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Corner of Oman

Volume 6 Number 12 December 13 2010 - January 9 2011

A new showcase in the Sidney Myer Asia Centre introduces the Sultanate of Oman. By Katherine Smith.

Visitors to the University of Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Asia Centre now have the chance to learn a little bit about the attractions and traditions of the Sultanate of Oman, thanks to a newly established Oman Corner.

Designed to educate University of Melbourne students and visitors about the life and culture of Oman, the museum-style showcase was launched recently by Undersecretary of the Ministry of Higher Education in Oman Dr Abdullah Al Sarmi.

Funded by the Sultanate of Oman, Oman Corner is intended to stimulate interest in Oman and increase academic collaboration with Australia.

The Corner displays many different aspects of Omani culture, including traditions, heritage, society, government, economy and topography. Some of the many items on display are traditional Omani costume, a replica of a desert fort and dhow (a type of sailing vessel), musical instruments, jewellery, frankincense and treasure chests. As well as introducing its traditions the Corner gives visitors a glimpse into the attractions of contemporary Oman with a video about its marine environment and the reefs and shipwrecks which make it a popular diving destination.

Speaking at the launch Chancellor of the University of Melbourne Dr Alex Chernov QC said the establishment of Oman Corner was not “an isolated manifestation of the relationship between the Sultanate of Oman and the University, but a memorable and important occasion in the growing friendship”.

Joining Dr Al Sarmi and Chancellor Chernov to launch the project were Consul-General of the Sultanate of Oman in Australia Mr Hamed Al Hajri, Australian Federal Government Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services Mr Laurie Ferguson MP, and Governor of Victoria Professor David de Kretser.

The Sultanate of Oman and the University of Melbourne share a very close relationship. In 2003 Oman and the University jointly established the Sultan of Oman Endowed Chair in Arab and Islamic Studies honouring His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. The current and inaugural chair is leading Islamic theologian and scholar Professor Abullah Saeed, who has established at the University the Centre for Islamic Law and Society, the National Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies, and a Muslim prayer space on campus for staff and students.

Chancellor Chernov says that the consolidation of the partnership between the University of Melbourne and Oman is of great significance, not only to the University, but also to the Australian nation.

“It is appropriate that the Oman Corner is located in the Sidney Myer Asia Centre, which is a purpose-built facility to house the Asia Institute and the Asialink Centre. Its purpose is to be a catalyst for Australians’ understanding of a broader world, and to foster awareness of the importance to civilisation of the diverse Asian cultures, both ancient and modern,” he says.