This photo shows a sand art work drawn by Omani artist Shayma Ahmed Al Mughairy during the Omani Night event at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul, Tuesday. Two hands are held tight and each of them have the national flags of Korea and Oman on them to indicate strong bilateral relations on the occasion of 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
/ Korea Times
Korea, Oman mark 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties
By Kang Hyun-kyung
The Omani Embassy building in Seoul emitted a delightfully exotic scent as this reporter entered the brand-new building last week for an interview with Ambassador Mohamed Alharthy.
“It’s from the dried gum resin of the Luban tree, which is better known as frankincense,” said the envoy. “We, Omani people, burn frankincense to please our guests. Burning the resin of the tree is a symbol of our hospitality.”
Frankincense has become widely-known to people as the Bible lists it as one of the three gifts that the Three Wise Men or the Magi, who were guided by a star, gave to baby Jesus. The two other gifts were gold and myrrh.
Omani Ambassador Mohamed Alharthy
Ambassador Alharthy noted that frankincense is part of Omani culture as it is entrenched in the lives of people there. It not only helps please people with the sweet-smelling scent but also plays a role in improving human health as it kills germs, he said.
“Luban is also known as Boswellia and is an iconic tree showing our rich cultural heritage. The trees grow only in the southern part of the country as the cultivation of the trees requires certain weather and soil conditions,” Alharthy said.
“In ancient days, the camel caravans carried tons of frankincense following the Silk Road to sell it to Egyptians, Greeks, Romanians and even Chinese people. In Oman, people burn the dried gum of the tree at home and in mosques.”
Dried gum of frankincense
In Korea, a number of cosmetics companies and online shopping mall owners selling aroma oils import frankincense oil from foreign bulk oil companies. Natural shampoos and skincare products containing frankincense oil as an ingredient are available on the market.
Frankincense oil is popular particularly among massage therapists and they blend it with other aroma oils when they massage their customers.
The envoy stressed that Oman is also known as the land of Sindbad, the fictional character in “Sindbad the Sailor.”
“It is claimed that the relevance of Sindbad relates to several cities in the Middle East, which includes Sohar in Oman. The port city located in the northern part of Oman was the business capital and once known as the gate to the East because from there merchants and traders used to sail to India, China and Europe.”
The ambassador’s Omani culture pitch came as he was resolved to “spread the name of Oman and its culture in Korea” and vice versa to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
He noted that economic relations between the two are strong.
Korea is a major importer of crude oil and natural gas from Oman and several Korean companies won bids to construct buildings and other projects there.
The envoy regretted that cultural exchanges between the two countries were relatively inactive, compared with the strong trade ties.
“We have prepared a series of events to raise public awareness of the two cultures,” he said.
The Open House program is one of the awareness building programs the Omani Embassy has prepared.
During the monthly event, Korean students, scholars, businesspeople and tour agents have been invited to the embassy to help them explore the unique Omani culture.
Some of this culture was showcased during Omani Night, a get-together of Omani people in Korea, Tuesday.
Omani musicians performed and a runway show featuring sophisticated traditional Omani costumes followed during the event organized by Oman LNG.
The highlight of Omani Night came when a young Omani sand artist drew diverse images and shapes with her fingers to celebrate the anniversary of Korea-Oman relations.
As her performance began, all of the lights in the Safire Room of the Lotte Hotel were turned off, except the one near the big overhead screen which showcased her sophisticated work of art.
Hundreds of people there held their breath and fully focused on what Shayma Ahmed Al Mughairy did through the big screen.
One of the images the 19-year-old girl drew was a vessel carrying LNG from Oman following a waterway connecting Muscat to the port city of Incheon on the oceans on the map.
The last image she presented was two hands being held tight and each of them having the national flags of Korea and Oman on them.
Being impressed by the symbolic image showing strong economic ties between the two countries, guests of Omani Night gave thunderous applause to the young artist.
Mughairy said that she is the only sand artist in the Gulf region.
Mughairy, also a university student majoring in architecture, brought dark brown sand she used for the performance from Oman.
The sand artist said she began to draw when she was three-years-old. She honed her drawing skill with the help of her supportive parents who recognized her talent when she was very young.