According to Travelbook, anyone in search of One Thousand and One Nights should travel to Oman, whose neighbours include Dubai, Qatar and Abu Dhabi and which has succeeded in balancing its traditional identity with modernity.“ Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said has carefully transformed the land of his fathers, which sits on the eastern edge of the Arabian peninsula. By ITB 2020, when the official partner country of the World’s Leading Travel Trade Show will be attracting the public’s attention, talk of German involvement and in particular that of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the region surrounding the Zugspitze will probably already have made the rounds.
Every Omani has either heard of ‘The Garmish’, been to Upper Bavaria, or would like to see Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The sultan, who is adored by everyone, owns a residence and spent his formative years there before taking over the sultanate from his father in 1970. An engineer by trade, there is an aspect of Garmisch-Partenkirchen that he has replicated at home. All the houses are painted in white or beige and none of them exceed eight storeys. This was a conscious decision. Visitors to Oman looking for the skyscrapers that people find irritating in the neighbouring countries are in for a disappointment. On the other hand they will experience a country that still feels authentic, but which has also embraced progress. The most recent innovations reflecting the sultan’s philosophy are the multi award-winning international airport which opened in 2018 and the Royal Opera House in the capital Muscat. Blending eastern and western culture, the only opera house to exist in the Arab countries is an architectural gem of international stature and a personal achievement of the sultan. His love of classical music and culture was also something that grew during his time in Germany.
Sinbad the sailor and the Incense trade route
Until the eighteenth century, along with England and Portugal, Oman was among the leading seafaring nations ruling the waves. Its ports were gateways to ancient and important trading routes. Sinbad the Sailor, the Incense trade route and the Three Magi all originated in Oman. Omanis are proud of a history that spans 5,000 years. The sultanate has kept its cultural identity and cultivates its hospitality. Nowadays, some four million Omanis and expats live in a state that blends ancient and modern lifestyles. The government has recognised the unique value of its historical and cultural treasures, some of which are UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites. It promotes tourism to a country which is about the size of Germany, with the aim of creating long-term benefits for its people. The mission of the ITB’s partner country is to reveal the secrets of a breathtaking and diverse landscape and sincerely hospitable nation to the wider world of tourism.
Oman is a seven-hour flight from Germany. The peace-loving, widely respected sultanate which has the longest reigning ruler in the Middle East takes visitors by surprise with its jagged mountain ranges, deep canyons, idyllic oases, huge plantations and endless sand and stone deserts. Its 1,700-kilometre long coastline is interspersed with sandy white beaches and steep cliffs. As a wildlife sanctuary Oman is home to a unique world of flora and fauna, to the last onyx antelopes, the Arabian leopard and to the tahr, a goat species found throughout Asia.
Bringing the world closer to Oman
The sultan was keen to involve his people from the beginning. When he came to power he called upon every Omani to help him build the country together, and especially women. In Ibadism, which is a school of Islam, women occupy a special role where they are visible and society recognises them. Education plays a very important role for the sultan, whose long-term vision is that the rural population will benefit too. His efforts to improve the quality of life and infrastructure are paying dividends. Visitors can see from the smiles of peace-loving Omanis that they are proud of what they have achieved over the past few years. Every year, their friendly attitude, openness and relaxed nature attract thousands of tourists from all over the world. “That is something we must build upon. We must bring the world closer to Oman and vice-versa“, the Omani journalist Ali Al Matani wrote in the Oman Daily Observer on 20 March after ITB Berlin 2019, and called upon his countrymen to ensure that “Oman puts on a unique and spectacular show at ITB Berlin 2020.“ If Oman’s government and its tourism professionals are able to succeed in making names such as ’The Switzerland of the Middle East, The Caribbean of the Middle East, Norway in Arabia’ redundant, then the country will have found its true place in the tourism world.
Redaktionsbüro Schwartz, Sabine Neumann and Horst Schwartz