Dean's Blog

Trip to Oman

Jamie and Sarah BowdenTricia and I have just got back from a fascinating week in Muscat, Oman using up some unused holiday after a working Eid. We met up with Jamie and Sarah Bowden family – Jamie was the British Ambassador here in Bahrain before moving to Oman and it was good to see how settled and happy they were. They have the most amazing residence on a headland, land given by the sultan who had taken over the Embassy site for his own palace. The UK has a special relationship with Oman as the present Sultan came to power through a coup organized by Britain.It’s always good to visit a place, where you have some local contacts andAl Amana Centre a joy to meet up with Paul and Rebecca Armerding, who had stayed with us for week on their visit to Bahrain just recently and Peter Kapenga, until recently Principal of Al Rajah School here, who had spent much of his early life in Oman where his father was the Protestant Church minister.  He and Paul are both on the management board of the Al Amana Centre and they introduced us to the Rev’d Doug Leonard the Director. Doug has clearly built on the work of his predecessor and clearly has an exciting vision to develop its role, supported by the Minister of Religious Affairs who clearly saw how important the work of dialogue and mutual understanding is in a post 9/11 world. We heard that Miroslav Volf is coming out to Oman and to the centre next Spring. Stephen and I are reading his book Allah a Christian response.

chalice and patenBishop Valpi FrenchWhile we were at the centre, Doug generously gave us his time introducing his staff, highlighting its current work and opening up his hopes and plans for the centre.  He also produced a chalice and paten of the legendary Anglican Bishop of Lahore, Bishop Valpy French, who was a CMS missionary in India and Persia in the second half of the nineteenth century. He mastered seven languages including Hindustani, Punjabi, Urdu, Persian, Pashto and Arabic. He died in Muscat of heatstroke and he is buried in a Christian cemetery there.

Oman CoastDolphinsWe also had the opportunity to explore: going out both in a boat to see dolphins and the amazing coastline, but also with a former Bahrain friend of Tricia’s, Bev, who took us both along the coast and up one of the wadis inland in her 4wheel drive.

WadiThe landscape of Oman is very striking with the very barren mountains almost rising out of the sea and some of the mountain valleys – the wadis – clearly, on occasions, raging torrents, of water able to Irrigationcarry huge boulders with it. Not to be a place to be caught out in a storm. In the barren mountain areas there are some very ancient forms of irrigation: water running down what are clearly very old man-made channels for huge distances.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al SaidOman has from all accounts made huge strides in development over the past 40 years under the current Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said. He has absolute power as Head of State and Prime Minister, but clearly rules his people with wisdom with both an eye on Oman’s past heritage, but also with a view for the future.

His portrait is hung in the airport, as if waving farewell to travellers, but I suspect that we will return to this fascinating part of the world. There is much still to explore.