For close to a decade, Oman has been one of the best kept secrets of Asian expats and luxury travelers’. Mark Abouzeid returns to Muscat after 7 years to find an Oman making its international debut in fashion, culture and the arts.
Mention to friends and family that you are planning a trip to Oman and, invariably, you will be met by dumb stares and the inevitable, “Where?” Seven years after being introduced Oman to travel and lifestyle readers around the globe, Oman’s reputation as an expensive, luxury destination and its geographical position between Iran and Yemen help to keep this jewel one of the best kept secrets of the Middle East.
“Located on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman is a land of rich culture, undiscovered landscapes, and booming development. It’s diverse landscape offers beaches, mountains, wadis (gorges), and deserts that make it unique in the Gulf. ”
“Oman is one of the safest countries in the region, with many expatriates integrated into society. Although one may imagine desert, camels and tents, it is a developed nation incorporated well with the 21st century. Since 1970, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said has led his country to prosperity, economic diversification and peace.” (aiesec.org)
Thanks to the Sultan and his ministers, Oman is no longer just another petrol state; 15 years ago, faced with depleting natural gas reserves, Sultan Qaboos began a program of economic diversification and tourism promotion that continues to date. Seven years ago, the fruits of this work were already evident. Muscat boasted one of the best rated Luxury Hotels in the world, the Chedi Oman; and had seen a spate of new openings including an entire cove for the Shangr-La’s three adjoining resorts. Not surprisingly, Oman’s diverse nature and luxury accommodations quickly made it the darling favorite of the world travel elite.
Years laters, Oman as an international cultural center has made its debut on the global stage to a welcoming audience. Omani fashion designers are making their names in London and Paris, luxury brands are setting up their storefronts in world capitals and Muscat boasts an event calendar second to none in the region. In a 30 day period, Muscat has hosted some of the great voices of lyric opera, the 3rd annual fashion week (fast becoming the main fashion event in the area), EFG Bank Sailing Arabia regatta, the Tour of Oman bike race and, finally, the Muscat Culture Festival featuring the 1st International Festival of Folklore.
After the current event season, there can be little doubt that Oman is maturing into a well rounded international center for culture, tourism and design without abandoning its cultural heritage.