A container ship unloaded a shipment in Hamad Port, Qatar's main seaport - © 2017 Sebastian Castelier

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For several years, the Sultanate of Oman has been leading an aggressive push to nationalise workplaces. Expatriates still account for more than 87 per cent of the private sector, defying a temporary ban on hiring foreigners and quotas for how many locals need to be hired. But some Omanis are hopeful - the tourism industry could be the answer to the country’s unemployment crisis since it could employ 70 per cent locals by 2040, compared to its 32 per cent in 2018. Established in 2001 in Muscat, the Oman Tourism College aims to professionalise all components of the labour force – from tour guides and chefs to managers and receptionists. This report takes us for a day-long tour guiding lesson with Omani diploma students. Read more...



Tourism is one of the main pillars of Oman's economic diversification strategy and a key contributor to the growth of the non-oil economy. The sector is expected to generate up to 500,000 jobs by 2040 and tackle a severe unemployment crisis. To be distinguished from other touristic spots in the Middle East, the Sultanate is market as a hidden jewel at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula with spectacular mountains, wind-blown deserts and a 3,165 kilometres long pristine coastline. "Our slogan is 'beauty has an address,' claims Salim Aday Al Mamari, the Director General of Tourism Promotion.

Believe to be destructive to the Omani identity, mass tourism is out of the question. According to Oman expert Marc Valeri, the authorities wish to promote 'selective high-quality tourism reserved for wealthy, easily controllable Western elites.' Read more...


Made in Gulf

From 2017 onwards, a Gulf crisis has helped the fast-expanding Qatar's agri-food sector. Prior to the diplomatic rift, local production would cover only 15 percent of domestic demand for vegetables and Qatar imported more than 80 percent of its food requirements from its neighbours, mainly the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.


"The 'Made in Qatar' brand is becoming an obsession because the country no longer wants to be under fire," a Paris-based analyst said, pointing out that Qatari agriculture rose also out of national pride. Between 2017 and 2018 there was an increase of 300 percent in the production of Qatari farms. However, environmental factors could limit the emirate's ambitious plan. Due to the arid desert climate and extremely scarce water resources, less than one percent of Qatar's land is arable. Yet, Qatari farmers irrigate 93 percent of their fields by drawing from groundwater. Read more...

Could edible oysters be grown in the waters of the Arabian Sea? Yes, the first harvest commenced in the early summer of 2017 at the Dibba Bay Farm, a United Arab Emirates-based company launched by Scottish entrepreneur Ramie Murray. According to him, the town of Dibba Al-Fujairah is ideal for oyster farming, an exception in the region - "in Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates on the Persian Gulf side, the water is too salty." To get a glimpse of those meaty and flavourful oysters, read more...


In Oman, the Ministry of Agriculture supports a shift from traditional method of beekeeping towards modern beehives that produce more. This pro-active government strategy to encourage honey production is paying off as the number of beekeepers has increased by 90 percent between 2011 and 2016 to produce 600 tonnes of honey a year. The almost systematic recourse to modern beehives made of wood or plastic has led to higher honey production. But it has coincided with a money-oriented mindset since the new techniques were first introduced in Oman in the 1970s and ancestral tradition are dying. "People used to see beekeeping as a tradition," an Omani official said. "Now it is a business." Surrounded by thousands of buzzing bees amid a spectacular mountain scenery, meet with the Sultanate's beekeepers. Read more...




Notable books to read

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 -   © 2020 Sebastian Castelier

The Mutrah Corniche in Oman's capital Muscat - © 2018 Sebastian Castelier