Established in 2004, Connecting Cultures is a unique educational initiative that seeks to promote face to face dialogue with young people from the western and Arab world via short wilderness journeys in the desert of Oman.
Based in the Sultanate of Oman, Connecting Cultures works in close partnership with the Oman National Commission for Education, Culture and Science. The programme is formally endorsed by UNESCO, and supported by the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Centre, and the MBI Al Jaber Foundation. Connecting Cultures is Oman’s gift to UNESCO and the UNAOC.
What We Do
Since foundation, sixteen journeys have taken place in Oman. On each journey there are 18 young people, nine from the Arab states, nine from Europe. The young people chosen are those who we feel have the potential to make a difference in society, and influence others; social status and academic ability are not important factors in participant selection.
By taking young people into remote locations, Connecting Cultures enables focused dialogue amongst young opinion formers in an environment where there are few distractions, or doors to hide behind. Key questions discussed on a Connecting Cultures journey include;
How I feel my culture is misunderstood by others; Why I feel my culture is misunderstood by others; What do we as young people think can be done to reduce cultural misunderstanding, What are the causes of extremist behaviour in our respective societies, and what are the solutions? What can I do to make a difference in my own community?
Each year three Connecting Cultures journeys take place in Oman.
Why We Do It
The aim of fostering an environment where inter-cultural dialogue can take place is to celebrate cultural diversity, break down stereotypes, identify shared values and in so doing promote understanding and help reduce the polarisation of cultures.
In an environment where they are undisturbed by modern technology, such as mobile phones and the internet, the young people are able to engage in uninterrupted face to face dialogue, identifying shared values and exploring cultural differences. Whilst difficult to measure quantatively, the impact of the Connecting Cultures program is easy to see; five days spent living and travelling together in the wilderness achieves far more than a two day workshop ever could in terms of depth of understanding.
Connecting Cultures targets people who are aged 18-25 who meet a number of criteria that demonstrate them to be the future leaders and opinion formers in their respective societies.
Where We Do It
Expeditions that have happened since the program’s founding have variously taken place in the mountainous terrain of Jebel Akhdar, in Oman’s al-Hajjar mountain range, as well as in the vast expanse of the Wahiba Sands. For each of the three expeditions planned for the winter months of 2013/14, all participants will undertake an expedition into the desert sands of the Wahiba.
For more information these locations, and Oman in general, please refer to the relevant section of our website, which you can navigate to using the headings at the top of this page.
The logo of Connecting Cultures, which shows bodies sitting around a fire, has its origins in the classic book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by TE Lawrence (of Arabia), in which he described the fireplace as the university of the desert, where stories are told, news is exchanged and disputes settled.