Fostering culture through film

The view from the window offered nothing spectacular. Beyond the over-familiar buildings that dotted the area, the arid landscape and the grey sky extended to unknown dimensions. Shaikh Rashid al Shabibi, for a moment, thought about the generations of people who inhabited the land called Oman. He felt humbled by their contributions that shaped the country’s distinct culture and heritage.
Shaikh Rashid, an engineer by profession, was always intrigued by the nuances of culture, and its sheer power and influence over life. This obsession led him to explore the possibilities of forging global partnerships that could nurture and promote Oman’s unique cultural and geographical identity by supporting the country’s talent pool of creative minds including artists, artisans and writers who enrich our lives in multiple ways.
But what keeps Shaikh Rashid engaged these days is a unique project: he is both the producer and script writer of Oman’s first full-length Arabic feature film — based on his own story about a highly creative and ambitious Omani youngster who struggles with a peculiar psychological issue — to be directed by K Madhu, one of India’s most successful film directors. The movie is expected to be released next year and screened at international film festivals.
The movie — a visual tribute to the Sultanate’s enchanting scenic beauty — will have Omani nationals in various roles. Shaikh Rashid bets big on the movie: “My script is not just a narrative…. I see the script as a medium to portray the distinct heritage and culture of various communities and regions of the Sultanate. With complementing visuals of lyrical quality, I am sure the movie will be the best brand ambassador for Oman and its tourism potential.”
Shaikh Rashid is an artist, who didn’t become one, though. As a child he prolifically painted, but later on words became his muse. Though he penned many poems and short stories, creative writing was more or less a meditative self exploration for him, and publishing never mattered.
Among the things that matter to him is a commitment to promote Oman’s art and culture. “I always felt our young crop of talents need global exposure and encouragement,” Rashid said, “I’m in talks with international art galleries to host exhibitions of works by promising Omani artists.”
It’s not just arts and culture that he pursues. He wears multiple hats with élan. He is a visionary entrepreneur who has made his mark in Oman and also at the global level. He closely works with various business forums in the GCC and beyond to attract huge global investments to the Sultanate and MENA.
“Only a growing nation with a vibrant economy can support its communities and help people realise their dreams. Quality education and a peaceful environment are integral to national progress, and a strong economy alone can nurture both. That’s why I am keen on wooing investors to Oman,” Shaikh Rashid said.
As a partner and GCC representative at the top business forum in Malaysia — the Malaysian Global Business Council, he has been instrumental in promoting Oman as an ideal investment destination among top businessmen and investment firms in Malaysia. Under his initiative top-notch investors from Malaysia will be visiting Oman shortly to discuss investment opportunities here. He is also bringing high-level business delegations from India and China to Oman. These projects can provide jobs to a significant number of Omanis.
Another of his projects is a green theme park that could be one of the biggest in Asia. This will also be done with domestic and foreign investments. The theme park will highlight global cultural diversity, and also contribute to creating better awareness about environment.
Promoting Oman as an advanced healthcare hub in the region is yet another project that he is working on. “Oman’s healthcare system is well developed. But the doctors here still go abroad for specialised training in various disciplines. The advanced medical city will provide high-end training facilities and other resources for our medical practitioners to undergo specialised training in Oman itself. This will save lots of money, and enhance partnerships between Oman and countries with highly developed medical sector. This venture will also help develop Oman as an attractive medical tourism destination,” Shaikh Rashid outlined the project. He has already held preliminary discussions with officials and stakeholders in this regard.
He is also a champion of various social causes. He was the chairman and the present director-general of the India-based award winning mental health advocacy group Peaceful Mind Foundation. He has designed an awareness and support project on mental health in the Sultanate involving Omani mental health professionals. “Lots of misconceptions still exist about mental disorders, which need to be addressed with some urgency,” he pointed out.

T V SARNGA DHARAN NAMBIAR