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Connecting the Waters

It all started in Sur around 5,000 years ago, when the first Omani sailors decided to venture out into the sea in order to explore the Gulf, the Indian Ocean, and the East African coast. Since then, sailing has been Oman’s most iconic business and recreational activity, putting the Sultanate at the center of Arabian maritime exploration and trade.

In recent years Oman’s geopolitical situation has elevated the Sultanate’s political position to one of key importance to the region’s stability. Its role as a diplomatic bridge has appeased tensions between the Gulf and neighboring countries, allowing the Sultanate to continue developing strong bilateral and intraregional relations. But this role as a connector and sea gateway to the Arab Peninsula is not new to Oman, with a rich maritime history accompanying the country’s efforts toward prosperity and the hopes of regional harmony.
It is not a coincidence that almost all of the priority sectors in Oman’s Vision 2020 are in some way connected to sailing. From ports, transport, and logistics to a burgeoning tourism and hospitality sector, all economic sectors in Oman share a common, historic bond with this Omani tradition that has witnessed the progress of the Sultanate from the time when economic and cultural trade routes were first established between cities in Mesopotamia and the place Sumerians referred to as “Majan.“ Sailing has become a symbol of prosperity for the people of Oman, and an emblem that has proudly represented the Sultanate abroad.

One of the Sultanate’s most prolific flag-bearers has been Oman Sail. An initiative blessed by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, Oman Sail has successfully redefined and recaptured Oman’s historic sailing tradition and that for almost 10 years put the name of Oman among the top ranks of the most challenging sailing international competitions in the world. Commenting exclusively for TBY, Oman Sail’s CEO, David Graham, highlighted the importance of taking advantage of Oman’s historic sailing culture. “We use the past as a connector and the sport of sailing as vehicle to promote the country as a tourist destination.“

True to this tradition, Oman’s sailing heritage relics and historic artifacts are once again anchored home, serving as centerpieces in the new National Museum of Oman in Muscat—a project developed by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture (MoHC) and one that features a learning center, conservation facilities, and 14 permanent galleries, including the essential Maritime History Gallery. The museum—which has agreements with the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Tate from London, the Smithsonian from the US, and the Calouste Gulbenkian foundation, from Portugal—feeds upon Oman’s oldest and most iconic activity in order to tell the story of a nation that changed the history of humanity when copper was extracted from the Majan mines and then transported to Mesopotamia, where the precious raw material was converted into bronze, fueling through it an entire era of human development.

Today, sailing once again takes its position as a key piece in the development of Oman, with maritime trade, shipping, and transport remaining vital to Oman’s prosperity. By creating hundreds of jobs, supporting the acceleration of the economic diversification process, and serving as a successful guide to prosperity, Oman’s sailing heritage is a reminder of the historic success that Oman has been able to achieve through taking advantage of its 3,000km of coastline and its ideal central location between continents.

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