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Oman and Its Renaissance.

For thousands of years Oman lay along the sea trade routes between East and West. The country was the link between Arabia and Africa. From the seventh to the 15th century Oman's maritime trade flourished. Omani sailors were known in the ports of the world; her merchants to seafarers across the globe. However, patterns changed and when steam eventually supplanted sail Oman slipped into neglect. From being a thriving maritime commercial centre, Oman gradually became an isolated backwater, a situation which prevailed for over a century, until the final third of the 20th century.

The beginning of a period of vast change which would result in the complete transformation of Oman began with the accession to power of Sultan Qaboos in 1970. Oman has been revitalised under the enlightened leadership of the sultan. That, coupled with a pragmatic approach to the development funded by Oman's oil earnings, has seen the country grow to become a unified modern nation in the space of the last 25 years.

Just seven years after Sultan Qaboos came to power Sir Donald Hawsley, Britain's first ambassador to Oman produced the first edition of probably the most comprehensive book on Oman ever to be written, Oman and its Renaissance. Now, to mark the Sultan's 25 years in power, publishers Stacey International, have produced a special revised and reconstructed Jubilee edition of the book.

This spectacular publication containing text by Sir Donald Hawley, generally acknowledged as being among the leading international authorities on the sultanate, is also packed with scores of magnificent colour plates detailing all aspects of life in Oman.

After a special section cataloguing the first quarter century of Sultan Qaboos's rule, the book charts the history of Oman from the end of the Ice Age until the present day. A family tree of the Al bu Said family allows the reader to trace the present ruler's ancestors back to 1749 and the then ruler, Ahmad ibn Said.

A chapter of Oman and its renaissance is devoted to the country's land and landscape. Oman's terrain is rich and varied, a land of stark beauty and striking contrasts. Magnificent mountains of many shades of pink and red, grey and green stand jagged against the clear blue of the sky. Flat plains stretch as far as the eye can see. Deserts roll away into the Rub' al Khali - the Empty Quarter - that great sand sea with mighty waves of dunes rising to 600 feet and more in height. The 1,700 kilmetre coastline sweeps in a giant crescent south - westwards from Jazirat as Salamah in the extreme north, where Oman is separated by only 55kms from mainland Iran, across the Straits of Hormuz, to its southern border with Yemen.

The Omani people are frequently referred to by Sultan Qaboos as the country's greatest asset. From time immemorial they have sailed the seas and tilled the land, mining its riches, terracing the high mountains and, with a complex pattern of falajes, irrigated the earth. Bedu from the desert have traded with merchants of the cities and those same merchants with the world. New horizons have opened. Modern industry has not only introduced many new opportunities and professions but supplied the wealth to foster a spectacular growth of hospitals, schools and colleges.

This work examines Oman's past with all its dramatic changes of fortune. The author sets the present in the context of the past, illustrating how despite changing economic trends certain things remain constant, among these Oman's strategic geographical position and the strengths and traditions of its indigenous population. Today the prosperity, health and educational opportunities for Omanis exceed anything their forefathers could have imagined.

Oman and its Renaissance by Sir Donald Hawley is published by Stacey international of 128, Kensington Church Street, London W8 4BH
COPYRIGHT 1996 IC Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Hawsley, Donald
Publication:The Middle East
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 1996
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