A snapshot of one of the most hospitable countries in the world, a place I called home for five wonderful years.
Linda Pappas Funsch is the author of Oman Reborn: Balancing Tradition and Modernization, and a specialist in modern Middle Eastern and Islamic studies. She spoke with Explore Parts Unknown to share her expertise on the culture of Oman. With the enthusiasm of a born teacher, Funsch explains what makes modern Oman unique, the relationship between Omanis and the Sultan, and where the country is headed economically and culturally in the 21st century.
When I was serving with the Ford Foundation in Beirut, I visited Oman in 1974. We were embarking on a joint research project with the Government of Oman and the UNICEF office in the region, a project that was designed to assist women and children with health and literacy issues. I served on an international team, and I was dramatically impressed by what I saw. Having lived in Lebanon and Egypt and traveled around various regions of the Levant, I thought Oman in 1974 was like the other side of the moon. You have to appreciate that in 1970 Oman had only six miles of paved road. There were only three primary schools, which enrolled less than 1,000 students—all boys—and there was no national infrastructure. It was a very, very different sort of place. Sultan Qaboos at that time had the foresight to ask international agencies to help him prioritize a development plan, which is part of the reason I was there. I was struck with the raw beauty of the place and captivated particularly by the warmth of the Omani people.