Between 17-19 March, Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will visit the Sultanate of Oman as guests of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said. Their visit, two years after the State Visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, will be a wonderful reaffirmation of the extraordinarily warm, deep and multi-faceted relationship between our two countries.
His Royal Highness knows Oman well and this will be his fifth visit. Her Royal Highness is coming here for the first time. Their program will focus on some of Oman’s most notable achievements. They will see the old: a beautifully restored 17th Century fort and the ancient but still used aflaj system of irrigation. This is of interest not just for the ingenuity of the design and construction of the system but also as a way of managing a scarce resource that has worked well for centuries and relies on collaboration between the users of the water. They will see tradition: artisans practicing traditional crafts, the preservation of which is an interest of The Prince, and dance. They will see the modern: the state of the art new Diabetes Centre in Muscat. Education will be a key theme, with visits to a British and an Omani school. The Prince will meet Omani entrepreneurs and join a discussion on financing start up companies. The Duchess will meet leading Omani women. In a reprise of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee pageant in Windsor last year His Majesty’s Royal Cavalry will perform a display. A Royal Navy ship, HMS Northumberland, will be in Sultan Qaboos port in Muscat and The Prince will visit and meet her crew. Their Royal Highnesses will have opportunities to meet members of the British community.
400 years of ties
This wide ranging program reflects well the relationship between Oman and the United Kingdom. We have been friends for some 400 years and had formal treaty relations for over 200. Through the British Council we have worked with the Omani Government in conserving the Sultanate’s magnificent heritage. There is a close relationship between the Omani and British healthcare sectors, with many Omani doctors training and practising in the United Kingdom. Omanis and Britons have been studying in each others’ countries for many decades. A British company, Carillion, built some of Muscat’s most iconic modern buildings, including the breathtakingly beautiful Royal Opera House. Another British company, Ultra Electronics, is installing cutting edge systems in the Oman’s new airports. The presence of a British ship in Muscat is an illustration of the essential support that Oman gives to international efforts to combat piracy.
The wide ranging program (for the visit) reflects well the relationship between Oman and the United Kingdom. We have been friends for some 400 years and had formal treaty relations for over 200Jamie Bowden
All of these factors do not fully capture the extent of the United Kingdom’s commitment to the Sultanate. Britain is, by far, the largest foreign investor in Oman with over a third of the total of such investment. In December the Lord Mayor of the City of London hosted a conference on investment opportunities in Oman’s Free Zones. Shell has been partner of Petroleum Development of Oman for many years and BP is exploring a major new gas field. Last year HSBC merged with the Oman International Bank. British and Omani forces train together in both the Sultanate and Britain. Britain appreciates the unique role that Oman can play through its policy of maintaining cordial relations with all countries and our two countries work closely together to tackle some of the challenges facing the Middle East.
But there is one other factor that is as important as all the rest of these. Britain and Oman, and the British and the Omani people, are joined together by a network of personal and very warm friendships. There is enormous mutual affection and respect. This was exemplified by the meetings between His Majesty and Her Majesty The Queen during Her State Visit. It will be on display again while Their Royal Highnesses are in the Sultanate.
British Ambassador to Oman, Jamie Bowden, joined the FCO from the Army in 1986. He has served in a number of home and overseas appointments, mostly in the Arab world. Bowden was previously the British ambassador to Bahrain. Earlier in his career, Bowden covered Middle East affairs and counter terrorism policy as a First Secretary in Washington. He also held the position of Head of the Political section at the FCO’s U.N. department. Between 2003 and 2006, Bowden held the positions of deputy head of missions in Kuwait and Baghdad.