Global Focus: Oasis in the Middle East

GLOBAL FOCUS is a series of Eisenhower Institute programs designed to help students gain insight and analyze American foreign policy, international relations, emerging economies and regional conflict, cooperation and competition around the world.


Photo by Linda Pappas Funsch

Global Focus: Oasis in the Middle East

Within the Middle East, crossroads of history, mosaic of cultures, and birthplace of three monotheistic religions, the Sultanate of Oman stands as an oasis of relative tranquility In an otherwise troubled region, Oman is country at peace with itself and with the world. Located in the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, it is a dramatically beautiful and diverse land that challenges many of the stereotypes frequently associated with that complex region. 

In ancient times, Oman was renowned for its export of copper, essential to in the production of bronze, and for its trade in frankincense, valued more highly than gold by pharaohs, kings, and popes. For millennia, Omani merchants and seafarers have plied the Indian Ocean and beyond, interacting with various cultures In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Omanis oversaw a powerful maritime Empire that stretched from the Asian subcontinent, thorough the Arabian littoral, to the east coast of East Africa and the hinterlands beyond.  

Yet, by the mid-20th century, Oman’s fortunes had declined precipitously, reducing it to one of poorest, most undeveloped countries in the world. In 1970, Oman, the oldest independent Arab country in the Middle East was brought back to life by a young visionary ruler who launched a renaissance, catapulting the sultanate onto the world’s stage once again, uniting its people and transforming it from an impoverished backwater to a modern, prosperous, and vibrant society that celebrates its heritage and traditions.  

Over the course of two semesters in Global Focus: Oasis in the Middle East, we will take a journey both vicarious and first-hand − through one of the most fascinating countries in the world. It will be led by Linda Pappas Funsch, a career educator, author, and Middle East specialist with decades of experience across the region, including more than two dozen trips to Oman. 

The highlight of this adventure will be an experiential learning visit to the sultanate, led by the instructor. During the course of this immersive cultural experience, students will visit major historical and cultural sites, meet with people from all walks of life, including students and policymakers, and marvel at the majestic mountains, vast deserts, and coastal regions of the country.  


All photos by Linda Pappas Funsch

Over the course of ten sessions, this seminar, designed for students with a background and/or interest in the Middle East, will explore Oman’s history, culture, achievements, and challenges in the modern age. Topics to be discussed, roughly corresponding to the class dates below, will include the following: 

  • Geography and History 
  • Culture and Society 
  • Ascendance of the Al Bu Said Dynasty 
  • Said bin Sultan and the Age of Empire and  
  • Bilateral Relations with the United States 
  • The “Hermit Kingdom” and the Discovery of Oil 
  • Qaboos bin Said and the Omani Renaissance 
  • Beyond the Veil: Women in Oman 
  • A Modern Economy and Diversification 
  • Foreign Relations: Friend to All, Enemy to None 
  • Passing the Mantle of Leadership: Haytham bin Tarik  
  • Challenges in the 21st Century 

Program Schedule

The following schedule provides a tentative list of class dates. We appreciate your flexibility as changes to the schedule may be necessary as additional opportunities and conflicts arise. Attendance is required at all sessions. 

Fall 2024 

  • Session 1: Thursday, Sept. 19 -- 4 -6 p.m. 
  • Session 2: Thursday,  Oct. 3 -- 4 -6 p.m.  
  • Session 3: Thursday, Oct. 17 -- 4-6 p.m. 
  • Session 4: Thursday,  Oct. 31 -- 4-6 p.m. 
  • Session 5: Thursday, Nov. 14 -- 4-6 p.m. 
  • Session 6: Thursday, Dec. 5 -- 4-6 p.m. 

Spring 2025 

  • Session 7: Thursday,  Feb. 13 -- 4-6 p.m. 
  • Day Trip: Thursday,  Feb. 27 (Tentative) -- Field Visit to the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, Washington, DC
  • Study Trip: Thursday, Mar. 7- 17 (Tentative) -- Learning on Location Study Visit to Oman 
  • Session 8: Thursday,  Apr. 10 -- 4-6 p.m. 
  • Session 9: Thursday,  Apr. 24 -- 4-6 p.m. 

All sessions will be held on-campus unless otherwise noted above.

Before You Apply

This program is now open to all rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Students with a strong interest in the Middle East, international relations, and foreign policy are encouraged to apply. Participants are expected to attend all sessions in addition to field visits and an international experiential learning trip over spring break, March 7-17, 2025. Selected applicants are required to have valid passports by November 2024.

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