MUSCAT: What makes Oman and Omanis stand out? Why are the foreigners attracted to the country, unlike any other country? How has the unique hospitality appealed to the visitors wanting to come back again and immerse themselves in the time-tested culture and etiquette?
Najat al Kalbani, Head of Sustainable Development Unit, Centre for Preparatory Studies at the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) was at an airport in one of the gulf countries on her way back to Muscat. She stopped at the duty-free to pick up a few gifts for her family, friends and relatives. While she was there she ran into this lovely, Thai lady.
“We started chatting about our purchases and where we were heading. She then asked me where I was from. When I told her I was an Omani, her immediate reaction was “Ahhhhhha! That’s why you’re so friendly!”
On another occasion, Najat was at the check out counter of a leading hypermarket ready to pay for her groceries. At the queue, the man ahead of her in line was chatting with the cashier about their home country. It was obvious that they both came from the same country. She ended up joining the conversation as she shared her opinion about an item he had bought.
“I then discovered that he was an engineer who has been working in Oman for about 20 years. He finished his conversation with me by saying “Your country is good to everyone “.
Once, as she was shopping at a mall in a neighbouring country along with sisters, the salesperson, a young Arab national, appreciative of the mere fact that she was polite in dealing with him, asked her if they were Omanis. Then he went to say that he could immediately make out, as Omanis stand out due to their demeanour and humbleness.
“Humbleness is the keyword here. The older generations of Omanis had to sweat to survive. They had to travel to other countries looking for what could sustain them and their families. In travelling across these countries they came to contact with different people from different cultures and backgrounds. I’m certain that they had to share their meals with strangers. Perhaps they drank water out of the same water skin. They had to learn the languages of their host countries and most likely some aspects of the cultures. This I would presume has made Omanis who they really are. Nothing was given to them on a golden platter. They had to work hard to earn it.”
Najat writes in her diary, “Over the past 50 years, the leader of this country, the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos succeeded in creating a legacy: a country that stands on a solid foundation and firm roots; a country that has maintained a balance between heritage and modernity. One of His Majesty’s main goals was to build a country that respects and appreciates diversity, strives to achieve unity, respects boundaries and in so doing expands its pool of friends. In bilateral relations, be it among individuals or between countries the key elements are: staying true to who you are, knowing your boundaries, aspiring for continuous development, staying humble throughout and respecting differences. Keeping all these elements in mind, HM succeeded in achieving his goal which he expressed once: “I want to look at the world map and find no single country that Oman isn’t friends with.”
The current generation and the future generations of Oman have a responsibility toward preserving and continuing Sultan Qaboos’s legacy. We all know that it’s a humongous task considering the challenges we are faced with today.
“We live, today, in a world that seems to be angry all the time. Arguments start because of differences in opinion. Mass gun shootings happen by a disgruntled person. Wars are started because of one person’s ego. It’s a sea of turmoil that makes it almost impossible to maintain your peace let alone maintaining peaceful relations with your neighbours. Yet, amid a world characterized by turbulence, Oman stands out as a peaceful nation. The challenge lying ahead of Oman’s future generations is to maintain this legacy and to hopefully develop Oman to be a role model not only to countries in the region but to countries around the world,” adds Najat.