Oman has been featured prominently in The Plain Dealer newspaper, Ohio's largest daily newspaper, which carried an article titled "Oman modernizes while preserving unique traditions" by the well-known writer Peggy Turbett. Usama bin Karim Al Haremi, Head Corporate Communications & Media of Oman Air, said that the Plain Dealer is the number one newspaper in daily circulation with nearly 800,000 readers daily, based on circulation per occupied household in the core county of the nation’s 20 largest newspapers, and the number two newspaper in Sunday circulation among America's largest selling newspapers, where the average readership jumps to nearly 1.0 million. He stated that the writer Peggy Turbett has turned her life-long love of travel into a series of published articles and photo exhibitions. She says in her report released on Sunday, April 06, 2008: "The Sultanate of Oman is a country of car dealerships and camels, an oasis of economic and political calm in the turbulent Middle East. It is the land of mystical frankincense, where the seismic movement of the ancient into the future has taken a mere 40 years."
For 10 days in January, I travelled to this predominantly Muslim country as part of a group organized by New York-based Archaeological Tours. About the size of New Mexico, Oman fills the eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered on the west by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and the south by Yemen, with a long coast running along the Arabian Sea. To the north, across the Gulf of Oman, lies Iran.
"It's a peaceful, well-run country," said Trevor Marchand, a professor of Islamic and indigenous cultures at the University of London who accompanied the tour. "People have basically everything they need. So why get involved in other people's politics? It's kind of like the Switzerland of the Middle East."
Two factors play into that stability: the discovery of commercial quantities of oil in 1964 and the benevolent monarchy of Sultan Qaboos bin Said. In just four decades, Sultan Qaboos has brought Oman from the Middle Ages into the 21st century, building a network of modern roads, schools for boys and girls that have achieved 80 percent literacy, and free medical care in all districts. Economically buoyed by commercial oil fields in the Al Wusta region, he has accomplished this leap into modern living standards while preserving the core of traditional Omani values for this country of about 3.2 million.
One of the largest Muslim houses of worship on the Arabian Peninsula, the Grand Mosque is a soaring structure of Italian marble and Indian sandstone, a gift of Sultan Qaboos as a symbol of Oman’s renaissance. Started in 1995 and finished 2001, the mosque has a capacity of 20,000 worshippers. In the main hall, a chandelier of Swarovski crystal hangs over a carpet, woven by 600 Iranian women over four years and weighing 21 tons.
Along our route, we stopped at a series of forts, named Nakhl, Rustaq, Mishkin, Bahla, and Nizwa. The massive fortifications were built hundreds of years ago to guard caravans carrying dates, frankincense and other goods on trade routes across the mountains and deserts to the Batinah coast. Though some of the sites have tumbled into ruins, many others are being restored, in keeping with Sultan Qaboos’ desire to preserve the Omani heritage.
Just as commercial oil has brought prosperity to modern Oman, frankincense spurred mystery, wealth, and global trade from the southern Dhofar region. A few millennia later, early this year, I stood at the ruins of Sumhuram, the pre-Islamic port that bustled with shipments of frankincense from 4 B.C. to A.D. 1, as the rocky remnants serve now as a perch overlooking the beautiful bay while a fabulous wind whipped my skirt and cooled my skin. I traded some English words for Arabic with Musoud Saeed, a white-robed guide from Taqa who advised me on getting a good deal on frankincense in the old souq in Salalah.
Highlighting the importance of the newspaper, Head of Oman Air's Corporate Communications & Media stated that The Plain Dealer has showed a daily circulation increase and outperformed 15 of the nation's 20 largest newspapers. Established in 1842, it is one of the few organizations that have been a part of the Cleveland landscape for over 165 years. The Plain Dealer has won awards in editorial, photographic and production excellence in local, state, regional, and national competitions, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary in 2005.