For several years, the German-Omani Association (DOG) has been supporting the exchange of students between the Sabel Schools / Munich and the Ahmad bin Majed Private School in Muscat. This is the first institutionalized exchange of students between the Federal Republic and an Arab state. With Maximilian Holzinger (15) from Munich, now for the third time a German student has been able to complete a student exchange on an individual basis. He had organized everything privately, including the special permission of the Bavarian Ministry of Culture.
In March 2016, I visited Oman for 4 weeks to do a student exchange. The desire to visit a school exactly in this country and to live with a host family has grown over a longer period of time. I spent the Easter holidays with my family there in 2013 and even then I liked the country. The people are all very nice, friendly and helpful. I was also fascinated by Arab culture and the landscape. Back in Germany, I decided to learn the Arabic language. With a private tutor, I began to deal with the Arabic language. First I learned the alphabet, then writing and finally reading. In order to deepen my linguistic abilities, I wanted to make an exchange with a school in Oman.
Unfortunately, there is only one school in Germany that offers this type of student exchange: the Sabel school in Munich. My father therefore came to the German-Omani Association (DOG) in Berlin to get support for a private exchange. They supported us in our project by arranging contacts and thus enabled me a 4-week exchange. The DOG contacted the headmaster of the Sabel Partnership who immediately agreed to help us with this individual exchange and to find a host family. At the same time, we were preparing the application for the exemption from schooling in my school in Bad Tölz.
In order not to miss too much lessons, we chose a period that included the Easter holidays and a week of internships before. Shortly after the approval by the school, we also received the news that a host family had been found. It required a special application for the school exemption, since the school regulation does not provide such an exchange. We got in touch immediately, and I was connected to my new "classmate" Jaiffer and his family Al Omairi almost every day until we finally saw ourselves at the airport in Muscat for the first time.
Jaiffer is 14 years old and the oldest of 5 siblings (Achmed 13, Sarah 11, Yarah 7, Azoz 4). The nearer the departure time came, the greater joy and excitement. But I always had a good feeling, since I knew Jaiffer well from day one, and we had a lot of fun. His family also had immediate contact with my parents, and we all understood each other well. Packed was fast, as it is mostly very warm in Oman and I could walk around most of the time in Dishdasha. So I also had enough space for the numerous guest gifts from Bavaria.
On Saturday, March 5, 2016, it was time to take off. I got into the Air Oman aircraft, and it started. After six hours of flight, I landed in Muscat at about 8.30pm local time. Jaiffer and the Al Omairi family were already waiting for me, and I was very warmly welcomed. Then we went to their home, and they showed me everything. I felt very well at once. The next morning we had to get up very early, since the Sunday is not a free day. The first day at the Ahmad bin Majid School was very exciting and long. This 9th grade and the teachers immediately took me very kindly.
Mr. Abdulrahman, who was responsible for the exchange of students, also took care of me. It made a lot of fun in the class. I also got individual Arabic lessons, which was very exhausting. At the end of the stay I took a certificate.
The big difference between the Omani and the German school is that the lesson lasts longer and every day always the same subjects are taught. Jaiffer and I have also made a joint project. We compared everyday life in Oman and Germany and gave a lecture in front of our classmates. Sometimes the school lessons had to fail because of heavy rainfall and flooding. The family Al Omairi has also done many excursions with me. First we visited Souq Al Seeb. There we also bought the Dishdasha, which I carried every day. Close to the souq is the sea. Afterwards we visited the Sultan's Armed Forces Museum of Oman. This is also interesting and you can learn a lot about the historical events in Oman. The first weekend we spent in the home village of the parents of Abdullah and Nadia. The way to the road leads through many wadis. In that village I was able to drink fresh camel milk for the first time, which was delicious. We visited the other grandparents on their farm this weekend and went to cool down in a wadi. In the evening we were guest at a wedding.
Very impressive was the visit to the Sultan Grand Mosque. This is one of the most peaceful places I know. There we got a guided tour of Jaiffers uncle. He explained and showed us a lot. A nice, but also a tourist place is the Souq of Mattrah. It is one of the oldest markets. There are many goods: incense, spices, perfumes and aromatic oils. Several times a week they also met with the uncles for eating and talking. The second weekend I spent alone in a camp in the Wahiba desert. It was a great experience, and I could take nice photos. In the desert I rode on a camel and made a quadtour. What I liked very much, is to walk on the dunes, because you from there up a great view. With the cousins we also often went to a beach resort and played football there and went swimming. The third weekend we spent in Rustaq. In the larger place there are fortresses, hot springs and just outside a wadi. The fortresses are interesting, and one can see which defense strategies they used earlier, such as, pooring hot date oil on the attackers.
During these four weeks, I have collected a lot of impressions about the culture and way of life in Oman. The family is very important. A lot of time is spent together and the family members regularly visit each other. As a "normal" meeting, 25-30 people come together quickly. The four weeks passed quickly, and I'm sure I'll never forget this time. I am very grateful that I could make this experience. My father picked me up in Oman and spent two more days with the Al Omairi family and myself. At the end of July Jaiffer will visit us with his siblings and his parents here in Bavaria. We are all looking forward to it.
Maximilian Holzinger, Muscat / Munich