‘Sohar Ship Voyage: Symposium "Interpretation and Outlook"’ - the 35-year anniversary of the arrival of the Sohar Ship to Canton Port
On the 5-6th December 2016, Muscat hosted the ‘Sohar Voyage Symposium: "Interpretation and Outlook"’, organized by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture of Sultanate of Oman, marking the 35-year anniversary of the arrival of the Sohar ship to Canton Port in China. Speakers were invited to the symposium from a wide range of relevant institutions, including: the Sultan Qaboos University, the Middle East College at the Beijing Language and Culture University, the Arabic Studies Department in the School of Foreign Studies at the University of International Business and Economics of Beijing and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Oman. The specialist who was responsible of building the replica model of the Sohar ship and the captain of this voyage also made speeches, as did the Sultanate of Oman’s Focal Point for UNESCO’s Silk Roads Online Platform.The Symposium sessions examined the depth Omani-Chinese relations from a historical perspective and the challenges of the voyage in 1980; it ultimately sought to commemorate the historic maritime Silk Roads and the important role played by Omani and Chinese sailors in developing these seafaring routes. An exhibition was displayed showcasing the historical journey in images with descriptions in both Arabic and English. The symposium also introduced the Silk Road Online Platform to the audience, underlining the important contribution of cultural and commercial interactions to promote mutual understanding and cultural enrichment of the people along the Silk Roads, as seen in the long-lasting interactions between Oman and its surrounding regions. It also highlighted that the Sultanate of Oman is also one of the (four) vice-presidents of the International Network of UNESCO’s Silk Road Online Platform and one of the five countries that actively supports the project.
The rich discussion at the symposium resulted in several recommendations being made for the future. It was recommended that a hall should be dedicated for the (Sohar Ship Voyage) in the Oman’s National Museum of Maritime History, which might include photographs, documents and special collections of this voyage. There was much interest in creating a website in Arabic and English and translating articles and research written in various languages related to the ship. The participants also suggested producing a documentary about the main achievements of the voyage as well as a cartoon for children; any scientific material about the ship’s journey could notably be used in the Omani curricula. It was finally recommended that Omani and Chinese media should play an active role in promoting the historical ties between both countries and encourage further scientific visits, cultural exchanges, business activities and marine tourism.
This symposium set a precedent to hold more seminars and scientific meetings that highlight the history of Oman. The Ministry of Heritage and Culture plans to publish the papers presented at the Symposium in a book contribute in setting a benchmark for the better understanding of the history of relations between Oman and China and the role the Sohar ship voyage may have played in connecting the Silk Roads between Oman and China.