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Pauline Searle's DAWN OVER OMAN

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Pauline Searle's DAWN OVER OMAN


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Searle, Pauline, Dawn over Oman, Muscat:   International Printing Press, 1979.

By Kevin Stoda


            Oman of a half century ago would be unrecognizable for many visiting here today. The late 1950s and 1960s found Oman in the midst of a civil war.   Meanwhile, both the Cold War spies & insurgents plus the drumbeating led by religious wars of the region also shook the Land of Frankincense and Myrrh. This was occurring in a land that had only recently officially abandoned slavery.

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Las autumn, when I first moved to Oman, I came across Pauline Searle's   three and half decade-old primer on the country, entitled DAWN OVER OMAN.   Because Oman is such an ancient land, the book still reads rather well in helping any reader to come to terms with current Omani culture and history.   Searle, whose husband worked with Petroleum Development Oman in the days before national reform took place, spent the better part of two decades getting to know Oman as wife, employee, and journalist for Reuters.   She lived in the country starting from a   period when ground wars still enveloped the land through the actual dawning of an age of peace in Oman.   This occurred after the present ruler, Sultan Qaboos took over in the 1970s.

On the one hand, through carefully   gleaning Searle's publication,   DAWN OVER OMAN (1975, 1979),   for pearls of insight into era's gone-by, one can discover what most modern travel books might otherwise provide on Oman's geography, peoples, languages, and traditions.   On the other hand, as the title, "DAWN", of her classic work presupposes, Searle gave witness to a major new set of developments in Oman (since the early 1970s).   This "DAWN" and its fruits are what one now witnesses in Oman.   In short, in a few short decades, Oman has moved from a medieval world into a modern age.   Meanwhile, the very same Sultan Qaboos, who took over in 1970, is still on the thrown here.

An example of the "gleaning approach"that I take when reading a historically important works, such as Searle's DAWN OVER OMAN, might include simply looking at the variety of quotes cited at the beginning of certain sections and chapters of this well-packed 150-page work.   Searle wrote:

"The Kesra named Oman Mazun

And Mazun, O Friend! Is a goodly land

A land abounding in fields and groves

With pastures and unfailing springs."

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That selection of poetry, attributed to a pre-Islamic poet,   reveals that two to five millennia ago, the land where the country of Modern Oman is located now was once a plush and green place for   agriculture--quite different than many of our modern images of this part of the Arabian Peninsula.   Naturally, Oman has historically secreted away   great aquifers of water--even   through this present day--, however,   the temperate climate of the 3rd millennium B.C.   can only be understood (or tasted) by the retelling of the thoughts of a poet in his or her own words--i.e. as Searle chose to do when she wrote on Oman and thus pealed-back the layers of hidden mystery which had here-to-fore covered the former hermit sultanate's reality through the better part of the last century.

            In her own words, Searle begins her narration by reminding us: "Until mid-1970s Oman was among the least known countries in the world.   Geographically isolated by the Arabian Sea to the east, the Empty-Quarter to the west and mountains to north and south, ruled over by a backward-looking and autocratic Sultan with no apparent resources, Oman could have remained this way indefinitely.   But"   Searle adds, "the discovery of oil was to change everything."

            In the very next paragraph, Searle prophetically reveals what we know to be true today. "Oman is a country ruled over by a progressive" Sultan, and is a member of the Arab League and the United Nations.   Ministers fly around the world conferring on political matters; buildings rise overnight; an international airport handles the largest jets and traffic drives bumper to bumper"."  

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KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social development--making-him an enemy of my homelands humongous DEFENSE SPENDING and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global (more...)

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