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.


Vaccine coverage below 10 percent in seven eastern Mediterranean nations — WHO

Vaccine coverage below 10 percent in seven eastern Mediterranean nations — WHO
Updated 01 December 2021

Vaccine coverage below 10 percent in seven eastern Mediterranean nations — WHO

Vaccine coverage below 10 percent in seven eastern Mediterranean nations — WHO
  • Low-income countries, mostly in Africa, have received only 0.6% of the world's vaccines
  • "The longer that these inequities persist, the greater the chance of more variants,” said WHO’s regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean

CAIRO: An official at the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office said on Wednesday seven countries in the region have not yet reached a threshold of 10 percent vaccination coverage.
These countries represent a high-risk setting for the emergence of further variants, Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said at a news briefing in Cairo.
Low-income countries, mostly in Africa, have received only 0.6 percent of the world’s vaccines, while G20 countries have received more than 80 percent, Al-Mandhari said.
“The longer that these inequities persist, the greater the chance of more variants,” said Al-Mandhari. “Indeed, no one is safe until everyone is safe.”
So far, 24 countries may have reported cases of the new Omicron variant, said Abdinasir Abubakr, infection hazards prevention manager for the region.
Early Omicron cases suggest mild symptoms, added Richard Brennen, WHO regional emergency director in the region.
In terms of the response to the variant, he warned of complacency and COVID-19 fatigue and encouraged social-distancing measures.
However, he said social and travel curbs require risk assessment before implementation.
“While we understand that some countries locked down international travel, this has to be done on evidence and strong analysis,” said Brennen.
As of Nov. 29, over 16.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 309,500 deaths were reported across the Eastern Mediterranean region.


IAEA plans to step up inspections at Iran's Fordow plant

IAEA plans to step up inspections at Iran's Fordow plant
Updated 1 min 30 sec ago

IAEA plans to step up inspections at Iran's Fordow plant

IAEA plans to step up inspections at Iran's Fordow plant

VIENNA: The UN nuclear watchdog plans to increase the frequency of its inspections at Iran's Fordow plant after Iran started producing enriched uranium with more advanced machines there, the watchdog said in a report to member states on Wednesday seen by Reuters.
"The Agency has decided and Iran has agreed to increase the frequency of verification activities at FFEP and will continue consultations with Iran on practical arrangements to facilitate implementation of these activities," the International Atomic Energy Agency report said, referring to the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant.


Egypt removes access to government services for unvaccinated citizens

Egypt removes access to government services for unvaccinated citizens
Updated 01 December 2021

Egypt removes access to government services for unvaccinated citizens

Egypt removes access to government services for unvaccinated citizens
  • The move is the latest in a slew of preventive measures introduced by Egypt to contain the spread of COVID-19
  • Once vaccinated, citizens will be able to get a vaccination certificate that will allow them to enter government facilities

CAIRO: Egyptian citizens who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 will from Wednesday be denied access to all government services and buildings unless they can provide evidence of a negative PCR test.

The decision was taken by the Supreme Committee for Coronavirus Crisis Management, which said the rule would apply to the provision of government services in all governorates and ministries.

The Ministry of Local Development instructed governors to implement the committee’s decision and refuse entry to government departments for anyone who is unable to provide evidence that they have been fully vaccinated or submit a negative PCR test result.

The move is the latest in a slew of preventive measures introduced by Egypt to contain the spread of COVID-19 in places of work and study.

The Ministry of Health and Population said it had made vaccines available to all citizens and that they should get vaccinated to avoid being disadvantaged by the new ruling.

It added that people who had not yet had their jabs should visit one of the many vaccination facilities located at medical centers, subway and railway stations, or the mobile units that travel throughout villages and towns.

Once vaccinated, citizens will be able to get a vaccination certificate that will allow them to enter government facilities, the health ministry said.

Egypt implemented a rule on Nov. 15 that prevents unvaccinated government employees from entering their place of work.


Muslim Council of Elders resumes Dialogue of East and West to promote coexistence

Muslim Council of Elders resumes Dialogue of East and West to promote coexistence
Updated 01 December 2021

Muslim Council of Elders resumes Dialogue of East and West to promote coexistence

Muslim Council of Elders resumes Dialogue of East and West to promote coexistence
  • The council will hold its next regular meeting in Manama, which will coincide with the Dialogue of East and West for Human Fraternity 2022 conference
  • The Muslim Council of Elders is headed by the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb

CAIRO: The Muslim Council of Elders has decided to hold the next round of the Dialogue of East and West in Bahrain after postponing it in March 2020 due to the pandemic.

The council is an independent international body based in Abu Dhabi and aimed at promoting peace, dialogue and tolerance. It is headed by the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb, and its membership includes an elite group of Muslim scholars.

The council will hold its next regular meeting in the Bahraini capital, Manama, which will coincide with the Dialogue of East and West for Human Fraternity 2022 conference.

The imam expressed his appreciation to Bahrain’s people and the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa for hosting the new edition of the dialogue.

He noted that the dialogue comes within the framework of strengthening relations between religious and cultural institutions in Islamic countries and their counterparts in Western societies, establishing common ground based on shared values and promoting coexistence.

Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Khalifa, chairman of the Bahraini Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and a member of the Muslim Council of Elders, expressed Bahrain’s excitement to host the meeting and the new edition of the dialogue.

Sultan Al-Romaithi, secretary-general of the council, said that arrangements for the dialogue are now being finalized and that the new edition will witness positive interactions between Western and Eastern scholars and intellectuals.

He explained that the council is in the process of nominating youths to participate in the dialogue who have the capabilities to become future leaders and ambassadors for the Muslim Council of Elders.

The council was founded on July 13, 2014 to spread a culture of peace in Muslim societies, reject violence and extremism, and confront hate speech.


Displaced Syrians face brutal winter exacerbated by economic collapse, charity warns

Displaced Syrians face brutal winter exacerbated by economic collapse, charity warns
Updated 01 December 2021

Displaced Syrians face brutal winter exacerbated by economic collapse, charity warns

Displaced Syrians face brutal winter exacerbated by economic collapse, charity warns
  • One in three displaced Syrians know someone who has become ill or died because of the cold
  • People will be forced to choose between food and fuel during the winter months, says charity head

LONDON: The majority of displaced Syrians face a bitter winter with inadequate shelter and not enough food, a humanitarian organization working in Syria and Lebanon has warned.

Syria Relief said that the already brutal winter is exacerbated by the country’s economic crisis, which has sent prices of fuel and food skyrocketing.

Only 29 percent of internally displaced people (IDP) in Northern Syria believe that their current accommodation adequately protects them from winter conditions, according to a survey conducted by Syria Relief, which provides lifesaving aid and humanitarian interventions in the war-torn country.

The number is higher, at 52 percent, for Syrian refugees living in informal settlements in Lebanon, according to Syria Relief’s survey of over 1,000 people across Aleppo, Idlib, and Lebanon.

Around one in three respondents in Syria and Lebanon know someone who has either died or developed health conditions due to the cold.

Syria Relief Chief Executive Othman Moqbel told Arab News: “All of us, working on the ground, are very worried about this winter.”

He said: “There is the common misconception that Syria and Lebanon are hot, but in the winter months, especially high up in the mountains where there are many refugee and IDP camps, the temperatures regularly plummet to freezing temperatures. Winter is one of the greatest threats to a Syrian IDP or refugee living in a tent, as temperatures can drop as low as -10 C.”

Syria’s collapsing economy, worsening every year, makes the upcoming winter the toughest yet, Moqbel said.

“Last winter it was estimated by the UN that 80 percent of Syrians lived in poverty. Now, it is estimated at 90 percent. There are 13.4 million Syrians who depend on humanitarian aid to survive.

“To simply survive, millions of Syrians need fuel to keep the stoves they use for warmth fired up. But it’s expensive and the economic situation means fuel is harder than ever to find for many families.

“To afford the fuel they need to stop them freezing to death, most families living in tents have to make sacrifices. Maybe they will go without food, maybe one of their children will go without food, maybe all of them will have to go without food for a few days.”

Moqbel explained that Western countries, such as the UK, could take action that would alleviate the suffering of these Syrians.

“We would like to see the UK in particular not cutting its aid budget and instead ensuring that more money is spent on displaced Syrians who are already some of the most vulnerable people in the world.”