Omani students celebrate culture and history during Omani National Day


After the Omani National Day ceremony put on by the Omani Student Association, women get free henna tattoos. Nov. 23, 2015. 

Kaitlin Walker

Kent State’s Omani Student Association celebrated Omani National Day Monday in the Student Center Ballroom to celebrate the birth of Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, who has greatly improved the country, specifically the quality of education, since he became sultan in 1970.

Oman, a country on the Arabian Peninsula, is the fourth-largest contributor to Kent State’s international population with 77 students attending the main campus.

This number is high considering the size of the country, but according to Salma Benhaida, director of International Admissions and the adviser of the Omani Student Association at Kent State, there is a good explanation for this.

“The reason we’re having this many undergraduate students from Oman is because they have a fully funded scholarship program through their ministry,” Benhaida said.

The event featured several performances, including a traditional dance, poem, Quran recitation, numerous speeches and a biography on Sultan Qaboos.

Following the performances, attendees were able to enjoy a sit-down dinner and free henna tattoos.

The majority of Omani students come to Kent State’s English as a Second Language (ESL) Center to learn English before continuing their studies at the university.

The first group of Omani students came three years ago in a test cohort. Since then, the number has increased. Benhaida said they’ve worked to promote Kent State at the Oman embassy in Washington, D.C.

The Omani Student Association was established at Kent State in 2013.

Benhaida is also focused on the effect Omani students can have on domestic students here at Kent.

“It may be a surprise to many people in the U.S. because a lot of people have preconceived ideas about the role of women in Arabic countries, but women are equal members of society. They can work and occupy high posts,” Benhaida said.

Graduate public health student Ana Varella, an international student from Brazil, said she enjoyed the event because it illustrated Kent State’s diversity.

“I really liked this event.  It’s my third time coming, and I never thought when I was back home in Brazil that I would get to know such different cultures,” Varella said.  “It’s amazing how people are so different but the same.” 

Two guests of honor from the Cultural Division of the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman attended the event: assistant cultural attaché Aisha Al-Hajri and academic adviser for Omani students Mona Selim.

“They are very happy to see how engaged and integrated the students are in the Kent State community,” Benhaida said.

Al-Hairi said events like Omani National Day reminded why he came to Kent State.

“I decided to come to Kent because I want to share my students’ happiness and encourage them to do more and more while they’re here,” Al-Hajri said. “Omani students are passionate about their country, and they are excited to show Americans their culture.”

Kaitlin Walker is the international reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].