Everyone who visits this once ‘hermit Sultanate’ could easily testify: Oman is ‘different’ from the other countries of the Gulf Region. Its people are warm, talkative and proud. Despite the fact that Oman is poorer than Bahrain or Saudi Arabia, it actually feels richer, because there is no extreme misery there; the citizens are clearly well taken care of.
While in Saudi Arabia, during Ramadhan, outrageous orgies of wasting food and vulgar wealth-flashing are performed on a daily basis; Oman is quietly trying to save children in neighboring Yemen instead.
An airport employee, Muhammad, explained to me:
“My country is habitually sending two flights per week to neighboring Yemen. During Ramadhan, the frequency increases. Our airplanes bring gravely injured and very sick men, women and children to Oman. Here, they get first rate and free medical treatment. Our doctors are trying to save their lives, as if they were our own people. Yemeni people are our brothers.”
This is quite shocking, considering that the militantly anti-Shia regime that is Saudi Arabia (KSA) is actually bombing big parts of Yemen back to the Stone Age, while an Omani neighbor – the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – is occupying the coastal area of Yemen, including its most important port of Aden.
The Syrians also have plenty of good things to say about Oman. I have heard praise all over the country.
In turn, the Syrian government is generally admired by Omani people; not by all, but definitely by the majority. Oman has always maintained diplomatic relations with Damascus, and never joined any coalition that has been trying to destabilize or to overthrow the legitimate Syrian administration. All this is in sharp contrast to Qatar and Saudi Arabia – countries that have been, for years, on behalf of the West and Israel, injecting and then supporting various terrorist organizations that have been brutalizing millions of Syrian citizens.
Oman does not have any US or EU military bases on its territory. It does not need them. It is not at war with anybody, and it is not trying to overthrow any regional governments. Hosting strategic bombers, US Navy ships, and ‘Central Commands’ are not how Oman’s rulers want to guarantee their country’s prosperity.
Instead, there is a magnificent opera house near the coast in Muscat, and right next to it, a lavish public palace dedicated to the arts. Despite the proximity of some luxury 5-star hotels, the beach remains public. The Ruler of Oman apparently loves music and the arts. A shocking contrast to places such as Saudi Arabia, where the arts and music are discouraged, or out rightly banned; considered ‘haram’.
I spoke to Omani people, and they appear to be satisfied with their lives, and with the direction in which their country is evolving.
I stopped a group of men (Sunni Muslims), leaving a mosque, and asked them about the Sunni and Shia divide, as well as their feelings towards Iran, which is presently facing an imminent threat from the United States.
The Shia, they replied, “are our brothers”:
“Here, it is nothing like in Saudi Arabia where they kill Shia Muslims. Nothing like in Bahrain, where most of people are Shia, but are treated with horrible spite, often having to live in total misery. We don’t differentiate and do not discriminate against Shia. In Oman, we inter-marry, and it is not a big deal. Sometimes we break the fast together, and we bring gifts to each other. We help our neighbors, when they are in trouble, and it matters nothing whether they are Sunni or Shia.”
Almost everybody here feels great sympathy for Iran and its people.
My driver has travelled to Teheran and Shiraz on nine occasions. He admires Iran’s culture, as well as the kindness and determination of the Iranian people. He strongly believes that they have the full right to live their own lives, free from the illegal sanctions imposed on them by Washington.
A group of worshippers, also expressed great admiration for Syria and its government, and then of the two countries that are now, apparently, reshaping the world:
“Without Russia and China, the United States and its allies would have already swallowed us all.”
Their support for the Palestinians, and their outrage over the Israeli actions and apartheid, appears to be genuine, not hypocritical or ‘theoretical’, as it is in the rest of the Gulf.
I have always felt comfortable here, even during my previous visits, but this time, in the era of global madness that is being spread by the West, I felt greatly impressed by the wisdom, kindness and civility of this ‘forgotten Sultanate’, which possesses a big heart and an impressive understanding of the global situation.
It is not that Oman has been always such a gentle and considerate nation. In the past, its Muslim warriors, colonized and plundered the east coast of Africa, from Somalia to what is now Kenya, and all the way down to Tanzania. Like the Europeans, Omanis practiced the slave trade.
But things changed, and eventually, Oman turned into an introverted nation, and stayed as such for many decades. Then, when it began “opening up to the world”, it did it on its own terms, without becoming subordinate to foreign interests.
While Oman’s Duqm Port is now theoretically “open” to British ships, Oman is not hosting any permanent US military bases, like those located all around Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Oman is maintaining a very close relationship with Iran, and no pressure from the West is managing to change this reality.
And while to ‘the world’ it is now opening up, it does not mean that “the world” is exclusively the West.
Sure, for my taste, there are still too many reports in the local newspapers, taken from the AFP and other Western press agencies and sources. Omani people are not immune to the ‘official narrative’ which is being injected into all the corners of the world by the West. But that is only a small part of the story. Interacting with Omani people, I realized that they are much more knowledgeable about the world than the rest of the Gulf.
What is especially significant is that China is becoming a close friend and an ally of Oman. This mutually beneficial relationship is here to stay.
My good acquaintance, a Chinese diplomat based in the Gulf, told me on condition of anonymity:
“China and Oman share a profound friendship of over 1,200 years. As early as 750 AD, a great Omani voyager Abu Obeid, made his journey to Guangzhou, China, and marked the beginning of the friendly exchanges between China and Oman, and also the exchanges between Chinese civilization and Arabic civilizations.”
Remarkably, that happened in the historic period when the West (Europe) was plundering and murdering its own people, as well as the populations of the ‘surrounding areas’.
On April 30, 2019, the Oman Observer, in an article, “Sultanate important partner in building Belt and Road”, interviewed Ms Li Lingbing, the Ambassador of China to Oman:
“Li Lingbing… stressed the Sultanate’s important role in the Belt and Road Initiative, pointing out the traditional friendly relations between the two countries, and the important role of the Sultanate on the belt and road since ancient times.
The Omani and Chinese sides announced last year the establishment of a strategic partnership and signed the Belt and Road cooperation document. Oman officially joined the circle of friends of “Belt and Road”, she said in a press conference held at the Chinese Embassy in Muscat. She noted that the Sultanate and China share a long historical heritage, adding that Oman enjoys an important geographical location and excellent ports, such as Duqm, Salalah and Sohar that have a natural advantage in participating in building the “Belt and Road”.”
It appears that Oman is one ‘sane’ nation in the middle of a region which has been colonized and usurped by the West. Oman’s rulers are more interested in the wellbeing of their people than in amassing tremendous wealth for the few, through shameless collaboration with Washington, London, Paris and Tel Aviv.
According to Dr Hamed Alhamami, an Omani citizen and the regional director of a UN office, “Oman is a special place in the region with many divisions. We play a neutral, impartial role and mind our own business. We support countries and people in need when we can, like Yemen and Syria, on humanitarian grounds.”
Oman is no one’s colony. It is now close to China. It is close to Iran. It helps the devastated people of Yemen, and it does what it can for Syria. It keeps friendly relations with the West and with other countries in the Gulf, but it takes no dictates from anyone. It has managed to survive this way for decades.
As a result, it is liked and deeply respected by most of the people of the Middle East.
Andre Vltchek is philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He’s a creator of Vltchek’s World in Word and Images, and a writer that penned a number of books, including China and Ecological Civilization. He writes especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”