Omani students celebrate culture and traditions at first Omani student event

Matthew Merchant

As students filtered in to the Student Center Ballroom on Monday to mark the 43rd National Day Celebration of Oman, the national anthem of Oman resounded through the hallways. A video projected onto the wall displayed a desert landscape and an oasis, modern cities and ancient castles and robed figures dancing to Arabic music.

“Everyone has a right to express their appreciation for their achievements,” said freshman biology major Areej al-Kharusi. “As students, we would like to take this opportunity to share our immense gratitude to our beloved country for its contributions to our people.”

David Di Maria, director of International Programs and Services, said the presence of Omani students at Kent State has grown rapidly since the first student ambassadors in 2009. There are now more than 40 Omani students studying at Kent State. Di Maria said the Omani students are an excellent example of international ambassadors.

“I wish more countries in our world would follow Oman’s example and invest in scholarship programs that provide students with the opportunity to study abroad,” Di Maria said. “I think that if more countries would do this, then perhaps this world that we all share would have greater understanding, peace and security.”

Oman is an Arab country located on the Arabian Peninsula along the southeast border of Saudi Arabia. Sultan al-Busaidi, president of the Omani Student Association and freshman finance major, said the Omani Student Association organized the event “to celebrate the progress that Oman has made over the past 43 years from a desolate desert to a modern, technologically advanced culture while maintaining its cultural identity.”

“We didn’t anticipate so many people,” al-Busaidi said. “This is the first major event we’ve hosted here at Kent State and are really pleased with the gathering.”

Attendees had the chance to experience authentic Omani culture and traditions and a brief history of the international relations between the United States and Oman.

“In 1883, the Sultan of Oman gave two Arabian horses to the president as a gesture of goodwill and friendship,” al-Busaidi said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have horses to give out to everyone tonight. But instead, as a token of appreciation, I’d like to invite you all to experience a glimpse of traditional Omani culture.”

The Omani students presented the various traditions fashions for women, including four complete outfits ranging from casualwear to more formal dress attire. Student models walked across the stage, stopping in the spotlight to show the colorful attire as the commentator explained the purpose of each. Two men also modeled the traditional men’s attire, the ankle-length, robe-like garments called dishdasha.

Six male Omani students performed a traditional dance, their white dishdasha and colorful sticks spinning to Arabic music. Each stick was wrapped in the colors of the Omani flag — orange, white and green.

“The sticks are typically plated in silver and gold,” al-Busaidi said. “We couldn’t get everything from home, so we improvised.”

On the ballroom balcony, tables lined the walls with information from the Ministry of Tourism in Oman, samples of cloth for turbans and robes, as well as cultural icons and jewelry from Oman. Two students translated the English names of guests into Arabic at one table while another student drew Henna tattoos on guests’ hands.

Di Maria said that international education and cultural experiences such as the National Day Celebration are “an investment in young people.”

“I expect over the next several years we are going to find many more students from Oman coming to join us at Kent State University,” he said. “These students are excellent ambassadors of Oman while they are here in the United States and will be great ambassadors to the United States when they return to Oman.”

Contact Matthew Merchant at Matthew Merchant [email protected].