Celebrating Oman’s Seafaring Legacy

Known for its legendary hospitality, beautiful desert landscapes, tranquil oases and 1,000 miles of coastline along the south-eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, the Sultanate of Oman’s seafaring history dates back millennia.

Exploring its glorious maritime past — a defining part of its cultural identity — the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center in Washington, DC is hosting the exhibition “From Sinbad to the Shabab Oman: A Seafaring Legacy” through Sept. 30, 2017.

Sailing from the port cities of Sohar, Dhofar, Qalhat, Sur and Muscat in hand-built dhows, Omani traders crossed the sea along the Maritime Silk Route with the help of the strong monsoon winds.

The exhibition, located in the Cultural Center’s second floor gallery, features informational kiosks and large wall-mounted video screens offering information and history on these port cities. Also told are the stories of Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta and Ahmad Ibn Majid, Oman’s most famous sailor and navigator, hailed as the “Lion of the Sea.” Display cases contain the tools and materials for building the handsewn Omani dhows designed to transport cargo to Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Traditional Omani sea music playing in the background helps transport visitors to this exotic corner of the world, which continues to be an important trading port for worldwide shipping. Located on the Gulf of Oman, Sohar, the birthplace of the fictional Sinbad the Sailor, is still known as the “Gateway to China” and is one of the world’s fastest growing port and free zone developments.

In 2008, Sultan Qaboos bin Said sponsored the establishment of the non-profit organization “Oman Sail” to make sailing accessible to the Omani public. In addition, the organization is rekindling Oman’s maritime heritage, promoting the Sultanate around the world through sailing, and providing long-term learning opportunities for Omani youth.

The sailing federation has helped turn Muscat into a regular sailing destination by hosting international races in Omani waters. Each year, professional sailors from around the world come to Oman to compete.

In addition, two Omani Royal Navy ships, Shabab Oman I and Shabab Oman II, serve the dual purpose of training Oman’s navy while travelling the globe on goodwill missions.

PHOTO (COLOR): “From Sinbad to the Shabab Oman: A Seafaring Legacy” is on display through Sept. 30, 2017, at the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center in Washington, DC.

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Authors: Pasquini, Elaine
Source: Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Oct2017, Vol. 36 Issue 6, p56-56. 1p. 1 Color Photograph.

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