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Celebrating the 40 th Renaissance Day 2010 - 2011


Celebrating the 40 th Renaissance Day 2010 - 2011


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Hearty Congratulations to

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said on the occasion of the 40th Renaissance Day

We Celebrate the 40th Renaissance Day, a vision that has blessed the Sultanate of Oman with modernity and properity. Long may the Renaissance continue.


His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said

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Oman's Journey of Progress Publisher Mazoon Press and Publishing Chairman, Mazoon Press & Publishing Jamil bin Ali Sultan General Manager Graeme Selby Sales Manager Samuel Paul Editor Suzy Fontes Asst. Production Manager Ganapathy Anand Designer Suresh J.S

Once upon a time, in the rustic hamlet of Muscat and in little settlements in the periphery of the ‘city’ and beyond, life was austere and everyday amenities difficult to come by. Life was seemingly suspended in a cloud of uncertainties... To quote Chris Kutschera, a journalist from Washington Post, ‘the clock of history (in Oman) was stopped somewhere in the Middle Ages!’

And then, one fine day, on July 23, 1970 to be specific, that clock was wound to work at a frenzied pace and match time with the rest of the world by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. In the blink of an eye, he changed the very façade of the nation and wiped out the repressive policies that had placed shackles on every kind of development and progress. His visionary leadership and wisdom manifested on the land, and life metamorphosed into the modern era that it is now.

40 years since, this story has been repeated several times over, but amongst the nation’s loyal citizens and residents it never fails to evoke that sense of security and pride. Its leader has singlehandedly re-scripted the history to turn it over from a

Cover Design - Anantha Kumar Advertising - Sr.Executives Sunil Shelke, Levis John Thomas Pictures Photocentre, Shutterstock, Bait Al Zubair Advertising & Distribution Mazoon Press and Publishing P.O. Box 178, PC 114, Muttrah, Sultanate of Oman Tel.: (968) 24817004, Fax: (968) 24816888 mppress@omantel.net.om; www.mazoonprinting.com

ODYSSEY published by Mazoon Press and Publishing & Printed at Mazoon Printing, Publishing & Advertising (L.L.C)

land shorn of all signs of modernity to one that is on par with developed nations around the world.

This ‘Odyssey’ is a reflection of that journey, initiated forty years ago. In the following pages we present little pellets of Oman’s progress, from its diversification policies to its environment conservation efforts. We highlight its stubborn attachment to the rich culture and heritage of the land. We take a detour on the art circuit and the NGO’s that have been endeavouring to create a balance in the society...

So pause, rewind and fast-forward as we take you on this beautiful ‘Odyssey’ of Oman’s progress!


Warmest Felicitations to the Builder of modern Oman and creator of the blessed Renaissance

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said and the people of Oman on the 40th Renaissance Day Reiterate our commitment to move forward in contributing to the growth of this country and serving the people of Oman under the visionary leadership of His Majesty

MB Holding Company LLC www.mbholdingco.com

www.mawaridmining.com


Contents I. From

1970 to 2010

Focus on Oman

(19 - 33)

Oman’s rich heritage Culture: A peek into Oman’s cultural splendour Omani Dress Centre: On the path of preservation

Art: A contemporary look

(34 - 46)

Sarah White on Oman’s art scene Patricia Groves’ presents a critical analysis Marianne’s literary journey

Tourism: Getting Responsible

(48 - 61)

Ministry of Tourism geared up to meet the demands Omran’s Responsible Tourism policy Arabian Sea Safaris: Adding its might to tourism

Real Estate: ITC sets the trend

(62 - 69)

The Wave, Muscat spells luxury Muriya gears ahead

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Contents Education

(71 - 75)

Ministry of Education refects on the progress achieved

IT – Oman on the communication highway

(77 - 85)

Knowledge Oman shows the way Nawras sets the pace

II. Environment

(87 - 98)

Mangroves: Oman’s success story Oman Botanical Garden: A colossal project ESO: Setting environment norms

III. Economic Drivers

(100 - 115)

Banking sector: CBO scripts success BankMuscat on a popularity crest Oman’s economy: On solid ground

IV. Charity

(116 - 129)

Dar Al Atta: A mission to help Al Noor Association for the Blind: A beacon

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Contents NACA: Ever ready OAD: A helping hand

V. Women

Power

(130 - 144)

Omani Women on progress and development 2010 Women Campaign

VI. Sporting Moves

(145 - 154)

Oman Football Association Ali Al Habsi’s winning moves The Oman Karting Team

VII. Achievers

(155 - 162)

Nabil Al Busaidi, Khalid Al Siyabi, Mohsin Al Busaidi, Muna Al Shanfari

VIII. Picture Spread

(163 - 176)

Oman Then & Now

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All Glory to Oman

40 years this July. Today there is a joyous mood

here to work, for him to be able to compete and

Oman in the next 40 years

among the people residing in Oman at the scale

succeed in a country like India is immensely

For the coming 40 years, I am assured that

of development achieved during the past 40

rewarding. There are, of course, many like him

Oman’s economic planning is wise under His

years. What Oman was and what it has become is

working in Shell in Holland and elsewhere in

Majesty’s vision. The country is going into

a remarkable journey of a visionary leader.

different companies. This is human resource

strategic planning whereby it will witness a

I am sure people who lived here before 1970

will have memories of very hard living condi-

And then there is the other half of the society

tions. We, like many others, lived in the old city

– women, who have been a source of so much

of Muttrah with no electricity, no schools or

pride. With equal opportunities at work and out-

transport and no facilities to make the daily liv-

side, things have moved positively for women. In

ing comfortable or easy. Pan to the present and

fact, Oman was the first country to have women

The next 40 years will see the emphasis on

what a change...

in the police sector. It was the first country to

training gaining momentum. Omani popula-

appoint women ministers and have women

tion is young and I can see more young Omanis

employed as pilots, etc.

understanding the importance of getting into

development.

Today we are a modern nation and as Omanis

Hussain Jawad Chairman, W.J.Towell

we are proud to be in our motherland Oman.

minimization of dependence on oils and also see Sohar turning into an industrial zone with big projects like mining and factories like steel, aluminum, etc.

the practical sectors than the theoretical. Stress

Prior to 1970, many locals felt it more feasible

The other facet of development that has been

would definitely be on education as the need is

to find employment in countries like Kuwait,

most striking is the environment. From the very

for the quality of education to be enhanced.

Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or Emirates. They

beginning, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said

Oman is a perfect amalgamation of old and new.

worked in different positions, although lack of

has given special attention to environment, and,

It is one of the oldest countries in the region with

proper employment opportunities mostly meant

today, one of Oman’s biggest attractions is its

a history that traces back to thousand years and

unskilled jobs.

clean image as far as environment is concerned.

more, when it attracted explorers owing to its

Whoever visits Oman is quick to notice this facet

varied geographical and geological attractions.

In the four decades following His Majesty Sultan

As history depicts, it had a varied and checkered

Qaboos bin Said’s rule, things have turned 360

past and at one time was ruling East Africa.

degrees. Today Omanis are in jobs that evoke

Of course there are several other sectors, each

of development.

Tourism is another sector that has shown immense potential and I can definitely see Oman gaining more footage in the tourism sector. Oman hasn’t yet made its presence felt as a major tourism destination and this sector will receive a huge facelift in the coming years...

pride and inspiration. Take for example Abdul-

of which deserves mention and commendation.

Nevertheless, as new and modern, Oman is only

rahman Al Busaidi, who is working in India as an

But for now, all I would want to say is that Oman

On the occasion of this glorious day, I would like

40 years old with a dateline stretching from 1970.

executive in Jet Airways. This is indeed a matter

and its residents are all happy and proud to be

to convey my felicitations to His Majesty Sultan

This new Oman is very young, celebrating only

of pride. While we as Omanis invite expatriates

in Oman.

Qaboos Bin Said and the people of Oman.

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H.E. Yusuf Saloojee Ambassador of South Africa

several high level visits between the countries have taken place and the range of bilateral issues of engagement have increased substantially. A

H.E. Anil Wadhwa Ambassador of India

ate entrepreneurial values in the population and have moved Oman away from solely depending on hydro-carbons. The legal framework is con-

growing number of new bilateral government-

stantly being updated and liberalized. Rights of

to-government agreements are currently under

the citizens and upliftment of women have been

consideration.

promised in His Majesty’s agenda.

Oman is clearly an emerging market with huge

Oman is moving towards a knowledge economy

economic growth potential, especially in ‘new’

and society with emphasis on the youth, training

industrial sectors such as tourism, thanks to wise

and development of small and medium-sized

policies introduced by His Majesty and advisers

enterprises. The Sanad programme launched in

who have contributed to the country’s renais-

2001 which aims at the training of young Omanis

sance over the past 40 years.

in setting up their own businesses has proved to be a success. Educational institutions in the Sul-

Today, Oman enjoys relative prosperity and plays

Oman has a very long history of close relations with the African continent dating back to times when the island of Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania) was part of Oman and ruled from Muscat. South Africa and Oman established formal diplomatic relations in October 1995 following the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994. In April 1999, former President Nelson Mandela paid a visit to the region during which he met His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Subsequently, the two countries, on the basis of reciprocity, opened residential Embassies in Muscat in 2002 and Pretoria in 2003, respectively, following the mutual realization of the importance of this growing bilateral relationship. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations

tanate as well as the healthcare system in Oman

a very constructive role in the region as a stable,

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said

are being constantly updated and rationalized.

key factor. South Africa and Oman enjoys excel-

became the custodian of Oman’s future on 23rd

Oman’s rich historical and cultural heritage has

lent bilateral relations!

July, 1970. His Majesty’s vision and exemplary

attracted a number of commentators to remark

leadership, as well as his erudition and interest in

on its extraordinary progress. Towards the end of

As we congratulate His Majesty and Oman, we

religion, history and culture of Oman and other

this year we will also see the Asian Beach Games,

also pay tribute to every Omani citizen who has

countries have helped him to look at all issues in

which will focus attention on Oman’s pristine

added his or her energy to ensure the country’s

a much larger perspective than normal human

beaches and its beautiful countryside.

progress and success.

beings. His Majesty has looked upon the responsibility as an opportunity to reshape the contours

Through consultation and cooperation, His Maj-

In addition, on behalf of the South African com-

and orientation of Oman, not only within the

esty’s Government has moved forward making

munity in Oman, comprising predominantly

country but also vis-à-vis the outside world.

Oman a prosperous and rich country. The Indian

of nurses, teachers, technicians, engineers and

His eye for detail and desire for perfection have

Government in recognition of the contributions

business managers, the South African Embassy

transformed the society into a unified, peaceful,

of His Majesty has conferred the Jawaharlal

wishes to thank Oman for the special bond of

modern and progressive nation.

Nehru Award for International Understanding on

friendship between our peoples. We wish Oman well on the road ahead!

His Majesty. On the occasion of the 40th RenaisToday, the Omani Government undertakes

sance Day I would like to convey my warmest

major development goals such as fight against

felicitation to a great leader and to Oman which

disease, illiteracy and poverty, extremely seri-

has managed to transform itself dramatically

ously. Economic diversification and emphasis on

within a short span of forty years.

manufacturing and tourism have helped to cre-

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H.E. CHO Sung-hwan Ambassador of the Republic of Korea

culture, tourism, sports, information, infrastruc-

values and interests. People-to-people links are

It gives me great pleasure to offer our greetings

ture and all other fields.

strong and increasing and our bilateral economic

and best wishes to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos

cooperation is complementary, longstanding

bin Said, who made every Omani citizen proud

Investment in human beings is most frequently

and robust. Prominent Korean companies are

of the achievements made by the Sultanate in a

quoted as a driving force behind Korea’s eco-

also looking to offer their superior engineering

short span of 40 years.

nomic development, which has risen to one of

and construction skills in the implementation of

the most industrialized country in the world from

planned power plant projects, airport projects,

The wise policies of His Majesty has transformed

ashes after the Korean War. Since His Majesty’s

rail networks, wastewater treatment, and other

the Sultanate of Oman into a modern and

ascent to throne, he has taken wise policies to

ventures in Oman.

developed state with national unity, security,

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stability, strong economy and good governance

concentrate on human resources development. Human beings are always the goal and target of

Finally, on this auspicious occasion, I hope that

as its distinct features. Oman today has state of

the development process in Oman. Citizens are

the benevolence, wisdom and strength of His

the art infrastructure, high quality of education

provided excellent educational opportunities

Majesty Sultan Qaboos would continue to be

and health services with very high quality of life

and in this context, I firmly believe Oman will fur-

with the people of Oman for a long time to come

for its people.

ther develop as highly advanced modern state,

and convey the Korean people’s best wishes for

thanks to His Majesty’s farsighted vision.

good health and long life to His Majesty.

Relations between the Sultanate of Oman and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are deep-rooted

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said seems

and distinct. The leadership of both countries

to me to be one of those rarities in world history:

In external relations, His Majesty has called for

a genuinely outstanding leader and it is my great

a culture of tolerance, peace, cooperation and

honour to have the opportunity to extend my

mutual understanding, based on the principles

cordial greetings to His Majesty and the friendly

of non-interference in internal affairs, respect

Omani people on the occasion of the 40th an-

for charters and treaties and compliance with

niversary of the Blessed Renaissance. Over the

international law. Such consistent foreign policy

last 40 years, the people of Oman have enjoyed

of the Sultanate has contributed to the greater

peace, progress and prosperity under the

harmony among different interests of nations.

Oman is also home to more than 150,000 Paki-

benevolent reign of His Majesty, and have looked

The other very impressive fact is its success in

stanis who are having the privilege of participat-

up to him as a pillar of strength and fortitude.

retaining its brilliant traditions and values,

ing in the development of Oman. The Pakistani

despite the pressures to conform in an ultra

community is extremely grateful to His Majesty’s

Deeply adored by the Omani people, His Majesty

modern world, which has won it the admiration

government and the people of Oman for their

Sultan Qaboos has over the years made enor-

of not only Korea but the whole world.

hospitality which they are enjoying in Oman.

development of Oman. The accomplishments

Since the time Korea and Oman established

I pray to Almighty Allah for the continued health

of the Sultanate of Oman could be seen in every

diplomatic relations in 1974, both the nations

and long life of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin

facet of life as well as in the overall renaissance

have overcome their geographical distances

Said and progress and prosperity for the people

in education, healthcare, agriculture, economy,

to become close neighbors, sharing common

of Oman.

H.E. Sohail Amin Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

has always given particular attention to further cementing bilateral relations with specific focus on expanding trade, economic and business relations. This relationship received a renewed impetus by the landmark visit of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said to Pakistan in 2001.

mous contribution to promoting the stability and

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Dr Amer Al-Rawas CEO, Omantel

Yuthar Mohammed AlRawahy Founder & Honorary Life President, NACA

I will proceed as quickly as possible to transform your life into a prosperous one with a bright future. Every one of you must play his part towards this goal.” We as a people have witnessed the truth of that pledge; the active role of NGOs across the Sultanate is one of many testaments to His Majesty fulfilling his promise to the people of Oman. It is up to each and every one of us to do our part in fulfilling our unique and individual roles in contributing to this great nation and the prosperity of our people.

Mohammed Ali Managing Director Galfar Engineering & Contracting

From buildings to large Oil and Gas Plants construction, Galfar prides itself in being the only contractor with diverse capabilities in project execution. We are a +RO.400Million Company and carryout EPC and Construction activities for the three main streams namely; Oil & Gas, Roads & Bridges and Civil, Utilities & Services. At Galfar

The Government support and privatisation policies have encouraged the private sector to offer

We, the people of the Sultanate of Oman are

we have taken up every challenge possible in

a host of vital services to the nation. At the same

lucky and privileged to be under the wise leader-

participating in Oman’s development.

time, mega development has seen the industrial

ship of His Majesty. His vision, compassion and

and trade sectors progressing rapidly, bringing

support for his people, especially the women

The 40 years of His Majesty’s rule has seen the

Omani products to the forefront globally.

in Oman, is second to none. His Majesty’s wise

country’s economy increase many folds. Under

Omantel has kept pace with the overall develop-

leadership and guidance has allowed Oman to

the benevolence of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos

ment in the Sultanate in the last 40 years and

enjoy a position in the centre stage of world

bin Said the country has flourished.

has immensely contributed to the development

peace; and acknowledged for its domestic stabil-

of the service sector by creating state-of-the-art

ity and graduated well paced progress as well its

In the wake of the recent financial downturn the

telecom infrastructure. Omantel has turned the

peaceful coexistence with its neighbours and the

rest of the world experienced, Oman’s economic

increasing competition into an opportunity to

rest of the world.

and developmental policies have won world wide accolades.

maximise the shareholders interests and expand the range of competitive services and products

At the beginning of His Majesty’s reign in July

offered to customers while continuing the invest-

1970 he pledged the following: “I promise you

With the stability Oman has attracted several in-

ments on the expansion of the network to ensure

to proceed forthwith in the process of creating

ternational business enterprises. Galfar has been

that the telecom services reach every corner of

a modern government. My first act will be the

and will remain consistent partner in Oman’s

the country with the highest level of quality.

immediate abolition of all the unnecessary re-

development.

strictions on your lives and activities. My people,

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Focus Oman

A Slice of Oman

In the little nooks and alleys of Oman’s souqs are stories of culture and heritage that stand testimony to its belief in development that is pegged firmly on to its history. Oman thrives in cultural finery and traditional garb‌

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Famous façade of Corniche reflects Oman’s traditional architecture


Focus Oman

A Whiff of Omani Heritage Oman’s heritage is showcased in every facet of life. It is ever vibrant and seemingly palpable in monuments of yesteryear as well as modern day constructions that have been designed to reflect traditions of yore. Priyanka Sacheti tells more about Oman’s living, thriving heritage... The Sultanate of Oman has long been considered

sidering that as the world becomes increasingly

an ideal example of a harmonious confluence of

globalized, what with the tremendous advent

tradition and modernity; while embracing and

of digital technology binding disparate nations

assimilating trappings of a modern, developed

and communities together, there also lies the

state, marking a swift and remarkable trans-

potential situation of these very nations and

formation over the last forty years, Oman still

communities facing the danger of losing their

strongly believes in respecting, preserving, and

respective cultural identities. However, in case of

maintaining its heritage. However, whilst special

the Sultanate, as one moves around the country,

attention is nonetheless centered upon carefully

you become instantly privy to the way Omanis

preserving examples of physical heritage (for

interweave heritage into their life, whether it is

instance forts, watchtowers or ancient tombs),

through remaining an intensely family-oriented

there is also focus on ensuring that Omani

society or glimpsing traditional architectural

heritage and its legacies remain an accessible,

elements being part of the appearance of a

contemporary affair, by integrating and making

modern house. Heritage in Oman is as much part

it relevant in the present times. In that context,

of history as it is of today; its legacy is also what

heritage is not an entity to be merely confined

continues to shape the Oman of tomorrow.

to walls of museums or forts: it is a living one, as witnessed and experienced in various cultural

Architecture and Design:

and social domains of Oman.

Perhaps, one of the most apparent and dynamic examples of respecting heritage and assimilat-

This acknowledgement and appreciation of

ing it into contemporary avatars is witnessed in

heritage in Oman is particularly important, con-

architecture; it is also an aspect of Oman that

Picture courtesy: Bait Al Zubair Museum (Photograph by Ahmed Al Busiadi)

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Focus Oman

is often immediately observed and lauded by

fluid and smooth, marking the Omani architec-

design beliefs by amalgamating traditional

‘Boutique Muscat’, has seen entrepreneurial sis-

visitors. While the country is dotted with obvious

tural journey as a continuation of its past, rather

Omani dress aspects into their designs. Fashion

ters, Hazar and Hanadi al Zadjali, creating dresses

reminders of Oman’s varied, beautiful architec-

than marking a departure from it.

designer, Fatma Noor is influenced by the varied

from traditional Omani fabrics, for instance.

Omani regional costumes such as those of Sur

Meanwhile, Najla Jamali of Jizdaani integrated

tural past, modern structures also feature an indelible imprint of traditional Omani architec-

If contemporary Omani architecture incorporates

and Dhofar and accordingly creates works, albeit

striking examples of Omani silver handicraft into

tural sensibilities. The transition from ancient,

elements of bygone structures, Omani fashion-

infused with a modern zing in respective region-

the structure of her handbags; a design gesture

heritage structures into that of modern ones is

designers of today also subscribe to similar

al silhouettes. Upcoming local fashion house,

such as this provides the silver pieces a new role,

Traditional Omani Majlis

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Focus Oman

rather than relegating them into being relics

Food:

of past with no obvious function today. In such

Omani cuisine bears the marks of a multitude

cases, heritage becomes a dynamic, rather than

of cultural influences; yet, Oman’s justly famous

static, entity, allowing itself to be re- interpreted

hospitality will be incomplete without traditional

according to whichever era it finds itself in.

beverages such as the freshly brewed kahwa or the dessert, halwa, of which there are several

Art:

varieties. Moreover, Omani fine dining restaurant

Omani artists are slowly and surely registering

‘Ubhar’ offers Omani cuisine in a novel fusion

their presence on the regional and international

fashion, not only presenting it in innovative

art-scene, many of them imbibing and narrating

avatars but providing great insight into the sheer

stories of their heritage through the medium of

variety of Omani cuisine, allowing one to expand

their art, whether it be paintings, photography,

their gastronomic knowledge of Oman.

sculpture or video art. Prominent artists such as Anwar Sonya, Maryam al Zedjali, Hassan Meer,

Markets:

Radhika Khimji, Naima al Maimani draw upon

You can stumble upon a souq (albeit custom-

the sheer wealth of their Omani heritage to

ized) inside a mall and that very much reflects

create works which as much preserve heritage as

the way Oman functions. The traditional souq

excitingly engage with it to produce interest-

experience reigns as supreme as does the glossy,

ing creations. They also simultaneously access

slick shopping malls. The Muttrah souq was a

modern technological tools such as video art to

renowned retail space, in contemporary speak,

create dialogues between heritage and moder-

long before glitzy malls made their appearance

nity, creating works that are as much of today as

in Oman and continues to be so: the narrow

of yesterday.

alleys, shops crammed with all kinds of goods, the shopkeepers vying to capture your attention,

Traditional Handicrafts:

and a man bearing cups of kahwa as a coffee-

Given Oman’s textured history and regional

break, rekindle the days when shopping was a

diversities, there is an incredible host of

form of personalized, intimate connection. Even

region- specific handicrafts. Governmental and

now when Eid festivities loom, the souq fills up

non-profit organizations such as Oman Heritage

with excited clusters of families, indulging in

Gallery have tirelessly worked towards reviving

their purchasing for the big day. In Oman, the co-

a multitude of handicrafts by both training

existence of heritage and modernity is both strik-

artisans in the art of these handicrafts as well as

ing and yet not striking; in a way, it comfortably

identifying ways through which these traditional

meshes with the spirit of country and therefore,

handicrafts can find a place in today’s commer-

does not become an object of curiosity. It is very

cial world.

much a way of life and is accepted so.

An Omani lady selling dried fish and other traditional food items

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Leisurely chat as the traditional Omani Kahwa gets brewed on hot coal

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Focus Oman

Oman’s Past Echoes in its Souqs The pace is leisurely, mood relaxed and the ambience laid-back. Welcome to the world of traditional souqs; souqs that take you on a journey of Oman’s history and offer a peek into the life and style of locals selling their ware. Priyanka Sacheti defines the heartbeat of Oman that is echoing in its souqs. Traditional markets often embody the heartbeat

then Seeb souq as a young girl, accompanying

of a nation, whether it is through the cultur-

my parents with laden bags from the vegetable

ally distinctive array of goods sold there or the

and fruit market to one of extremely narrow

very structure and atmosphere of the markets

lanes, past shops selling bowls of almond-

themselves. The markets may be general or

studded halwa, Sandy dolls and electronic

specialized yet they provide a host of significant

cars, pyramid-like piles of spices, lentils, nuts

insights about the country to the market visitors:

and sweets, garments, shoes and slippers, and

food items and produce unique to the country,

whatnot. The pungent smell of spices and frying

specialized handicrafts and wares, and the man-

shawarma infused the air, while conversation in

ner in which its people shop and bargain and the

varied tones, languages, and dialects reverber-

way shopkeepers market their stores (perhaps,

ated inside the souq. Each time I visited the souq,

that is a skill universal to shopkeepers across the

there was something new to discover and see.

world). Indeed, as you wander through a traditional market, you get to experience the country

The Muttrah souq in old Muscat continues to

in an entirely unique fashion.

remain an extremely popular place to shop, with local inhabitants, expatriate residents, and

Oman’s traditional markets or souqs comfortably

tourists alike. Although it may have undergone

coexist with modern, slick, glossy malls; each

renovation, the changes were merely cosmetic,

attract their own community of shoppers and

for the bygone spirit of the souq still remains

not necessarily being mutually exclusive. As a

very much supreme. The jewelry stores shine

long-time resident of Oman, my first experience

with glitter of gold and the ancient glow of silver

of shopping here was of wandering through the-

antique pieces (including the famed Omani

Traditional herbs and spices adorn the shelves of a shop in Muttrah Souq

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Focus Oman

khanjars). Furthermore, household goods, elec-

ket too remains strong, offering its own plethora

side the souq, during evening time, the elderly

which is when the animal auction takes place.

tronic items, chunky beaded costume jewelry,

of visuals and textures. The shoppers need to

men of the area gather outside coffee shops to

Sellers are seen, persuading their reluctant goat,

and funky handbags and shoes all compete for

acquaint themselves with the art of friendly

sit and talk or simply to exchange greetings. The

cows, and even camel charges towards the

the shoppers’ attention along with Omani retail

haggling, the practice denoting a place where

souq is not merely a place for just to shop: it is

market while triumphant buyers juggle their

wealth of frankincense and myrrh, sheesha pipes,

prices are still fluid and open to interpretation.

also a space of forging connections.

purchases atop their shoulders even before

ceramics and pottery, woven baskets, spices and

Families move about at leisure, taking their time

dates, dish-dashas and embroidered kummars,

to browse and inspect the goods while a coffee-

Far away in Nizwa, its also renovated souq be-

with bundles of fresh green fodder. Sellers and

rtifacts. Meanwhile, the fruits and vegetable mar-

maker still offers cups of refreshing kahwa. Out-

comes particularly animated on Friday mornings,

buyers travel from faraway villages to participate

settling them down in back of pick-up trucks

Busy day at Muttrah Souq

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Focus Oman

in the animal auction, which began several decades ago. Once the auction winds up by noon, shoppers inevitably drift towards the vegetable and fruit market before spilling out over into the handicrafts section, where antique silver, studded mandoos chests, and colorfully painted pottery are in plenty. Another souq of a weekly and unique nature is the women’s souq at Ibra. Cocooned in their stalls, women singlehandedly conduct their business operations: offering their wares for sale and handling financial transactions, their handbags metamorphosing into mobile banks. There are indigenous cosmetics wrought from plant roots, bolts of shimmering, sequined, rainbow-hued textiles, dust-sweepers made from palm-leaves, pashmina shawls, and slippers. One of the ladies informed me during a visit to the souq that she used to regularly travel to Dubai once upon a time to purchase textiles that she would subsequently retail in the market; another woman sits in the corner, patiently embroidering material in the distinctive Omani silver thread, wizar. “It has gotten to a stage that now even men would like carpets, walking sticks, handicraft items, and to participate in our souq,� a woman retailer said matter-of-factly. The souq provides an opportunity for women to be both consumers as well as retailers, assuming various roles with gusto. These markets represent customized human interaction, the shopkeeper chatting with the customer and thus forging a personalized relationship, which moves much beyond the faceless exchange of cash and credit cards at Fresh Omani produce sold at one of the open markets

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Focus Oman

a city hypermarket or store cash-register. It is

engaging with the shopkeeper before eventually

vibrancy of the souq.

tiating the shopping experiences that take place

through intimate exchanges such as these that

making the purchase. In addition, they afford

Souqs are indeed a visual and sensory feast, a

there from the sanitized, almost mundane ones

the markets most vividly symbolise the pleasure

customers to converse and connect, the hum of

buffet of sights, sounds, smells, and textures to

that we are accustomed to at shopping malls or

of shopping: browsing, contemplating, and

their exchanges of stories further adding to the

choose from and focus upon, certainly differen-

hypermarkets.

Silver jewellery and antiques at one of the shops in Muttrah Souq

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Focus Oman

The Centre for Omani Dress If we do not act upon the conservation of Oman’s national dress now, it will be lost forever... Modernization becomes a euphemism when it

is truly like unraveling a mystery. Once a mystery

attempts to surpass tradition and culture that

is seemingly solved, we then look a little deeper

has been preened with care through generations

to see if anything is lurking and worthy of our

– to be specific, when it attempts to alter cos-

attention. We love it when the answer is ‘yes’!

tumes that reflect the very notion of patriotism. While Omanis have never shied from donning

Why was a need felt to initiate a project of this

their traditional costumes, there is but a need

stature?

to preserve the finer nuances of a lifestyle that

Quite simply, because it seemed nobody else

could fall prey to factors beyond ones control.

had. There are some things in this life that we

Which is, precisely, what The Centre for Omani

must wait for someone else to come along and

Dress, a brainchild of Julia M. Al Zedjali, is all

solve for us. And, sometimes in life, we are the

about.

answer to the problem. I decided to be the answer to this problem. It was my pleasure to

Below are her replies to an ODYSSEY question-

take this on.

naire. What are the hopes and aspirations for the The Centre for Omani Dress had been doing

project?

laudable work since its inception. What has

The Oman Dress Project is only one portion of

been the main driving force behind this

the greater good being performed by the Centre

project?

for Omani Dress. The Centre for Omani Dress

There are many forces behind this project and

aspires to be an authority on Omani dress and to

without any one of them the project wouldn’t be

share the knowledge gathered with the world.

what it is today, though we do have a long way

That work is underway and I am happy with the

to go yet. However, I would say there are two

progress made so far.

probable forces which stand above the others one being the sheer fascination of Omani dress

Could you provide details of the project?

and the mystery it holds. Mystery because it is

The works of the COD encompass numerous

undocumented territory, so learning about dress

projects; scene dress for some restoration proj-

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Focus Oman

ects taken on by the Ministry of Tourism, filming

What more needs to be done to preserve the

do it all for us. The Ministry’s personnel are few

amazing support given by Omanis and expatri-

of handicraft as it pertains to Omani dress and

culture and heritage of the country?

compared to the vastness of the heritage. Our

ates alike who, obviously, agree the work of the

was believed to nearly be lost in time forever,

Until all elements of Oman’s heritage and culture

support is needed.

COD is very important. No single achievement

publications, presentations, writing articles for

are securely preserved, we must all keep pushing

publications outside of Oman, creating products

forward, together, and help the Ministry of Heri-

What has been the most significant achieve-

that the COD’s greatest blessing is its volunteers

to create a greater awareness of Oman’s dress

tage and Culture, which was set up to safeguard

ment of COD?

and perhaps that is more important than any

identity and soon a facility to display the col-

these treasures which belong to Oman. The

I would say that given how humble our opera-

achievement I could name. It is this team of all

lection in an educational format, and, of course,

heritage and culture of this nation is vast in size

tions are, the COD has achieved a great deal in

volunteers that has been the COD’s greatest

research!

and it’s not an easy task. We must all do our part

the short amount of time it has been function-

strength for without them, the accomplishments

to help and not rely solely on the Ministry to

ing. This can only be possible because of the

would be few - instead, they are many.

is greater than another but I would like to say

One of COD’s projects for students of ABA

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Focus Oman

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Artist Enaam Ahmed’s art work displayed in Bait Al Zubair Museum

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Art

Oman on a Canvas

The warp and weft of Oman’s art canvas is hued with colours that foretell a future bright and optimistic. Art may not be indicative of a country’s progress, but it does predicate buoyancy, which is naturally associated with lands that give prominence to fine arts. Providing an intellectual dimension to the reflected development; a point of reference in the general wellbeing of the country. And when art and artists flourish, there is little doubt about the nation’s progress. This holds true for Oman too. Recent years have seen Oman striding confidently into the field of art, filling the art canvas with innovation and techniques on par with their contemporaries around the world. Thanks to the growing base of art connoisseurs and venues that have gradually become art points, Oman has seemingly arrived on the world art zone.

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Art

Oman’s Contemporary Art Scene Sarah White, Arts Advisor and General Manager of Bait Al Zubair Foundation shares her thoughts on the art scene in the country. How would you describe Oman’s current art

more international recognition and exposure

scene? Would you say it has received its due

and we are actively promoting Omani talent

recognition?

through exhibitions at Bait Al Zubair Museum

Art is a diverse subject with many disciplines that

and at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa.

are always evolving with technological advance-

We are running an annual arts program and are

ments. Omani artists are working in a variety of

connecting with various local partners who share

mediums including state of the art new media.

our interest in the development of art and art

Art is a human response, a creative skill. Oman’s

appreciation; so far we are delighted to partner

artists are up to date with the artworld, we just

with The Zubair Corporation, Khimji Ramdas,

need to work on the audience now!

Oman Arab Bank and Dar Al Atta. We want the people of Oman to know about the art of Oman

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Al Said is dedicated to

and the artists.

fine art, music and literature, his personal interest in the arts has enabled it to grow and develop.

What is the mood among art connoisseurs in

The two of the most important government

the country? How are the works of local artists

institutions for fine art - The Youth Studio set up

viewed by critics and buyers?

by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture in 1980

Various people are collecting Omani artists’ work,

and the Omani Society for Fine Arts established

inside and outside Oman. The more exposure

by the Diwan of the Royal Court in 1993 arrange

they get the more valuable their work will be-

exhibitions, competitions and workshops aimed

come. Art is a luxury and as the global economy

at promoting and developing talented Omani

suffers fewer people are willing to spend on art.

artists.

However, art should not be about money - it is about passion and skill. A true artist is driven by

Today, Oman enjoys an exciting contemporary

a need to create -most of the big names in the

art scene with many artists receiving interna-

art world died poor and their works now sell

tional recognition. I do feel Omani art needs

for millions. Today, many artists over-price their

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Art

HE Sayyid Abdullah bin Hamad bin Saif Al Busaidy, Chairman of the State Audit Institution viewing art work of Sarah White

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Art work, which puts off both casual and serious

to the works of expatriate artists. Are those

buyers. Artists need to be realistic with their

sentiments still prevalent?

prices so that they can build their name and suc-

Previously this was the case, many galleries

ceed. Their focus should be on developing and

did not know much about Omani artists, now

improving their skills not on how much they can

they do and are actively promoting them. Bait

sell work for.

Al Zubair was one of the first to expose and

recognize the abilities of Oman’s artists, with What, according to you, has helped boost art

exhibitions and various articles published on art

and artists in the country?

and the first book on contemporary art in English

Art has been boosted undoubtedly by the

called The Art of Barr Al Jissah.

numerous exhibitions and media exposure together with the development of tourism. Bait Al

I have been an active member of the arts scene

Zubair Museum, Bait Al Baranda and Bait Muzna

in Oman for over 20 years and I have really seen

are three of the leading organizations that

a great development in terms of the amount of

proactively promote art and the development

interest in art and artists. Artists, whether expat

of culture.

or not, have done much to enhance Oman’s cultural diversity. Many Omani artists have learned

What have been the stumbling blocks in the

a lot from expats and foreign artists who come in

development of this creative field?

to run workshops. We are all people of the world

There is very little formal education for fine

and artists tend not to like to be defined by their

artists; there is no art school as such. Most artists

country of origin.

are self taught and attend short workshops. For the intellectual advancement in art it really

What do you think is needed to put Oman on

needs to be addressed seriously within higher

the world art scene?

education. Also the introduction of what I clas-

Big global arts events here, that gets the atten-

sify as cheap super market art that is sold in

tion of world media.

various household/ interior design shops, these artworks are mass produced and are very cheap

Where do you see Oman progressing?

– why should someone buy an original artwork

I see Omani artists becoming familiar to all and

when they can pick up super market art for less

collected by many people, I see them getting

than a quarter of the price or less.

more local, regional and international exposure. I would hope to see the establishment of a formal

Previously, one of the main grouse of most lo-

art school – that could offer many art disciplines

cal artists was that their works were sidelined

including fine art (painting, printmaking,

or often considered secondary in comparison

sculpture).

Art work by Sarah White

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Art

Photographs by Salim Al Wardi

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Art

Art Notes “Although it may seem like a post-recession lull, this moment in the developing history of art in Oman is actually a very interesting one,” notes art critic and writer Dr Patricia Groves*. “While artists are highly motivated and they are

external galleries were eying Oman – and, in

currently receiving the attention they deserve,

cooperation with Bait Baranda, the renowned

buyers have become more price sensitive and

Opera Gallery brought Picasso, Matisse and Sal-

few take risks”, she says.

vador Dali to Muscat. This was a shot in the arm – an inspiration and an impetus for Muscat artists

Explaining further, she adds, “Before the recent

and galleries to aspire to world standards. It also

financial crisis and its complex fallout around the

made some of us realize how far we have to go.

world, there was a great deal of momentum and optimism in the art scene here in Muscat. In the

“Oman’s current art scene is relatively small and

height of the pre-recession season, there were

has yet to attain maturity, but it is certainly vi-

as many as two or three openings a week - and

brant. Nevertheless, there are only a few serious

galleries could expect to make good sales.

collectors in the Sultanate; and, of course, they also buy in other markets. Ordinary people in

“Openings are of course buzzing social events,

Oman buy art for pleasure, not as an investment

but in Muscat there is also a genuine interest in

- and, naturally, do not want to spend a lot of

understanding and appreciating art. That interest

money. They do not always buy the best art by a

has not waned. Yes, people come to openings to

critic’s standards”, she says.

be part of the social action, but I find that they also come to enjoy the art and learn about it.

According to this critic, apart from public interest and support, a variety of factors have helped

“What seems to have happened, however, is that

boost the art scene in the country. Among these

the great leap forward that we appeared to be

factors, Dr Groves lists: The Omani Society for

on the verge of, slipped away from our grasp.

Fine Arts; galleries such as Bait Al Zubair, Bait

With the near collapse of the art scene in Dubai,

Muzna, Bait Baranda and the Madina Gallery;

in the sense of cessation of big-time buying,

the initiative of artists themselves in creating

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Art vehicles like the Circle Exhibitions; and generous

step is true criticism, negative as well as positive,

media coverage.

by knowledgeable observers who do in-depth research. This will be helpful to the artists in their

“Bait Al Zubair’s initiative in displaying works of

efforts to grow. In the meantime, some new seg-

local artists for international tourist exposure at

ments of the press are becoming more candid

the prime location of Barr Al Jissah and doing the

and sophisticated; but true criticism would also

same in a consultant role for the Al Bustan Palace

require a more mature and robust art scene; and

Hotel has set a new standard for the value of

so, in this sense, the reportage suits the current

local art. Similarly, the Bait Muzna Gallery works

situation.”

with corporations to hang the work of local artists in offices, hotels and public spaces. And

Dr Groves adds, “My purpose to date as an art

Bait Muzna has made a significant contribution

critic in Oman has not been really to engage

by exhibiting select artists at regional, yet inter-

in open criticism as would be the case in the

national, events like ArtParis Abu Dhabi, giving

western world, but to concentrate on supporting

them a more global reach.

and encouraging the once- fledgling art scene and the artists of Oman who merit attention - in

“Bait Baranda too, with its community-minded,

an effort to augment their development, while

yet global, approach has been tremendously

providing informed analysis for readers.”

supportive and active, pushing the boundaries in an elective fashion. The Omani Society for Fine

She holds the absence of a national art gallery

Arts is a key institution, enthusiastically support-

and an art academy as the biggest stumbling

ing local artists, both Omani and expatriate with

blocks in the further development of art in the

numerous exhibitions, events and workshops.

Sultanate. “Without a national public art gallery there is no history in the sense of permanent

Earlier in the decade, the Circle Exhibitions

collections and no prestigious public venue for

brought together Gulf regional artists with

on-going display and serious discussion of art”,

highly innovative results. These institutions have

Dr Groves comments.

done a tremendous amount and are indicative of a thriving art community,” she observes.

“Without an academy of art, there is a lack of authentic art education and art appreciation

“The local media give generous and regular

readily available to both artists and the general

coverage to art events through press releases,

public.” She notes that Contemporary Art cannot

feature articles and great photo coverage,

be fully appreciated without a certain degree of

although most reports, while skillfully written

knowledge through education. “At the same time

and interesting, lack a discerning eye. The next

our artists require exposure to the international

Alzubair .M. Al Zubair with Sarah White & Dr. Patricia Groves with Omani artist’s at Bait Al Zubair Museum

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Art art world and hands-on experience with proven

She says that, while one or two of Oman’s most

“If the need of the hour is to put Oman on the

masters. With a first-rate art academy, would

exceptional artists may be considered world

world art stage a national gallery with perma-

come the opportunity for local artists to study

class, “it cannot be said that we have attained

nent collections is a pre-requisite, plus a top

* Dr Patricia Groves is a Canadian educator with a

with renowned international art professors, and

international standards in the sense of, for

notch art school – along with more talent, as well

background in the Social History of Art as well as in

to go abroad on scholarship.” In addition, Dr

instance, selling at Christies or being in danger of

as discerning collectors and critics. We may be

Media and Society. Resident in Oman for the past

Groves notes that, while there is an impressive

professional art theft. It takes time. Art in Oman

in a hurry, but time, patience and a certain pro-

thirteen years, she currently works as a ministerial

degree of innovation with artists such as Radhika

has come a very long way in the past decade or

activity is required to see Oman truly progress in

advisor in Higher Education. She also writes articles

Khimji and Hassan Meer, “Oman does not yet

so; and, with more support, there would be every

the global art world. We can hope that, in 10 or

on art, music, architecture, travel and culture;

have the broad-based critical mass of talent or a

expectation that the coming decade will be as

15 years, there will be a tremendous difference,

and will soon launch a book titled, Strongholds of

large enough local market to take the leap into

fruitful – and, hopefully, more so.”

a remarkable paradigm shift in the art world of

Heritage - Forts and Castles of Oman.

global recognition.

ture are soon put in place,” she states.

Oman, provided the institutions and infrastruc-

Art for Atta Exhibition at Bait Al Zubair Museum in partnership with Oman Arab Bank and Dar Al Atta

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Art

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Art

Marianne’s Literary Journey Oman works at its own pace, says Marianne Karam, author of the recently released ‘Loud Silence’ as she talks here about her literary experience and her observations of Oman’s literary scene. My name is Marianne Karam. I am twenty-four

the point that technique takes a backseat to

years old. In total, I have lived in Oman for eigh-

the role my emotions play during my paint-

teen years of my life. My parents however, have

ing process. My first exhibition, ‘Led by a Child’,

been in Muscat since 1971. I graduated from

corresponded to several childhood experiences

American British Academy with an IB Diploma in

that I underwent and lessons that I learnt here

2003 and then attended the Emmanuel College

in Oman. I decided to incorporate a number of

in Boston, USA, where I acquired my B.A. in Lib-

my paintings from this exhibition in my book,

eral Studies and Education in 2006. I am currently

as they were a result of a writer’s block that I

studying to obtain my Master’s of Science De-

had which lasted about six weeks. Most of them

gree in Multidisciplinary Studies from the State

spoke louder, clearer, and deeper than my words.

University of New York, through correspondence,

Their integration in between my words was

from Oman.

crucial, almost inevitable.

I am Lebanese, but I have considered Oman

During my high school years (1999-2003), Oman,

to be my second home throughout my life. In

to me, was an entity, very different yet similar

Oman, I uttered my first English word, rode my

to what it is today. However, over recent years,

first bicycle, had my first pet dog, swam my first

Oman has been undergoing several changes,

front crawl, strummed my first strings on a guitar,

noticeably in the field of art and writing. There

played my first tennis game, performed my first

have been numerous upcoming Omani artists,

play, planted my first tree, painted my first art

both men and women, creating artworks and

piece, had my first art exhibition, read my first

sharing them with the society. This has also

book, and wrote my first book ‘Loud Silence’.

opened doors for schools, private lessons, personal groups, and institutions, to open up and

When asked about my artwork, I insist on making

welcome as well as encourage such talents being

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Art expressed by people of all ages. I speak from my

book, an author herself, asked me to attend

own experience as an artist. Being able to exhibit

with her a book sharing here in Oman, only two

my different forms of expression through my

months back. About twenty people attended

paintings has helped me grow as a person. The

this gathering all of who were writers of some

ups and downs made the entire rollercoaster

type or the other. My observation would con-

ride worthwhile and I have no one to thank but

clude that ninety percent of the people were

Oman and its people who have allowed me to

locals. We discussed our writings with each

express and share my work.

other, our ambitions, our plans, our experiences. It was definitely a special night for me; a night

In addition to the artist within me, the writer was

that I will remember for a long time. What made

given the opportunity to express herself. Oman’s

it most special was the passion in the Omani

slow-paced life offered me time, that probably

women’s voices, the confidence in the Omani

no city would, to listen to my silence, the voice of

men’s words, and the unity of us all, having one

my heart, the calls of my soul. It also offered me

thing in common: writing, and how to spread it

with resources to turn my personal journal into a

around the Sultanate.

book; eventually a published book that I decided to launch here first, before my home country. I

From my personal experiences and observations,

learnt a great deal from this experience.

from my own research and surveys, I have learnt that the bestselling books pertain to the topic of

In terms of print media, Oman is making head-

Oman, i.e. Omani heritage, the desert dunes of

way rapidly in terms of new, uprising, and emerg-

Oman, the wildlife of Oman etc. I was told that

ing newspapers, magazines, and publications,

customers include both expatriates as well as

whether daily, weekly, or monthly. My parents

Omanis. Overall, Oman is growing, and still has

would presumably have had one newspaper in

a large hurdle to leap over. But it is on its way.

the seventies which would have most probably

Oman works on its own time. That is the reason

been written in Arabic. Today, however, Oman

why Oman is Oman and not some other country.

has several newspapers and magazines in both

Holding on to values and simultaneously being

Arabic and English. Moreover, I have met and

open to modern technology is one of the most

researched a growing number of Omani authors

difficult challenges for any country, any city, and

who have written or are in the process of writing

any individual. Up till now, I believe Oman is

their own books. It is brilliant to also see Omanis

doing a pretty good job. That is what I love most

in bookstores, searching through both the Eng-

about it; it remains moderate and balanced by

lish and Arabic sections of the shelves.

opening its doors to the popular life of modern

technology at its own pace while holding on to

Fortunately, a friend of mine, the editor of my

its values and beliefs. Cover photo of Marianne Karam’s novel ‘Loud Silence’

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Art

46

Art work by Radhika Hamlai

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Khareef season in Salalah attracts tourists from all over the region

7/19/10 11:27 AM


Tourism

Tourism Industry: A ‘Responsible’ Approach

Economic growth and environmental conservation will channelise the growth of tourism industry in Oman, as it gets set to play a pivotal role in the country.

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Tourism

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Conservation efforts are on to save the green turtles at Ras Al Hadd

7/19/10 11:39 AM


Tourism

This day - a special celebration of the triumph of a nation. As we stride forward into the futurre with enduring values, fortitude and pride, we pledge to the nation our undying commitment to the path of prosperity and progress.

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+LV0DMHVW\6XOWDQ4DERRV%LQ6DLG DQGWKHSHRSOHRI2PDQRQ WKHRFFDVLRQRIWK5HQDLVVDQFH'D\

We commit ourself towards realizing His Majesty’s vision of a prosperous and self - reliant oman Infrastructure Development Finance & Investment Shipping Travel & Tourism

Promoting local Industries Industries & Agriculture Property Development Logistics & Oilfields Supplies

086&$729(56($6*5283

51

Corporate Office: P.O. Box: 488, Ruwi, P.C 112, Sultanate of Oman, Tel : (968) 24703844, Fax : (968) 24793071, õ«°SôahCG §≤°ùe ácô°T

Email : musovrcoz@omantel.net.om, W e b : w w w . m u s c a t o v e r s e a s . c o m


Tourism

Tourism Industry All Geared Up Tourism has the potential to become the cornerstone of Oman’s economic future, says Mohammed Hamood Al Tobi, Undersecretary, Ministry of Tourism, as he talks here about the immense possibilities of growth in this industry. 1970 to 2010: Could you sum up your Minis-

in 2009) while Omran now manages over 18 joint

try’s progress and development in the last

venture projects including nationally significance

40 years? To sum up the tourism progress of

projects like the Oman Convention and Exhibi-

Oman over 40 years in just a few lines is a tall

tion Centre (completion in 2013).

order, but my overarching comment is that few countries can match Oman’s success in the way

Tourism now contributes around 3% to GDP and

it has entered and positioned itself in the global

has the potential to become a cornerstone of

tourism market.

Oman’s economic future. For its part, the Ministry is working on a strategy of managed growth to

By its nature, a national tourism industry does

ensure sustainable outcomes, whose benefits are

not spring up overnight; our success is due to

spread to all regions of Oman.

the vision and hard work of many people and agencies. We must be grateful for Government’s

What has been the most significant achieve-

pioneering decisions to invest in, and give

ment?

priority to the sector, and into nation building

Again, this is a difficult question because it raises

infrastructure (airports, roads, and Oman Air)

so many good things that have been achieved,

that has enabled tourism to ‘take hold’. Late in

and there is no shortage of people, projects and

the period, in 2004 to be specific, the Ministry

agencies that deserve special mention. However,

of Tourism was formed. It is one of the youngest

a very significant achievement is the respect that

national tourism agencies in the world. Omran,

Oman commands as a quality destination

the government’s tourism development agency,

in Arabia and internationally. There are several

is also a relatively new agency (formed 2005).

ways this respect is shown, including numerous

Since 2004 Oman has recorded double digit

international awards won by our resorts, hotels,

annual visitor growth (around 1.7 million visitors

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Tourism

tour companies and airline, as well as by industry

Where do you foresee Oman tourism pro-

the GCC fast rail proposal. It follows that GCC

as the development of related professional as-

and international benchmarking studies like the

gressing in the next 40 years?

investment in Oman tourism is likely to jump

socia- tions that can assist in skills development.

World Economic Forum’s Tourism Competitor

In general terms, we expect the next 40 years

because of the quality opportunities that exist

International studies also point to a growing and

index. All show Oman positive and continuing to

to see a significant increase in the relative size

here, creating new jobs and holiday destinations.

sizeable international leisure market and our

emerge as a quality destination for responsible

and contribution of domestic/regional (Oman

New destinations might include high altitude

strategic focus will continue to be on providing

tourism.

and GCC) tourism, compared to international

resorts in the Hajars, the Qurayat, Sur, and Al

quality destinations and Arabian experiences

tourism.

Wusta coasts, as well as Dhofar. There are many

that are attractive to high yield visitors (incentive,

Tourism has also made a substantial positive

investment possibilities for Oman.

leisure and business segments). We are confident

contribution in the way Oman is perceived

This would lead to shifts in tourism investment

We will see our industry developing from its

this will generate quality and sustainable ben-

globally as a destination for trade and business

and promotions to take advantage of factors,

current ‘hospitality focus’ to a more complex one,

efits for all Omanis.

investment.

including Oman’s high population growth and

spanning industry sectors like IT, industry educa-

cheaper travel facilitated by low cost airlines and

tion and training, global conventions, as well

The attractive promenade of Corniche is a must visit for tourists

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Tourism

Omran Shows the Way Ask not what tourism can do for you; ask what you can do for tourism... That, in a capsule, is the essence of Responsible Tourism, which is revolutionizing the concept of global tourism, especially at a time when the focus of every venture/project is on environment conservation. Wael bin Ahmed Al Lawati, CEO of Omran, tells more... What are Oman’s positive environment poli-

responsibility in the region.

cies that have helped you realize sustainable tourism?

How does Omran propose to go about its

In our commitment to becoming a leader in

vision of promoting Oman as a unique Middle

ecological responsibility, we have developed

Eastern destination?

an Environmental Management System to help

Oman’s natural beauty is one of its greatest

reduce our footprint and decrease our pollution

assets in promoting the country as a unique

and waste output. With guidelines now in place

tourism destination.

that govern everything from actions taken in the construction of projects through to the choice

Omran aims to capitalise on the unrivalled

of materials we use, our Environmental Manage-

natural scenery, the year-round sunshine and

ment System goes well beyond national and

the rich heritage of Oman, in order to diversify

international minimum standards.

the economy and offer new opportunities to the Omani people. Our mandate is to develop

Our efforts in developing the system have led

tourism projects and freehold property develop-

to Omran being awarded ISO14001 certification

ments, and to promote Oman as a unique Middle

– an internationally accepted certification for

Eastern destination.

environmental management. Omran is not only the first tourism company to achieve ISO 14001

What are the major threats to environment

in Oman, but one of only a handful in the GCC -

conservation in Oman? What are the policies

putting us at the forefront of environmental

in place to counter them?

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Tourism

From a developer’s point of view, the construc-

System we have in place (outlined earlier), all of

As well as managing all of our large-scale proj-

Where do you think Oman stands in realizing

tion of any project has an effect on the environ-

our developments undergo a rigorous environ-

ects, Omran takes every effort to ensure these

responsible tourism?

ment, whether through the direct impact of the

mental impact assessment and must be awarded

core values filter down to each level of the busi-

Because of the importance of Oman’s unique

project itself, or through the polluting effects

a permit from the Ministry of Environment &

ness. Each ‘Omranite’ is responsible for making

natural landscape in our mandate, we are com-

that its construction processes may have. If not

Climate Affairs before they are allowed to go

sure we are a green office – we recycle almost all

mitted to developing the tourism industry in a

managed responsibly, these disruptions have the

ahead. This means that our developments con-

of our office waste products, use environmental-

sustainable and environmentally responsible

potential to cause long-term damage.

form to international guidelines on responsibility

ly friendly inks, recycled printing paper and make

manner - perhaps more so than other areas in

throughout the construction process.

use of a number of energy- and water-saving

the region given that Oman’s landscape is one of

techniques.

our biggest assets. The systems and regulations

Further to the Environmental Management

Omran’s Fort Hotel

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Tourism What, according to you, has been the most

tion of Oman?

significant achievement, environmentally

With the rapid rate of development taking place

Resulting from our effective implementation

speaking, of Oman?

across the region, it is important that companies

of high environmental administered standards,

Oman has taken great steps to ensure the coun-

take measures to control the impact of their busi-

In our commitment to become a leader in sus-

Omran was awarded the ISO14001 certification

try continues to grow and evolve in a responsible

ness on the environment. Through the systems

tainable developments, we have developed an

– an internationally accepted certification for

manner. Perhaps Oman’s greatest achievement

we have developed the training we undertake

Environmental Management System to reduce

environmental management. At the forefront

has been to encourage each and every one of

with our staff and contractors, and our support

the carbon footprint and decrease pollution and

of the industry in environmental responsibility,

us to be environmentally con- science and work

of local initiatives such as The Environmental

waste output. Our instituted guidelines are now

Omran is not only the first tourism developer to

together to protect our beauti- ful country.

Society of Oman, Omran is at the forefront of

in place and govern every action taken in the

achieve ISO 14001 in Oman, but one of the only

construction progress of our developments; the

few in the GCC region.

we have put in place to protect our environment

international minimum standards.

mean that Oman is at the forefront of responsible tourism.

system was designed to exceed the national and

56

environmental responsibility in the region. What is the role played by Omran in taking up the mantle of responsible tourism conserva-


Tourism

We’re looking deeper.

So should you.

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Tourism

A policy for Responsible Tourism Responsible Tourism has to be regarded as a behavior, says Mohamed Al Riyami, Founder of Arabian Sea Safaris, as he explains the nuances of sustainable tourism and environment conservation against the backdrop of growing tourism in the country. Realizing sustainable tourism

sustainability of the tourism industry.

The Sultanate of Oman’s Ministry of Tourism has been committed to safeguarding and enhanc-

In restoring and managing heritage forts and

ing cultural, natural and heritage values, and

castles, as well as managing reserves and attrac-

ensuring that all forms of tourism are conducted

tions, the Ministry gives priority to the needs

in a sustainable way. The Ministry has adopted

of, and opportunities for, local communities. In

the Sustainable Tourism principles developed by

marketing Oman as a destination for responsible

the United National World Tourism Organization

tourists, promotions, campaigns and advice to

(UNWTO), and encourages Oman’s tourism busi-

visitors highlight Oman’s heritage, cultural and

nesses to adopt UNWTO and related guidelines

natural values. Wherever possible, marketing

and standards. Also, it requires tourism busi-

collateral is produced using recycled paper and

nesses to contribute to the wellbeing of local

bridgeable inks. The Ministry has now taken

communities through social and environmental

one more step and is formulating a Responsible

programs.

Tourism Policy.

In planning and developing infrastructure and

Responsible Tourism from travel and tourism

services, the Sultanate of Oman’s Ministries are

companies

giving consideration to social and environmental

The tourism industry needs to contribute to

values, as well as to precautionary and preventa-

responsible tourism by doing business in a way

tive measures. The Ministry has prepared a

that protects the natural environment, communi-

Development Control Plan Framework to guide

ties and cultures and for future generations. It is

development and to enhance the long-term

about meeting the expectations of travelers, and

Monaco’s Prince Albert II enjoys a day’s yachting along Muscat Coast with Mohamed Al Riyami

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Tourism

Rescue of a whale caught in a fishing net off Qantab coast

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Tourism also protecting what is unique and special about

Focusing in particular on businesses, Responsible

a destination like Oman. Travel and tourism

Tourism will have the following characteristics:

companies need to lead with action. Educat-

- minimizes negative economic, environmental,

ing tourists about local culture, history and the

and social impacts

environment will give them a competitive edge

- generates greater economic benefits for local

in the tourism industry.

people and enhances the well-being of host communities, improves working conditions and

Need of the hour to nurture Responsible

access to the industry

Tourism

- involves local people in decisions that affect

Responsible Tourism has to be regarded as a

their lives and life chances

behaviour. It is more than a form of tourism as it

- makes positive contributions to the conser-

represents an approach to engaging with tour-

vation of natural and cultural heritage, to the

ism, be that as a tourist, a business, and locals at

maintenance of the world’s diversity

a destination or any other tourism stakeholder. It

- provides more enjoyable experiences for tour-

emphasizes that all stakeholders are responsible

ists through more meaningful connections with

for the kind of tourism they develop or engage

local people, and a greater understanding of

in. Whilst different groups will see responsibility

local cultural, social and environmental issues

in different ways, the shared understanding is

- provides access for physically challenged

that responsible tourism should entail an im-

people and

provement in tourism. Tourism should become

- is culturally sensitive, engenders respect be-

‘better’ as a result of the responsible tourism

tween tourists and hosts, and builds local pride

approach.

and confidence.

Within the notion of betterment resides the

Blocks in the path of Responsible Tourism

acknowledgement that conflicting interests

The private sector in tourism is frequently

need to be balanced. However, the objective is

criticized for exploiting environmental resources

to create better places for people to live in and

for maximization of short-term profits. Even

to visit.

when some environmental initiatives are taken, they are often judged to be superficial or simply

Importantly, there is no blueprint for responsible

public relations exercises. It is demonstrated

tourism: what is deemed responsible may differ

that with wise guidance and strict supervision,

depending on places and cultures. Responsible

tourism development, undertaken by the private

Tourism is an aspiration that can be realized in

sector, can be both economically viable and

dif- ferent ways in different originating markets

developed and operated in an environmentally

and in the diverse destinations of the world. Prof. Dr. Hans Hass, a diving pioneer and environment protectionist, with Al Riyami on a coastal cruise in Bander Al Jissah

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ssah

Tourism

sensitive manner. The pursuit of short-term

dive education for all levels of divers. And as we

conservation specialty course is designed to

33,000 miles of shoreline to remove seven mil-

economic benefits may be a motive, rather than

are currently becoming a GO ECO center and

educate divers and non-divers to the plight of

lion pounds of rubbish.

a stumbling block, in the implementation of

members of PADI Project AWARE, we are leading

the world’s coral reefs. The course develops an

environmentally responsible tourism practices.

the way with our unique environmental work.

intimate understanding of the reef ecosystem

We are also focused on environmentally low im-

The Project AWARE specialty course is designed

and why it is so vital for its conservation. Using

pact tourism such as trekking, cycling and non-

Role played by Arabian Sea Safaris towards

to familiarize divers and non-divers with the

Coralwatch, a PADI initiative, you will contribute

motorized sea activities. It is through events like

Responsible Tourism

plight of worldwide ecosystems and what we

directly to the conservation of local reefs.

these that Arabian Sea Safaris hopes to spread

Arabian Sea Safaris (established in 1996 - the

can do to help protect aquatic resources.

First Sea Tourism Commercial Operating Com-

awareness about protecting our eco system We are also involving ourselves in next year’s In-

and to lead people with a hands on approach to

pany in the Sultanate of Oman) is very active in

This one day course includes two dives (or two

ternational Cleanup Day, the biggest underwater

protect our earth. It is important for people to

the conservation of the local eco system through

snorkeling sites) to explore the local environ-

cleanup of its kind. Held worldwide annually on

come together as a community and start making

education and action. With our scuba dive cen-

ment, paying particular attention to the plight of

the 3rd Saturday in September each year, more

International Beach Clean Up not only a yearly

ter, we are dedicated to environmentally aware

local environmental concerns. The coral reef

than 370,000 volunteers worldwide clean over

event, but hopefully a way of life.

Mohamed Al Riyami with tourists

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Tourism

62

Luxurious interiors from The Wave, Muscat

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Real Estate

Luxury, the ITC Way

Global recession hit the real estate market hard and countries around the world, including Oman’s neighbouring countries, felt the nervous impact. Oman, however, managed to escape the brunt of the situation and despite a few snags in between, got a grip on the situation and jumped clear off the danger mark. Today, most of the real estate companies working on prestigious Integrated Tourism Complexes (ITC) are back in business, creating world-class environs for locals and tourists/expatriates to enjoy the natural bounty of Oman and its serene ambience.

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Real Estate

The Wave, Muscat: A Destination of Choice Unparalleled luxury, serene setting, pristine shoreline... The Wave, Muscat, one of Oman’s prestigious freehold properties, is a reflection of Oman’s all-round development. Situated on 6 km of natural coastline, The Wave,

variety of highly attractive investment options to

Muscat promises the discerning investor an au-

both Omanis and non- Omanis. The residential

thentic experience in Arabian style. An incompa-

offering of The Wave, Muscat, includes exciting

rable residential opportunity, combining world

townhouses, villas with garden, waterfront or

class amenities, offers residents, tourists and the

beach views, and apartments situated around

local community a lifestyle beyond compare. The

the vibrant Al Marsa village.

Wave, Muscat redefines modern living within the Sultanate of Oman.

The world-class architects - Triad Oman Consultants International, Meletitiki (Alexandros N

With modern Arabian award winning architec-

Tombazis) and ER International (Carlo Santini)

ture, the project is setting new standards in the

– have successfully translated traditional Omani

region for quality, design, construction and finish

designs and way of life into a modern, practical

and offers more than 4000 new homes, a 400+

and enlightening master plan for a new village

berth marina, a Greg Norman signature links golf

community. Villas, townhouses and apartments

course, three premier 5- star hotels including

are set in carefully landscaped grounds featuring

Kempinski and Fairmont chain of hotels, to-

wide tree-lined boulevards, green parks and

gether with retail, leisure and dining opportuni-

inland pools and waterways filled with gently

ties. Granted its status by Royal Decree, it is the

moving seawater. Planting has been carried out

first project in the Sultanate of Oman to offer

with water conservation in mind.

freehold status to all purchasers. One of the best features of The Wave, Muscat is Under the Sultanate of Oman’s new foreign own-

its Greg Norman Links golf course which is ex-

ership laws (Royal decree 12/2006 and 9/2007),

pected to lure golf fans from across Arab region

foreigners are entitled to own freehold proper-

and the world to Muscat and set new bench-

ties on The Wave, Muscat, thus offering a wide

marks in terms of design and quality for game

The Wave, Muscat villa

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Real Estate

Plush interiors of a villa

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Real Estate

enthusiasts. Construction of the course started

golf course to supervise the works on his project.

The Golf Clubhouse is currently under design,

in August 2009, and to date over 1,000,000m3

On his second visit to The Wave, he also held a

and will be constructed to open once the full 18

of earth moved to start the creation of the Greg

press conference and a golf clinic for junior golf-

holes course is operational.

Norman designed course. The Wave, Muscat has

ers, which signifies his commitment to develop-

appointed Southern Golf Oman LLC as the Golf

ing the sport of golf in the region.

Course Construction Contractor, and they will

backdrop of spectacular ocean vistas. A tribute to Oman’s rich maritime tradition and one of the Project’s most prominent features, the

The Wave, Muscat’s Almarsa Village is the heart of

village will pervade the area, attracting motor-

the project, offering a 400-berth marina, shops,

boats and the type of yachts that, until now, have

construct the 18-hole PGA standard course, the

The overall aim is to open the initial 9-hole golf

cafes and a real chance to socialize and unwind,

rarely been seen in Oman. It is poised to become

par 3 academy course and the floodlit driving

facility, including Academy Facility, by the end

the atmosphere and vibrancy, day and night,

the entertainment center of this master-planned

range. Recently Greg Norman paid a visit to the

of 2010, with the full 18 holes following in 2011.

brings together residents and visitors against a

community with a wide range of retail facilities,

The rich golf course

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Real Estate offering al fresco dining and shops, making it the

integrating ‘green’ initiatives to the design and

the government’s support on passing the free-

precedented sales during its 7th property release

most lively and vibrant atmosphere in Muscat.

development of an eco-friendly and sustainable

hold ownership legislation in Oman, The Wave,

by selling 60% of the 160 properties on offer

community. This includes the development of a

Muscat has drawn huge interest among potential

within the first two days. With this success, The

Reflecting its steadfast commitment to Oman’s

submerged protective reef and energy efficient

buyers from Oman and the region.

Wave, Muscat has become the only real estate

environmentally conscious strategies, The Wave,

modules for the construction structure, adopt-

Muscat has conducted a comprehensive Environ-

ing best practice principles in creating green

Despite the challenging global market condi-

Sultanate for a considerable time, which bears

mental Impact Assessment (EIA), detailing the

spaces, innovative approaches to landscaping

tions and as international markets recover from

testimony to the strength of the project and the

project’s execution methodology and mitigation

and sustainable techniques for recycling water to

economic recession, The Wave, Muscat, has

investor confidence it enjoys, both locally and

plans. Significant emphasis has been placed on

ensure minimal impact on the environment. With

managed to achieve a new milestone with un-

internationally.

development to sell properties off-plan in the

The Wave, Muscat villa

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Real Estate

Oman geared to meet real estate demands Oman survived the financial crisis and the real estate market wasn’t gravely affected, because one of the key positive points in favour of Oman was that it was less dependent than other countries around the world, says Bahaa Kareem, Director of Marketing, Muriya. “Oman was protected. The local banks are strong

About the response in the market to ITC, he

and they have very good assets. So, basically, the

says, “When you see that 80% of the Omanis

impact of financial crisis was much less in Oman

purchased properties in our projects, it demon-

than in other country and this helped tourism

strates trust. Muriya is the only developer that is

and the real estate market to withstand the

still there and still proceeding steadfastly. Most

crisis,” he explains.

other projects by other developers are almost dead.

However, he says Oman did experience a general slowdown in sales last year but things have

“I believe our success is the outcome of our low

picked up since this January. “We are now into

profile approach. We are trying to be smart on

sale and resale of our units and are securing our

our expenses. For example, our sales centre is

current plans,” he adds.

small but it is doing the job required. We want to succeed step by step in our projects. ...We are try-

In a chat with ODYSSEY, he affirmed that Oman’s

ing to diversify and spread our customer base by

prospects in the real estate market were good. “It

trying to reach the GCC and European markets.

is still a very attractive asset for Oman as the ITC is the only place where foreigners can buy some

“The future is indeed bright for ITCs. It is the

units. I see this market as sustainable. It will pick

way ahead for Oman. With these projects, we

up in the second semester of 2010 and hopefully

will attract a lot of people from Europe to either

it will be in a very good shape in 2011,” he opines.

have a house here or own one as a holiday home. Definitely the Tourism Ministry will benefit from

Jebel Sifah

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Real Estate this. Our objective is to gradually minimize the

the handover of their villas and apartments in

apartments, two world-class 18-hole PGA Golf

As Sodah Island: It’s an exclusive upscale eco-

dependence on oil and gas.”

the first quarter of 2011. The central hub of ‘Jebel

courses, an estimated 200-berth Inland - Marina

lodge boutique hotel, which is located on the

Sifah’ is the marina that will be bustling with an

with a Marina Town, five 5-star hotels, two ma-

As Sodah Island in the Halaniyat, an hour or so

Muriya has three ongoing projects that are under

array of activities surrounded by lively restau-

rina boutique hotels, retail venues, etc. It will also

off the coast of Salalah. It is being introduced by

various stages of construction:

rants, cafes and apartment blocks. High quality

be home to five top hotel brands, reinforcing

Cheval Blanc, the newest French hotel operator

Jebel Sifah: Located 45 minutes from Muscat,

weather-resistant pontoons have been put in

Muriya’s commitment to the country’s booming

established by the LVMH Hotel Management,

this ITC is spread over 6.2 million square meters.

place that will provide space for up to 150 boats.

tourism sector while maintaining high standards

an entity of the Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton

of comfort and luxury. Hotels such as Rotana,

(LVMH). The Hotel will be located on 11 square

Construction work is in progress at different stages in all the 18 apartment blocks. The 63

Salalah Beach: 20 kms away from Salalah Air-

Club Med and Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts are

kilometres with only thirty two lavishly created

villas, part of the initial release, are designed in

port, Salalah Beach covers an area of 15.6 million

planned along the beach. Phase1 properties on

villas - each with its own beach and swimming

eight different styles, of which 41 are nearing

square metres on the beach front. It will feature

the Marina in Salalah Beach are scheduled for

pool. The opening of the Hotel is expected by

completion. Phase I customers will start receiving

residences including high-end luxury villas and

handover in the year 2011.

2012.

Muriya villa

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Our warmest greetings to

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said

and the people of oman on the joyous occasion of the 40th Renaissance Day

The vision

for a better furture...

We are the sole supplier of fuel to the nation. This places us in a position of great responsibility, which is why our Refineries meet the most stringent of environmental norms using the most environment-friendly technology and employing every possible preventive measure

www.orpc.co.om


Education

Education = Progress

‘…if only under the shade of a tree’ was the message from His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said to eradicate illiteracy that dominated the country when he took the reins of the country in 1970. And within the first five months 16 primary schools were established, educating over 9,500 students - a 662% increase!

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Education

Education: Impressive Growth ‘Unprecedented’, ‘Unparalleled by any other country’… this is how independent international observers have described Oman’s success in the education sector. H.E. Dr. Muna Bint Salim bin Khalfan Al Jardaniyah, Undersecretary for Education & Curricula, Ministry of Education, highlights the development in replies to an ODYSSEY questionnaire. 1970 to 2010: Could you sum up your Minis-

Secondly, the Ministry of Education has been

try’s progress and development during the

devoting increased attention towards achieving

last 40 years?

quality improvements to the school education

The Ministry of Education has been working on

system. ‘The Vision for Oman’s Economy – Oman:

two separate but related fronts during the period

2020’ conference held in 1995 highlighted that

from 1970 to 2010. Firstly, it has effectively

education would become even more crucial

undertaken and has been continuing with its

to Oman in the 21st century as the country’s

efforts to ensure that all Omanis have access to

dependency upon natural resources evolved into

education, regardless of their gender, age or area

increased reliance on the skills, creativity and

of residence. In this regard, there are 540,332

motivation of its citizens. Moreover, the country’s

students attending schools of whom 265,103 are

economy will be of a growing need for highly

girls and the large number of adults attending

skilled and trained Omani nationals to replace

adult education classes is very encouraging

the existing expatriate labour force.

and, as described by independent international observers, ‘unprecedented’ and ‘unparalleled by

In response to this, the Ministry’s educational

any other country.’

reform has focused on updating educational policies and programs. Our curriculum and

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Education

teaching and learning methods are now in line

tion who are able to make positive contributions

expanding access to education to all of Oman’s

by the Ministry of Education as ‘a unified ten-year

with well-established international standards.

to themselves, their families and to society in an

citizens and regions, one of the most significant

education’ provided by the Sultanate of Oman

Scoring such high standards of achievement

increasingly knowledge based global economy.

achievements of this period has been the estab-

for all children at school age. It meets the basic

lishment and implementation of the country’s

education needs in terms of knowledge, skills,

involves the development of human resources, the fostering of scientific and technological un-

What has been the most significant achieve-

Basic Education and Post-Basic Education

attitudes and values, enabling them to continue

derstanding and the creation of an educated and

ment of the Ministry?

Reforms. Basic Education, which is now replacing

their education or training based on their inter-

innovative teaching staff together with a popula-

In addition to the massive accomplishment of

the General Education System, has been defined

ests, aptitudes and dispositions and enabling

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Education them to face the challenges of their present

program was in June 2007.

circumstances and future developments, in the context of comprehensive social development.’

A new Post-Basic Education program was

The Basic Education is composed of two cycles:

developed at the beginning of the 2007-2008

Cycle One (grades 1 to 4) and Cycle Two (grades

school year. This program is designed to build on

5 to 10).

the reforms introduced in the First and Second Cycle Basic Education programs. To this end, the

The key features of the Basic Education System,

general objectives of Post-Basic Education focus

include: strengthening subjects such as science,

on developing problem-solving thinking and

mathematics, Arabic and English, introducing

skills related to independent and continuous

new subjects such as information technology

learning and in carrying out research work. The

and life skills, developing teaching and learning

program includes a range of core and elective

materials which focus on student-centered

courses which enable students to focus their

learning, reviewing the curricula, textbooks and

studies on areas that will best prepare them for

teacher guides in order to reduce theoretical

whatever career development route they take on

content and increase practical application so

leaving school.

as to provide students with real life situations, emphasizing formative assessment and replac-

The introduction of elective courses in grades

ing traditional libraries with learning resources

11 and 12 necessitates that students should be

centers that allow students to access to a wide

advised on these course choices duri8ng grade

range of resources. In addition, the number of

10 to ensure that subjects that they choose will

students per class has been reduced, as reason-

be consistent with their aspirations and abilities.

able teacher-student ratio helps teachers to ap-

Following a period of discussion with interested

ply their teaching and learning strategies. Both

bodies, the Council of Higher \Education agreed

the school year and day have been elongated to

to give the Ministry of Education the responsi-

allow more teaching time and chances to intro-

bility of setting up a National Career Guidance

duce a cp-educational system in grades 1-4.

Centre. Special career guidance programs have been established and career guidance teachers

The Basic Education System was first introduced

have been assigned to schools to help students

in the 1998/1999 academic year in 17 schools.

channel their aptitudes and interests to suitable

Through a phasing-in program, the number of

employment or higher education opportunities.

schools involved in Basic Education has been

The Career Guidance Centre not only caters for

gradually rising and, by the academic year 2008-

the needs of students, but also helps adult job-

09, 759 schools were involved. The first student

seekers and offers specific employment support

cohort to complete the ten-year Basic Education

to women.

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Education

will continue focusing on the development of

live.

so they can create a rich leaning environment for

Where do you foresee Oman progressing in

the country’s human resource base to ensure

Developing this kind of student and citizen

students. In keeping with international trends

the next 40 years?

that all citizens are prepared for participation

requires the adoption of a new and adaptable

and standards, we will search for additional ways

The country’s future in the next 40 years will

in an increasingly globalized world. We will

approach to some key aspects of education,

to promote and increase our use of IT in schools

be bright with Oman continuing to play a vital

need graduates capable of engaging in the full

such as curriculum development, teaching and

and throughout the education system. Likewise,

regional and global role in the Gulf, the wider

sense of citizenship and national development,

learning methods, school management, teacher

we will also continue to build the capacity of

Middle East region, as well as the global com-

those who will effectively participate in both the

training, planning and decision making. Building

regional and local school leaders to handle in-

munity. The goal of Oman’s education system,

local and global community and be able to be

on recent and past successes, we will continue

creasing levels of responsibility for their schools

therefore will be to prepare its citizens and hu-

contributing members of society in 21st century

to make sure that our students are provided

and regions. And finally, at the Ministry level

man resources to effectively work hard to fulfill

knowledge-based economy. What this means in

with freedom of choice, diversity of knowledge,

we will be vigilant in seeking out and establish-

these expectations and play a positive leadership

terms of the Ministry of Education is that we will

flexibility in managing their roles and courses

ing state-of-the-art processes for planning,

role.

be building lifelong learners capable of adapting

that meet their individual needs and satisfy these

implementing and evaluating the impact of new

to, and shaping and leading, the changing local

ambitions. Teachers will be trained to the highest

education policies.

and global environment within which we will

and most comprehensive instructional standards

As its contribution to this future, the Ministry

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IT

Tech Savvy Oman

Oman’s information highway is speeding away to glory, thanks to investments from the Government, which has helped spur the industry.

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IT

Oman’s Digital Transformation Tariq Hilal Al Barwani, Founder and President of KnowledgeOman.com, delves on the progress achieved and the exciting future ahead for the IT industry. “Government of Oman realized the potential of

all of the private and public schools, colleges and

the Information and Communication Tech-

universities have an ‘ICT’ subject or course which

nologies and has been heavily investing on this

catches the attention of the students who know

rapidly growing industry. The inspiration from

the potential of the medium, and as a conse-

the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos

quence, get the necessary know-how to utilize

bin Said has led the Sultanate to embark on the

the tools to create solutions for the sector.

vital mission of building a knowledge economy

Information and communications technology

for the community and facilitating nationwide

(ICT) is the heart of many businesses and nations

initiatives, via the utilization of e-technologies

today, as it affects everyone from students,

that transforms Oman digitally,” states Tariq Al-

general public, knowledge workers, managers,

Barwani.

officers, and whole organizations at every level, be it operational, strategic or tactical, as it alters

Below are his replies to an ODYSSEY question-

the nature of work and lives.

naire. With the kind of possibilities, knowledge and As an expert, you have played a pivotal role

opportunities that are easily available for reach

in the progress of this sector. Could you say

today, it is clearly safe to say that our youngsters

other youngsters are equipped to carry the

today are the future leaders of tomorrow!

mantle forward? Indeed! Today the term ‘ICT’ being information

1970 to 2010: Could you sum up the progress

and communications technology is no longer a

and development achieved by the IT and com-

word known by techies and specialized people

munication sector during the last 40 years?

only! In fact, ‘ICT’ has become not only a useful

Information Technology park

medium for the business and the government

Today, information technology in Oman is ef-

sector but to our personal lives as well. Almost

ficiently utilized in providing various businesses

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IT and government services across all sectors, such

demic and industrial researches, entrepreneurs,

of expanding by attracting information and com-

Today, KOM hosts international companies such

as, but not limited to, banking, education, health,

and the like could work together jointly and

munication technologies companies to mark and

as HP, Oracle, Microsoft - more are expected to

insurance, electricity, telecom, security and the

collaboratively to introduce and improve tech-

base their operations at the park. It is expected

join board!

like. The Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM), the

nologies that can position the Sultanate as the

that the KOM would become the hub of all IT

public private sector led (initiative) information

central ICT hub in the region. As a consequence,

activities in the country, where every local and

Autonomous legal body

technology park of Oman, continues, since the

KOM has attracted both local and international

international entrepreneurs, business players

The Information Technology Authority, the au-

inception till date, to build an arena where all

talents, expertise and investors to innovate and

and educational institutions would have their

tonomous legal body affiliated to the Minister of

small, medium and large organizations, aca-

nourish the ICT business. KOM upholds the ideas

presence marked in the park.

National Economy, continues to build an image

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IT and trust to oversee the IT activities and services

including the mobile technology, market news,

pertaining to the Sultanate, more specifically

products and services, innovations, buyers’

enforcing best practices for the formation of

guide, tips and tricks, Q&A, Quizzes and many

the e-government in Oman and implementing

more. The live radio programme features a live

national IT infrastructure while supervising all

questions and answer session in which the listen-

projects related to Digital Oman Strategy.

ers can call and enquire on any aspects related to the information technology. Along with a radio

The launch of national ePayment Gateway is

programme, the Ministry of Information has also

among the prominent milestone crossed in

introduced TV ICT programme known as ‘Raqmy-

Oman. The system truly illustrates the transfor-

aat’ which serves similar purpose of promoting IT

mation of Oman’s eGovernment implementa-

knowledge across the country.

tion, moving forward to the transactional phase. The ePayment Gateway system allows efficient

Technology in Banking

electronic transactions in Oman and simplifies

The banking sector in Oman is gradually moving

the process of payment transactions for electron-

away from the traditional to the technological

ic services within the country.

ways of banking (in specific, the mobile and electronic methods). This is a major change that

With the ePayment gateway, the adoption of

would affect every stakeholder involved, from

electronic payments and, specifically, the use of

all the employees, branches, customers and

Internet, would increase in Oman. The ePayment

everybody involved, with the banks in question.

gateway accepts all international credit cards

Many banks have moved quickly to the chip and

and debit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Amex

PIN standards for credit and debit cards, because

and Diner cards. So far, a number of institutions

they see major advantages for controlling card

such as Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Mobile,

fraud. Furthermore, it has been noticed that

Nawras and OmanBay have signed up and utilize

there has been a huge growth in consumers’

the service.

use of self-service banking channels like ATMs and online banking in the country. Most of the

Information Technology ‘Awareness’ Pro-

banks are looking for ways to increase the online

grams

functionality they offer.

As part of educating the public on the use and benefits of IT, a new and innovative ICT weekly

They’re guiding their customers to do more on-

Radio show programme was introduced by

line. The MPLST (Multi Protocol Label Switching

the Ministry of Information called CyberTalk.

Technology) launched by Omantel, a broadband

CyberTalk presents the latest news in ICT, locally

network, allows the transfer of data, voice and

and globally, in which it features various topics,

picture in one stream within a highly efficient

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IT and compatible system. It improves customer

objectives in an innovative way, focused on both

country, as far as education is concerned. The

students who have completed their General

service at delivery points. Some of the local

revenue generation and operational efficiencies,

Education portal is an interesting and advanced

Certificate Examination can apply for higher

banks have already adopted the technology and

is the key area of focus for banks in Oman today.

system that connects the Ministry of Education’s

education through this system.

are now actually planning to move all its branch-

teaching and administrative staff and the parents

es to MPLS. The banks in Oman understand the

Technology in Education

of school students. The Higher Education Admis-

Technology in Law

value of identifying how strategic use of technol-

The Ministry of Higher Education’s Portal and the

sion system, on the other hand, was built to unify

Two Royal decrees were issued this year for

ogy is critical to their long-term success. Using

Higher Education Admission System are other

the admission process in all higher education

the electronic transaction (e-transaction),

technology as an enabler to attain business

noteworthy examples of IT developments in the

institutions. The system is accessible online and

the first of which promulgates the Establish-

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IT ment Law in civil and commercial transactions &

during the registration time. This civil number

promulgates the Electronic Transactions Law. The

is printed on the ID cards and can be used by

law provides for encryption as a means to pro-

the registrant to access and use e-Government

tect e-transactions in order to ensure confiden-

services.

tiality of information or data of the message, to verify the originator, and to prevent others from

Community led initiatives

getting information or data messages so as not

KnowledgeOman.com, an ICT community knowl-

to reach the addressee or to corrupt them.

edge sharing portal, formed by a group of students, experts and professionals from academia,

This gives credibility to electronic information

as well as the IT industry, business and govern-

sharing, while taking the issue of information

ment institutions. The objective of the new por-

and communication security to higher levels of

tal is to build up a public knowledge society in

authentication, integrity and privacy. Govern-

Oman, by creating an area for people to learn,

ment entities can now use electronic records and

share and exchange ideas about Information and

digital signatures in tendering systems. License

Communication Technology. Most successful

request processing and taxation systems can also

organisations today are the ones that have one

accept fees or any payments electronically. The

thing in common: transforming ideas from its

long awaited e-transaction law is great for both

employees into meaningful knowledge. The

private and public sector, but is likely to be more

mission of the Internet portal, KnowledgeOman.

productively used by the private sector, where

com, is to bridge the IT knowledge gap between

many firms today have international partners

students, professionals and the industry sector

who they don’t necessarily meet physically with

and to contribute to Oman’s knowledge-based

e-mail signatures or e-contracts - individuals or

economy.

organizations, for example, can sign agreements electronically.

The portal provides latest local and international news, guides and tutorials and events

National Registration System

and answers all kind of questions, from simple

The Directorate General of Civil Status has

queries, such as how to configure one’s com-

introduced a national system known as National

puter at home, or as complex as, how to build an

Registration System (NRS). The system issues

IT infrastructure at work. All of the information

identity/ resident certificates for both local

is available free for everybody to learn, share

and expatriates. The system archives accurate

and exchange across the Internet medium in

information about the social events for all the

the Sultanate. Furthermore, the portal is also

citizens and residents in the country. Registrants

supported by the largest software company,

get unique civil number generated by the system

Microsoft. KnowledgeOman.com helps prepare

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IT professionals and students for today’s IT require-

electronically.

ments and to educate the public on the use and benefits of ICT.

Electronic Payment gateway A national electronic payment gateway was

KnowledgeOman.com has two user interfaces,

launched to provide the means for conducting

English and Arabic. The portal was launched

secure online payments. The gateway is available

on April 1, 2008, and has so far attracted more

for both the business and government sector to

than a million visitors, and has 7,000 registered

allow accessing and paying for services via the

members. Recently, the portal launched a mobile

Internet in a secure manner. Electronic Purse

version (named as KO Mobile) as an additional

Electronic Purse is a new technology that allows

means for the community to access , share and

and enables the citizen to load cash in their

exchange knowledge using their mobile phones,

national ID and resident cards to use it for paying

allowing access to more than 3 million mobile

for government services attained.

subscribers in Oman, anywhere and anytime through a direct link, <http://www.knowledgeo-

What is the need of the hour for Oman to be

man.com/mobile> www.knowledgeoman.com/

counted among the developed countries?

mobile.

The successful investment of the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;ICTâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; medium is vital, due to being a strategic asset that is

KnowledgeOman.com has also introduced a

used to change how process and functions in an

periodic educational platform/seminar invit-

organization and the country as a whole. Clearly,

ing talented community speakers around the

without proper strategy and tactics, it may be dif-

Sultanate who volunteer to share knowledge,

ficult to operate an information technology and

education and experience to the public, free of

succeed in this fast growing world!

charge. Researchers, industry professionals and academicians meet periodically to discuss ways

Where do you see Oman progressing from

to create, promote and boost knowledge-based

here?

economy.

Sky is the limit as technology is changing fast, and new features are introduced on a periodic

An Official eGovernment Services Website

basis to foster the government and businesses

An official egovernment website was launched

reach their goals. In fact, the world has become

recently for facilitating the process of accessing

smaller and the ability to attain goals has be-

government services online. The main benefit of

come easier, provided the necessary knowledge,

the portal is the ease of access from anywhere,

internationally learning and commitment is put

by anyone at anytime. The website is considered

in place.

the door to accessing the government services

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IT

Telecom Sector Surges Ahead Ross Cormack, CEO of Nawras, talks about Omanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s explosive growth in the telecommunication sector. The Sultanate has experienced an amazing de-

became one of the first countries in the world to

velopment period over the last 40 years, thanks

introduce prepaid mobile broadband. The Omani

to the vision and wise leadership of His Majesty

market is now in fourth place in a ranking of

Sultan Qaboos bin Said. This has led to the cre-

competitiveness of telecommunications markets

ation of many companies and services, including

in the Arab region (according to Arab Advisors)

telecommunications, and it is this vision that set

and having shot up from 15th place just a year

the scene for the explosive growth that benefits

ago, is showing the fastest competitive develop-

customers in their everyday lives.

ment of the 19 countries in the report.

Substantial investment in the economy has

Since its launch in 2005, Nawras has totally trans-

brought significant primary employment op-

formed the mobile communications landscape

portunities with tremendous secondary and

in Oman by changing what customers buy and

tertiary results too. An example can be seen in

where, as well as how they get help and pay.

the extensive distribution network set up by

Today the Nawras family is made up of around

Nawras, which today involves over 1,600 dealers.

800 of the most experienced telecom profes-

Assuming that each dealer usually employs three

sionals to be found anywhere; serving almost

people and each of those people is supporting

two million customers with a pleasingly different

a family of six, it is easy to see how in its small

mobile experience.

way, this and many other similar initiatives are contributing to the development of thousands of

Following its success in mobile and through

employment opportunities in the private sector.

a Royal Decree, Nawras was thrilled to be entrusted with a licence to operate fixed services

Today, the Sultanateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mobile penetration rate

and is now in the exciting process of becoming

is similar to neighbouring GCC countries and

the Sultanateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s customer friendly full service

on par with most developed countries globally.

provider. Thousands of kilometres of fibre optic

Oman has played a pioneering role in mobile

cable are being rolled out across the Sultanate,

data based services and through Nawras it

and together with WiMAX technology these will

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IT power the new Nawras portfolio of innova-

using Oman as their landing point for connection

the product of a wild imagination decades ago,

es could brief the wearer on the people they are

tive fixed services for business and residential

to the Arabian Peninsula. Our everyday lives will

the future will see the fantasy services and gad-

meeting by supplying the person’s name, last

customers. In addition, the convergence of high

adapt to the digital evolution. Students will have

gets of today become the reality of tomorrow.

time they met, things they like or don’t like and

speed mobile and fixed networks will enable

access to worldwide educational opportunities

We may well see clothes designed to display and

much more!

residential and corporate customers to enjoy

online; the vast majority of customers will elect

send messages using embedded, light emitting

new opportunities for both personal and busi-

to trade online using their mobile device which

devices within the threads. We could be carrying

It is clear that fantastic opportunities lie ahead in

ness communication development.

has turned into an electronic wallet; people will

a folded piece of material tucked into a pocket

the field of IT and communication and thanks to

have designed their own online information

which when spread across any surface would

His Majesty’s wise and visionary leadership, there

profiles, etc.

produce an instant display unit for communica-

is great potential for such industries in Oman to

tion. We might be wearing intelligent eyeglasses

continue to flourish and push the boundaries of creativity and service to the benefit of customers.

Oman is in a very favourable geographical location and this will lead to the establishment of a hub for international telecommunication

This is just the tip of the iceberg. In the same way

that pick up and transmit information to us, in

services with international sea cable consortia,

that today’s communication services were simply

the style of the film ‘Mission Impossible 2’. Glass-

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IT

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Frankincense trees are grown in the Dhofar region of Oman

7/19/10 11:53 AM


Environment

Mission Environment

With a Ministry devoted exclusively to environment, Oman is on the right track, may be even miles ahead, in its various conservation policies. Sound environment policies and ongoing campaigns have sought to create an ambience that is awe-inspiring for visitors to the country.

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Environment

An SOS for Environment Focus on environment received much needed fillip when the Environment Society of Oman (ESO) took on the mantle of conservation through hard-hitting campaigns and vigilantly followed issues that could have, otherwise, had negative repercussions. H.H. Sayyida Tanya Bint Shabib Al Said, President of ESO, highlights the situation. What are the major threats to environment

Lack of awareness and education: If the public are

conservation in Oman? What are the policies

not made aware of the uniqueness of Oman in

in place to counter them?

terms of its biodiversity, particularly the endan-

Tourism and industrial development: If the devel-

gered species (whales and turtles), then they

opment is not done sustainably - while taking

will not feel the importance and urge to protect

environmental protection into consideration - it

this biodiversity which will threaten conserva-

could be a major threat. And these develop-

tion. And in the long run may begin to threaten

ments if not implemented properly, can mean

Omanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tourism industry. For example, if turtles

more energy consumption, more water con-

stop nesting on our beaches, tourists that would

sumption, more desalination plants, and more

have come to see them would no longer come

construction in locations which might be of

and those projects, originally established around

grave importance in terms of native species, etc.

the turtles, will have lost their appeal.

Climate change: Like any other country on the

Where do you think Oman stands in its envi-

planet, Oman will potentially be affected by

ronment conservation? What more is needed

climate change manifestations such as sea level

to strengthen the environment policies?

rise, which will negatively impact coral reefs

I think Oman is making big efforts to conserve its

and coastal areas, leading further to potential

environment. However, the pace of development

impacts on the nesting patterns of our turtles

is fast, which means more efforts need to be

coming to nest along the coast.

invested in environmental protection. Environmental policies are very progressive but some of

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Environment

them need to be made stricter; they need to be

What is the role played by ESO in taking up

ly grounded policies on the one hand and linking

Social Development, the Ministry of Education,

translated into laws and the laws in turn need to

the mantle of environment conservation of

environmental conservation to individual behav-

the Ministry of Fisheries’ Wealth, etc., and hence

be enforced.

Oman?

iors, raising the public awareness and advising

joins efforts with government authorities on

Since its establishment, ESO has been involved

on how to best contribute to the protection of

many conservation and awareness raising proj-

What, according to you, has been the most

in research of conservation projects, particularly

the environment, on the other hand.

ects. ESO also enjoys the trust of its membership

significant achievement, environmentally

focusing on studying and understanding the

speaking, of Oman?

endangered species of Oman such as whales,

By being a non-governmental organization, ESO

individual or corporate membership. This trust

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said’s creation of

marine turtles and the Arabian Tahr, to better

is qualified for receiving funding from agencies,

makes ESO stronger and credible thus giving it a

the Ministry of Environment and Climate affairs

protect them. In addition, ESO has endeavored to

which by mandate do not donate to government

thrust to carry on with its conservation work and

has been the most significant. Giving environ-

disseminate its research findings as well as other

agencies. Through its credibility and profes-

widen their scope.

ment the importance it deserves has been

environmental concepts to decision-makers and

sionalism, ESO won the trust of the Ministry of

pivotal.

the wider public, thus contributing to scientifical-

Environment and Climate Affairs, the Ministry of

base, which keeps growing by the day- whether

ESO’s ‘No to plastics’ campaign

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Environment

Paradise called Oman Botanic Garden Unusually for an arid country, Oman is home to 12000 different species of plants; they can be found all over the land from the cool Al-Hajar mountains, to scorching Rub al Khali sand deserts, to tropical monsoon fog in Dhofar. Oman Botanic Garden will showcase all that and more. Oman Botanic Garden is a relatively new project

the scorching Rub al Khali sand deserts, to tropi-

that has been growing just outside of Muscat

cal monsoon fog woodlands in Dhofar. As each

for the past few years. Although not yet open to

species is adapted to cope with its local climate,

the public, this ambitious development already

this range of conditions results in a fascinat-

shows a great deal of potential amongst its roots

ing array of plant forms; from tiny and intricate

and shoots. Established in 2006 by Royal Decree,

ephemerals (plants that grow, flower, seed and

the garden comes under the Office for Conserva-

die in a short time), to massive and ancient trees

tion of the Environment, Diwan of Royal Court

that live for a thousand years. The botanic garden

and aims to become one of the world’s leading

hopes to cultivate this variety within Oman and

gardens in conservation, research, environ-

in so doing become the first in the world to grow

mental sustainability and education. Focusing

the entire flora - all these different plant species,

on protecting and cherishing the plants and

of one country.

plant-related culture of Oman, the garden will

become a destination for national, regional or

Putting this task into action is no easy feat; Laila

international visitors of all ages.

al Harthy, botany specialist at the garden, ex-

plains why, “Although many of Oman’s plants are

Oman’s diverse landscape is reflected in the

very beautiful, few have ever been propagated or

number of different plant species that live here.

cultivated before, there are only a small number

With unusually high plant diversity for an arid

of species that people are growing already. This

country, Oman is home to 1200 different species

not only means that we need to discover for

of plants; they can be found throughout the

ourselves how to grow the plants, but also that

country, from the cool Al- Hajar Mountains, to

we have to go out into the wild and collect them

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Environment

in the first place!” The garden’s intrepid field team

Growing this collection is the responsibility of

have been doing just this for the past few years.

the horticultural team, say horticultural special-

Laila continues, “Field work is a core activity at

ists Ismail al Rashdi and Khalid al Farsi; “When

the garden; we have teams out almost each

plants are brought to the garden by the field

week, exploring every corner of Oman, searching

team they usually arrive as seeds or cuttings.

for particular plants that we are trying to grow

All seeds need to be painstakingly cleaned of

for the garden. The field team collects seeds, cut-

any excess plant material and insects by hand,

tings and sometimes whole plants, to bring back

counted and weighed, so we know how many

to the nursery for our horticulturalists to grow.”

we need to plant to reach our targets. They are stored in a cool, dry room, our temporary seed

The botanic garden is a scientific institution

bank, until they are collected to be sown by the

and the field work constitutes a major part of

propagation team. We use different mixes of

research at the moment. Data is collected along

soil, compost and sand to try and mimic the best

with the seeds; everything is carefully noted

conditions for each species and encourage them

down into databases held on rugged field com-

to germinate. As many of these plants have never

puters, from the date, species, name of collector

been cultivated before it is very experimental.

and GPS location coordinates to their ecology

We learn as we go and use our experiences to

and local stories about their uses. “Every seed

help decide what will work best.”

collected is allocated a unique number, which will stay with it as it grows into a plant in the

As the young plants grow they are moved

nursery and is then planted out into the garden

through the garden’s impressive 25,000m2 nurs-

habitats. This number acts as a ‘passport’, linking

ery facility, from the propagation house, to one

the individual plant back to all the data we have

of two glasshouses, then into polytunnels, where

stored about it – where it came from, when it

the temperature and humidity is computer-

was collected, what conditions it needs to grow,

controlled. Once the plants are large enough and

what pests it suffers from and whether it is rare

tough enough they are transferred to an outdoor

or common,” explains Ghudaina al Issai, database

shade house, to acclimatise to the heat, before

specialist for Oman Botanic Garden. “It is this

moving to the unprotected hardening-off area.

data and understanding of our plant collection

“It is important we grow plants strong enough to

that makes us different from a regular park or

cope with the conditions once they are planted

garden; our data is extremely valuable to us and

into the garden’s ‘habitats’. At the same time,

to plant scientists all over the world.” With 320

we need to nurture them so the collection can

species and 86,000 plants in propagation, Oman

expand,” Khalid clarifies.

Botanic Garden already holds the largest documented collection of Arabian plants in the world.

The importance of this becomes clear upon

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Environment

exploration of Oman Botanic Garden’s beautiful

on our entire country – including the plants! The

420 ha site, about 30 km northwest of Muscat.

garden will use programmes for schools and the

The garden will present its unique collection in a

public to help empower people to make a differ-

series of naturalistic areas or ‘habitats’, designed

ence to protect Oman’s environment.”

by a Spanish landscaping firm and constructed by the botanic garden team with help from

Saif al Hatmi, ethnobotanist at the project,

an international group of botanic garden and

explains that it is not just Oman’s plants that face

landscape experts. The salty sabkha, rocky gravel

such threats; “The people of Oman have relied on

desert, arid central desert, and the dunes of

plants for their survival for thousands of years,

the Rub al Khali and Sharqiya sands will all be

for food, shelter, medicine and of course trade.

displayed outside, whilst the mists of Dhofar and

As our society changes, some of these traditions

cool temperatures of Al- Hajar Mountains will

and much of the knowledge of how we can use

be housed inside impressive climate-controlled

plants, is being lost. The garden will celebrate

‘biome’ structures. These landscapes will be

our connection with plants through an exciting

created so that, once within them, visitors feel

heritage village with exhibitions, displays, work-

immersed in the habitat, and can appreciate the

shops and hands-on activities about perfumes,

importance and value of Oman’s environment

medicines, foods, dyes, wood carving, weaving,

with the help of exhibitions, interpretive displays,

basketry and much more. Visitors of all ages

guided tours and storytelling.

will enjoy the multi- sensory experience and of course the shops, cafes and play area in our ‘vil-

Dareen Mehdi, Environmental Education special-

lage’. By making our culture engaging, stimulat-

ist, says “16% of Oman’s wonderful plants are

ing and relevant, we hope that the younger

range restricted; they are only found in Oman

generations will learn and carry our stories and

and our neighbouring countries. Seventy-nine of

skills into the future with them.”

our plant species are found nowhere else in the world, so it is our responsibility to protect them;

At the moment the garden is busy with construc-

if necessary by changing our own behaviour.

tion. The workshops of the heritage village and

Many plants are under threat, sometimes due to

the core buildings of the Orientation Centre,

human activity, such as inappropriate construc-

Field Studies Centre and Research Centre are

tion, overgrazing or ‘wadi bashing’. Every day

nearly complete. The project hopes they will

choices, such as turning down the A/C, sharing

become the first structures in Oman with inter-

lifts to work or school and buying local produce,

national sustainability certification and recogni-

can help to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions.

tion through the US Green Building Council’s

Less carbon dioxide means a reduction in the

Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED)

threat of global warming, which could impact

programme. This stringent scheme impacts on

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Environment

all aspects of the buildings so they use water

ity. The garden will also share its experiences

developing fast, with the team now number-

website, www.oman-botanic-garden.org, where

efficiently, are constructed using recycled, locally

through conferences, workshops and site visits

ing 45 young Omanis in horticulture, botany

interested parties can sign up to receive their

produced and safe (e.g. low volatile organic

to become a model for sustainability in Oman.

and communications departments, and an

regular newsletter, full of the latest details of this

compound content) materials, minimise energy

In addition, it will not be long until construc-

ongoing training and recruitment programme.

fascinating development, and watch this amaz-

use, are powered by renewable energy sources

tion of the impressive ‘biomes’, the structures

Some of the garden’s stories have also been

ing garden grow!

and minimise resource use. Exhibitions, displays,

that will house plants from Dhofar and the high

shared already, with some school groups, local

Any comments, queries or suggestions can be

educational and fun programmes will help the

mountains of Jabal Shams and Jabal Al-Akhdar,

teachers and special interest clubs visiting the

sent to the garden at

garden promote best practice in sustainabil-

is started as well. Indeed, the whole project is

site’s temporary visitor centre. The project has a

omanbotanicgarden@gmail.com

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Environment

Mangroves: Oman’s Success Story The Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs’ extensive mangrove conservation program is showing great results as Badar Al Bulushi, Head Section of Wetland Environment at the Ministry explains in the article below. Mangrove trees are of high significance to the

acclimatizing to the Omani environment despite

world marine ecosystems due to their funda-

the high temperature and lack of fresh water

mental role in providing nurseries for various

which usually limit the growth of mangroves. But

types of species of fish, lobsters, crustaceans,

this type of mangrove tree has a high ability to

oysters and crabs which all grow in mangrove

adapt to this hot and dry environment and the

forest habitats prior to their later movement

species is found in many coastal areas ranging

to deeper waters. Another vital function of

throughout north Batinah Region, the Governor-

mangroves is that they provide ideal protection

ate of Muscat, Mahout Island and south to the

against coastal erosion.

Governorate of Dhofar – a total known area of 1,100 Hectares of mangrove forestation. In some

Throughout history, mangrove trees have also

areas however, mangroves have become extinc

been a vital component in man’s life. The bark

due to impacts such as climate change, construc-

has also been used in manufacturing paper;

tion, coastal development, increasing popula-

leaves were used as animal fodder and in early

tions and over grazing.

times it was also used in medicine. Mangrove forests also provide an option for development of

It is worth mentioning that there are three

aquaculture due to the climatic and physical fea-

other types of mangroves successfully growing

tures of their locations. Fish and crustacean farms

(Rhizophora stylosa of Mucronate, Lumnitzera

may also be established in them and reforesta-

recemosa and Conocarpus erectus) after implan-

tion of mangroves increases the range of green

tation in selected locations such as Khawr Al

cover and also helps to combat desertification.

Baleed in Dhofar. Their introduction was carried

out by special Japanese International Coopera-

The dominant type of mangrove tree in the

tion Agency (JICA) projects in cooperation with

Sultanate is Avicenna marina. It succeeded in

the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

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Environment

Excavation studies carried out in the Qurm

Mahout Island (Al Wusta Region) and Khawr

ties and Environment and water Resources, in

The project commenced in August 2000 at Al

Nature Reserve at Muscat have confirmed the

Al Qurm Al Sageer, , Khawr Al Qurm Al Kabeer,

cooperation with JICA, started a unique project

Qurm Natural Reserve in Muscat by establish-

existence of mangrove trees and fishing activity

Khawr Taqa west and Khawr Al-Baleed.In addi-

for mangroves and to rehabilitate khawrs in an

ing the first permanent 74 hectares nursery for

in this area over 4000 years ago. There are many

tion, Khawr Salalah and several small Khawrs

effort to preserve mangrove trees from dete-

mangrove development within the total 174

areas abundant with mangrove trees such as

between Willayat Salalah and Willayat Taqa

rioration and conserve their dependant marine

hectares area of the main reserve itself. After

Willayat Shinas and Khawr Harmul (Al Batinah Re-

(Dhofar Governorate).

species. The main aims of this project are to

6 months, the first 11,500 produced seedlings

restore mangrove habitats by reforestation and

were replanted at Al Sawadi khawr in Al Batinah

development of khawrs to serve this purpose.

Region in March 2001.

gion), Al Qurum Nature Reserve, Bander Kheran and Khawr Quriyat (Muscat Governorate),Khawr

Mangrove Conservation

Sur and Khawr Jaramah (Al Sharqiya Region)

In April 2000, the Ministry of Regional Municipali-

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Environment

Al Sawadi khawr area was quite barren and

master plan for rehabilitation, conservation and

has a very low number of mangroves. After

management of mangroves trees in the Sultan-

reforestation the mangroves grew very rapidly

ate was finalized during the first half of the year

and in healthy condition. By November 2001 the

2004.

second stage of the reforestation process took place in Sur as 11,000 seedlings were trans-

On the basis of the master plan for rehabilitation,

ported from Al Qurm and distributed at selected

preservation and management of mangrove

locations in Sur. In November 2001 the Ministry

trees project, it is further proposed to establish

established an additional permanent nursery at

a Center for Environmental Information on Man-

Al Qurm. The project commenced in July 2002

groves (CEIM) at Qurm Nature Reserve for:

with a productivity of 15,000 seedlings per year. In May 2002 a further new nursery was also

1. Collection of environmental, economical and

established in Sur at khawr Al Batah to serve as a

social data and preparation of regular scientific

permanent nursery, supplying mangrove seed-

studies and researches related to mangrove

lings to selected locations in Al Sharqiya Region.

habitats and marine environment.

This nursery has been working with a sustained

similar level of productivity since July 2002 when

2. Qualifying national cadres and providing

another new nursery with the same productivity

the required means to carry out studies and

level was also established in Salalah at Khawr Al

research on mangrove environments, spreading

Qurm Al Kabeer. All these new nurseries are now

environmental awareness and setting a suitable

functioning well and are expected to produce

atmosphere for ecotourism by a high profile

some 6,000 seedlings per year.

introduction of mangroves environments in coastal areas.

Experts are monitoring the growth of the seedlings and the effects they are exposed to in order

3. Supervising the management of coastal areas,

be able to take the necessary measures to ensure

detecting marine pollutants and providing

sound growth. The mangrove reforestation

training programs on the skills of transplant-

project is intended to expand to include most of

ing, preserving and monitoring mangrove trees

the khawrs in the Sultanate, particularly those

throughout the Sultanate.

that are qualified for reforestation wherein it is needed to increase the density of mangroves to

The efforts made by the Sultanate in the field

serve as a marine life development environment

of transplanting mangrove trees in different

and in order to rehabilitate deteriorating khawrs

areas have demonstrated that the Sultanate is a

so as to revive the natural habitat and landscape.

pioneering country in the region in preservation

Implementation of a study on preparation of a

and management of mangrove trees.

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Environment

98

Date palm trees are found all over Oman


Environment

Our warmest greetings to

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and the people of Oman on the joyous occasion of the 40th Renaissance Day

Oman United Insurance Company is one of the leading National Companies in Oman, with a futuristic vision and a deep understanding of the day to day insurance needs of the general public, and also the industrial, business and medical sectors. P.O.Box 1522, PC 112, Ruwi, Sultanate of Oman Phone : (+968) 24477300 Fax : (+968) 24477334

www.omanutd.com

99


Environment

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Bank

Banking on Progress

Banks in Oman have grown in stature and profile and today easily infuse confidence in their patrons with the ambience of security they project, says Lakshmi Kothaneth. Before 1970 there were few banks in Oman with limited banking activities.

this is what makes some of the experts to say - this is why Oman was the last

The beginning of the renaissance saw the Muscat Currency Authority in op-

in and first out.

eration, followed by the Oman Currency Board in 1972. They still did not have

Earlier, of course, banks in Oman had to face the issue of bad loans. Here again

the full banking status but created the foundation for the Central Bank of

experts point out bad loans are part and parcel of banking activity. Bad loans

Oman that came into force in the beginning of 1974. The year saw the most

are a risk banks take and will happen in cycle. There are also adverse changes

significant event in the banking history of Oman and that is the creation and

in the market, which business establishments will face now and then.

launching of the Banking Law in Oman, which was amended by Royal Decree

The strength, spread over the interest income and over the interest expense,

No. 114/ 2000. And by 1973 Oman saw the emergence of first private bank in

is highest in the Gulf, which is why banking business is still attractive in Oman.

Oman in the form of National Bank of Oman. Today, the Sultanate’s banking

In addition to that, Oman has the second largest population in the GCC, next

scene is thriving with seven banks of its own, six international banks in ad-

to Saudi Arabia. However, the concept of saving with banks has not clicked

dition to six finance companies. And it is no surprise that even when banks

with the consumers because of the low interest in saving, despite huge prize

internationally faced the turmoil of economic crisis, in Oman they sailed

schemes, with prize money in the range of RO 100,000! These price schemes

smoothly. This experience is a tribute to the wise leadership of His Majesty

are rampant only in Oman. Maybe the consumers are waiting for more incen-

Sultan Qaboos bin Said for the policies the country has adopted.

tives to start the saving culture.

The whole Gulf economy is dependent on government expenditure and they

Banks today, indeed, have a significant role in the development of Small and

are the main spenders as is the case with the rest of the world. The Govern-

Medium Enterprises (SME) in the country. SMEs are the way ahead in the fu-

ment’s decision, not to curtail any of the projects that were on the drawing

ture SME’s are expected to contribute to the nation’s economy!

board, created the momentum for the banks to continue with the flow. And

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Bank

CBO: Symbol of Strength H.E. Hamood Sangour Al Zadjali, Executive President of Central Bank of Oman (CBO), talks to Lakshmi Kothaneth on the progress achieved, challenges to be met and future plans... Looking back at the years of development

ticularly with implementation of the Real Time

in the banking sector in Oman, what do you

Gross Settlement (RTGS), Automated Clearing

think have been the biggest challenges?

House (ACH) and Cheque Imaging System (CIS).

The history of the CBO extends over 35 years, during which it has played an important part in

The main challenge over the years for the bank-

promoting the nationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s economic development,

ing sector has been to continuously remain

in particular the monetary and financial sector.

vigilant with respect to any potential systemic

These roles provide a framework for the CBO to

weakness and to address them in a timely and

work towards ensuring monetary and financial

efficient manner. From CBOâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s perspective, ad-

stability with the ultimate goal of promoting

dressing these issues, have been in the form of

sustainable economic growth in Oman.

operational improvement, policy adjustments and strengthening of regulation, keeping in

The Omani banking system is sound, efficient

mind financial deepening of the financial sector

and technologically up-to-date under the regula-

and minimizing potentials for risk.

tory and supervisory framework implemented by the Central Bank of Oman. The focus of the CBO

How has the banking sector in Oman fared in

in ensuring financial stability has been reflected

the past year?

in several initiatives in the areas of interest rate

The banking sector in Oman continued its

deregulation, capital adequacy norms, risk-based

growth during 2009, notwithstanding the cycli-

supervision, asset-liability management, provi-

cal slowdown of the economy. Total assets of

sioning requirements, enhanced transparency

commercial banks registered a modest growth

and corporate governance. The CBO was in the

of around 3 percent, to reach RO 14.2 billion in

forefront to mandate implementation of Basel II

December 2009. Credit growth decelerated to

in January 2007. On the payment and settlement

6.2 percent, reaching RO 9.8 billion at the end

front, the systems have been modernized, par-

of 2009, compared to 9.3 billion in the previ-

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Bank ous year. Aggregate deposits also registered a

in gross non performing loans has been modest

Banks in Oman were able to weather the recent

growth of 6 percent from RO 8.6 billion to RO 9.1

despite the global financial crisis and higher

global financial crisis with least disruption in

billion. Net profits of commercial banks stood

provisions have been earmarked by banks.

the intermediation process mainly due to no

Omanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s banking system as a whole is sound,

direct exposure to the toxic assets like derivative

resilient and profitable and operates under a well

slightly lower at RO 190.8 million in 2009 com-

following the international credit squeeze.

pared to RO 234.1 million in 2008. The capital

The global economic crisis did not have major

products. Moreover, the CBO with the help of

carved regulatory and supervisory policy ad-

adequacy ratio of banks stood higher at 15.5 per-

impact on Oman. What do you think are the

the Government played a critical role by making

opted by the CBO. CBOâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s prudent requirements

cent as against 14.7 percent a year ago. Increase

reasons?

adequate dollar liquidity available to local banks,

of general provisions on the performing

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Bank loan portfolio at the rate of 1% on performing

been fruitful for our banks, given that they have

non-personal loans and 2% on performing per-

limited number of branches and reach in the

sonal loans introduced in 2004, proved to be

midst of stronger local banks there. Concentra-

extremely useful in providing the much needed

tion of business makes such overseas branches

cushion for our banks to meet the challenges of

more vulnerable in times of business volatility.

any economic downturn. The Basel II capital ad-

The banks do consider these issues while ad-

equacy ratio at 15.6 percent as against the man-

dressing overseas expansion.

dated 10 percent (recently hiked to 12 percent to be achieved by end 2010) leaves our banks with a

Will the Omani Rial continue to peg with the

solid capital base.

US dollar? For a small open economy like Oman, the fixed

Do you foresee more banks coming up in

peg with the US dollar works as a strong source

Oman?

of stability, which is essential for promoting

There had been enquiries from some banks dur-

trade and investment in Oman. The CBO remains

ing the recent past about the prospects of the

firmly committed to defending the peg, and the

CBO licensing new banks in Oman. Apart from

current parity level with the US dollar must be

the requirements of initial capital, we had also

viewed as relevant and appropriate for Oman.

asked them to ensure value addition and come

Stability of the exchange rate holds the key dur-

up with concrete proposals. The latest entry into

ing the phase of transition to a more diversified

Oman has been Qatar National Bank. All applica-

economy, and the CBO would continue to keep

tions for new bank licensing will go through a

the current peg to the US dollar.

thorough review process before any final decision is made by the CBO Board of Governors.

Finally, how would you look at the future? The medium term outlook on Oman remains

How do you rate the performance of interna-

positive. Omanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s savings and investment as

tional branches of Omani banks?

proportion to GDP has increased significantly.

Omani banks have their presence in UAE, India,

The country has a well developed network of

Pakistan, Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. They

physical infrastructure. Oman has emerged as

also have indirect presence through investee-

an attractive destination for foreign investment

banks (affiliates) in Bahrain. The Omani banks

due to its free market system, political stability,

provide good infrastructure and other require-

etc. Omanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s track record has been consistently

ments such as capable governance bodies

satisfactory. The future remains promising with

and management, risk management practices,

international rating agencies affirming and

modern technology and are well capitalized.

upgrading Omanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sovereign rating despite the

Nonetheless, experience overseas has not always

cyclical slowdown of the economy in 2009.

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Bank

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Bank

Top of the Charts Last month, BankMuscat became the first and only corporate entity from the country to be listed in ‘The Forbes Global 2000’, the annual ranking from Forbes magazine of the top 2000 public companies around the world. Below are comments from AbdulRazak Ali Issa, Chief Executive of BankMuscat, on the Bank’s growth and its future plans to Lakshmi Kothaneth. BankMuscat has seen several transformations

period was characterized by a number of merg-

over the years. What have been the challeng-

ers the bank went through and culminated with

es, lessons learnt and success stories?

the merger with Commercial Bank of Oman in

BankMuscat’s evolution over the last 28 years,

2000.

from setting up of the bank as one amongst 25 banks in the country to its current position as the

Phase 3 saw the bank consolidating its leader-

leading bank in Oman, can be segregated into 3

ship in the local market as well as establishing

distinct phases.

itself as the first true regional bank from Oman. Local market share leadership, gained as a result

Phase 1, the initial 10 odd years of our existence,

of the mergers during Phase 2, was bolstered

from 1982-1993, was a period of struggle. As

with the bank adding new products to its portfo-

mentioned, we were one amongst 25 banks

lio and thus offering a more comprehensive suite

when we started, and one of the smallest. Com-

of products and services to its customers. Some

petition was intense as we fought to get market

of the new areas where we were the clear leaders

share and at the same time become profitable

amongst Omani banks include project finance,

and provide our shareholders some returns on

foreign exchange and interest rate derivates and

their investment.

bancassurance. Further, a regional identity was also built up with the bank setting up presence

Phase 2 saw the bank transform itself from ‘one

or investing in various GCC countries as well as

amongst many’ to the ‘leading’ local bank. This

in India and Pakistan. Today, either directly or

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Bank indirectly (through one of our associates), the

new practices to the way we do business.

bank has a presence in all of the GCC countries and is regarded by customers and our peers as a

BankMuscat has established its brand position-

regional bank.

ing in the local market as a leader in introducing new product and services to the public.

As is true with most transformational changes,

Introducing new products and services was

we also had our share of challenges. In my view,

always supported by the constant investment in

two key things contributed to our successful

technologies and our channels.

transformation. The first was the ‘vision’ of the Board and Senior Management of the bank to

What are the expansion plans for BankMus-

think ‘big’. Banking as a business is often about

cat?

scale. It was this vision that led the bank to seek a

As mentioned, currently, we are present in the

series of mergers that ultimately led to it becom-

GCC (directly or indirectly) and in India and

ing a leader in the local market. It is the same

Pakistan. The recent global crisis did impact

vision that drives the bank to expand regionally

some of our overseas entities (as these are still in

and become a regional player.

their initial years and yet to establish themselves completely in their respective markets). So, cur-

The second, and possibly equally important, as-

rently it’s going to be a period of consolidation

pect of our success has been our people. People

for the bank as we seek to consolidate our exist-

are any organization’s strategic asset and this is

ing businesses and make them more profitable.

more so for a service industry like banking. We

This is not to say that we will not look at new

have always hired the best talent, compensated

investments during this period. However, new in-

them fairly, treated them with respect and given

vestments, if any, will most probably be directed

them the freedom to perform to their potential.

towards strengthening our existing businesses.

As you are aware, we went through a series of mergers in the late 1990s. Typically, in merger

How did the bank protect itself from impacts

circumstances, organisations do tend to lose

such as the world recession?

good people, especially from the smaller part-

Let’s view this in the context of the recent global

ners/acquired entities. In contrast, this has rarely

crisis. Many people compare the recent crisis to

happened in our mergers, as even when we were

The Great Depression in the 1920s/ 1930s. While

the dominant partner, we always ensured that

the severity of the impact may be comparable,

integration of people happened quickly and

the recent crisis was far more complex, clearly

smoothly.

more global in reach and therefore possibly that much more difficult to tackle. In my opinion,

The third is to consistently improve and adopt

the impact of the crisis was in three waves. The

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Bank first and more direct one was on those who had

Are bad loans part of the past?

exposure to the toxic US housing assets. The

Bad loans are a part of doing banking business.

second, an indirect one, was on those who had

The quantum of bad loans in a bankâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s portfolio is

exposures to counterparties with exposure to the

invariably linked to the economic cycle and rises

toxic assets and thus impacted by the first wave.

and falls with the same. The recent global crisis did result in an increase in bad loans for the bank

The third wave was the impact of the general

in some segments. If the economy stabilizes and

liquidity/ credit squeeze and economic slow-

takes an upturn, as we expect, the incidence of

down. For BankMuscat, the impact was largely

bad loans should also reduce.

on account of the latter two. As the crisis started unfolding, we were quick to identify the stress

Banking is one sector that has seen the

points to our businesses. By the grace of God,

highest level of Omanization. Is there more

while we were not totally immune to the crisis,

to achieve when it comes to human resource

the impact has been somewhat limited, given

development?

our proactive planning and risk mitigation.

The banking sector is in the forefront of the countryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Omanization program, enjoying one

Have you seen an increase in people using

of the highest levels of Omanization, in excess

banks for their growth?

of 90%. More than just the numbers, what is

Banks are an integral part of the economy,

more heartening to see is the excellent quality

either serving the function of disintermediation

of Omani staff in banks today; with many Omani

(between savings and financing) or as a payment

national, occupying senior and critical positions

agent. As organisations or people expand their

in our banks. However, as with anything in life,

activities, their use of banking products and ser-

we always aspire for more, and it is my wish

vices also increase. On their part, banks are also

and belief that the Omani banking sector will

increasing their reach, opening more branches

produce bankers for the international market;

and newer modes of banking. We at BankMuscat

bankers who go from managing Omani banks

have always believed in making it convenient

to banks of other countries and multinational

for customers to bank with us. Today, we have

banks.

nearly 125 branches, many of them in the interior parts of Oman. In addition, we provide services

The future of BankMuscat?

through Direct Sales Agents, Call Center, ATMs,

Our vision for the future of BankMuscat is clear -

Point-of-Sales machines, Mobile (Phone) Banking

The number one bank in Oman, an established

and Internet Banking. grow. Three years back, we

regional player and a market leader in customer

had a customer base of about 460,000 custom-

service and product innovation.

ers. Today, that stands at nearly a million.l.

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DEVELOP

OPERATE

Economy

A triumphant leader who inspired us to create a brighter tomorrow for the people of the Nation, we salute

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said and the Omani people on this glorious occasion of the 40th Renaissance Day

TRANSMIT

Powering The Nation P.O.Box 1224, PC 131, Hamriya, Sultanate of Oman Tel: +968 24573221 Fax: +968 24573222 e.mail : webmaster@omangrid.com 109 www.omangrid.com


Economy

Oman Economy: All-round Development OmanÕsÊeconomyÊhasÊbeenÊwitnessingÊsteadyÊ growthÊsinceÊtheÊRenaissanceÊDay,Ê40ÊyearsÊago,Ê andÊisÊpoisedÊtodayÊinÊaÊveryÊenviableÊposition.ÊItÊ hasÊgrownÊinÊleapsÊandÊboundsÊoverÊtheÊyearsÊandÊ PZ^LSSZL[VUP[ZWH[OVMKP]LYZPÄJH[PVUL_WSHPUZÊRisvanaÊKabeer. The Sultanate of Oman has taken giant leaps in

untapped oil reserves, the Sultanate began com-

the path of growth and development under the

mercial export of oil in the year 1967. And ever

wise and able leadership of His Majesty Sultan

since His Majesty Sultan Qaboos’s accession to

Qaboos Bin Said. In the last 40 years, the country

the throne in 1970, the discovery and drilling of

has seen great progress and prosperity that

oil fields was accorded paramount importance,

many countries of the world are still only able to

with the result that several new oilfields were

dream of.

developed.

National Economy

However, policy makers at that time soon made

Oman’s excellent relations with its neighbours

a strategic shift away from oil, post the oil price

has helped it carve a stable and robust economic

slump in 1988/99. The Vision Conference: Oman

and social system. In the last three decades or so,

2020, envisaged in June 1995, affirmed the

its economy has been radically transformed by a

nation’s efforts to attain economic and financial

series of five year plans. Moreover, the country’s

stability, reshape the role of the Government in

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) demonstrated a

the economy and broaden private sector partici-

steady rise in the past half century or so. Accord-

pation, diversify the economic base and sources

ing to rough estimates, the GDP grew by 33%

of national income, throw open the economy to

in the 1960’s, reached a peak of 1,370% in the

globalization and upgrade the skills of the Omani

seventies, then scaled down to more modest

workforce and develop human resources. By the

levels and maintained a steadily rising growth

year 2020, the country is expected to achieve

rate afterwards.

complete independence from its reliance on oil, and diversify into non oil sectors.

Recognizing the immense potential of its

110


Congratulation and Warm Wishes to

Economy

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and the people of Oman on the occasion of the 40th Renaissance Day

P.O.Box 279 P.C. 117 Wadi Kabir Sultanate of Oman Tel. +968 2481 5873 Fax +968 2481 5869 e.mail: oman@giffingraphics.com

111


Economy Trade

Greater Arab Free Trade Zone, the Indian Ocean

ing its laws on intellectual property, trade marks,

valuable contributor in the Sultanateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s long term

Oman has a long history of trade and commerce

Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IO-

foreign trade regulations, consumer protection

growth strategy, and represents the best of the

with several countries of the world. Omanis have

RARC) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

and unfair competition. It has also upgraded

nationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s efforts to move away from its reliance

long been known for their sense of enterprise,

It has introduced One Stop Shop clearance

the capacity of its ports and established free

on oil reserves and diversify its economy. The

love for travelling great distances, and cultivating

facilities for investors and has also put in place a

trade zones to boost business and trade. Today,

ongoing Seventh Five-Year Development Plan

hospitable and mutually beneficial trade rela-

series of simple and transparent procedures. The

Omani products are exported to over a hundred

(2006-2010) envisages considerable scope and

tions with countries and people they came into

recent move towards e-governance is an attempt

countries around the world.

importance to the development of its Informa-

contact with. As a result, the Sultanate is today

to bridge the gap between investors and the

a member of several economic blocs including

government further, along with simplified, trans-

Industry

sectors. An IT authority established in 2006

the Arab Gulf Co- operation Council (AGCC), the

parent procedures. The country is also streamlin-

The industrial sector has proven to be the most

(under Royal Decree No. 52/2006) has been pro-

tion Technology (IT) and telecommunications

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Economy

Date palm cultivation is an important aspect of Omany economy

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Economy moting infrastructure projects for Oman’s digital

Camels are a source of indigenous livestock

advancement. By 2020 the industrial sector is

wealth in Oman. Close on the heels of a camel

expected to contribute 15% to the country’s GDP.

counting and numbering project in the Governorate of Dhofar, a national strategy has now

Mineral resources

been introduced to reduce camel numbers, in

The Sultanate has a wealth of valuable mineral

order to restore the balance between the region’s

deposits like chromite, dolomite, zinc, limestone,

camels and natural pastures and to increase the

gypsum, silica, copper, gold, cobalt and iron,

amount of water available by reducing the size of

besides several others. This has led to an en-

areas used for the production of animal fodder.

hancement of the mineral sector’s contribution to the nation’s GDP as well as in employment

Water Resources

generation for Omani nationals.

Oman is in the world’s arid belt and depends on groundwater and the scant rainfall that it

Agriculture

receives, for around 65% of its water supplies.

The three interlinked sectors, agriculture,

A national water resources conservation plan

livestock and fisheries constitute the oldest and

has been drawn up to explore and develop

most important sectors of the Omani economy.

new groundwater reserves. There are 4,112

They play a vital role in providing employment

aflaj systems in the Sultanate, of which 3,017

for large numbers of Omanis and helping to

are currently in operation. Wells and dams also

boost the country’s GDP. Agricultural advice and

constitute the country’s cardinal sources of water

guidance programmes are promoting the use of

and the government is undertaking concerted

high- quality fertilisers and seeds and modern

efforts to enhance the capacity, replace old wells

irrigation systems in farms and farmhouses.

and dams with new ones, and channelize these resources effectively.

Fisheries With a coastline of over 1,700 kilometres, Oman

Renewable energy

is one of the main fish-producing countries in

Solar and wind energy sources are now being

the region. Measures are being put in place to

developed and used in energy generation

streamline fish exports and provide training in

projects, particularly in the remote and inacces-

fisheries and related vocations. Data on the fish-

sible regions of the sultanate. Solar energy for

ing industry is being continuously updated and

instance, has been harnessed for making power

new fishing harbours with enhanced facilities

parking meters in the capital area, as well as in

have been set up along the Omani coast.

large projects such as a water desalination plant. Several more such ambitious projects are in the

Livestock

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pipeline.

Agriculture is one of the oldest sectors of Oman’s economy

7/19/10 12:01 PM


Economy

Oman is one of the main fish-producing countries in the region

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Economy

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Charity

Charity For Life

Omanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s charitable organizations are a testimony of the spirit of its peoplesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; general disposition for sharing and giving. Several stories of benevolence from philanthropists across the society have helped shape the organizations that today have become symbols of succor for many Omanis.

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Charity

The House That Gives Success of a charitable organization depends on the support it can garner from volunteers who are willing to devote time, and benefactors who are driven to keep the wheels of the institution running smoothly. At Dar Al Atta’a, the balance is wellmaintained by a team of young enthusiastic volunteers and patrons who galvanize the association to aspire for more. The premises of Dar Al Atta’a is abuzz with

both philanthropists and the needy. It has ef-

animated youth busy packing four-wheels and

fectively played the role of a mediator to benefit

other modes of transport with water bottles and

maximum number of affected people, be it the

mattresses intended for the families affected by

families, the youth or the aged. It has reached

Cyclone Phet. They will travel to points around

timely help and ensured effective follow- up

the coastal areas where families lost their

programme. Its most notable effort has been in

belongings and even portions of their houses,

the provision of homes to people affected by

exposing them to the elements of nature. The

unpleasant weather conditions or other natural

team-work, easy camaraderie and the set deter-

calamities.

mination are well chalked in the faces of young

Omanis geared to help in whatever way possible.

If the plans for the year are on track, the association will have given away 40 homes to the

This isn’t a one-off scene, Maryam Al Zadjali,

needy by the end of the year. As of now, they

Chairperson of Dar Al Atta’a, tells ODYSSEY. Every

have already reached the 23 figure, which is

time there is a problem, the team of volunteers is

impressive considering the fact these homes cost

at hand to get right into the act to help. They are

huge amounts of money. And, besides building

the backbones of the institution, she says.

homes, they also help families whose homes need to be renovated as some of them are not

In less than a decade Dar Al Atta’a has made

inhabitable during extreme summer or winter

home in the hearts of people in the country,

months.

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Charity Another major initiative that will materialize

“Unlike the other associations which take care of

is better for our beneficiaries. We cook small por-

expenses incurred. There is also a system in place

sometime during this year is the association’s

the needs of special groups, Dar Al Atta’a is de-

tions to verify the quality. We want to give away

to identify the needy in the society. Volunteers

plan to provide training to their beneficiaries to

voted to underprivileged families. It is also active

only good stuff. It should not be for the sake of

visit the places and get as much information as

help them become self-reliant. “What is needed

in schools, helping students who are in dire need

giving.”

possible to ascertain the needs and the level

now is to train people so that they are empow-

of assistance, be it with their books, uniforms or

of help needed. The same is done at schools to

ered to help themselves in the long run. We have

stationary.

Like every other charitable organization around

check out on the requirements of students who

plans to initiate a training programme to enable

the world, Dar Al Atta’a is also dependent on

come in the underprivileged category. Around

our beneficiaries take up the onus of their life

“What is significant about our assistance is that

funds from generous organizations and individu-

90 families are dependent on Dar al Atta’a for

and living without external help and support.

we ensure that we give only quality products to

als. In most cases sponsorships are solicited for

their rations.

We do not want them to be dependent on us

our beneficiaries - the schoolbags that we give

events and campaigns which help generate

forever,” maintains Maryam Al Zadjali.

cost around RO7. We are not content to give

additional money. Which is why, Maryam Al

Although most of its efforts are concentrated

cheap products that may not last even a couple

Zadjali believes it is time they decided on some

in Muscat owing to the physical location of the

Explaining further, she says, “We have a whole

of months. There is real support all the way. We

investment plans that can guarantee a steady

office in Madinat Qaboos, plans are on to extend

lot of programmes to ensure that we have

are most active at schools; we have a lot of func-

income for the association. “We just need to

its office to include branches in other regions as

an all-round support system in place. Several

tions to keep things moving in the right way.”

decide on the right platform to invest so that our

well. “We do not just offer help in kind or cash,

funds are taken care of,” she opines. Dar al Atta,

we even act as mediators between the different organisations and outfits” she affirms.

families are on our list of beneficiaries. We have transformed the lives of many a needy and have

Even during Ramadhan time, quality is given

she points out, has always maintained transpar-

helped build/renovate houses of people affected

priority over everything else. “We actually take

ency in all its dealings and activities. The bene-

by various factors.

samples of the rice donated to us to check which

factors are updated about the events and the

Old House

House remade by Dar Al Atta’a

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Charity

A Visionary Approach Life in the visually challenged zone is seemingly difficult. Even simple daily chores can become stumbling blocks. But when an association takes on the onus to make little inroads and facilitate smooth functioning for the affected, life can take on an all new meaning. Hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the story of Al Noor Association for the Blind, which has been playing a pioneering role in guiding the blind in the country towards leading a fruitful life. Barka Al Bakry, vice president of the Association, highlights its achievements and activities below. The year was 1997. An ad-hoc group of like-

what it set out to do. It has proven, time and

minded people met to discuss the pros and cons

again, its determination to provide every assis-

of starting an association, devoted exclusively to

tance needed to make the lives of those associ-

the large number of visually challenged people

ated with them as fruitful and normal as possible.

in the country. Up until then the only option was

One of its recent successes has been in the field

the Ministry of Social Development, be it for edu-

of training of doctors from the Ministry of Health

cation or employment. Its ambit of services cov-

and the Sultan Qaboos University in the area

ered a host of activities, nevertheless there was

of cataract surgery in India. The main objective

a need felt to have an organization that could

was to increase the number of doctors who

relate itself entirely to the visually challenged - to

could perform such surgeries and eliminate the

muster support and garner finances to aid its

possibility of someone going blind because of

members, and act like an extended family.

delayed cataract operation.

Pan to 2010 and the association, aptly named

Work on restoring eye sight of Omani children by

Al Noor Association for the Blind, has achieved

replacing their cornea, infected by specific eye

Teaching computer for the visually challenged

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Charity disease, is ongoing. Some of the surgeries have

blind; their problem was low vision. With visual

matters further, three volunteers were trained

and thereby grow in a normal healthy environ-

been done in India and plans are on to buy the

aids these students were able to follow normal

on screening and environmental design that is

ment.

corneas and carry out the surgery in Oman to

education. Consequently, a Low Vision Centre

friendly to low vision persons and management

benefit more from this project.

was established at Al Noor, where students are

of the centre. The driving force behind all these

With the allocation of land from the Ministry of

screened and provided free-of-charge visual aids

efforts is the Associationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mission to integrate

Housing in Muscat, Nizwa and Salalah, the Asso-

Interestingly, when the Association did a survey

to help them see as close to normalcy as pos-

low vision children into normal schools where

ciation will be able to meet the requirements of

of the children at the blind school, it found

sible. In addition, the Centre dispenses magnifi-

they can be identified, assisted with visual aids,

the visually challenged in all parts of the country.

that a quarter of the students were not totally

ers, CCTVs, glasses and specialized lights. To help

monitored by trained school health personnel

Construction work on the building in Nizwa has

Hand in hand for a leisurely stroll by the beach

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Charity already begun with an estimated budget of RO

and they no longer wanted to be dependents on

375,000 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; of this, RO100,000 was raised by BG

extended family, rather they saw the challenge

Challenge 2009 and RO20,000 by the Indian Em-

of the possibility to live normal life, with dignity,

bassy. The Muscat building received a donation

financial independence, and the possibility of

from the late Sheikh Saud Bahwan Al Mukheini in

having a family of their own like any other.

the region of RO250,000. Gradually, a number of school graduates were More about Al Noor

ready to face the world and the challenges that

Al Noor Association for the Blind was formed and

confronts all other young people of their age

registered by the Ministry of Social Development

who leave school at the age of 18 plus. The only

as a Non Government Organization (NGO) in

employment until then was that of a switch-

October 1997. Until then, the blind in Oman had

board operator. However, the new technology,

no other hope than the Ministry to seek support

whereby a recorded message directs the call to

and help in all fields such as education, health,

dial the extension and automatic connection,

training, employment, etc. Initially, we started

reduced the need for the number of operators.

by just meeting and getting to know who is who

But, about the same time, Nattiq International

and what are the needs in terms of priority as it

invented the bilingual audio computer software

can be overwhelming if one has the resources.

that enabled the blind to communicate via this

Three years later, the Omar Bin Khatab School

exciting IT mechanism. By training the blind

for the Blind was setup on the ground floor of

on the use of HAL software program, the blind

a commercial building by the late Sheikh Saud

are able to compose, send, receive mail via the

Bahwan Al Mukheini in Al Khuwair. Until then

computer. The user is also able to write, receive

the blind children of Oman were sent to study

and send email! This new invention has opened

in blind schools in Bahrain and Kuwait. Later, a

new horizons and opportunities for blind people

few were sent to Saudi Arabia as well. When they

in Oman and the world over.

started coming back, having finished school at various levels, the need to train them, find them

As I write, we have blind teachers, 11 visually

employment, help them settle, etc., began to

challenged studying at various universities in

emerge.

Oman, including Sultan Qaboos University, one at the Colorado University, USA (computer

Accordingly the Board of Al Noor had to move

engineering), three studying for masters degree

on and get into serious business of responding

in law and education at universities in Bahrain,

to the needs of the new education generation

Jordan and Cairo. The Blind in Oman today, work

of blind people in Oman. As more and more got

in telecommunication companies, Government

into employment, more and more were inspired

Ministries, Banks, insurance and call centres. It New technology to assist the visually challenged

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Charity is very normal for them to establish ones own

IT lab for training purposes and email facility for

Health by providing digital cameras that are used

the Arab Legue. Our members attend regular

home, with family. All programs of Al Noor are fi-

members and their guides, a library, printing

for diabetic patients. In the past two years, the

meetings and compete in a number of sports

nanced through local donations and to give you

room, gym, table tennis and a place of meeting

Association through donors, has installed digital

activities that are conducted by the ABU. Al Noor

an indication as to how much we have grown,

other colleagues, and a place for socialization.

cameras in Ibri and Khabura. The Al Noor is also

is also members of the World Blind Union hence

our annual expenditure has grown from a mere

Training courses are conducted on regular basis

an active member of the Asia Blind Union (ABU)

members of the world community whereby the

couple of thousands to hundreds of thousands

in order to prepare members for employment.

that cover the whole of Asia upto Lebanon. It has

institution benefits from their experience and

also been instrumental in setting up the Arab

programs of other similar organizations around

Blind Union which covers all member states of

the world.

annually. The Al Noor premises at Al Khuwair has a handicraft workshop for ladies, fully equipped

Al Noor has been supporting the Ministry of

Reading through Braille

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Charity

NACA: A Beacon of Light Cancer is now the third leading cause of in-patient mortality and approximately 1000 new cases are diagnosed every year in Oman... National Association for Cancer Association’s (NACA) Founder & Honorary Life President, Yuthar Mohammed Al-Rawahy, talks about the Association’s gargantuan task in disseminating information, creating awareness and providing timely assistance. NACA’s Achievements

isting advocacy initiatives. It took 7 years to raise

The two most significant achievements so far

the necessary funds to build, equip and maintain

for NACA have been, one, that doctors in the

the Unit, and since its launch in November 2009

Sultanate have noted a higher incidence of early

the MMU has travelled around most health

diagnosis with more patients being detected

centres in the Muscat region, as well as to the

during early stages of cancer, and, as a result

regions of al-Batina, al-Dakhiliya, al-Sharqiya and

managing to be successfully treated. Positive

our longest journey last week to Salalah.

results and performance indicators such as these,

emphasize the importance and effectiveness

NACA’s MMU provides all female residents of

of NACA’s message of regular examination and

Oman, nationals and expatriates alike, who fit

early detection.

the protocol laid out by Oman’s oncologists at the Ministry of Health, access to free mammogra-

Secondly, an important objective of the Associa-

phy screening, conducting 25-30 mammograms

tion was realized with the launch of NACA’s Mo-

a day at whichever site it is located at. An all-

bile Mammography Unit, providing the Sultanate

female team of registered radiological techni-

with its first breast cancer-screening programme.

cians’ staff the unit; a fully equipped examination

NACA’s MMU was custom-built in Oman and is

room is on board allowing for clinical breast

proving to be one of our most effective outreach

examinations as well. The unit is accessible to

programmes, successfully complimenting our ex-

women with special needs – facilitating NACA’s

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Charity aim to reach every woman. NACA chose a digital

Need of the Hour

and different modalities of treatments, for it is

the headquarters, where wonderful doctors give

mammography machine as it has been identi-

According to the Cancer Incidence Report from

so important that all women know their family

generously of their time to help us achieve our

fied as the best tool in early detection of breast

the Ministry of Health, breast cancer is most

medical history and understand their personal

objectives. We encourage women to take advan-

cancer, having a higher detection rate in women

prevalent in women between the ages of 34

risk of breast cancer. We stress the importance

tage of and utilize these services in particular,

under 50, pre- and peri-menopausal women and

to 64 years. Therefore NACA works tirelessly to

of regular self-examination, advising women at

as well as all the other resources NACA makes

women with dense breast tissue. It also holds the

reduce the risk factors for breast cancer, and

high risk to go for clinical breast exams every

available to the public.

added benefit of reducing the need for recalls

get women to detect it at a curable stage. The

year and women in their 40â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s and older should

and additional pictures, thereby reducing patient

Association needs support to empower women,

have mammograms every 1 to 2 years. Along

Financial donations are always needed and

anxiety and stress.

in particular, by educating them about their risk

with NACAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s MMU services, the Association offers

much appreciated, however alongside monetary

factors: age, family history, diet, exercise, weight

free clinical breast exams on a monthly basis at

contributions to NACAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s initiatives and efforts,

The HumanPink Ribbon Event

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Charity we need more doctors to come forward and

cancer patients have a positive, entertaining area

donate their time and expertise to the cause of

to enjoy themselves while undergoing treat-

eradicating cancer in all its forms. We need all

ment. We furnished the room and provided com-

segments of society to join hands to advocate for

puters and educational games as well as reading

cancer awareness and to educate our communi-

and painting activities, in addition to making

ties about the risks and hazards of this disease as

trained advocates and volunteers of NACA avail-

well as eliminate any remaining misconceptions

able to spend time with and entertain the young

or taboos surrounding cancer.

patients. Another important aspect of NACA’s work is our belief that ‘no-one should face cancer

Future Plans: ‘Home Away From Home’

alone’, therefore we try to give patients the op-

One of NACA’s objectives is to improve the qual-

portunity to get immediate feedback about their

ity of life of cancer patients, especially younger

concerns and anxieties once diagnosed, and

patients. NACA has launched a new initiative

throughout their journey with cancer.

called ‘Home Away from Home’ to facilitate ac-

cess to treatment for those young patients and

We allow them to gain a better understanding

their families who need to travel long distances

of what to expect from treatment, because there

to receive treatment and need to stay at the

are different treatment choices depending on

hospital or nearby and cannot afford the cost of

the type and stage of cancer – chemotherapy ra-

accommodation.

diotherapy, hormone therapy, surgery – there is not one approach for everyone. This is a different

NACA’s new executive Board (formed in March

type of awareness and it is really helping patients

2010) is working on NACA’s agenda for the

to learn how to live with their ‘new normal’. To

future. And as the founder and honorary life

this end, NACA holds monthly support meetings

president I have made myself available to offer

for cancer patients, where they can choose to

support and advice on any issues they and future

meet separately or in the company of family and

presidents and boards need. All projects will be

friends. We have a small but growing library with

posted on NACA’s website. For the immediate fu-

information for the patients as well as families

ture, however, I will personally be managing and

living with a cancer patient that addresses the

campaigning for the establishment and realiza-

emotional, physical, and even dietary aspects

tion of NACA’s ‘Home Away from Home’ project

of cancer and other relevant support materials

as well as overseeing the running of the MMU.

which help answer questions and provide advice on coping mechanisms for all concerned.

Paediatric Oncology

NACA established the Paediatric Oncology Play-

NACA’s efforts have been applauded at the

room at the Royal Hospital to ensure that young

national, regional and international level. The ef-

NACA’s AnnualWalkathon

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Charity forts of a dedicated and committed sector of the

doctors in the Sultanate have noted a higher

Each year, NACA continues to advance its mission

I am immensely grateful to all NACA’s members,

community has resulted in broadening the com-

incidence of early diagnosis with more patients

and through our programs we have seen many

supporters, volunteers and contributors and

munity’s awareness of the risk factors associated

being detected during early stages of cancer and

lives changed for the better, and are grateful to

congratulate those who supported NACA’s

with cancer, the importance of regular screening

as a result managing to be successfully treated.

have been instrumental in changing the stigma

projects throughout the years. Myself and all

and self examination, and the life saving benefits

Positive results and performance indicators such

attached with this disease. Future initiatives will

those associated with NACA are committed to

of early detection, positively contributing to

as these, and all other initiatives undertaken by

only be realized with the continued support

fulfilling our mission of advocacy to promote

the treatment of and survival from all forms of

the association have only been made possible

and participation of all segments of society in

cancer awareness; ours is not only a local effort,

cancer.

through the support and generous funding from

improving the quality of life of all those ‘warriors’

but a global one.

the private sector, individual philanthropists and

confronting this disease and ensure the sustain-

Final Thoughts

volunteers across the community, as well as the

ability of our efforts to provide these critical

NACA’s awareness work has proven critical, as

support of relevant ministries.

services that would save lives in our community.

NACA hosts a children’s party at the paediatric ward

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Charity

OAD: A Support System Oman Association for the Disabled (OAD) has played a sterling role in creating general awareness concerning everyday issues faced by the disabled. It has also helped establish a path that is both supportive and central to the development of self reliance in those affected. Certain names are intrinsically associated with

Oman’s signing of the Convention on Protec-

some organizations and it is difficult to think of

tion and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of

them as anything but as part of that institution/

Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified in

outfit. Mukhtar bin Mohammed bin Mussalam

December 2008. “That is one very important law

Al Rawahi is one such name that is bound to

that gave persons with disability their rights in all

come up in any discussion relating to Oman

aspects of life,” he says.

Association for the Disabled (OAD). He has been with the organization since its inception in April

Mukhtar Al Rawahi, who is presently employed

1995 and has been pivotal in initiating and nego-

as the Video Editor of Oman Television, has

tiating several radical changes in the society to

previously occupied the posts of Deputy Vice

help the disabled live fruitful lives in the society.

President Rehabilitation International (RI) for

He was the Chairman of the Association until

Arab Region and Disable Representative at

April 2008 and during his tenure he has been vo-

the National Committee for the Welfare of the

ciferously drawing attention to different aspects

Disabled. He is the committee member of Gulf

of disability that are generally overlooked by the

Disability Society since 1999. He is the founder

society.

member of the Handicapped Children Association, founder member of the Oman Association

In a chat with Odyssey, Mukhtar Al Rawahi, Dis-

for the Disabled and Chairman of the Board

able Representative at the National Committee

of Directors and founder member of the Gulf

for the Welfare of the Disabled, said, “After 13

Disability Society and member of the Board. His

years of my chairmanship at OAD, I feel proud

active role in the field of disability stems from his

to see where we are now.” According to him, the

disability which was caused by a traffic accident

most striking achievement of OAD has been

in 1972.

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Charity About his association with different organiza-

on a comprehensive and integral international

Oman’s progress and development during the

tions, he says, “I am acquainted and well aware

convention on Protection and Promotion of the

last four decades is reflected in every sphere of

of the issues of disability. I participated in many

Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities

activity, including associations like the OAD. The

However, all has not been smooth for the Asso-

international conferences, seminars and work-

Second Session at the United Nations Headquar-

growth of this association is most striking in the

ciation. As Mukhtar Al Rawahi notes, the biggest

shops – locally and internationally. I was nomi-

ters in New York. He attended the training course

numbers that have multiplied since its inception.

stumbling block has been making the sponsors

nated from among 50 nominees in the world to

Sida’s International Training Program, Human

attend the Washington conference in September

Rights and Disability Sweden and the Interna-

“OAD was registered on 15th April 1995 with 22

the hour, he says, is to integrate all persons with

1999 in the United States. This conference was

tional Leadership visitor’s Program, Disability

Founder members. By January 2010, the number

disability into the main stream. “Every person in

about independent living for the disabled in the

Issues and Rights, USA. He is also a recipient

had increased to over 1500 members... They

this world hopes to have an honest work to sup-

new millennium.”

of Science Day Awards for Social Services, pre-

are the people behind the changes that give

port himself and his family and live with dignity,”

sented by the Ruler of Ajman.

persons with disability meaning to live a full and

and this, he opines, is the most important facet

complete life and participate in building Oman,

of any growth.

He has also participated in the ad hoc committee

beside their fellow countrymen,” he states.

trust and support their cause. And the need of

Mukhtar, who has been campaigning for the disabled at various forums, was recently nominated as the Chairman of Oman’s Paralympic Committee by the Sports Ministry

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Charity

Your Great Achievement Is Our Real Inspiration! Gulf Marcom extends its warmest greetings to

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said on the occasion of the 40 Years of Renaissance

130

P O Box 1040 PC 112 Exhibition Road Towell Building, Azaiba Muscat, Sultanate of Oman Tel: +968 24 526 168 Fax: +968 24 526 167 - www.gulfmarcom.com

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Women Power

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Women on the move

‘History is herstory too’ - Anonymous And that goes for the history of Oman too. Women have, since the beginning of time, at least the recorded time, been an integral part of every developmental phase, be it at home or abroad. They have helped script the success and progress of Oman in ways that are both dynamic and intrinsic to nation-building. And, besides, what is unique to Oman is the strong emphasis on equality of opportunities in every sphere of activity, since His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said took over the reins of the country, four decades ago. Women’s affairs have received paramount importance, and it is most evident in the fact that a separate Directorate General was instituted in the early days to look after different issues relating to women. Omani women are on par with their male compatriots in every facet of growth – be it education, health or the economy. They have occupied places of authority in the government as well as the private sector to make a difference to the society in particular and the country in general. Their business acumen and their general levels of intelligence have ensured them top positions in all vital sectors. Here’s an up, close and personal look at the journeys traversed by some prominent Omani women...

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‘Lucky Generation’

Badriya Al Siyabi, Founder, Sidab Women’s Sewing Group, calls this generation of women, lucky… Career woman

home. We have seen that we all have something

I am from the lucky generation that grew up with

to offer. We are learning that we can contribute

His Majesty leading the country and with a family

to Omani society in many ways. Because of all

that supported my education and development.

the progress in educating women and recog-

As a result, I have never faced any problems as a

nizing their contributions to society, I want to

woman. I have worked hard for what I have now,

encourage women to have dreams and work

and I believe in myself. I am a woman and a civil

towards them!

engineer. I am a woman and e-Banker who has worked in different departments, in and outside

Achievements

of the capital. I am a woman who has attended

There are so many achievements by Omani

many courses and seminars on my own in many

women in the past 40 years! From driving a taxi

countries, providing me rich oportunities to learn

to holding public office to working with a com-

from others. I am a woman and a social worker

munity organization or having a high position

who has worked with people who believe in

in the private sector. These are all important

the same mission – community development

breakthroughs for Omani women because they

through individual capacity building, without

have combined the best of new opportunities

regard to gender, beliefs or colour. I am thankful

and Omani tradition and culture.

to have learned this from His Majesty, from his way of leading the country and his way of deal-

In my work I have seen the dramatic develop-

ing with other countries.

ment of skills and confidence in women from the small villages of Sidab and Haramel and the

1970 to 2010: Progress achieved by women

Wilayat Musanaa. In each of these places Omani

Omani women continue to be strong and hard

women are eager to learn, eager to contribute

working. Women who live in this period are

to their families’ income, proud of their Omani

lucky because they have the opportunity to

culture and heritage and of what they can

make new dreams come true with education and

contribute to the nation. As an example, one

opportunities in civil society and private sector.

adult female Omani English student in Musanaa

During the past 40 years, Omani women’s voices

wrote her own story about ‘Hasinah’ - Hasinah,

have been increasingly valued in and out of the

wife to Hasin, is a mother, doctor, and teacher

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Women Power

to her family. She brings home life information

not easy. Many people worked on it with shared

is lack of awareness at the individual, family and

ability to work hard to make life better for others.

and shares it with her family. In short, Hasinah

values and a deep commitment to the country.

community level of what women can contrib-

Those of us in the capital are lucky to see all the

is a â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;superwomanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and is, according to the story,

There is still more work to be done. In the next

ute to her family, community and country. If a

developments around us and to see the models

treasured by her family.

40 years Oman can develop even stronger and

woman who is from the interior and now living

of these developments. How can we extend this

healthier communities through the continuing

in Muscat was fortunate enough to get good

to communities outside of the capital area? They

education and hard work of women and men.

training in any field, I believe it is her duty to

need to see models too and be encouraged to

share it with the others at her native village. We

develop their skills. If every one of us takes this

Omani Women - next 40 years The strong base of support and talent is here. Now it depends on all of us, Omani women and

Empowering women in Oman

cannot depend on government to provide every-

initiative and makes this a priority, then we will

men, to make womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s participation in society

Support for women from the highest levels exists

thing. We must take the initiative and respon-

see tremendous development in our health and

sustainable. Educating the new generation was

and I am thankful for this. The biggest challenge

sibility ourselves for sharing our gifts and our

prosperity.

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Women Power

On the Line of Equality Dana Sarhan, Corporate Social Responsibility & Marketing Manager, Omran, on women and the balance of equation… My most satisfying experience as a career

liberated truly, and men and women are treated

woman

equally. The right for women to own land is a sig-

I think it was the moment that we (Omran) got

nificant move by His Majesty to cement his vision

a message from the Ministry of Tourism that the

of providing women with equal rights to men.

International Responsible Tourism Conference was approved to be held in Oman - I felt like I

The next 40 years

had done something for Oman. The importance

Recent research shows that women, around

is that it gets Oman to start looking at both sides

the world, are less happy than they were 50

of tourism, not just the romanticized version and

years ago. I think part of this ‘development’ and

start tackling issues before they arise.

progress for women has been in a man’s world. I think it’s time for women to revolutionize the

1970 to 2010: all-round progress achieved by

workplace and themselves. The fact is we are

women

women; we are emotional, hormonal, nurturers

I am not sure how progress is defined. I think

and creators. Instead of hiding those ‘feminine’

women in Oman have for sure many more op-

strengths to survive in a masculine dominated

portunities given to them then they had years

work world, we need to first accept who we

ago, but then, so do men - it’s all relative. I think

are and be ourselves. There is nothing holding

Oman women’s progress is just the tip of the

back women in Oman or the world, but women

iceberg for what an inspirational leader like His

themselves. I think many ills of the world today

Majesty can do to empower women and provide

are signs of children brought up not in the best

them with choices.

of environments... If there is one thing we can achieve in our lifetime, it is to master the art of

Most significant achievement

motherhood - make that a business! Because no

The most significant achievement is that in the

man can do it better...

peaceful nation His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said has ruled, respecting and staying true to the

I think it’s time women accepted who they are

essence of Islam, Muslim women in Oman are

and celebrated it.

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Women Power

Empowering women in Oman

allowed to live and co-exist in the same place as

I don’t think more needs to be done. I think it’s

the horses…Wow, you might think? But really?

time women pushed forward the boundaries

The donkey’s legs are shorter and so the high po-

themselves; the foundation is laid out but now

sition of the feed actually strains its neck rather

it’s time to explore ourselves, express ourselves,

than comforts it. The type of food horses eat…

and find a balance in this world where being

well, it’s ok, but it’s not the optimum for the don-

truly who we are is not weak or vulnerable but a

key, and it goes on. Now go back and replace the

courage that should be celebrated. ...Its time our

horse with men and donkey with women.

society questions and understands the status of women and compares and asks why! Why a

Do you get the picture? It’s absurd in this day

man and a woman living the same lifestyle in the

and age, and with all this technology and what

same house, have differing norms?

we call ‘progress’, in the world that women live and work, in environments mostly designed and

These unspoken cultural rules need to be talked

created by men for men! It’s time we splashed

about; a discourse needs to happen. I believe

some feminity into the world, a dash of colour, a

Islam is one of the most modern ways of living

spoonful of emotion, a baby here and there. Let’s

and one of the most liberating for women and

live as women rather than try to be like men!

should be applied to men too!

Let’s have babies when we feel like and let the work systems accept it and support it and inte-

Out of context:

grate it… We bring forth the movers and shakers

Women are different to men. It’s a fact. We think,

of tomorrow, surely we should also have respect

walk, talk, and are made up differently. Instead of

for our role, not just the ‘protector man’.

trying to struggle and work 10 times harder than a man to prove ourselves, it’s time we took back

If you ask me honestly, the happiest women I

some of the reigns for ourselves in the workplace

have seen, that radiate and glow, are not work-

and created rules that suit us, rather than adher-

ing women that have just finished a ‘diamond

ing to a system created by practically a species

facial’, but women who allow the diamond within

alien to us. Look at it this way, you build a horse

them shine, the women who pursue a career

stable for horses, so they need certain space to

but when their body clock calls, listen to it, dive

walk in, walk out, to feed, they prefer a certain

straight into it and enjoy it! Trying to juggle both

type of food and they have their own needs for

work and family, unless absolutely necessary, is

exercise, etc.

not healthy for our societies. We need to find a balance!

Now imagine this, women are donkeys (no pun intended) and suddenly one day donkeys are

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Women Power

Progressâ&#x20AC;Ś What else? Barka Al Bakhry, Vice President of Al Noor Association for the Blind, on not what Omani women have achieved, but what â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;elseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; is there for them to achieve... It is 40 years since Oman was blessed with

acquired with time and maturity, and eventually

change in leadership that the country badly

we will get there too.

needed at the time. His Majesty took the bold step of taking over the reins and geared the

Women, just the same as men, have done very

country to its present modern state. Gradually,

well in both the public and private sectors. The

over this short period, as compared to many

vast number of educational institutions and the

other countries, Oman was transformed into

opportunities made available within and outside

a state that we are all proud of as Omanis. The

the country have helped women climb the

country, having started late, was able to avoid

ladder in Oman, much faster than their sisters

a lot of expensive mistakes that were commit-

in other countries, including developed ones.

ted by others and instead it picked at the level

Women in Oman, at a young age, have climbed

which others took years to reach. With limited

to become ministers, under secretaries, CEOs, di-

resources, the country made choices by avoid-

rector generals and ambassadors. Most of them,

ing wastage and costly mistakes, and, instead,

if not all, have performed amazingly and at that

achieved the best for the value of its resources in

level, they have taken their position seriously and

terms of technology.

professionally. Women in Oman are among the first in the GCC to compete with men in elections

The most significant of developments has been

for Masjli Ashura; some won while others did not.

in the human resource of the country, so much

The failure of the past election was a very clear

so that the Government is now pushing, more

indication of our democracy but at the same

than ever before, for Omanization of the labour

time, women have since become angry and de-

force at all levels. While it is a fact that most of

termined to make sure that they win in the next

the Omani employees are young, inexperienced,

election. Efforts are being made, to encourage

lack exposure and understanding to some de-

women to nominate themselves and work hard

gree of international issues, these attributes are

towards success.

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Women Power

It is said that a society is mature when it starts

In terms of acceptance at the university, female

cruising itself. While it is not in our nature to

students are required to have higher marks than

criticize ourselves in public, as a society we

their male counterparts. While to some extent, I

tend to bring up these issues among ourselves,

would not like this country to be run by women,

particularly those of us who work in the area of

I suppose as a parent I should discipline my son

community development and voluntary work

and stop him from spending more time playing

with NGOs and non-profit organizations such as

football while his sister is traditionally disciplined

Communtiy Link and Tawassool. Women want

on how she spends her time.

more and better for themselves, at all times and at all levels. Recently, women were given the

The other goal that women may lobby for is the

right to apply for Government land in their own

special circumstances regarding those women

right. This is another step forward.

married to non-Omani husbands. Unlike their brothers, children of such a marriage do not

What else?

qualify automatically for Omani citizenship. Their

I suppose, as women, we will never be com-

husbands also do not enjoy special status when

pletely satisfied until we get more than the men.

applying for nationality, while a foreign wife of

However, I would like to say, lets count our bless-

an Omani male does. There have been cases

ings but at the same time work towards specific

where the husband leaves the country, some-

needs of women that are still out there to be

times divorce the wife and takes off or dies whilst

won. One of these is the maternity leave. Until

married, etc. Under such circumstances, the chil-

now there is a discrepancy between what the

dren tend to suffer - in that they go through so

entitlement is in the public sector and that of the

many hurdles, particularly in education, health,

private sector. Issues of this nature encourage

employment, immigration etc.

more women to join the public sector where holidays as well as other benefits tend to be more.

On the whole, so many of us have seen and

But, on the other hand, those working in the

written how well women have achieved over the

private sector tend to earn more and have the

past forty years or so. Among the first NGOs to

opportunity to climb up the ladder much faster

be registered is the Omani Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Association,

if they prove themselves. Here again, except for

which is a chain of womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s organizations spread

teachers and nurses, there is limit as the senior-

all over Oman. The number at the moment is

ity progresses and women tend to get lesser. If

close to, or about, 50. Their activities are local

one analyses labour statistics, a large number

based; in that, they serve the locals of their

of women are in fact occupying lower level and

area in which they are located. Most of these

paid positions such as cashiers at supermarkets,

associationsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; activities include sewing, cooking,

sales girls, receptionists and waitresses.

embroidery, computer training etc which was

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Women Power

fine for 70s and the 80s. These institutions tend to operate independently unless their leaders take the initiative on personal basis, to connect with another branch in another locality. There is very little networking among themselves, little guidance from the capital, although they are required to submit their action plan periodically. Very little, if any, financial support, other than the donations they seek from private sector, is given. As a result of all these factors, the Omani Women Associations are very ineffective and there is high turnover of leadership which tends to leave the institution in total disarray and in a number of cases, an intervention to find a replacement is common. This state of affairs has reflected badly on the institutions and as a result most capable and educated women are not always willing to serve on the board of these associations. Perhaps, time has come when all the Omani Women Associations are disbanded and a national womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s organization of some kind is formed to oversee the needs of women in Oman at a national level rather than local. In conclusion, it is amazing how far women have reached in such a short period of time. Future looks bright, particularly for the professional Omani woman who is committed to her profession and wishes to build a lifetime career. In the case of women institutions, while these are periodically reviewed, there is a need to overhaul the structures and create new ones to cope with the ever changing needs, time and quality of membership. VIVA OMAN!

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Eman Rafay with core members of 2010 Omani Women

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Women Power

2010 Omani Women

ing and encouraging individuals to take larger

ness campaign celebrating the achievements

responsibilities for the future of our country.

of Omani women, who lead by example in the

Because, while we look back and acknowledge

region. We therefore call for men and women to

2010 Omani Women, a first of its kind campaign that acknowledges and celebrates the achievements of women while motivating them ahead on the road to success…

the 40 years of prosperity, we need to inspire the

unite with a common goal of helping women of

future and maintain the hard work invested to

all generations recognize their potential.

The 2010 Omani Women campaign is a celebra-

Women, highlights the campaign objectives, the

tion of Oman’s 40 years of prosperity. Initiated and spearheaded by the youth, the campaign

make Oman what it is today. The campaign will host a string of charitable proEfforts towards empowerment of women

grams from the 17th of October (in celebration

2010 Omani Women is our dream, a symbol

of Omani Women’s Day) up until mid November.

of passion; we stand here as an awareness

The campaign will be raising awareness and

importance of IQRA and the development ideals

campaign, initiated by the youth for the first time

funds to be invested in IQRA, a long term sustain-

it hopes to achieve.

in the history of this country. Together we bond

able grass-root program which focuses on build-

aspires to highlight significant strides Omani

in solidarity to acknowledge the success of the

ing the capacity of women via community based

women have made as active players in the shap-

Need for 2010 Omani Women campaign

last 40 years, celebrate it through the aware-

vocational activities.

ing and making of modern Oman during the last

The fact remains that even though we Oma-

ness campaign to empower the future, because,

four decades, under the wise leadership of His

nis have made history in the region for giving

together we can A.C.E (Acknowledge, Celebrate

The power of knowledge opens a window of

Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. The campaign

women equal rights, the general public remains

and Empower) it!

opportunity and helps women, and the families

strives to enable talented Omani women to

oblivious of the country’s achievements. There is

discover their strengths and fulfill aspirations

a need to create wider awareness and engage-

Today we reap the fruits of a vision His Majesty

they live, voice their opinion. Building the capac-

through capacity building activities that inspire

ment and develop a sense of responsibility

Sultan Qaboos had 40 years ago. He implement-

ity of women teaches them to be leaders in their

them to believe in themselves as well as realize

among our youth and women to seize their

ed equality in his policies that were unheard

communities, actively participate in its construc-

their full potential.

ability, harness their skills, and contribute to the

of; he created an infrastructure which was non-

tion, build civil society, start businesses, train

ongoing prosperity of Oman.

existent and, very importantly, he encouraged

other women and serve as role models. They

women and men to be educated ‘if only under

become active citizens who establish lasting

The campaign is seen as a symbol of pride that il-

they raise as well as the communities in which

luminates the achievements of women everyday

His Majesty’s 40th year has been dedicated to

the shade of a tree’. As a result, women of the

harmony, increase confidence, skills and overall

in our lives; women who are icons, role models

the women of Oman. Amidst this, a not-for-profit

Sultanate today experience gender equality in

capability. By encouraging themselves, women

and silent heroes that toil in every household.

campaign has emerged - ‘2010 Omani Women,

all realms of life; from the right to be educated to

inspire generations to share their vision and

It’s a non-profit awareness campaign that also

Celebrating 40 Years of Prosperity’ - carving

equality in the workforce, from the right to vote

voice, contributing to the prosperity of the future

celebrates the achievements of the government.

history on various grounds, not only as the first

to running for elections... However, we believe

of the Sultanate of Oman.

The campaign urges men and women to join

Omani youth initiated national campaign ever,

the momentum needs to be upheld and the rate

hands and collectively work towards the com-

but also representing a first of its kind movement

of progress continued. Women need to continue

Top on the agenda

mon goal of helping women of all generations

to inspire the next generation and women alike;

to engage actively, contributing to their family,

For us, the two most important aspects of the

recognize their potential.

by engaging Oman’s two (youth and women) un-

communities and nation.

campaign are the non-profitable aspects of it. Al

tapped resources, the campaign aims to actively Eman Rafay, Chairwoman of 2010 Omani

inspire greater participation in nation build-

fen Yatahaddeth and IQRA - the two non profit 2010 Omani Women is a non-profitable aware-

programs. Iqra is an initiative that will run on

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Women Power

public donations to help build the nation.

realize this and utilize it to benefit themselves,

http://omaniwomen.org/en/page/mission_vis-

http://omaniwomen.org/en/page/iqra_be_em-

their families and the communities they live

sion

powed

in, by being made aware of the opportunities that are available to them and their rights. 2010

Need of the hour

Omani Women aims to highlight exactly that and

The beauty of being an Omani woman is that

see more women being inspired. Our plans are

we are liberated and free to achieve what we

simple but clear. With our vision and our mission,

desire. Not only are we free to go and get it, we

achieving it is the single most important element

are encouraged along the way. But women must

through 2010 Omani Women.

A platform for women The Sultanate of Oman has always subscribed to and implemented gender equity, affording its women citizens’ equal participation in all sectors and recognizing their capabilities, thus setting a regional precedent. The government has ensured the provision of equal educational and professional opportunities for Omani women, even codifying such equality in Oman’s Personal Status Laws (PSL) which guarantees women equal rights in both education and employment. Omani women have full civil and political rights, including the right to vote. In 2008, Dr. Nora N. Al Nahedh, resident representative (GCC) of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), remarked that Oman was one of the most advanced nations in the Gulf as far as women’s rights were concerned. The campaign strives to emphasize how crucial it is to foster a woman’s self awareness of her capacity to achieve; she is the one who plants and nourishes seeds of success within her family, household, and community, thus translating into greater achievement for the nation. The emphasis in Oman’s five-year plans has always been upon realizing the full potential of women in their multiple roles as wives, mothers, employees and social changers – and the fruits of these results have been reflected in the achievements that Omani women have made in various walks of life. It is imperative that the focus lies on sustaining Omani women’s progress by tapping into and highlighting the latent potential of Omani women across the country. The campaign will therefore create a national platform showcasing successful achievements by the women of Oman and their life stories, thus inspiring and motivating others to believe in themselves. It will also be raising awareness and funds to be invested in grass-root programs which focus on tapping into and unleashing Omani women’s potential through capacity-building activities.

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Sports

A Passion called Football

Football rules the sport scene in Oman. It is more than a game for Omanis nurtured on huge doses of football. Scenes of young boys kicking ball in open spaces and grounds around the capital is a testimony to the great lure for the game. With Oman winning the Gulf Cup in 2009, this passion has reached a crescendo.

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Sports

Football: Oman’s Crowning Glory

Saleh Al Farsi, CEO of Oman Football Association (OFA), talks about Oman’s growth in the football arena and plans for the future… There is no doubt that Oman has seen a 100%

prominent. We are looking at ways to profession-

change for the better over recent years. Even

alize football in the country. We recently hosted

if you compare Omani football, especially the

the Chairman of the English Premier League, the

National team, to how it was just 7 years ago, the

best league in the world. He participated in a

standard of football is completely unrecogniz-

workshop organized by the OFA to discuss the

able. We are witnessing unprecedented levels of

concept of a Professional League operating in

progress; Oman won the 19th Gulf Cup for the

the Sultanate. All of the 43 clubs of Oman joined

first time in the competition’s 35 year history. It

and the future is looking promising.

had always been a struggle for us – in the 17th Gulf Cup we came second so there was a definite

In terms of marketing, the OFA have been suc-

pressure to win. The Chairman, Sayyid Khalid

cessful in agreeing sponsorship deals with Oman

Hamad Hammod Al Busaidi, worked hard to

Mobile, sponsors of the Oman Mobile League,

ensure that the team was prepared to win, and

and National Bank of Oman who are sponsoring

Oman famously didn’t concede a single goal for

the new Oman Football Academy.

the entire competition. What has been the biggest boost for football As a result of the Gulf Cup victory, perhaps, the

in this country?

OFA now regularly receives requests from other

I have already mentioned the 19th Gulf Cup –

international teams to play our National side –

which was an enormous spur for Football in this

for example, South Africa approached us to play

country. With our Gulf Cup victory we were able

a ‘friendly’ but unfortunately the team was busy

to attract financial sponsorships, which have

competing in Yemen.

proven very valuable – we very much appreciate the contribution of our corporate sponsors in the

Football is growing in this country for other

development of the game in Oman. The Gulf Cup

reasons too. I cannot stress enough the impor-

also reignited support for the OFA in Oman – it

tance of organizational aspects of the OFA and

gave the OFA, the teams and the fans, a renewed

how they have helped football to become more

confidence in Omani football. As a result of win-

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Sports

Omanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s winning team

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Sports ning the Gulf Cup, we were taken seriously by

Board of Directors - elected in 2007. This was a

game; a commitment to change and progress

beach football.The latest Board of Directors has

clubs like Brazil â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the FIFA number 1 side, who

crucial moment for the OFA, because, for the first

â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the results of which are evident to anyone

improved our relationships with FIFA and the

played a friendly against us last November.

time, rather than being appointed, stakeholders

with an interest in football in Oman. This Board

AFC (Asian Football Confederation). They want

in Omani Football were able to elect individuals

has taken an interest in every aspect of football

to see Omani football taken seriously on a global

with a commitment to the development of the

- in coaching, refereeing, youth academies and

level. FIFA and the AFC are helping Oman to

I think a turning point in the OFA came with the

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Sports improve on infrastructure to enable our professional league dreams. FIFA have just funded an artificial pitch, for example, and FIFA officials regularly visit to officiate and train. We are benefiting from our relationships with FIFA and AFC. Measures adopted by OFA to train and prepare for matches Individual coaches of course have their own measures to prepare for important matches. I know that at the OFA we are busy preparing for the 20th Gulf Cup to be held in November this year. We are also preparing our Olympic team. The Asian Beach Games is coming to Muscat in 2012 and our Beach Football side has a title to defend, having won Gold at the first Asian Beach Games. Football passion I think anyone that visits Oman can see straight away that there is a passion for Football in Oman. Every night you see hundreds playing on the beaches, in the interior and the Wadis. They play everywhere. So many teams exist within Oman â&#x20AC;&#x201C; we have 43 clubs in Oman and within these clubs there are more clubs still. Especially in the Batinah region where each club has over 50 sub-clubs! Football - future We have high hopes for the future of Omani football. Our ultimate dream is to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Inshallah. The Chairman also has ambitions for the AFC Championship.

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Sports

Cup of Joy His name will be forever etched in the annals of Oman’s football history. He inspires awe and pride among Omanis of all age. ...He is Ali Al Habsi, Oman’s star goalkeeper. Below are his comments to an ODYSSEY questionnaire. Your performance in the most celebrated

mental in shaping your career?

game in the history of Oman’s football has

Like most Omani boys, I grew up playing football

become a legend of sorts. To what do you at-

in my town (Al – Mudhaibi) I was a striker back

tribute your success?

then. When I was 16, my brother (Abd Al Aziz)

The 19th Gulf Cup was an incredible experience.

who was a coach at Sultan Qaboos University

We won without conceding a single goal, so as

saw potential in me as a goalkeeper. So I took

goalkeeper I was very proud of my own clean

a chance and tried out as goalie - I had some

sheet as well as the hard work and commitment

natural ability and I didn’t look back. John Bur-

of the rest of the team. The fact that we were

ridge, the Oman National Goal Keeper Coach saw

playing the competition at home, in Oman,

in me a goalee and believed in me. He arranged

made it unforgettable. The atmosphere and

a trial for me at Bolton Wanderers in UK, which

the fans were amazing, the standard of football

led to me being signed at Lyn Oslo and later for

was high, and it was definitely a highlight of

Bolton Wanderers. My family has also had a huge

my career. In terms of my own personal success

role in my career turning out the way it has. They

as the National side’s goalkeeper I think that

have been incredibly supportive – even when

the training I had received at Bolton Wanderers

it meant me leaving Oman for Europe, and I am

helped me, and also the experience of play-

very grateful to them.

ing against sides such as Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. It is a privilege

Who do you consider your role model, and

to play against such talent and it really served to

who is your mentor?

improve my personal game, definitely.

My father has always been my role model. He is an incredible man who has worked tirelessly to

Could you trace your inception into the game

always provide for his family and put his family’s

and your progress after? Who has been instru-

needs before his own. I aspire to be like my

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Sports father. In terms of football I have always looked

to develop this sport and put Oman on the

Academy) which was launched recently. It is so

If winning the 19th Gulf Cup was the OFA’s fin-

up to players who have built a reputation that

world football map? Where do you see Oman’s

important to invest in young players and give

est hour, what would you say is your ‘greatest

has lived on long after they retire from playing

football progressing from here?

them opportunities to play in Europe and experi-

moment’?

football – players such as Zidane for example.

The OFA is working on rectifying a lot of the

ence a professional standard of play. Oman is a

Receiving the Oman Civil Order of the Fourth

My mentor is John Burridge who believed in me

problems in Oman Football at the moment.

good side – we just need to be more consistent.

Class from his His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin

from the start. He never doubted that I would be

Under the leadership of the Chairman, Sayyid

I would like to think that we will qualify for the

Said in November 2008 was an incredible honour

a Goalkeeper in the English Premier League and I

Khalid Hamad Hamood al Busaidi, there has

next World Cup in Brazil; we have the 20th Gulf

and a moment I will treasure forever.

am grateful to him for that faith in me.

been a lot of change. One of the things I am

Cup later this year and I hope that we can repeat

(Above replies were coordinated by Talks, which

most looking forward to seeing is the result

our winning performance from the last time.

recently set up a sports marketing business in the

What, according to you is the need of the hour

of the introduction of the Oman FA (Football

country.)

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Sports

Fans cheering the Omani team at the 19th Gulf Cup finals

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Sports

Oman Karting Team: Oman’s future F1 hope Although still in its nascent stage, The Oman Karting Team has raised the hopes of enthusiasts in the country who are looking forward to Oman’s F1 success. Officially launched in January 2010, the Oman

region would have to travel to Europe or Asia

Karting Team was founded as a development

and race in Formula Renault or GP2 Asia to race

program for two young Omani drivers, Sanad

a vehicle of this caliber. According to organizers,

and Abdullah Al Rawahi. The Team, founded,

the purpose of FG1000 is to prepare drivers for

managed and sponsored by their father

the next step in their racing careers. Suleiman Al

Suleiman Al Rawahi and endorsed by Oman

Rawahi has always maintained that the Oman

Automobile Association, has a carefully devised

Karting Team’s purpose is to serve primarily as a

three-year projection plan, which will oversee

vehicle for the drivers to progress in racing.

the drivers’ development. It includes frequent training sessions with Kieran Crawley, the British

The only Go-Kart track in Oman was closed in

former karting trainer of current F1 ace, Lewis

2006 which has meant that the team had no op-

Hamilton.

tion but to train outside Oman. For the past year the team has had to travel weekly to the Al- Ain

The two talented brothers competed in all ten

Raceway Go-Kart track in the UAE to train. Sanad,

rounds of the FIA/CIK sanctioned 09/10 Rotax

who is enthusiastic about the Muscat track be-

Max Mojo Challenge Series in the UAE, and came

ing reopened shortly, said “The Al Ain track is a

2nd and 3rd respectively. Abdullah (13 years)

challenging, state of the art circuit, and we have

hopes for similar success in the 2010/11 Junior

benefited a lot from their support at the track.

Rotax Max Challenge series, while Sanad (15

But at the same time, we are looking forward to

years), will be competing in the first-ever formula

the completion of refurbishment work on the lo-

Gulf 1000 (FG1000) Championship in UAE. The

cal Muscat track and being able to train locally.”

FG 1000 will feature cars purpose-built for the series, boasting 150bhp 1000cc Suzuki engines

Abdullah expressed similar sentiments, “Having

and a 400kg weight. Until now, drivers from the

the facilities to race in Muscat again will open up

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Sports the sport to the people in the Sultanate, and for

discover and develop future Karting champions

phisticated cars. Ahmad Al Harthy, for example,

his heart personally and how, in his opinion the

the Oman Karting Team personally, it will mean

in Oman and transform them into racing drivers

started karting at the age of seven at the Oman

team is integral to the future of motorsport in

that we can train after school and not just at

capable of competing on an international level

Automobile Association and today races in the

the Sultanate. “The launch of the Oman Karting

weekends. This will put us on a level playing field

on behalf of the Sultanate, not just in Karting,

Formula Renault (BARC).

Team is important for the country’s motorsport

with our competition, most of whom are able to

but in other types of motorsport too,” he reiter-

train much more frequently than us”.

ated.

Al Harthy, who was also recently honored by the

Omanis progressing onto racing other types of

scene. Introducing people to Karting will lead to

Karting has been a successful stepping stone for

Ministry of Sports Affairs for his contribution to

vehicles. Karting was my route into car racing – I

Currently consisting of only the two young driv-

many big names in motorsport. In Formula 1 and

Omani sport in 2009, and was Vice Champion in

started when I was 9,” he said.

ers, Suleiman Al Rawahi insisted that the team

Rally Driving, almost all of the drivers began their

Formula Renault BARC UK 2009, was present for

For further information on the Oman Karting Team

is open to everyone. “The goal of the Team is to

careers in go-karts before moving on to more so-

the launch and revealed how the team is close to

please visit: www.omankartingteam.com

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Achievers

Reaching for Stars

Omanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new breed of super-achievers are a class apart. Nothing daunts them as they seek inspiration from challenges posed by nature and win plaudits for the country.

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Achievers

Nabs: Going Places...

“I have been all around the world, and there are many countries that have been developing for ten times longer than Oman and are in a worse state of development. Oman is a very lucky country and you only have to travel abroad to realize that...” Nabil Al Busaidi, first Omani and the first Arab to reach the North Pole, talks about his adventurous odyssey that has taken him to the highest point in the world. Your successful expedition has become a

Oman, and are in a worse state of development.

legend of sorts for young Omanis... To what

Oman is a very lucky country, and you only have

do you attribute your success?

to travel abroad to realize that. I have done very

There are many attributes I had to rely on to

little to help that progress, which is the real

achieve my goals. Planning. Hard work. Excep-

achievement and that is all done to the Sultan.

tionally high standards. Ambition. Desire. Clear goals. Training. Stamina. Never giving up. But as

As far as my feelings are concerned, every time

Mount Everest taught me, even that may not be

I am in Oman, someone I have never met will

enough. Everything else I did stacked the odds in

come up and congratulate me, so it’s great that

my favour, and on another day things could have

so many people in Oman got pleasure and derive

turned out differently. So I attribute my success

some pride from it. However, it was mainly ex-

to prayer.

patriates and I realized that many Omanis didn’t know about my trek to the North Pole as all my

What is your feeling at having achieved such a

coverage was in English. That spurred me to do

huge feat for the country?

something new that would be covered in the

In the great scheme of things that Oman has

Arabic media and that resulted in more expedi-

achieved in the last 40 years, it would be great

tions. I also feel now that I have become the first

if I was even mentioned. I have been all around

Arab to walk to the magnetic North Pole, I am

the world, and there are many countries that

capable of doing so much more for Oman.

have been developing for ten times longer than

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Achievers

Could you recall the mood of the day when

arctic we were exhausted. By the time we got to

I thought about it. Thinking about being the

tent, cook and get to sleep. There was very little

you planted Omani flag on the North Pole?

the North Pole we were desperate for food, sleep

first Arab to do something so difficult, thinking

celebration, or emotion, we were like zombies. I

What spurred you on?

and warmth. Just getting there I had suffered

about getting to the pole, thinking about getting

tried to call my PR manager, my parents and my

It was a rather subdued mood. We had walked

bouts of hallucinations and one of my team had

some sleep all kept me going. When we got to

brother, and all I got was voicemail each time! I

50km for 24 hours nonstop, without sleeping,

fallen asleep walking and lay where he fell until I

the Pole, I placed the Omani flag in the snow, so

gave up and went to sleep, and I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get out of

through a blizzard for several hours with winds

woke him up. But I knew this was the final effort,

everyone knew we had got there first, and then

my sleeping bag for 36 hours!

up to 80kmph, and after so many days in the

and it gave me more motivation every time

we moved about 30 metres away to set up the

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Achievers Could you trace your inception into this highly challenging field of expedition?

4. Giving a positive image of Arabs and Muslims in the Western media

In some ways it came all of a sudden and in another, I have been preparing for it all my

Any childhood incident that spurred you to

life. I have been playing football most of my life

consider this mammoth expedition?

and then rugby. Football helps with team work

The only thing I can think of is reading a ladybird

and fitness, but rugby is about physical courage.

book about Capt Scott and his attempt to get to

All of which then led to the army where I took

the South Pole. The expedition sounded like the

part in lots of adventurous activities like assault

most arduous undertaking, and when you read

courses, abseiling, climbing, cross country skiing,

about Capt Oates sacrifice as he walked out of

mountaineering. Those last two must have led

the tent saying he might be some time, never

me subconsciously towards the trek to the North

intending to return, so that his colleagues would

Pole, and the rest is history!

stand a better chance of survival, it makes a lasting impression and a better example than the

Who has been instrumental in shaping your

latest winner of big brother!

career? No one has been instrumental in shaping my

What was your childhood like? How would

career either in business or my adventures, but in

you define your early growing years?

my professional life the most long standing influ-

It was fairly normal in most respects. I was born

ence would have to be my father. He has been

in London in 1970 and lived and went to school

there from childhood encouraging me to study

there until I was 7. We moved to Bahrain in 1977

harder, all the way through.

when my father worked for Gulf Air, and I stayed there until I was 11. After that I went to boarding

What inspires you the most?

school in the UK. Initially I found that pretty

There is no one thing that inspires me, but differ-

tough, but it probably made me a lot more inde-

ent things in different situations. The desire to

pendent than I would have been otherwise.

be the best, the will to win, the fear of failure, the weight of responsibility...they are all equally valid

Who do you consider your mentor and who is

motivators, and you need to be able to pick the

your role model?

one that works for you in each situation.

I do not have a mentor, but I do ask for advice

In general though I try to work towards 4 goals:

from every subject matter expert I come across.

1. Being the first Arab to walk to the magnetic

The one thing about the world today is that for

North Pole/climb Mt Vinson etc

every obscure field, there is an authority, and

2. Raising money for those less fortunate

he can probably be found on the internet. As

3. Inspiring the youth

for role models, I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have one, I have several,

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Achievers

but all for different areas of life. I have sport-

camel to water but you can’t force it to drink.’ If

future involvement in this field it will be advising.

Any words of advice for young aspiring

ing heroes for physical activities, such as Lance

you have desire, you can overcome a lot of prob-

I have already given advice to an expedition run

Omanis?

Armstrong, or Ernest Shakleton, but they are not

lems, and if you can’t overcome them, you will be

by the Oman army to the Himalayas and that was

If you are a pioneer, by definition, you have to do

all necessarily famous. Some are people who

motivated to find a way to get around them. But

rewarding in its own way. The key is to make sure

things that no one has ever done before. People

are close to me that I admire for some traits, like

developing desire is a far trickier question than

that other Omanis are able to benefit from my

will think you are crazy and try to dissuade you,

my parents for example. It is important not to

I can answer, but a good start is showing them

experience, whether it is advice or just knowing

and obstacles will appear from every direc-

take one person as a role model for all things.

what is possible if they have that desire.

one of their countrymen made it to the pole.

tion, but if you are convinced that what you are

Footballers are a great example. Admire them for

doing is right, and you are doing it for the right

their skill, but why would you expect them to be

What do you foresee for the future as far as

However, if I am able, I want to walk to the South

reasons, do whatever it takes to get it done. And

a financial role model?

your field is concerned?

Pole later this year. Less than 200 people have

that is the hard part, committing yourself to do

I don’t think there is any long term future for me

ever done it, and no Arab has tried, let alone

anything and everything to achieve your goals. It

What is needed to develop the spirit of chal-

personally. Age catches up with all of us, and

made it. 100 years after the first person walked

is a lot easier to say than it is to do.

lenge among young Omani’s?

after my fall on Everest, I am not sure if I will be

to the pole, I would like to show that an Arab can

We have all heard the phrase ‘You can take a

capable of continuing anyway. But if there is any

do it too, despite the disadvantage in climate!

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Achievers

On Top of the World

Oman boasts another first as Khalid Al Siyabi climbs Mount Everest. In May this year, Omani adventurer Khalid Bin

About 60 days were spent in training, prior to the

Sulaiman Al Siyabi became the first Omani to

climb, to get adapted to the surroundings. The

scale Mount Everest, the highest mountain peak

climbers, including team members from Turkey,

in the world - at 8,848 metres above sea level. He

Finland, the US, UK, Ireland, Australia and Argen-

hoisted the Omani flag after a two-month long

tina, were divided into four camps on the top of

mission that delayed the ascent more than once.

the mountain on the China-Nepal borders.

On his return home, he had told the local media

Incredibly, last year, Al Siyabi became the first

that he dedicated his success to Oman’s 40 years

Arab to climb Bimori mountain, one of the most

of Renaissance.

dangerous Himalayan mountains about 7,145 metres above sea level.

“It was not easy as it posed some risks, including changing weather conditions and severe cold with temperatures sometimes dropping to below 50 degrees Celsius - lack of Oxygen on top was one of the toughest challenges that I faced during this expedition,” he had told the newspersons. In fact the climb up had been delayed due to strong winds and heavy snowfall. Some of the team members even dropped out due to the hardship involved in the climb. It was thanks his resolute determination to reach the peak and make the venture his way of commemorating the celebrations of Oman’s 40th National Day anniversary. “This is my way of expressing loyalty and allegiance to the leader of the blessed Omani renaissance, Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed,” he told the media.

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Achievers

Around the World Mohsin AlÊBusaidiÊachievedÊanÊincredibleÊfeatÊlastÊ yearÊasÊheÊsailedÊnon-stopÊaroundÊtheÊworldÊÐÊaÊ ÄYZ[PU6THUHUK[OL(YHI^VYSK Mohsin Al Busaidi became the first Omani and

Talking to the media after his successful sail,

the first Arab to sail non-stop around the world

Mohsin, a native of Al Khoud village north of

in March last year. The adventure was part of a

Muscat, said “I am so happy, so proud for my

wider project, initiated to recreate Oman’s rich

country… It has been the most amazing experi-

maritime heritage and consequently attract

ence of my life. Although the voyage has only

Omani youth to take up sailing.

taken 76 days, I have loved sailing and the sea for a long time. This round the world journey has

Mohsin and his team set sail on January 8, 2009

been the key focus for the newly formed Oman

on MusandamȆfor a voyage that stretched to 76

Sail project and we wanted to show quickly

days. He returned back to hero’s welcome, with

what could be achieved to inspire others. We’ll

the entire nation following his sailing adventure.

continue the voyage of our ancestors who sailed

Sailing on a racing multihull is seen as one of

the seas and we’ll build boats and masts, so our

the hardest challenges a sailor can ever take on

children continue the journey after us.”

and what is amazing is the fact that Mohsin had never stepped on board an offshore racing multi-

The arrival of Musandam back home was wit-

hull until a year before he took up the challenge.

nessed by a horde of visitors, including local and international press. Locals thronged the shore-

Along with Mohsin, Musandam was crewed by

line to welcome their hero who had made Oman

Skipper Loik Gallon, Thierry Duprey Du Vorsent,

and the region proud with his incredible feat.

Charles Darbyshire and Nick Houchin. It sailed over 24,000 nautical miles, going deep into the

Her Excellency, Dr. Rajiha Bint Abdul Amir bin

harsh and hostile Southern Ocean, passing the

Ali, Minister of Tourism, who had attended the

legendary Cape of Leeuwin, Cape Horn and Cape

special celebrations in honour of Mohsin at Port

of Good Hope. The crew had to endure storms,

Sultan Qaboos, told the gathering, “To have Moh-

freezing conditions and a diet of freeze-dried

sin accomplish this voyage and enter the history

food, not forgetting the cramped conditions of a

books is very exciting and I know young Omanis

racing multihull.

will be inspired by this...”

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Achievers

Omani Woman Scales Mt. Kilimanjaro

From climbing Everest to sailing around the world, Oman’s recent past has witnessed many firsts in the field of sports and adventure. Muna Al Shanfari became the first Omani

ing the 5895 metre Mt. Kilimanjaro is no easy

woman to successfully scale the famous Mt.

task, although it is widely regarded as a journey

Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa’s tallest mountain

of a lifetime by all who take on the challenge.

and one of the most iconic natural wonders on

Within Kilimanjaro National Park are vibrant com-

the continent, recently. She travelled with her

munities of both animal and plant life, from rural

long time friend Catherine Lonie, enduring the

farming villages to packs of Colobus monkeys

seven-day trek on schedule and reaching the

and wild mountain leopards. Volcanic cones dot

summit in high spirits as she waved the Oman

the landscape as barely visible paths lead travel-

flag from Uhuru peak. “This was a dream of

lers upwards to the white-tipped summit.

mine for a long time, and after taking up this challenge I really hope that other Omani women

“Mt. Kilimanjaro was a tremendous challenge,

will feel empowered to follow their own dreams

but it was also incredibly rewarding to be able to

and know that nothing is impossible,” she said,

interact with the local people as a representative

adding; “Despite the risks involved and the

of my country. There is a strong historical con-

obstacles that life sometimes presents, I think it’s

nection between Tanzania and Oman, and this

important for younger generations especially to

being my first trip to Africa, I was really touched

have the courage to pursue their goals wherever

by how much our people had in common.

those may lie.”

Almost everyone I talked to had some sort of a

family connection to Oman, and sharing stories

Muna Al Shanfari, a successful bank executive

of our history and customs was a very meaning-

and mother of three living in Muscat, is a keen

ful experience for me,” she recounted.

mountain walker and active health enthusiast, regularly travelling to locations like the Hajar

The expedition was supported by a donation

Mountains in search of a new adventure. “This

from Nawras, which covered all trip expenses

truly was a mental, physical and spiritual journey;

including hiking clothes, airfare and accommo-

one I will never forget,” said Al Shanfari. Ascend-

dations.

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Then-&-Now

Picture spread of Oman: then and now

Taking a cue from Alice, who mulled ‘What’s the use of a book, without pictures and conversations,’ in Lewis Carrol’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ODYSSEY presents here a bouquet of pictures, culled from albums past and interspersed with the ones clicked a month or so ago. These photographs are definite spurs for conversation. At the cost of sounding hackneyed, they will, indeed, speak a thousand words and more to communicate the physical changes Muscat has witnessed over the years. Some places have changed beyond recognition while others have hardly seen a stone turn. Check them out yourselves…

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Then-&-Now

164

The familiar faรงade of Corniche - then & now

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The 'now' busy CBD area appears forlorn in this 'then' photograph 166

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Without the popular Sheraton Hotel landmark, this 'then' photograph is unidentifiable

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Water was a scarcity 'then'... Modernisation has changed all that 'now' 7/19/10 12:15 PM


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'

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The past two decades have hardly seen any change in the Ruwi Bus Stand 7/19/10 12:15 PM


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Traditional dhows in this 'then' photograph add that element of change...

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Like everything else in Oman, homes too have undergone a metamorphosis with modernisation

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Celebrating the 40 th Renaissance Day 2010 - 2011

ODYSSEY  

40 years ago, on a warm sunny day in July – 23rd to be precise - His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said commenced a journey; a journey that alte...

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