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Owens Reflects on Oman

04/20/2016

Dr. Lori J. Owens, JSU professor of political science, recently visited the Sultanate of Oman on the Arabian Peninsula after being awarded the Alwaleed Bin Talal Fellowship by The National Council on US-Arab Relations. Owens, along with six other Americans, was selected for the fellowship as part of an educational and cultural exchange designed to educate people about the Arab World/Middle East and the relationship between the United States and the Arab World. In addition to serving as honors director and CAS Director of Academic Services, Owens has served as a faculty advisor for the Political Science Model Arab League Team for 17 years. As a requirement for her fellowship, Owens has been asked to address various groups and media outlets about the country of Oman and her experience there. We hope you enjoy reading about her experience! 

Owens at the Muntrah Fort.
By Dr. Lori J. Owens

The first destination for our visit was Muscat, the capital of Oman.  While in Muscat, we visited with several government ministers.  The delegation also visited the “souq,” or market, in Mutrah, which is home to antique shops selling Indian and Omani artifacts, textiles, spices, gold, and local art.  The Mutrah Fort built by the Portuguese in the 1580s was also on the itinerary, as was the exterior of the Sultan's Palace and the beautiful grounds.

Another highlight of our time in Muscat was an afternoon visit to the seaside home of Elizabeth and the late Dr. Donald Bosch, who traveled to Oman in 1955 as medical missionaries and educators from the United States. There was no electricity in Oman at the time. Dr. Bosch is regarded as a pioneer in healthcare in Oman and his wife taught at the American Mission School in Muscat. As a tribute to the humanitarian efforts of this couple, the Sultan Qaboos granted Donald and Eloise Bosch Omani nationality and built them a seaside home for them to enjoy in their retirement years.     

Following two days in Muscat highlighted by a Star Wars themed New Year's Eve Party at the Crowne Plaza, we ventured toward the Wahiba Desert and visited the area of Wadi Tiwi in route to the desert. Our group arrived at the safari camp near sundown and enjoyed a buffet dinner and music before retiring to individual huts with a single light bulb over the bed and a mosquito net.  Fortunately, we did not need the nets! We awoke the next morning to get a better view of the beautiful, copper colored sand and the camels we would be riding.  Four of us took the plunge and decided to try the camel ride.  I am glad it was a short ride.

We also visited the Nizwa mountains and enjoyed a 4.5-mile hike through several small villages where olive and fig trees lined the rugged path. We also toured the historic Nizwa Fort built in the 17th century which is hailed as an architectural show piece for Oman and is visited by over 58,000 tourists a year. A stop at the UN world heritage site water system known as the FALAJ system dating back to the first millennium B.C. marked one of our last stops in the Nizwa region before departing for Salalah.   

We left Nizwa and flew to the coast of Salalah, which is in the southern portion of the country and is adorned with coconut and banana trees, and camels crossing major highways on a regular basis.  The variety of geography in Oman is most interesting as the land boasts of a desert area, and the beautiful tropical destination of Salalah, which is the summer vacation spot for many working class and middle class Arabs during the hot summer months where the temperatures can reach 120 degrees in other parts of Oman. 

Owens at the Al Baleed Archaeological Park.

While in Salalah, we visited the Taqah Castle, the Sumhuran ruins and museum, the museum of the Frankincense Land which houses a great maritime hall and history hall, and the Al-Baleed Archaeological Park with ruins dating back to 2000 B.C. Frankincense, a very valuable spice which comes from the sap of the Frankincense tree, is found in very few areas of the world, but it is harvested and available in Oman. 

Owens is available to discuss any of the following topics:  Omani culture, Oman's role in the region and the world, US-Omani relations, economics, and the missionary/medical/educational history of the United States in Oman. Dr. Owens can tailor her discussion for business, educational, civic, political, church or other interested groups including secondary education students.  She may be scheduled at (256) 782-8269 or at ljowens@jsu.edu.

Top right photo: Owens (courtesy) at the Mutrah Fort.
Lower right photo: Owens (courtesy) at the Al-Baleed Archaeological Park. 

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