The future of any culture rests on its past. Building the future can only be successful if it is based on its history and uniqueness.
Tourism in many countries is very often a copy of what others have achieved somewhere else. Tourists travel to see and discover the identity of the place they are visiting. Most of the hotels in the Middle East, for example, are copies of the Western world or the Far East’s designs. Hospitality was not created in the Western world, but emanated from the Middle East.
By neglecting our past, we block our own growth. When you travel to Japan, you want to learn about their culture, and not witness copies of other parts of the world. Far-Eastern countries have understood this better than others. China, Thailand, Japan and some other countries attract many tourists.
Globally, the country which gets the most tourists is France. You would not go to a hotel which is of Chinese style, or Arab design, when you are in France. You want to see how they live.
In the Middle East, however, people believe that by imitating the other countries’ style, we can attract tourists. Most of the hotels in Oman, are of course of very good standard and offer proper services, but they do not reflect the local culture. So the majority of the tourists coming to Oman, prefer camping or spending the minimum time in a hotel, and spend the rest of the time sightseeing.
To build the right culture, it needs to be accompanied by the right education. Those in charge of the country need to emphasise on the necessity of educating their future employees.
Centuries ago, starting from the 15th, the Portuguese were the principal traders of slaves and throughout their zones of influence, including Oman, and in some East African countries, they were building forts and their colonial architecture was reflected in their fortified towers, which had coronations on top of their walls. That allowed them to defend themselves and shoot anybody attempting to steal their ships or materials from a secured location.
This ‘defence architecture’ component reflected in the next centuries. Centuries later, many buildings are constructed with coronations, inspired by the Portuguese culture and which has no relation with a friendly and welcoming country like Oman. Most of the ministries have their boundary walls designed with coronation.
How many people have made an effort to research about this in Oman? This happened because no efforts were made to do research and identify the real elements which form the Omani, and more broadly, the Middle Eastern culture. Today, in some houses or office buildings, the designers are sadly still completing their facades with coronations or similar patterns.
The culture of the country is its real asset. What is underground can be exploited and bring revenues for a certain period, but what remains is its culture.
Its components needs to be identified, developed and translated into the modern language.
Even if the underground of the country is empty, its culture can create wealth for the coming centuries. This needs to be placed into the education programme, so that each individual in the country is aware of its ancestors’ values and history and develop into defenders of its values. Educating the younger generation would mean building the future of the country.