Visionary leader? Out of the dark ages?

Oman is the only Arab country that I have visited, so I've always thought of Oman whenever Arab countries are mentioned in the news. Oman struck me as very much a upstairs-downstairs sort of country, with an immigrant underclass toiling away while the natives lived on their petrodollars. There were grand museums and enormous embassies set miles apart in desert sand. The only people out on the streets were blue-shirted people from the subcontinent. It was a positively medieval sort of place.

Our tour guide was a native Omani, who seemed to be rather unused to the concept of working for a living. It seemed to be more of a hobby for him. But after asking where we were from, he did manage to insinuate (this was soon after 9/11) that America had more violence coming its way. My visit to Oman, it's safe to say, left a rancid taste in my mouth.

So, when the NY Times runs a boot licking column lauding Oman's sultan as a
visionary leader who brought our country out of the dark ages and into a state of modernity; Sultan Qaboos bin Said has placed Oman at the forefront of many Arab countries, if not of the world, in terms of rights for women, people with disabilities and foreign workers and in providing free education and health care for all.
I can only shake my head in disbelief.  The standards for being a visionary leader and what constitutes the dark ages must be pretty low in that part of the world.

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