Will Altman: Muscat, Oman Fall 2010
Click here to read more about Will Altman's Experience
School for International Training
Oman: Political Culture & Economic Development in the Gulf
Muscat, Oman, Fall 2010
Six in the morning looks like two in the afternoon. The sun is high and the heat is fierce. I roll over on my cot and nearly snuggle with the tiny AC unit filling up my window. The Middle East: desert sands and turban-garbed cutthroats on camels strewn across the barren landscape in search of water and shade. The heat wafting off the dry, cracked ground suggests the day’s lack of respite. Six-thirty, time to wake up. I catch the bus to school. On the way, we take the newly paved Sultan Qaboos Highway and pass two Starbucks, a KFC and many local artisan shops and markets filled with men and women, some covered in traditional dress from head to toe, some in shorts and tanks tops. Tourists, journalists, adventures, locals, and students mesh and mingle in the morning’s endeavors. Oman is not the “Middle East of CNN.” Terrorists and civil unrest do not abound. It is hot, but modern amenities make the heat a simple inconvenience. There are camels, but nobody rides them. Oman is a melting pot of ethnicities, races and cultures, it is also an Islamic state ruled by a monarch.
In the Fall of 2010 I attended the SIT program "Oman: Political Culture and Economic Development in The Gulf." My program was based in Oman's capital city of Muscat. I witnessed the way in which Arab, Asian, British and African traditions, languages and cultures culminated in the heart of this close-knit city. I was also fortunate enough to further immerse myself in Omani society through intensive language instruction and a wonderful 'homestay' experience with an Omani family whom I will never forget.
Getting to know your self necessarily involves moving outside of your comfort zone. Meeting Iraqis, Iranians, Tanzanians and Somalis to share their food and customs are things I was not used to, and as an American inevitably carried an inheritance of political burden into. In order to know love, you must leave aside the initial and ingrained feelings of distrust and apathy that accompany new contexts and new people. In Oman, I was able to recognize and savor in the discomfort that comes with growth. On one occasion, I sat in an apartment with three Iraqi men, my age, all of which left Iraq for Oman shortly after American soldiers accidently killed their relatives. I listened to their stories, their tears and their reminiscent laughter. These men sat with me as equals and shared what little they had. “You are an American, but you did not kill our grandmother, have some Masgoof.” In Oman, I learned how to open my heart via the kindness of others.
My program incorporated several excursions outside of Muscat. I had the opportunity to travel to the Omani interior and the Southern border with Yemen, the Sharqiyya, the Dhofar regions and Salalah as well as to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai.
Oman is diverse in both its landscape and populace. The following pictures illustrate the co-existence of Oman's majestic country side/ desert and the nation's industrialized cityscape. Two photos were taken in Dubai: one from a helicopter over the city and another on board an Iranian sailing vessel
Photos taken by Will Altman.