Before 1970, Oman’s capital, Muscat, locked its fortress-styled gates at night, a curfew was imposed from sunset to sunrise and its citizens only travelled with kerosene lanterns when walking after dark. It was not until His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said succeeded his father in 1970, that Muscat’s ancient gates were symbolically unlocked.
Today, with an economy that is rapidly diversifying, a population of 3.1 million and a social, health, educational system that is the envy of much of the region, the Oman of the 21st century is a testament to His Majesty’s Vision 2020, in building Oman into a modern state.
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said was born 18 November 1940 in Salalah as the only son of Sultan Said Bin Taymur. He was educated in Salalah, India and the U.K. At the age of 20 he entered England’s prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as an officer cadet. His plans for the future upon his return were readily apparent when he gave his first speech to the Omani people:
“I promise to proceed forthwith in the process of creating a modern government. My first act will be the immediate abolition of all the unnecessary restrictions on your lives and activities. My people, I will proceed as quickly as possible to transform your life into a prosperous one with a bright future. Every one of you must play his part towards the goal. Our country in the past was famous and strong. If we work in unity and cooperation, we will regenerate that glorious past and we will take a respectable place in the world.”
In the early years of the Sultanate of Oman, His Majesty called on Omanis then living overseas to return and help rebuild the country. He instituted a series of Five-Year economic plans as part of Vision 2020 to precisely map the changes being considered across all the individual sectors. This was the beginning of the Omani Renaissance. Education was a major focus as was the development of the local infrastructure and the need to transform the government by establishing a Cabinet of Ministers overseeing a host of new Ministries, including the new Ministry of Tourism.
The Ministry of Tourism was created as a mean of economic diversification while also being part of the focus on developing the local services industry to provide employment for the growing young population. Strict guidelines were put into place, such as setting height limitations on buildings – 10 floors allowed only, due to the Sultan’s passion in preserving Oman’s natural environment and animal reserves as best as possible.
Hence, Renaissance Day was born by the nations most revered and respected Renaissance man, His Majesty, to mark the noticeable progress and development of Oman as a modern nation.
The transformation of Oman has been noted by many from the shores of Australia and New Zealand. Australian visitor numbers alone between 2011 and 2012 witnessed a significant increase by 71.2%; while the over all number of cruise passengers visiting in the same period rose to 256,721 – this is destined to increase with the recent Qantas and Emirates Airlines airline alliance as well as the new cruise terminal being built in Muscat Harbour.
The Sultanate boasts a wide range of activities for the young and young at heart due to its splendid natural environment with ample opportunity to immerse in the authentic, unspoilt Arabia experience.
For more information visit www.tourismoman.com.au or speak to your local travel agent.
FIVE FAST FUN FACTS:
· The median age is 24.4 years
· Life expectancy is 75 years
· Languages: Arabic, English & Urdu
· Entry visas are not required for NZ citizens due to the GCC Free-Trade Agreement signed in 2012.
· Omani food is a fusion of Indian and African flavours with rice as the main staple ingredient.
Video link: http://youtu.be/9HHjJvVbKlw