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Renaissance Day

Renaissance Day 2018 and 2019

July 23rd in Oman is Renaissance Day, the commemoration of the accession of sitting Sultan Qaboos Bin Saed to the throne.

201823 JulMonRenaissance Day
201923 JulTueRenaissance Day

Oman is an absolute monarchy, an Islamic sultanate, in which all power is concentrated in the ruling sultan. Thus, the rise of a new sultan is of great significance. Qaboos’ rise is remembered by celebrating the first day of his long reign, which began in 1970. His reign is particularly important because he embarked Oman upon a modernisation program that has had far-reaching effects on the nation.

Sultan Qaboos stands in a long line of rulers from the Saidi dynasty, which reaches back 14 generations. He first became sultan in 1970 after deposing his father, Said bin Taimur, in a “palace coup.” His motive was to give Oman a “new beginning” or “renaissance,” which he immediately proceeded to do. At the time, Oman had but three schools, two hospitals, and six miles of paved roads. Today, Oman has many modern highways, health clinics in all major cities, and more than a thousand schools. The driving force of these changes was Oman’s vast oil wealth, and the goal of it has been to end Oman’s relative isolation from the world.

At the beginning of his reign, Qaboos immediately changed the official name of his country from “the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman” to simply “the Sultanate of Oman” to promote national unity. That unity was soon tested when Communist guerrillas from Yemen spilled over the border and created the Dhofar Rebellion. Forces from Iran, Jordan, and the U.K. came to the aid of Oman to put the uprising down. Since then, Oman has maintained a policy of strict neutrality but has had much more normalised relations with Iran than other states on the Persian Gulf.

Since Sultan Qaboos ascended the throne, much has changed in Oman. There are many tokens of his rule that locals and tourists can admire. Three of the most important tourist attractions related to reign of Qaboos are:

  • Al Alam Palace in Muscat. In the capital city of Muscat can be seen the grand palace of the Sultan, which has stood for more than two centuries. You will not be permitted to enter the palace, but many tourists come to walk nearby and take snapshots of its impressive architecture. Also to be seen, near the palace, are the two 16th-Century Portuguese forts of Mirani and Jalali.
  • Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Bausher. Although Qaboos has constructed many religious buildings during his reign, this is the largest and most famous. He is a follower of the Ibadi strand of Islam, which claims to predate both the Shia and Sunni movements. This Ibadi mosque is a massive structure made of imported Indian sandstone. It took over six years to complete and can hold 20,000 people at a time. One of its most notable features is the gigantic prayer carpet on its prayer hall’s floor. This is the second-largest one-piece woven carpet in the world, containing 1.7 billion knots, weighing 21 tons, and displaying 28 colours.
  • The Royal Opera House of Muscat. As Sultan Qaboos has taken great pains to promote classical music within his kingdom, one would do well to visit the Royal Opera House in Muscat. Inside, you will find one of the world’s largest pipe organs, while outside, you can admire a prime example of modern Omani architecture. The opera house, which seats 1,100 people, is the number one centre of the musical arts in Oman. It is surrounded by gardens, a “cultural market,” and upscale dining opportunities.

Anyone visiting Oman on Renaissance Day will find many monuments to the modernisation efforts of Sultan Qaboos. They will also find that he has worked to preserve the nation’s cultural heritage at the same time he moved Oman into the modern world. This startling contrast of old and new is a sight that many tourists long remember.