi Resort Hotel, the group was provided a sumptuous buffet of local delicacies and we began to feel at home in Oman immediately. The view of Suwadi beach was enticing with local fisherman transporting tourists out to neighboring islands for a stroll and the temperature balmy," The report reads. The group then went on visit places like Jabreen Castle, Al Hoota Cave, Al Hamra Village, village of Misfat Al-Abrieen, Nizwa and concluded their first leg of the tour with an Omani Cultural Dinner at the Al Bustan Palace hotel.

The group was also all praise for the magnificent marine resource that Oman is known for. "The views of the coastline are stupendous as the geological up thrust of Oman’s mountains is plainly evident from the sea, and there are almost no people to be seen anywhere on the coast including the pristine beach where we moored and swam. On board we enjoyed an Arabic picnic, the tropical weather, and the good company of the Omani crew and our Omani hosts. Later that evening we departed for home, the time in Oman much like a mirage. It was hard to believe it was over so soon, and was something out of a dream both beautiful and not quite real. Everyone was adamant that they’d have to return to be sure it wasn’t a dream after all."

The group also noted the strategic opportunities provided by Oman and observed that Oman is a country to be taken seriously on a business and trade level. In the section on Strategic Opportunities in their report on the country, the group brings to focus the great business opportunities that Oman has to offer to investors from around the world. It says: "From its world-class tourist attractions to its petroleum industry and fisheries, Oman has much to offer to global business partners as well as leaders in education, international affairs, and technology. Once the global downturn has run its course, Oman will resume its strategic initiatives involving development hubs or “cities” such as Blue City and Wave.

Oman has been less affected by the global meltdown than many other fast-developing regions because it has relied far less on hyper development and expatriate expertise. Oman’s economy remains largely self-contained and the petroleum sector remains steady because Oman did not put in place over-ambitious plans based on unrealistic petroleum revenues. Oman also has a real agricultural base, unusual for the Arabian Peninsula, and its people are largely employed in all sectors of the economy. The delights highlighted Key opportunities in various areas such as Tourism, Fisheries, Investment, and Education.

Summarising their experience, the report reads that Seattleites who go to Oman will find people who are enlightened, kind, and interested in knowing about our region.

"There are few places in the world one can go and find a readier reception. Everyone who visited Oman in our delegation declared a fervent interest in returning in the future. The “Bridge of Friendship” with Oman has been established and the opportunities are endless for others to cross over and engage further," The summary reads.

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