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Heritage Policies, Tourism and Pastoral Groups in the Sultanate of Oman

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Although heritage and its preservation has been at the forefront of Omani policy for several decades, tourism to the country has been restricted, until recently, to small elite tour groups either taking advantage of the sun and sand or, in Dhofar, the cool and humid post monsoon landscapes. Pastoralist communities in the desert interior have been largely excluded from heritage tourism and tourist ventures with the exception of Disneyfied 'Arabian nights' camps on the edges of the most northerly desert sands of the Wahiba. Authenticity, and possession of intangible cultural heritage, for the most part have not been a part of tourism or, for that matter, heritage policies. The growing popularity of desert tours, camel racing and sand dune 'bashing' programmes in the neighbouring United Arab Emirates, is, however, changing perceptions and practices in Oman. The desert landscape and its intangible heritage are belatedly receiving some national and international attention. By focusing on notions of cosmopolitanism and tangible and intangible heritage, this paper will address the challenges that are emerging with regard to tourism, heritage and authenticity of the pastoral groups in the Sultanate of Oman. It endeavours to frame the heritage debates and national policies of exclusion of pastoral groups within the context of international demands for increased and accessible tangible and intangible heritage tourism.
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Keywords: Oman; heritage; intangible cultural heritage; pastoralism; tourism

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2016

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  • Nomadic Peoples is an international journal published by the White Horse Press for the Commission on Nomadic Peoples, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Its primary concerns are the current circumstances of all nomadic peoples around the world and their prospects. Its readership includes all those interested in nomadic peoples, scholars, researchers, planners and project administrators.
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