The role of tourism in bringing people from across the region closer and fostering cultural exchange between the GCC and the world was the focus of the first ‘Oasis of Dialogue Forum’ in Oman. While many participants emphasized tourism’s contribution to promoting a shared Gulf identity, others voiced concerns about its impact on undermining the region’s identity.
Dubbed “Identity and Tourism in the GCC,” the forum was organized by QatarDebate Center and Oman Debate in partnership with Oman’s Ministry of Sports, Culture and Youth and under the patronage of His Highness Sayyid Marwan bin Turki Al Said, Governor of Dhofar.
The five-day event, which kicked off on January 5, welcomed a number of GCC officials and over 50 talented youth from various Gulf countries for two days of intense workshops, sessions, and panel discussions.
On January 6, the region’s first-of-its-kind forum hosted a session on “National Identity in the GCC” moderated by A. Maryam Al-Kharbooshi, Director of Cultural Identity at the Omani Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth.
“I was honored to moderate this lively discussion in terms of knowledge and cultural exchange, with youth interacting, discussing, and asking questions with confidence,” Al-Kharbooshi said.
Al-Kharbooshi emphasized the key role the forum plays in developing students’ debating skills and empowering youth to express their opinions and ideas with confidence. The forum, she added, offered students the opportunity to grow, network, and expand their knowledge at the GCC level.
Musa Balushi, a communication expert who moderated a session on the “Analysis of Institutional Discourse”, said the forum, which welcomes youth from across the GCC, offers a valuable opportunity to gain insights on the topic of identity, as well as to enhance the Gulf’s cultural legacy. He also highlighted the importance of “leveraging institutional discourse to instill such values in youth’s everyday life.”
The forum featured a special session on “Identity and Tourism in the Gulf”, attended by prominent decision-makers and GCC officials, including His Highness Sayyid Marwan bin Turki Al Said, His Excellency Mr. Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, and His Excellency Mr. Saad Al-Rumaihi, President of the Qatar Press Center. The session was moderated by Kuwaiti journalist Dr. Ali bin Youssef Al-Sanad.
The role of tourism in building cultural bridges
Touching on the topic of tourism and Gulf identity, Qatari student Mohammed Al-Buainain from Texas A&M University said recreational tourism may to some extent undermine the region’s identity with the revamp of tourist destinations to entertain foreign visitors. “However, it also contributes to fostering cultural exchange between people from the Gulf and other nations. Tourism contributes to establishing cultural communication, as we have seen in Qatar and other countries during international forums,” he added.
Kuwaiti student Abdulaziz Al-Enezi from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, explained that tourism can enrich the culture of Gulf citizens while cementing their identity as they endeavor to introduce tourists to their local culture. “It also pushes people across the Gulf to immerse themselves in a global identity distinct from their local and regional culture.”
Journalist Raghad Al-Nahari, on the other hand, highlighted the role of tourism in enhancing cultural communication with the world. “This was evident when Gulf countries hosted international events that contributed to raising awareness of local cultures and promoting them globally.”
The ‘Identity and Tourism in the GCC’ forum marks the ninth edition of the QatarDebate ‘Oasis of Dialogue’ series, as well as the first edition of the ‘Oasis of Dialogue’ Forum.
Commenting on the occasion, Al-Hanouf Al-Shammari from Qatar University, said the event reflected harmony among students from various Gulf countries, demonstrating the “extent of our cultural connection and belonging to one nation.”
Group meals and tourist tours across Oman were organized on the sidelines of the forum, further enriching its lively and interactive nature.
Building on the forum’s success, QatarDebate Center and OmanDebate will pursue coordination and joint efforts that date back to September when they inked an MoU to promote dialogue and foster intellectual growth and critical thinking as well as cultural and scientific exchange.
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