Stay the fuck out of Oman

March 20, 2008 § 1 Comment

(Image from the NY Times.)

More gems from the travel writing section of the NY Times. This time, we travel to the new Middle East hot-spot — Khasab, Oman! The landscape looks like Utah, the ladies are mysterious, and it’s in a country you’ve never heard of before! But before I go further: Orientalist Cliche Count — GO!

an Arabian land

oil-rich

Omani women in flowing black head scarves

Ok, not too many this time, but the article is only 500 words.

Not to repeat myself, but what separates orientalist descriptions of a place from legitimate descriptions of a place? I mean, if there are Omani women wearing flowing black head scarves, then what should prevent us from describing this? Context. Travel writing is all about the “exotic” and the “unique” or “edgy.” Women cease to be human in this type of writing; they are objects of the orientalist’s attention. We have to ask why the author chose to point out this observation out of all other possible observations.

Either way, I’ve got a bigger problem with this piece: luxury hotels.

Khasab’s center is free of souvenir shops, but that may change. In July, Oman Air doubled its weekly flights from Muscat, the capital, from two to four. Luxury hotels are under discussion for Khasab’s main port, near a restored 17th-century Portuguese fort that now houses a museum.

When a town like Khasab becomes a tourist stop, a sad fate awaits.

In other Oman news, Cheney met with Oman’s leader Qaboos.

(Image from AFP.)

Terry Atlas, the author of the article “6 Signs the U.S. May Be Headed to Headed to War with Iran,” says this about Cheney’s visit to Oman:

Cheney, who is seen as a leading hawk on Iran, is going on what is described as a Mideast trip to try to give a boost to stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. But he has also scheduled two other stops: One, Oman, is a key military ally and logistics hub for military operations in the Persian Gulf. It also faces Iran across the narrow, vital Strait of Hormuz, the vulnerable oil transit chokepoint into and out of the Persian Gulf that Iran has threatened to blockade in the event of war. Cheney is also going to Saudi Arabia, whose support would be sought before any military action given its ability to increase oil supplies if Iran’s oil is cut off. Back in March 2002, Cheney made a high-profile Mideast trip to Saudi Arabia and other nations that officials said at the time was about diplomacy toward Iraq and not war, which began a year later.

U.S. News and World Report via Informed Comment.

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