Muscat: Reviving Oman’s cultural heritage by promoting research will benefit the Omani economy and society, The Research Council (TRC) said.
Promoting local research on Omani cultural heritage is the focus of a two-day international workshop entitled, “Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development,” organised by TRC.
The first meeting was held on Monday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Muscat and featured specialists from cultural organisations in Oman and abroad.
TRC is Oman’s research funding body, established in 2005 and supports research and innovation in the Sultanate.
A statement from TRC said the Oman Cultural Heritage Research Programme focuses on the implementation of cultural heritage in sustainable development by conducting scientific studies on Omani cultural heritage.
The programme will support the sustainable development of Oman, according to Dr. Yousuf Al Busaidi, research director for Culture, Social and Basic Science at TRC.
“Sustainable development means more people working in the cultural sector, more jobs and potentially, more income from tourism,” he said.
He added that given that Oman has such a rich heritage and diverse population and at the same time a small population, this makes it difficult to conserve.
Oman faces a shortage in resources for conducting more research, said Aisha Al Bahri, member of the steering committee at TRC.
“We are short of Omani researchers and experts in the field of cultural heritage and there is not enough cooperation between local organisations working in this field. In addition, we have limited financial resources,” she said.
Al Busaidi noted: “We have to move fast, but we do not have the capacity to do so.”
He added that in Oman, as in other Arab countries, there is a stigma surrounding the study of cultural heritage.
“Many young people hesitate to work in this field, because they think they cannot earn enough. Instead, they tend to go for business or engineering,” he said.
According to Al Bahri, however, many young Omanis have shown an interest in their cultural heritage.
“Based on statistics from the Ministry of Heritage and Culture on the number of societies engaged in cultural heritage, we can see that cultural heritage is a popular topic with the youth,” she said.
However, not enough Omanis are specialising in the field.
“Employment of graduates in the cultural heritage sector is still low,” she said.
Archiving of cultural heritage is another focus point of the programme, Al Busaidi explained.
“Archiving is a very important part of the conservation of cultural heritage. We should archive our rich heritage before it disappears.”
In this matter, Oman can learn from the Egyptian experience, according to Professor Ahmed Morsi, professor of Folklore at the College of Arts, Cairo University.
“In Egypt, we initially had no institution for cultural heritage, making it difficult to preserve it accordingly. Oman should not make the same mistake,” he said.
During his presentation, Morsi showcased the Egyptian cultural archives, which also includes a popular YouTube channel.
Despite the challenges facing the sector, Al Bahri said there are “a lot of chances for us to develop this important sector.”