IT was a life changing experience for an Italian travel bug resident in Oman. As he completes his work assignment after three years, what endears him the most is his innumerable Omani friends who helped him travel and explore this hospitable land.
His travels across the Sultanate helped him explore new landscapes and interact closely with local citizens.
Marco Schifano loves the Sultanate, its citizens, culture and nature. Most of his Italian friends whom he invited to Oman went back with memories of a lifetime.
Marco loves to engage and interact with Omanis. This personality has characterised his lifestyle, where he tends to step out of the traditional expatriate ‘comfort zone’ of malls and 5-star hotels to experience the ‘real’ Oman.
“The Sultanate may look very different from Italy in terms of lifestyle, history, culture and traditions, but I find rural Omani lifestyle close to the everyday life and social interactions in Castro, my village in the Apulia region of south-eastern Italy. We share many features of living in a small village or neighbourhood life where everybody helps each other,” he mentions.
Teté, Gianluca, Silvia, Monica and Dario, his Italian friends, went back amazed at the warm, open hospitality of the locals. They imagined only desert and dust but were surprised at the diverse landscape with old villages, forts, sea and mountains.
They managed to experience Oman to the fullest, not only its wonderful landscapes but a full-immersion in a completely foreign culture, experienced by means of interaction among locals.
Oman stole the heart of Dario, his friend, who felt ‘at home’ just like they are used to in Italy. He finally experienced the same strong emotions that make his eyes sparkle whenever he spoke about Oman. An exceptional guest who enjoyed Oman the most was Nunzio, Marco’s dad. He had managed to gift himself with a trip to visit his son but left after a month with tears.
Marco, who works for the Italian Embassy in the Sultanate, says his assignments offered encounters with a completely different reality which was fascinating but difficult to grasp in its complexity.
“At the beginning I was almost wary of crossing cultural boundaries because I was not familiar with local traditions. But over a period of time this was not an issue,” he admits.
His encounter with Suleiman in Jabal Shams exemplifies the friendly, hospitality nature among Omanis.
During an excursion, Suleiman invited him to stay with his family for the weekend during Eid festivities in his village in Al Hamra. As an amateur folk dancer during his days in Italy, he involved himself with traditional dances among Omanis in the village.
Ras Al Hadd will be his gateway with a special place in his heart mainly due to Fajel, a fisherman friend, who always invites him to undertake an adventure by boat.
At Misfat Al Abriyeen, Zahran and his family wait to greet him upon arrival and he loves the spot which gives him vibes of authentic Oman.
By September, his tenure in Oman comes to an end. As he gets set for another new assignment in Rome, he will be departing with a heavy heart, but will carry good experience of having stayed here and interacting with people from all over the world and creating deep human relationships.
“Oman transformed me completely from my conception about interacting with human beings, opening up my mind and horizons. This will definitely help me for my future adventures,”