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Smithsonian's Sultanate of Oman Exhibit Offers Rare Look at Arab Nation


Understanding and appreciating how other people live helps us all exist together on our small planet. In Washington D.C. there is an annual festival that imports different cultures so people can see first hand different ways of living.

A yearly summer event in Washington, D.C., is the Folklife Festival, a display of diverse culture sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, one of the nation's leading museums. This year there is a special exhibit about the Sultanate of Oman, which lies on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula facing the Arabian Sea. Marcia Door is with the Oman Ministry of Tourism and has lived there for the past 17 years.

"What we have happening here is a very important cultural conversation, " she explains.

The Oman exhibit displays some important parts of it's culture, a culture that goes back more than 5,000 years as a Middle Eastern trading crossroads.

"They have been seafarers for 5,000 years and they were part of the earliest macrocosm of civilization," Ms. Door explains.

The summer tourists in Washington D.C. seem fascinated by other displays; artisans demonstrating pottery making, metal work, adornments and embroidery, calligraphy and of course the native food.

Muna Richie works with the Omani Heritage Gallery, a nonprofit organization that encourages Omani artisans. "It's a great way of interacting with people to show them who Omanis really are," she says.

In showcasing the small country of Oman in the capital of the United States, one may not see an obvious relationship. But good relations between the two countries go back 172 years.

"With the Sultan being the first Arabship and the first Arab nation to make contact with the United States, I could safely say there is a long relationship with the U.S.," she adds.

This program is the first to feature an Arab nation at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. It's a time when Arab culture may be misunderstood in some places, including the United States. And, some say, also a time when the U.S. government may be reaching out to Muslims and Arabs.

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