Dr. Lori J. Owens — professor of political science, Honors director and CAS director of academic services — was awarded the Alwaleed Bin Talal Fellowship, which allowed her to visit the Sultanate of Oman on the Arabian Peninsula just east of Yemen.
Owens, along with six other Americans, stayed there from Dec. 29, 2015, to Jan. 8, 2016.
The Fellowship’s goal was to act as an educational and cultural exchange to educate people on the Middle East/Arab world, and the relationship between the Unites States and the Arab world, according to a press release she wrote.
“It was a cultural exchange. We did have some meetings with government officials, but it was more of a cultural educational exchange that you cannot obtain by reading a book or looking online. You have to immerse yourself in it,” Owens said.
She discussed the political aspects of Oman and the uniqueness of their Sultan, who is the longest reigning ruler in the Middle East, having overthrown the previous ruler in 1970.
Sultan Qaboos, the current ruler, wished for economic growth and stability for his country.
His policy pertaining to diplomacy is, “friend to all, enemy to none.” Oman has been an ally to the United States for centuries.
The Fellowship visited Muscat, the nation’s capital. While there, they met with the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Cultural Affairs, and Oman’s ambassador to the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Dr. Donald Bosch and his wife Elizabeth traveled to Oman in 1955 as medical missionaries and educators from the United States.
After arriving, Bosch became a pioneer in healthcare.
Elizabeth taught at the American Mission School, and the two were awarded nationality and a seaside home, both granted by the current Sultan Qaboos.
Owens remembers their visit to the seaside home as one of the most memorable places visited.
The Fellowship met Elizabeth, who is in her 90s now, and still living in the seaside home.
The group also met the Bosch’s adult children, who were visiting at the time.
“Other than the people and the culture, I like the diversity of their landscape. You have the mountainous areas, you have the desert, and you have the tropical rainforest area,” Owens said, when recalling the climate and landscapes of the country.
Their trips throughout the country took them on camel rides through the desert, a four-mile hike through the Nizwa mountains, and a southeastern rainforest in Salalah.
“I was particularly impressed by how special Oman seems to be. It really is a gem in the region. It is a place I would go back to. It is a place I would take students to without being worried about taking them. And I cannot say that about every place I have been. In fact, several of us from the group are talking about trying to get one or two students from each of our institutions to do a trip over the holidays, hopefully within a year or two. That is a testimony to the professors and what a positive view they have of Oman,” she said.
Owens is available throughout her year of fellowship to speak with various groups on the following topics: Omani culture, Oman’s role in the region and the world, United States-Omani relations, economics and missionary history of the United States in the nation.
She can tailor her discussion for groups interested in business, education, civic affairs, politics, church, or other interested groups, including secondary education students.