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OMAN - Oasis of the Orient with an impressive balance between tradition and modernity

What makes Oman an oasis of the Orient? What is different than in other Arab states? What enchants its visitors and lets them quit so many fears or even prejudices?

A declaration of love.

Naked facts. Oman is a state in the east of the Arabian Peninsula, almost as big as f.e. Germany, but has only about 4.2 million inhabitants. The country is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, vast tracts of land are almost desert. Only 5 percent of the population live as nomads. The Rub 'al Khali desert in the southeast of the country extends over much of the Omani southeast into Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates and contains nothing but sand dunes within 650,000 square kilometers, which is why this region is also called "Empty Quarter“.

Sultan Qabus ibn Sa'id Al Sa’id (Source: www.wikipedia.de)

The sultan is everywhere. The current sole ruler of the country, Sultan Qaboos ibn Sa'id Al Sa'id, spent his childhood in southern Oman in Salalah. There he acquired some of his education by Arab scholars, which was later continued at a private school and at the Royal Military Academy in England. After completion of his military service, during which time he was also stationed in Germany, he embarked on a 3-month WORLD TRIP. Influences that have certainly contributed significantly to its cosmopolitanism. And to the knowledge that Oman was kept in the deepest Middle Ages by his father. In July 1970, therefore he settled his father Sultan Said bin Taimur Al Said by a coup and forced him into exile to London.

Over the next 45 years, the young Sultan was keen to open and modernize the country. With the revenue from the abundant bubbling oil in northern Oman and in the desert areas, he built roads, schools, universities and hospitals. Every Omani should have access to these facilities was his maxim. In addition, because it provides the people with tax exemption and free medical care, its recognition and popularity among the people are very high. Nevertheless, in 2011 there were demonstrations in the capital that prompted Sultan Qaboos to announce a transformation from absolute to constitutional monarchy over the next few years. The two existing parliaments, in which all provinces and tribes are represented, have so far only advisory function.

The prosperity of the Omanis created by the Sultan's government makes the country very secure in cases of extremely low crime. And in foreign policy, too, Oman, with its peaceful and rather conflict-prone sultan, he is appreciated as the diplomatic mediator of many crises in the Middle East and the Middle East.

The Sultan has a close relationship with Germany, as he has repeatedly sought German clinics for health reasons in recent years.

Fish selling man in Muscat (© travelART by ELLEN)

Preservation of the Omani culture in a constantly evolving world. Everywhere visitors of Oman encounter contrasts between past and present.

Here are still some mountain villages only accessible with pack animals, there rush hour in the capital Muscat on highway-like roads through the city, filled with the most modern cars, fueled with gasoline, which is cheaper than drinking water.

Here are the traditional animal markets and the small, winding souks, there in the immediate vicinity of the air-conditioned and state-of-the-art shopping malls.

Here are the traditionally dressed women who hide their mostly colorful clothes under the black abaya cloak, especially in the cities, there the growing proportion of women at the University of Muscat, which is now higher than the men’s.

Here are the last fishermen who still sail with their teak-made Dhaus into the fish-rich waters off the Omani coast, there the young generation of fishermen, who only use fiberglass boats, who thanks to good language skills turn to growing tourism or who counteract the country's dependence on oil by modern professions like engineering.

Here ancient stone irrigation canals over several kilometers (so-called Falaj), which still today ensure the farmers the irrigation of their fields by a sophisticated system, there the nationwide communication network with the most modern mobile phones into the smallest Bedouin villages.

Here in all cities and villages a multitude of old, new or restored mosques, which almost without exception carry the name of the Sultan and from which the call of the Muezzin as for centuries determines the daily rhythm, there the only opera house on the Arabian peninsula in Muscat, in which different performances of artists from all over the world are listed.

Sultan Qabus Moschee in Muscat

An Islam full of tolerance. 75% of the population belong to the group of Ibadite Muslims, which is characterized by an above-average tolerance for any other faith. Thus, the predominantly coastal Sunnis can practice their religion as freely as the Shiites, Hindus and Christians. It is also fitting that the large Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Muscat is almost always open to all interested visitors - women and men, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The Omanis want to learn from visitors to Oman and they are always curious and not dogmatic.

Wahiba desert (© travelART by ELLEN)

Human warmth + genuine friendliness + unadulterated hospitality = feel-good atmosphere. Kindness as an expression of appreciation and not out of business interest. Conversations out of curiosity and interest and not to get the tourist’s money only. Respect and restraint towards women without being presumptuous, condescending or demanding. Traits that surprise the connoisseurs of other Arab countries, let them hesitate in disbelief. After a few days and many contacts rethinking happens. There really is what you feel. You can relax, perceive, enjoy. And hope that this beneficial nature of the Omani will be preserved despite the burgeoning tourism.

Canyon in the Jabal Akhdar Mountains (© travelART by ELLEN)

Landscape of extremes and opposites. 1,700 kilometers of coastline. Beautiful, mostly deserted beaches. Bathtub-warm water. Mountains up to 3,000 meters high, into which the rivers have carved deep canyons in millions of years. Rivers that do not carry water at all during most of the year - so-called wadis - with a few green oases, but after torrential rains they tear and flood everything that gets in their way. Mountains like the Hadja Mountains or the Jabal Akhdar, which for hundreds of kilometers only consist of bare stone and boulder landscape, but which cast spell over with its brittle beauty. Lowlands, where in the summer temperatures to the 50 ° C eradicate every life and every activity, but bloom especially in the south to Salalah in the rainy season in the most beautiful color and plant splendor. Endless deserts, their own worlds of sand, in which the few plants and small animals laboriously keep alive from dew and subterranean water. Dune landscapes that make the heart of every photographer beat faster.

Old Town Muscat (© travelART by ELLEN)

Fragrant business card. On one hand the agriculture of Oman is rather simple-rustic - no wonder with only 5% of cultivable land area and therefore more well-known for garlic, lentils, almonds, walnuts and pomegranates, on the other hand there were precious ingredients to luxury perfumes, which suddenly gave the country a late 1980s awarded exclusive and elite touch. The best perfumers discovered Oman as a source of rare and valuable ingredients. Myrrh, rock rose, silver incense (known for centuries as the finest and finest frankincense, but only as an incense or dissolved in water for sore throat and colds in use), jasmine, lily, sandalwood and cedarwood, musk, civet and patchouli, and much more basics for the most precious perfumes in the world. The most famous "Amouage Gold" inspired the sultan so much that he declared it a state paragon and the perfume house is still owned by the royal family.

Camel mother with its baby in the Wahiba desert (© travelART by ELLEN)

Camels - farm animals, status symbol and sideline. They have almost completely lost their function as pack animals. Some people still serve them as a source of meat. The breeding of racing camels came in the foreground, which are extremely valuable, therefore the camels also are treated accordingly carefully and receive only the best food. The camel driver of today no longer rides himself, but guards his camels from the comfortable, air-conditioned four-wheel SUV. As you can buy a simple camel for prices starting from USD 15.000, the prices for racing camels quickly increase depending on the success to well over USD 120.000. An investment that can be worth while, considering that for the victory in a camel race in Oman, in the Emirates or in Saudi Arabia prize money by 3 million Dollars are tendered.

Wadi Bani Khalid (© travelART by ELLEN)

© Entire article: Travel-Edition & © travelART by ELLEN

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