National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations

 
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE NATIONAL COUNCIL

Applications Now Being Accepted For The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations'

Twelfth Annual Oman Anthropological Immersion

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is pleased to offer, through the Joseph J. Malone Fellowship in Arab and Islamic Studies, the Twelfth Annual Oman Anthropological Immersion visit to the Sultanate of Oman March 6 - 17, 2008, with pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C. to be held on March 5 - 6. For participants, this unique and special opportunity will provide a privileged first hand cultural and anthropological exposure to one of the Arab world's most demographically, geographically, and socially diverse countries.

The Council is currently accepting applications to participate in this study visit.

CLICK HERE FOR A MALONE FELLOWSHIP APPLICATION
(.pdf - to download, right-click and select "Save Target As...")

American professionals in academia, government, and business are invited to apply.

The Twelfth Annual Oman Anthropological Immersion will provide participants an educational experience that few Americans and other Westerners have had. The study visit is choreographed to provide Malone Fellows an unparalleled exposure to the anthropology of Oman -- one of the most historically and culturally rich of all Arab and Islamic societies. Until relatively recent times, the Sultanate languished in its status as one of the most forgotten corners of all Arabia. Anyone in doubt about the extraordinary opportunity that being able to visit Oman in this manner need only peruse any of the several National Geographic Magazine features on the country in the past two decades.

 

 

End Pictures: inlaid Islamic niches at the Grand Mosque in Oman’s Capital Territory; Middle Pictures: Bedouin Omani girls in the Sharqiyyah Sands.

End Pictures: inlaid Islamic niches at the Grand Mosque in Oman's Capital Territory;
Middle Pictures: Bedouin Omani girls in the Sharqiyyah Sands.

 

 

THE PROGRAM

There will be a maximum of two days in the capital territory centered on Muscat and Mutrah, where there will be meetings and briefings at the U.S. Embassy, one or more Omani ministries, and visits to sites of historical interest. After that, the rest of the visit unfolds away from the capital in the Sultanate's extraordinarily diverse interior. As we traverse the countryside, we will camp outdoors amidst the dunes of the Sharqiyyah Sands, an eastern extension of the Rub' Al-Khali (The Empty Quarter), the world's largest desert. In that region and elsewhere, the we will visit remote villages, scale mountains, and stop in far flung oases for rest, leisure, and shopping for handicrafts, Bedouin jewelry, or antiques.

We will also explore several of the country's famous forts of yesteryear, visit the ancient mud-brick walled settlement of Bahla, designated by UNESCO as one of the Heritages of Humankind, and trek through archaeological ruins as well as sites that, not that long ago, housed wealthy merchants who plied goods throughout the vast Oman-influenced territories from Iraq and Kuwait in the west, the south Iranian coast extending through the Hormuz Strait and along the Sultanate's Batinah coast, the Gulf of Oman, Pakistan, South Arabia, and East Africa.

The delegation will also spend time with fisher folk, loom weavers, and potters; travel along the country's spectacular littoral along the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf; and sail with Arab mariners for the better part of two days on a dhow, a traditional wooden handmade Arab vessel from which modern day sailors familiar with the history of navigation and modern nautical sciences acknowledge an enormous debt.

As we sail north towards the Iranian coast, we'll turn east to circumnavigate the Musandam Peninsula, which straddles the southernmost reaches of the Persian Gulf and the northernmost waters of the Gulf of Oman. We will anchor at sea and sleep overnight under a full moon in a cove adjacent to the Strait of Hormuz, the world's most important waterway through which pass the Gulf region's unmatched prodigious deposits of oil and gas in giant tankers en route to the world's energy-hungry markets and economies.

The delegation will also drop anchor and come ashore to visit the people of Kumzar, a peaceful, creative, and self-reliant community situated in one of the most historically isolated and traditional societies remaining anywhere on earth. Amidst the many inlets dominating this famous promontory that slices the sea, the National Council's Oman Anthropological Immersion Program's participants will be able to swim and snorkel to their hearts' content offshore Telegraph Island, a rugged outcropping of rock that was one of the marvels of mid-19th century British imperial telecommunication. The group will also visit villages atop the Musandam overlooking the fjords of what has been aptly termed Arabia's Norway.

Whilst traveling deep into the interior and along the coasts, the delegation will be transported in hardy four-wheel drive all-terrain vehicles. Throughout our time in Oman there will be ample opportunity to photograph and video-record some of the most stunning scenery and people in all of Arabia.

 

The Indian Ocean port of Sur, home to many craftsmen of Oman's traditional wooden sailing dhows and its merchant captains of the sea who still sail to and from the Gulf, Africa, and lands east.

The Indian Ocean port of Sur, home to many craftsmen of Oman's traditional wooden sailing dhows and its merchant captains of the sea who still sail to and from
the Gulf, Africa, and lands east.

 

Omani Bedouin cameleers traverse the eastern reaches of the Rub’ Al-Khali (Empty Quarter), the world’s largest desert.

Omani Bedouin cameleers traverse the eastern reaches of the Rub' Al-Khali (Empty Quarter), the world's largest desert.

 

A traditional Arab sailing dhow, fashioned from wood and crafted by hand in the manner of Omani shipwrights and mariners of yesteryear, plies the sea in and out of the Hormuz Strait, the world’s most strategically vital waterway.

A traditional Arab sailing dhow, fashioned from wood and crafted by hand in the manner of Omani shipwrights and mariners of yesteryear, plies the sea in and out of the Hormuz Strait, the world's most strategically vital waterway.

 

Potential Omani leaders of tomorrow – schoolboys, their book bags strapped to their backs, returning home from a day’s study in Qumzar, a small seaside village tucked into a cove adjacent to the Hormuz Strait.

Potential Omani leaders of tomorrow - schoolboys, their book bags strapped to their backs, returning home from a day's study in Qumzar, a small seaside village tucked into a cove adjacent to the Hormuz Strait.

 

 

Gold inlaid Quranic calligraphy adorns the inner walls of the Grand Mosque in Oman’s Capital Territory.

Gold inlaid Quranic calligraphy adorns the inner walls of the Grand Mosque in Oman's Capital Territory.

 

 

ESCORTS

The escorts for the Twelfth Annual Oman Anthropological Immersion Program will be Dr. John Duke Anthony, President & CEO of the National Council, who has been a regular visitor to Oman since the early 1970s and among whose publications are The Sultanate of Oman and the Emirates of Eastern Arabia: A Cultural Dictionary, and Arab States of the Lower Gulf: People, Politics, Petroleum, and the legendary Peter J. Ochs. Peter, beginning in the 1990s, has lived in Oman for more than a decade and has been the guide for each of the National Council's past five cultural anthropology programs in Oman. A former regular contributor to Oman Today, he is the author of the highly acclaimed Maverick Guide to Oman, to this day still the best guidebook on the Sultanate, and its out of the way and more remote regions which Peter knows like the back of his hand.

 

 

COST

The fee for the Twelfth Annual Oman Anthropological Immersion is $5,250.00 per person*. The cost is not an increase on the 2007 price despite the historically unprecedented levels of interest in and demands placed upon the Sultanate's growing but still limited infrastructure by record numbers of people wanting to visit and explore the country. In short, travelers interested in cultural anthropology have increasingly discovered Oman as a major international destination. Indeed, in the current issue of The Middle East, an article on Oman notes that, between now and the end of April 2008, virtually all hotel rooms in the country are already booked. Individuals interested in reserving space are advised to complete and submit their application and supportive documentation by January 30.

*Please also note that Malone Fellows are responsible for their own transportation to and from, as well as two nights' accommodation in, Washington, D.C.

 

 

Omani desert guides from the Al-Wahibah and Al-Harthy tribes.

Omani desert guides from
the Al-Wahibah and Al-Harthy tribes.

 

 
A panoramic view from atop the centuries-old fort adjacent to the Grand Mosque in Nizwa, historical capital of the former Imamate of Oman located deep in the Sultanate’s interior.

A panoramic view from atop the centuries-old fort adjacent to the Grand Mosque in Nizwa, historical capital of the former Imamate of Oman located deep in the Sultanate's interior.

 

Omani village pitweavers work their magic in producing one of the multi-colored headdresses worn by Omanis.

Omani village pitweavers work their magic in producing one of the multi-colored headdresses worn by Omanis.

 

PROCEDURE

Individuals interested in being selected to participate in the Twelfth Annual Oman Anthropological Immersion Program study visit to the Sultanate of Oman are required to submit a Malone Fellowship Application to the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations no later than January 30, 2008. The application can be found through the link below or on the National Council's website www.ncusar.org.

CLICK HERE FOR A MALONE
FELLOWSHIP APPLICATION
(.pdf - to download,
right-click and select "Save Target As...")

American professionals in academia, government, and business are invited to apply.

Because a visa to Oman is required of individuals entering the country, the National Council will need to obtain a visa for each participant. Once individuals are selected to participate in the study visit, they must be able to confirm that their U.S. passport is valid for at least six (6) months, with at least two (2) clear visa pages adjacent to each other.

 

 

ITINERARY

***PLEASE NOTE THAT THE FOLLOWING ITINERARY IS TENTATIVE BUT BASED
ON THE PROGRAM'S EXPERIENCE SPANNING THE PAST HALF DECADE***

Day 01
Arrive to Seeb International Airport (SIA) in the Sultanate's Capital Territory

Day 02-03
Visits to highlights within the capital area and pre-arranged meetings
We'll start early and head out to the suq in Mutrah to observe the local merchants doing a brisk business with their daily catch of fish and latest stock of fruits and vegetables. Feel free to mingle with the crowds, take pictures of the panoramic corniche with its centuries-old architecture spanning along the Mutrah waterfront and experience the spirit of a bygone era. We'll continue on to the Traditional Suq where one can find a mixture of old and new. Sights, sounds and fragrances are abundant. Then it's on to Old Muscat and the capital area to see the Royal Palace flanked by Jalali and Mirani Forts, built during the late sixteenth century during the Portuguese occupation. Here we will stop at the Zubair Museum, one of the Sultanate's newest, for a fine display of Omani culture, costume, ornamentation, and history. We'll also visit a Hindu Temple that has never ceased to serve the spiritual and social needs of Oman's long-established and vibrant Hindu community. Then on to Al Bustan for a peek at Oman's premiere hotel, the Al Bustan Palace, and the Omani dhow built by Omani craftsmen and the world renowned explorer, Tim Severin, who in the last century, together with Omani navigators and sailors, re-traced the legendary "Sindbad Voyage" of centuries earlier from Muscat to Canton, China. Our next stop is Bandar (Arabic for "port") Jissah where we'll visit the seacoast village of Qantab and home of the Oman Dive Centre.
Return to the hotel for lunch.
After lunch, we'll drive to the outskirts of the city to Royal Shell Oil Company's Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) refinery and Oil Exhibition Centre. From there we'll pass through Shatti (Arabic for "beach") Al-Qurum to the Government Ministries in Al-Khuwair for a stop at the Natural History Museum. We'll finish off the day with a stop in Bawshar, a rural and agricultural community situated on both sides of Wadi Bawshar not far from Muscat. Return to hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 04
Trek to the Interior
We will depart Muscat at 8AM and head through the Sumail Gap that divides the Hajar Mountains, East and West, first stopping off at Fanjah, a prosperous community along the old trade routes to the interior. Then, as we move further inland along the flanks of the jabals (Arabic for "mountains"), we'll stop at Birqat (Arabic for "well") Al-Mawz (Arabic for "bananas)", the rainbow city, so-called because of the configuration of strata that serves as a backdrop for the town. Then on to Nizwa, the old capital and seat of the former Ibadhi Islamic Imamate, where sights, sounds and aromas fill the air. We'll visit the suq and fortress, see the grand mosque and break for lunch at a traditional-style Omani restaurant. In the afternoon we'll see the pottery center in Bahla, Bahla Fort (under reconstruction by UNESCO) and Jabrin Castle and Fort, one of the loveliest, best preserved, and most famous in all of Oman, before heading to the hotel in Nizwa.

Day 05
Into the Jabals
From Nizwa, we move on to Al-Hamra to take a peek at the Hasat bin Sult Rock with its ancient petroglyphs, the likes of which in this instance are to be found nowhere else in Arabia, then to the remote village of Ghul at the outlet of Wadi Nakhr. It is in this general area where one of Oman's most famous tribes, the Bani Ghafir, which claims descent from the ancient northern tribes of Arabia (sometimes also referred to as the Adnani or Nizari line of Arabs of old) is situated. More than 200 years ago, there was a long and hard fought civil war in Oman between peoples led by the Bani Ghafir against those led by the Bani Hina' (plural: Hinnai'i), a tribe long associated with the Imamate's leadership and whose ancestral origins are linked to Arabia's southernmost tribes in the Yemen (often for that reason sometimes referred to as Al-Yamani, and/or the Qahtan, which is Arabic for the Old Testament's Jochtan). From here we climb to the summit where we get a good glimpse of the highest point in Oman (Jabal Shams) and then, unless one is exceptionally acrophobic, take a look down at the Wadi Nakhr Gorge, the Grand Canyon of Oman. Return to Nizwa for overnight.

Day 06
Desert Trek
Depart camp after breakfast. Travel southwards to the outpost town of Sinaw to stop at the Bedouin market and possibly carry out a transaction or two. We will stop at Lizq to see the hillside steps at the oldest recorded structure in Oman (Bronze Age). Then we'll proceed to observe village life in Akdar and Rawdah, see the castle and visit with the last surviving pit weaver in Oman. Then on to the old mercantile community of Al-Mansfah, a largely abandoned cluster of once stately mud-brick mansions that saw their heyday 150 years ago but, in numerous cases, have long since fallen to dust. Finally, it's on to the Bedouin camp in the Wahibah Sands -- in recent years, re-named Sharqiyyah Sands, for reasons everyone will find of interest -- where first, we'll pile into all-terrain four-wheel drive vehicles to climb and descend, climb and descend, and climb and descend yet again the region's highest sand dunes, before, under a full moon, we will spend a star-studded night in the desert-Bedouin style, BBQ dinner and entertainment.

Day 07
"Wadi-Bashing"
After breakfast the following morning we'll head for Wadi Bani Khalid for a hike and swim in clear water pools. We'll visit the oasis farms that produce dates and the only place in Oman that cultivates red bananas. We'll then move deeper into the interior, visiting the Rashid Al-Hamuda Mosque, built in the 17th century and featuring 52 domes, and Bedouin camps and desert woodlands in the environs of Kamil, center of the Al-Harthy tribe. The latter has long been one of the Sultanate's most famous for reasons that will become apparent during our stay in this region. We will meet with some of its most prominent members to learn about the tribe's traditional position and role within Omani culture and society, and savor the history of its earlier vast trading and political links to the East African islands of Pemba and Zanizibar, and the ports of Lamu and Mombasa in Kenya, and Dar Essalaam in Tanzania. We'll return to our base camp for a second night in the desert. (Other activities may include attending the local camel races and visiting with one or more Bedouin tent-dwellers to learn about their and their children's lives, together with their animals and other means of livelihood, the lives of their forebears, and the dreams and aspirations of parents and children alike for the future.)

Day 08
Return to Muscat
We will make our way back to Muscat in the late morning and arrive for our stay at the Majan Hotel and final dinner in Muscat before we commence to visit yet another dramatic and fascinating part of Oman, one populated by people whose ways of life are even less well known and understood to outsiders than what we will have already experienced elsewhere in the country.
Afternoon and evening at leisure.

Day 09
Travel to Musandam
Transfer and check in to hotel.
Afternoon visit, first, to see some of Arabia's and humanity's most ancient rock-drawings, and then drive up to Jabal Harim, the highest point in the Musandam, down to view Khawr Al-Najd, one of the peninsula's most scenic fjords, and stopover in the Acacia forest before returning to hotel.

Day 10
Into the Fjords
In the morning we'll hitch a dhow and sail to Khawr Ash-Sham, the most prominent fjord in the Musandam, stopping at Telegraph Island, for a few years in the 1860s a lone British telecommunications outpost linking London with Bombay, to swim, snorkel, and take in the surrounding majestic views. At the far end, where the water is as smooth as glass, we'll stop off at the village of Sibi and get a feel for this isolated existence. After an on-board lunch and afternoon swim, we'll head out to Kumzar at the northern extremity of the Musandam directly across the sea from the south shore of Iran. We'll come ashore in this sea- and wind-swept cove to visit what is undeniably one of the world's few remaining communities where some aspects of life, beyond being barely supportive of a rudimentary existence in the extreme, seem almost hermetically sealed, as if frozen in time. Here, one can ponder: How much longer can a remote and hardy people's way of life, long shaped by its fisher-folk and captains of the sea, remain largely outside but fail to be influenced irrevocably by, for good or bad, the dynamics of faster-paced modernization and development occurring simultaneously in the more distant world beyond and elsewhere within Oman itself?
Dinner and overnight aboard the dhow.

Day 11
Return to Khasab
On board the dhow as we further investigate life in the fjords. Return to Khasab in late afternoon. Overnight in Hotel.

Leave for flight out of Dubai back to Washington, D.C.

 

The Council is currently accepting applications to participate in this study visit.

CLICK HERE FOR A MALONE FELLOWSHIP APPLICATION
(.pdf - to download, right-click and select "Save Target As...")

American professionals in academia, government, and business are invited to apply.

 

All text, photographs, and graphics are copyrighted by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

 

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