SARNGADHARAN NAMBIAR -
An occasion that is highly evocative; one that signifies a harmonious mélange of patriotic fervour, freedom, pride, joy, excitement, ambition, commitment, responsibility, and above all, a profound gratitude to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, the benevolent and visionary leader who, through sheer determination, steered a country to absolute glory by instilling tremendous faith and hope in the people, and transformed it into a land of unlimited possibilities... Omani National Day epitomises all these and more.
Observed on 18 November, the birthday of His Majesty the Sultan, and held under the supervision of the Supreme Committee for National Day Celebrations, the National Day of Oman is a day that every Omani (and expatriate) looks forward to, months in advance. Across the Sultanate, the excitement builds up over time, and the festive spirit reaches a crescendo on the big day, as exuberant emotions underscored by refined cultural elements outpour spontaneously.
Traditional dance and music, specially designed street lightings and decorations, huge hoardings of His Majesty the Sultan, artworks highlighting the triple colours of the national flag, amazing fireworks, shopping festivals and discount sales at malls and hypermarkets, children’s competitions, company get-togethers, greeting messages across media and innovative graphics on vehicles reflecting the spirit of National Day... expressions of happiness bubble up in myriad ways.
As many as 2,500 multi-coloured decorative lights, themed around traditional elements, set up in different parts of Muscat, offer a visual ode to the National Day, as are those 4,000 national flags hoisted across the stretch from Al Bustan to Barka roundabout. Further, amazing fireworks in Al Amerat, Al Khoudh and Dhofar are sure to set the hearts racing on the National Day.
Folklore performance, heritage dance and music, festivals of different hues and tones, and traditional costumes all combine to elevate the festive mood to subtle levels.
And as the people gear up to immerse in the revelries of the 48th National Day, the Sultanate has much to cheer about. For the first time, Oman got entry into the league of countries with very high human development (with an index of 0.800-1.000) by scoring 0.821 points in the Human Development Index 2018 released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Sultanate climbed four notches in the index to the 48th position among 189 countries, compared to the previous year, and ranked fifth among the Arab countries. Improvements in human resources and growth rate, along with appreciable progress in education, health and life quality helped the Sultanate better its rank in human development.
Year 2018 heralds great times for the tourism sector, with Oman being selected as the prestigious partner country for ITB Berlin 2020. Oman’s first 5i50 triathlon held earlier this month, in which hundreds of athletes from 35 countries participated, and the Ironman 70.3 scheduled for 2019 are sure to promote the Sultanate as a major global sports tourism destination.
Further, this year Oman topped the list of the safest tourist destinations in the Arab world for women, and ranked second internationally after Luxembourg, according to a German International Network survey.
On the environment front, the Sultanate has been nominated unopposed for the membership of the Permanent Committee for the Wetland Convention, known as Ramsar Convention, for 2019-2021 as a representative of West and Central Asia.
Year 2018 saw some key decisions and partnerships towards harnessing solar and wind energy in a big way, which will enable the Sultanate to meet a significant share of its energy demand from renewable sources.
The current year marked a new turn in the logistics sector with Oman hosting its first IRU world congress, giving a thrust to the Sultanate’s ambitious strategy to make it a regional logistics hub. The country is on the cusp of a digital revolution, and the strategic collaboration between ITA and Microsoft that empowers the Sultanate to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and to best leverage technology to enhance the lives of people.
Moving on, Oman jumped eight spots on the Global Innovation Index for 2018, improving its rank to 69 from last year’s 77. Meanwhile, the State Council and Majlis Ash’shura have discussed the modalities of introducing a ‘Sin Tax’ that aims to rationalise the consumption of specific goods that are harmful to health and environment.
Indeed, the 48th National Day of Oman is blessed with the positive vibes of several beneficial developments including the few mentioned above. Get ready, and soak in the festive spirit. It’s a momentous occasion like no other.