AKR in Oman 2
National Day is Ongoing and Everywhere
National Day occurs every year on the birthday of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said: November 18th. This year, because the day coincided with Aid al-Adha, one of the most important days in the Muslim calendar, the festivities and my trip were postponed for a week. My friends that know Oman assured me that there would still be plenty going on, they were right! There seems to be a month of National Days in store for me and evidence of public sentiment abounds. The first evening my host took me on a three hour driving tour of Muscat. The city is spread out over nearly 600 square miles, much of it strung out along the coast of the Arabian Sea. Its several districts are bordered on the inland side or separated by mountains. With the ultra modern Sultan Qaboos University on one end of the city and the old ports of Muscat and Matrah on the other, dramatic contrasts in the urban landscape are unmistakable. Unlike Abu Dhabi, the city in the United Arab Emirates and just to the north of Oman, which I visited last year, none of its buildings are skyscrapers. This is intentional and a result of careful city planning and, as a result, you can get quite a perspective on the landscape, even from a car. Now (and this will only last a few weeks I am told) buildings are lit up with garlands and the solar powered street lamps, already elegant in design are bejeweled with more ornamental lighting. Even some of the cars, which normally are allowed to have no bumper stickers, advertisements, or after market designs (such as roof racks or special rims, for example) have congratulatory stickers and posters of the Sultan.
The Omani Center for Fine Arts of the Royal Court of Oman “encourages the youth and helps in building and developing their talents.” This year on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of National Day the Omani Center for Fine Arts supports 40 artists, both foreign and Omani who are creating designs and painting 40 life-size Orynx, the gazelle-like long-horned antelope, a species native to and protected in Oman. The “Orynx Project” culminates in the exhibition of all 40 painted fiberglass models on December 10 at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture and another exhibition on December 14 that includes a number fine arts media including the painting of murals by an international cadré of artists. A young artist at the center invited me to take some photos yesterday, and when I popped in today, two other artists gave me a friendly welcome. “Ah you must be Anne the lady who plays the ‘ud. We’ve been waiting for you. Give us your number so we extend an invitation to you. How do you like Oman?”
On Omani television music videos of songs specially composed for the Sultan and the occasion of National Day play continuously. Keeping an eye on the TV is a wonderful way to get the many styles of music that play in Oman in my ear and also to view the extraordinary beauty of the country, which includes several world heritage sites. Just in three day’s time I have encountered several newly composed songs or attempts at them. New songs for the 40th were pointed out to me by my host when driving around the city while listening to the radio. Yesterday in the Mucat Daily Newspaper an Indian ex-pat, living in Muscat for 18 years was celebrated for composing a song whose sole inspiration has been His Majesty, the Sultan, “who had brought peace, progress and prosperity to the sultanate.” And at an exhibition mounted by students at the Sultan Qaboos University, budding lyricists were spouting praise poetry cum song lyrics for His Majesty.
Several events on a massive scale have been planned and now that Queen Elizabeth II, who was here when I arrived, has departed it looks as though I will be able to witness some of these festivities myself.