“Oman is one of those rare countries with a plethora of untouched natural assets and I wonder how it maintains all these priceless properties intact’’, said CNN anchor and correspondent Eleni Giokos.
She was in the Sultanate to feature the country’s rich heritage and cultural values and to show them to the world. The Oman Daily Observer team caught up with her over a tête-à-tête where she opened up and shared her invaluable impressions about the country, people and everything else.
Tell us what your experience in Oman has been like so far
I travel a lot, so it’s increasingly rare that I get to visit a country I’ve never been to before and know very little about, but this was one of those occasions. I arrived in Oman with no expectations, and I was blown away everyday by what I discovered.
I always say that an airport is the microcosm of the experiences you’ll have in a country, and this was definitely a positive first impression — it was efficient, practical, and everyone I encountered was friendly. I was also struck by the traditional attire of the local people, which really gave me a sense of place.
One thing I really loved, and which amazed me, is that the entire country literally smells of frankincense! My hotel would burn it twice a day, the airport has it as an air freshener, while the souqs and markets are filled with its smoky perfume because almost every stall seems to burn it.
The Muscat skyline is incredibly evocative and tells a story of its own at a glance. It’s filled with history, with old colonial forts cheek by jowl with indigenous architecture, with the majestic mountain ranges that surround the capital looking over it all.
Then I was lucky enough to have one of the most wonderful experiences of my life when we went snorkelling as part of our filming. The waters are just beautiful and teeming with life. I saw dolphins, turtles and an array of the most spectacular fish.
One other thing that struck me was the calmness and sincerity of the Omani people. It’s something I noticed again and again on the trip and is so welcoming.
Based on what you saw, can you share your impression of the past and present Oman and what you think is in store for its future?
This is a proudly traditional country, from the clothing to the food and language. Omanis have not diluted their culture in pursuit of the future, instead they have found a way to modernise without leaving their values behind.
One thing I noticed from the people we encountered and interviewed is that Omanis think big; they want a diversified economy and really understand that technology and smart skills are going to propel their country forward.
Something else that really strikes me is that, while so many countries are now trying to create policies around the environment, Oman, an oil-producing country, has always been very protective of its natural assets. I spent time with British explorer Mark Evans, who has been living in Oman for 16 years, and he spoke highly of the way the country’s ethos around ecology and climate change has helped safeguard Oman as one of those rare countries with a plethora of untouched natural assets.
Now the new journey for Oman is to move away from oil and gas and think of industries of the future. Its ports are perfectly positioned to capture more global trade traffic, and it is also well-placed to move into tech industries and capitalise on its youth dividend while maintaining the formula that has worked so well in protecting its traditions and natural assets.
When global trade was disrupted by the pandemic one logistics company, Asyad, told me they were so well prepared for the global shock that Oman was elevated as an important trade hub at the height of the crisis. In fact, they had an over-supply of fresh fruit and vegetables because their logistics functioned so smoothly. It’s that kind of efficiency that builds resilient economies.
“Steeped in history, primely placed on the map to handle trade, and brimming with potential, perhaps all Oman needs to do now is something it hasn’t focused on before, market itself to the world’’, Gioks added.
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