Ocean Explorers: From Sindbad to Marco Polo

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The Arab World Institute in Paris, France, recently organised an exposition called ‘Ocean Explorers: From Sindbad to Marco Polo,’ from 24th November 2016 to 26th February 2017. One of the highlights of the exposition included a showcase of the Sultanate of Oman’s rich and fascinating maritime history in the Indian Ocean – together with a display of a magnificent wooden Omani dhow named ‘Nizwa’, outside the Institute’s building.

The convenient geographical location of the Sultanate of Oman and it’s accessibility to early Indian Ocean traders; as well as the many sheltered moorings along it’s coastline for mariners; and the fact that the region’s annual monsoon winds shortened sailing times and put Omani sailors much closer to people living on African, Indian and Chinese shores; all enabled the Sultanate, over thousands of years, to develop itself into a great maritime nation. These factors also enabled Oman to develop a flourishing trade and an open-mindedness and tolerance towards mariners, merchants, and people from many other Indian Ocean nations, and the rest of the world.

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So, with the Arab World Institute recently organising the exposition ‘Ocean Explorers: From Sindbad to Marco Polo,’ it was very appropriate that the Sultanate of Oman was also involved – due to its rich and fascinating maritime history. Indeed, one of the highlights of the exhibition for visitors was a traditional wooden Omani dhow named ‘Nizwa’, which was put on display outside the exhibition building (and which was originally bought by a Frenchman in the Willayat of Sur in Oman).

Ocean Explorers:

From Sindbad to Marco Polo was also a showcase of the ancient maritime history of the Arab world, and this included information the Sultanate of Oman’s famous ‘Jewel of Muscat’ boat that sailed from Muscat to Singapore on 16th February 2010, and which passed through the maritime routes that were used by Omani sailors since the 1200s, along the way. The discussions during the seminar – Oman and maritime navigation in the Indian Ocean – were held concurrently with the exhibition at the headquarters of the Arab World Institute in Paris on 20th January, and were focused on how the Omani sailors of old proved their merits in challenging sea conditions, and how relations were established by Omani sailors with European fleets and sailors. These discussions also shed light on the famous Omani sailors, such as the legendary Ahmed bin Majid, who played an effective role in the development of navigation in the Indian Ocean.

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