Oman’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai pays a fitting tribute to frankincense

The Omani pavilion, located in the Mobility District, pays homage to the precious substance frankincense. (Supplied)
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The Omani pavilion, located in the Mobility District, pays homage to the precious substance frankincense. (Supplied)
The Omani pavilion, located in the Mobility District, pays homage to the precious substance frankincense. (Supplied)
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The Omani pavilion, located in the Mobility District, pays homage to the precious substance frankincense. (Supplied)
Oman’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai pays a fitting tribute to frankincense
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Updated 26 November 2021

Oman’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai pays a fitting tribute to frankincense

The Omani pavilion, located in the Mobility District, pays homage to the precious substance frankincense. (Supplied)
  • Oman produces the world’s finest variety of the spicy aroma that ancient Egyptians called the “Sweat of the Gods
  • The pavilion also highlights Sultanate’s commitment to sustainability of its natural flora and its youth

DUBAI: Frankincense, the aromatic resin harvested from trees that grow in a narrow climate belt from the Horn of Africa to India and parts of southern China, has been used for 6,000 years as both a perfume and panacea for a host of ailments.

Most of the world’s supply comes from Somalia, Eritrea and Yemen. But it is Oman that famously produces the world’s finest — and most expensive — frankincense, a rich and spicy aroma that ancient Egyptians called the “Sweat of the Gods.”

Trade in frankincense has flourished in this region for centuries, and was one of the most valued commodities of the ancient and medieval world.

Today, the resin, harvested from the Boswellia tree, is still highly prized, as Oman’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai shows. With sustainability experts warning that the tree variety globally is under threat, the pavilion provides a fitting tribute to frankincense and its rich history.




Lab50, an initiative involved in the pavilion’s design, engaged more than young 300 Omanis from sectors including government and SMEs to develop the narrative and content of the pavilion. (Supplied)

The word frankincense comes from the Old French “franc encens” (“noble” or “pure incense”), and is the English version of the Arabic Al-luban.

Today, the value of frankincense resin is still determined by its color, clump size and oil content. The most valuable grade, known as hojari, comes from a narrow, dry belt of the Dhofar Mountains in Oman. Boswellia trees studding this region are a feature of Oman’s UNESCO-appointed Land of Frankincense World Heritage site.

The Omani pavilion, located in the Mobility District, pays homage to the precious substance. Even the mandatory hand sanitizer is enhanced with the resin’s aroma and natural antiviral properties.

Given frankincense’s long history, stretching over millennia, one might expect Oman’s pavilion to be built on tradition or to be rooted in the past. In fact, the pavilion is a testament to Oman’s future generations, and has been created by Omani youth, the future of the country’s economy.

Lab50, an initiative involved in the pavilion’s design, engaged more than young 300 Omanis from sectors including government and SMEs to develop the narrative and content of the pavilion.

The result is a modern story-telling experience, with frankincense at its center. The pavilion’s design was led by recent graduates, and its technology designed and built by young Omanis. Multi-sensory and mixed-reality audiovisual content was written, shot and produced by local talent.

The exterior of the pavilion shows how a young eye can interpret tradition. The sweeping, intricately detailed exterior echoes and exploits the features of a frankincense tree.

Visitors entering the pavilion on the ground floor are greeted by a replica of the “Mother Tree,” and introduced to the resin extraction process and the uses of frankincense throughout history.

FASTFACTS

* For the past 6,000 years, frankincense has been used to raise spirits and encourage well-being.

* Pavilion’s five zones show how frankincense contributed to Omani progress in different fields.

* Exhibits offer interactive experiences using AR and mixed reality technology.

Displays highlight the role frankincense played in worship and medicine, from the mummification of ancient Egyptian rulers to its role in traditional Chinese medicine. On the first floor, visitors discover the Forest of Sustainability, a modern exhibit in which tree-shaped displays tell the story of Oman’s plans for sustainable innovation.

Through digital displays and QR codes, these stories come to life: There is a feature on Oman’s collaboration with the UAE to harvest wind power, and another on Oman’s “million date palm” project.

Many case studies are linked to Oman’s efforts in wildlife conservation, including birds of prey, the Arabian snow leopard and rare plants.




The Omani pavilion highlights the country’s commitment to sustainability, not only of its precious natural flora, but also its youth. (Supplied)

Despite its pervasive presence at the Omani pavilion, the Boswellia tree is under threat and may die out within 20 years, according to sustainability experts. Scientists who have studied the issue say many older trees have not produced a new sapling in half a century.

When the UNESCO site at Wadi Dawkah in the Dhofar governorate was established in 2000, only about 1,200 frankincense trees were growing there. Since then, thousands more have been planted, with the goal to reach 10,000 on the site.

An irrigation system has been installed to help nurture saplings, and there are also wild trees flourishing beyond the perimeter fence. Oman’s investment in sustainability and the future generations of frankincense trees appears to be paying off.

From the Forest of Sustainability, visitors enter the Frankincense Crystal Hall, where precious frankincense crystals in hanging lights add a modern touch to the journey. Exiting the hall, visitors enter the “trade tunnel and trade shore,” which tells the story of Oman’s history as a trading hub, with more than 200 sea lanes and 86 global ports within two weeks’ journey by sea.

On the third floor, visitors are invited to “step into the future.” Ancient traditions are reframed through a modern, scientific lens, with a focus on technology and the future of frankincense.

Modern uses of frankincense extend from personal to religious, spiritual and medical. According to Oman pavilion information, “frankincense is scientifically proven to fight cancer, depression and asthma” and “is still used as a disinfectant when burnt.”

Visitors to the pavilion also have an opportunity to take the sweet aroma of frankincense home. Gifts on offer range from traditional weaving to Omani silver and products based on frankincense.

The Omani pavilion highlights the country’s commitment to sustainability, not only of its precious natural flora, but also its youth.

Innovation created by and for young Omani talent will provide inspiration and opportunity for future generations of Omanis.


UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons
Updated 29 November 2021

UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

Britain and Israel will “work night and day” in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, the foreign ministers of the two countries wrote in a joint article.
“The clock is ticking, which heightens the need for close cooperation with our partners and friends to thwart Tehran’s ambitions,” the UK’s Liz Truss and her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid wrote in the Telegraph newspaper on Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said earlier in the day that his country was “very worried” that world powers will remove sanctions on Iran in exchange for insufficient caps on its nuclear program, as negotiators convene in Vienna on Monday in a last-ditch effort to salvage a nuclear deal.
Meanwhile, Israel and Britain will sign a 10-year agreement on Monday to work closely on areas such as cybersecurity, technology, trade and defense, according to the Telegraph.
The foreign ministers added in the article that Israel will officially become Britain’s “tier one” cyber partner, in a bid to improve its cyber defenses as countries around the world face increased threats.


Iranian riot police patrol city’s dry river after water protests

In this file photo taken on November 19, 2021, Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan. (AFP)
In this file photo taken on November 19, 2021, Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan. (AFP)
Updated 29 November 2021

Iranian riot police patrol city’s dry river after water protests

In this file photo taken on November 19, 2021, Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan. (AFP)
  • Demonstrators blame authorities for diverting water to neighboring Yazd province

TEHRAN: Iranian riot police on Sunday patrolled a dried-out riverbed in the central city of Isfahan where protests against a water shortage led to violent clashes two days earlier.

Drought and water diversions have been blamed for drying up the Zayandeh-Rood waterway that runs from the Zagros mountains and through the city known for its iconic river bridges.
Water protests since Nov. 9 have drawn at times thousands of demonstrators to the city, where a large rally on Friday escalated into clashes in which 67 people were arrested.
Calm has returned and it held on Sunday, a local photographer said by phone from Isfahan, the country’s third-largest city 340 km south of Tehran.
“In the morning, the city was calm and traffic was normal,” the photographer said.
“I saw riot police patrolling the riverbed between the historic bridges, but their numbers were lower than on Saturday.”
The protesters blame the authorities for diverting water to neighboring Yazd province, which is also desperately short of water.
Authorities Saturday announced 67 arrests of the “main perpetrators and troublemakers” in the rally that had drawn “2,000 to 3,000 rioters.”
The arrests were made by the police, intelligence services and the Revolutionary Guards.

BACKGROUND

Water protests since Nov. 9 have drawn at times thousands of demonstrators to the city, where a large rally on Friday escalated into clashes in which 67 people were arrested.

Police had on Friday fired tear gas at the protesters, who threw stones, smashed the windows of an ambulance and set a police motorbike ablaze, according to the Fars news agency.
Nourodin Soltanian, a spokesman for Isfahan University Hospital, said a number of protesters were wounded, including “two in serious condition.”
Isfahan police chief Mohammed-Reza Mirheidari called the protesters “opportunists and counter-revolutionaries,” and the ultraconservative newspaper Kayhan accused “mercenary thugs” of being behind the “riots.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was “deeply concerned about the violent crackdown against peaceful protesters.”
He added on Twitter that “the people of Iran have a right to voice their frustrations and hold their government accountable.”
The Kayhan daily meanwhile also linked Friday’s protests to the scheduled resumption of nuclear talks on Monday in Vienna between Iran and a group of major powers.
Friday’s events “testify to the infiltration of a US fifth column, in the run-up to the Vienna talks, to provoke a riot and push for (new) US sanctions” against Iran, it said.
The Zayandeh-Rood river that runs through Isfahan has been dry since 2000, except for a few brief periods.
Iran has endured repeated droughts over the past decade, but also regular floods, a phenomenon that can intensify when torrential rains fall on sun-baked earth.
Scientists say climate change amplifies droughts and that their intensity and frequency in turn threaten food security.


Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground
Updated 28 November 2021

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground
  • Diplomats: Tehran simply playing for time to accumulate more material and know-how

PARIS: World powers and Iran return to Vienna on Monday in a last ditch effort to salvage the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but few expect a breakthrough as Tehran’s atomic activities rumble on in an apparent bid to gain leverage against the West.
The US will also send a delegation, headed by Washington’s Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley, to participate in the talks indirectly.
Israel worries Iran will secure sanctions relief in renewed nuclear negotiations with world powers, but will not sufficiently roll back projects with bomb making potential, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.
“Israel is very worried about the readiness to remove the sanctions and to allow a flow of billions (of dollars) to Iran in exchange for unsatisfactory restrictions in the nuclear realm,” Bennett told his Cabinet in televised remarks.
“This is the message that we are relaying in every manner, whether to the Americans or to the other countries negotiating with Iran.”
Few expect a breakthrough in the talks as Iran’s uranium enrichment activities have escalated in an apparent bid to gain leverage.
Diplomats say time is running low to resurrect the JCPOA, known as the Iran nuclear deal, which former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, angering Iran and dismaying the other world powers involved.
Six rounds of indirect talks were held between April and June.
The latest round begins after a hiatus triggered by the election of new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Tehran’s negotiating team has set out demands that US and European diplomats consider unrealistic.
Two European diplomats said it seemed Iran was simply playing for time to accumulate more material and know-how.
Western diplomats say they will head to Monday’s talks on the premise that they resume where they left off in June, and have warned that if Iran continues with its maximalist positions and fails to restore its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, then they will review their options.
Iran’s top negotiator and foreign minister both repeated on Friday that the full lifting of sanctions would be the only thing on the table in Vienna.
“If this is the position that Iran continues to hold on Monday, then I don’t see a negotiated solution,” said one European diplomat.
Iran has pressed ahead with its uranium enrichment program and the IAEA says its inspectors have been treated roughly and refused access to re-install monitoring cameras at a site it deems essential to reviving the deal.
“They are doing enough technically so they can change their basic relationship with the West to be able to have a more equal dialogue in the future,” said a Western diplomat involved in the talks.
Several diplomats said Iran was now between four to six weeks away from the “breakout time” it needs to amass enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon, although they cautioned it was still about two years from being able to weaponize it.
Should the talks collapse, the likelihood is the US and its allies will initially confront Iran at the IAEA next month by calling for an emergency meeting.


Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds

Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds
Updated 28 November 2021

Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds

Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds
  • Prime minister directs government to take all precautionary measures against new COVID-19 variant Omicron

CAIRO: Egypt authorized on Sunday Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12-15, the cabinet said in a statement.
The step effectively lowers the minimum age of eligibility to receive the two-shot vaccine in Egypt, which was 15 years old previously.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly directed the government to take all precautionary measures against the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, noting the decision to halt all direct flights with South Africa.
His comments came during a meeting of a medical group to combat coronavirus, the state news agency (MENA) reported. 
Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, higher education and acting health minister, reviewed a report on the current local and international epidemical situation and the developments of the new variant, adding that the report confirmed there are no Omicron cases detected in Egypt till now.
He said that about 45.2 million vaccine doses had been administered, with 15.6 million people having received both doses.
On Friday, Egypt suspended direct flights to and from South Africa due to concerns about a new variant of the COVID-19 virus.
(With Reuters)


At least 200 Houthis killed in fighting, airstrikes in Marib, Jouf

At least 200 Houthis killed in fighting, airstrikes in Marib, Jouf
Updated 28 November 2021

At least 200 Houthis killed in fighting, airstrikes in Marib, Jouf

At least 200 Houthis killed in fighting, airstrikes in Marib, Jouf
  • The Arab coalition on Sunday announced that it had killed 110 Houthis in 15 airstrikes that destroyed nine Houthi military targets in Marib and Jouf during the past 24 hours

AL-MUKALLA: At least 200 Houthis were killed in heavy fighting with government forces and in airstrikes by Arab coalition warplanes during the past 24 hours in the Yemeni provinces of Marib and Jouf, as the militia pushed into Marib to seize control of strategic terrain, coalition and local military figures said on Sunday. 

One official told Arab News that at least 100 Houthis were killed when the militia launched a string of attacks on government forces in Thana, west of Marib city, on Saturday, in a bid to break the government’s lines and reach Al-Balaq Al-Qibili Mountain to high ground over parts of the city.

“All waves of the Houthis failed to advance or capture an inch in Thana. Many Houthis were killed when our forces and the (Arab) coalition’s warplanes wiped out those waves,” the official said, adding that most of the Houthi fatalities were caused by “precise” airstrikes. 

The Houthis have recently focused attacks on areas west of Marib after failing to make territorial gains in Juba, Um Raesh and Al-Amud, south of Marib.

In September, the Houthis pushed into districts such as Abedia, Rahabah and Hareb after making rapid gains in neighboring Al-Bayda province.

The Houthis once again were drawn into a military stalemate in Juba after facing stiff resistance from army troops and local tribes. Hundreds were killed in heavy fighting during the past week, and the militia was forced into decreasing attacks due to high losses, the official said. 

The Arab coalition on Sunday announced that it had killed 110 Houthis in 15 airstrikes that destroyed nine Houthi military targets in Marib and Jouf during the past 24 hours.

The coalition has intensified raids against the Houthis across Yemen, hitting ballistic missile depots, drone workshops and ammunition stores in Sanaa and dozens of military vehicles and fighters heading to various battlefields.

Based on the coalition’s daily updates on its airstrikes, hundreds of Houthis have been killed and dozens of vehicles destroyed in Marib and other flashpoints in Yemen this month.

The heavy aerial bombardments of Houthi targets have shored up government troops on the ground, allowing them to repulse Houthi attacks and make territorial gains.