“The Switzerland of the Middle East”.- An interview with Mr. Al-Abbas Al-Harthi

“The Switzerland of the Middle East”.

At the Oman Embassy with Mr. Al-Abbas Al-Harthi.

At the Oman Embassy with Mr. Al-Abbas Al-Harthi.


Throughout the last trimester, in the course of International current day observatory, we chose a specific area of the world and put each of us by different groups according the regions. My classmates and I chose the Middle East´s region because we were really interests in the place and we thought that it was an “unexplored region”.

So to end the trimester assignment, we were assigned to do an individual interview with someone from our region. I thought that this was a difficult task as my place was a little difficult with all the conflicts going on there. So, I decided to send an e-mail to the Oman Embassy to arrange an interview for the reasons that I could learn so much about the country as I did not have a clue. I will like to thank officially to the Embassy for answering me fastly and for making an appointment with the Deputy Chief of Mission in Madrid.

The past Friday, 6th of June, I got the pleasure of interviewing the Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Al-Abbas Al-Harthi, at the Sultanate of Oman Embassy. First of all, I may say that my region was a complicate area to study, and I was concern about someone speaking to me about the region.

The first part of the interview is focused in its geographical position. After the Sultan Qaboos deposed his father in 1970, he told me that the country starts to “open up exteriorly”. The Sultan brought “modernity to us” and Oman became the six-nation Gulf Cooperation. A difference with other Arab countries is the freedom that women have.  “In our country, women are able to vote, to stand for elections, to drive, to work and many more things”. He explained that this “liberalism” is the product of all the effort and work that the Sultan have been doing after this past 40 years, “He is doing many things for Omanis”. “Oman is a modern and liberal country; but I admit that progress will bring more joy”.

During the interview, I was concerned in Oman´s foreign relations, as I did not have any idea about it. Mr. Al-Abbas Al-Harthi explained all the current relations. “We have several relations with European countries as France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Holland.  Most relations are in oil trade and building projects”.  Specially, King Juan Carlos I went in the past April to Oman to sign the MoU in the field of arching any type of historical document regarding the relations between both.

However, on the same, they signed an agreement aimed at avoiding double †taxation and tax evasion in income tax. Mr. Al.Abbas Al-Harthi: “The Sultanate has reached a total of 35 agreements on the avoidance of double taxation with different countries and it will continue doing it”.

Last visit of king Juan Carlos I in Oman./Source: http://www.lavanguardia.com

Last visit of king Juan Carlos I in Oman./Source: http://www.lavanguardia.com


An example of a Spanish company working in Oman´s field is INDRA. “It won 85 million contract to modernize ours airports and air traffic control systems”. He informed that the five European countries listed before are competing for winning the future plan of project of Oman. “We are planning to build a railway from the borders of UAE to the South-West of the country. In August, the competitors will now who will be in charge of our project”.

The second part of the interview consisted in its economy. Oman is a middle-income economy that is heavily dependent on oil resources. It is the 25th country of oil reserves in the world. The main industries of the economy are: crude oil production and natural gas production. “Many countries are interested in our natural resources”. “We export to China, Japan, UAE, South Korea and in few less to Europe”.

Tourism is a key component of the government’s ability to effectively balance its budget if oil revenues decline. “Tourism is almost every nation is important; not only for money; also to have a better connection outside”.

They want to have more tourism. The typical tourisst are from UK, France, Italy, and Germany. He stated:” As there are not direct flights from Spain to Oman; the numbers of Spaniards are lees to visit us. We are working to include in the Oman´s airlines direct flights”.  The best places to visit are the capital, Muscat, Khasab, Nizwa and Salah. “I recommended you to go during the moth of October to March because temperatures are to high around 47ºC”.

To conclude with the interview, we were debating a little about the abdication of the Spain King Juan Carlos I. As He explained the good relations with Spain, I was concerned if the abdication could have a negative aspect between both countries. His answer was concrete and simple:” Of course we have very relation with King Juan Carlos I, but my personal opinion is that the abdication will not provoke any kind of negativity with us.  Oman will have foreign relation with Spain even the King will not be there”.

It was a great time spent at the Embassy with Mr.Al-Abbas Al-Harthi. It gave me the opportunity of getting in touch with the country and learn many more aspects about it, and understand better the Middle East region with its cons and pros. The interview was a great choice and I canot wait to see for my own eyes the country and visit it.

Once again, I will like to finish the interview thanking the Sultanate of Oman Embassy for giving the great opportunity, and also describing the country as “the Switzerland of the Middle east” for been so neutral.


Paula Miñambres Vallejo.



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