For the past nine years, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, in conjunction with the Joseph J. Malone Fellowship in Arab and Islamic Studies, has offered American professionals in academia, government, the military, non-governmental organizations, business, religious institutions, the media, civic associations, the fine arts, humanities, and the social sciences a chance to explore Oman.

The Sultan's Al Alam Palace in Old Muscat.The Sultan's Al Alam Palace in Old Muscat.
Photo by Ian Sewell

If you’re interested in exploring one of the Arab world's most demographically, geographically, and socially diverse countries in 2011, please take a moment to learn a little bit more about Oman.

Located on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, the oldest known human settlement in the area can be found in the Muscat region of Oman. Archaeological remains in the area date back to the Stone Age, approximately 5,000 years ago.

Oman was one of the first countries to embrace Islam in the seventh century A.D., within the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. Around 75% of Omani citizens practice Ibadhi, a form of Islam distinct from the Sunni and Shia denominations, generally regarded as a conservative sect of Islam.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Photo by Sabihuddin Khan

The government of Oman is an absolute monarchy with a bicameral parliament of a Consultative Assembly and Council of State. The current Chief of state and government is the hereditary sultan is Qaboos bin Said Al Said. Voting rights for all citizens age 21 and older was granted on October 4, 2003.

While in Oman, delegates will explore the coastal communities of Mutrah and Muscat; the latter city is also the capital of Oman, where the group will visit the U.S. embassy and various Omani ministries before setting out for other regions.

Travelling by dhow, a traditional wooden handmade Arab vessel, visitors will see the unique coastlines of Oman along the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf while encountering fisherman and artisans that inhabit the shoreline.

Village in a Fyord at Musandam Peninsula, Oman. Village in a Fyord at Musandam Peninsula, Oman.
Photo by Eckhard Pecher

The group will also sail around the Musandam Peninsula in the Strait of Hormuz, with opportunities for snorkeling off Telegraph Island and more. Former Aramcons might also see a familiar sight in Arabian waters: giant tankers carrying the region's unmatched production of oil and gas to locations around the world.

Another highlight of the trip includes an excursion to Bahla, a UNESCO World Heritage site. An Omani oasis, Bahla is famous for its ancient fort, built in 13th and 14th centuries, and its pottery.

The due date for applications on February 15, 2011 has passed. 

Founded in 1983, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is an American non-profit, non-governmental, educational organization dedicated to improving American knowledge and understanding of the Arab world.