University of Nizwa
In April 2009 I was able to visit the University of Nizwa for a week. The pictures below describe some aspects of the campus and the country of Oman.
This first picture is of the beach in the capital city of Muscat and shows why the country is so attractive to European tourists. The weather in April was mid-90s, and the sun shone every day.
Here is a shopping area in Muscat -- "the Souk." It also shows the customary dress of Omani men and women. These alleys went on for many blocks and were lined with shops, each of which had a roughly eight-foot frontage
This is the entrance to the University of Nizwa. It is about 100 miles from the capital city, in the mountains. It was at one time the historic capital of the country.
This is a typical class. The women sit in one section, the men in another. While they sit separately, both genders responded to the questions of the instructor. In fact the female students seemed more responsive. There was no hesitance to answer questions posed by the professor, and the general level of discussion was very informed. Students had clearly done their reading before class and were aware of the issues being addressed in the class.
This is an exterior shot of the classroom buildings. These are temporary classrooms. The university is just 5 years old. It already has an enrollment of 5800 students. A permanent campus is being built nearby, and should be ready in 4-5 years. At that time the expectation is that the university will have an enrollment of over 10,000. Both the government and student families are very supportive of higher education for both men and women. Current enrollment at this university is 85% female.
Gender separation continues around campus. This is the university library. Notice the separate entrances for men and women. Inside the library, men have study areas on the left, women on the right. Each gender has its own restaurant for meals during the day, and dormitories for men and women are on opposite ends of the campus.
We joined the university's administrators for a picnic in the mountains above the university. There are a few trees, but the ground here and elsewhere is largely gravel. The food consisted of a variety of fruit drinks, fruit, pita bread, lamb dishes and rice.
Back in Muscat, this is a picture of a large, new mosque complex. The picture below is of the men's prayer room. Unfortunately, I have neither the camera nor the skills to capture the size and beautify of this building.
The final image below, shows women studying on computers at the mosque library. While women may be separated physically in Oman, they are not separated curricularly. I visited two computer labs and saw female students doing substantial assignments in database programming and in operating system studies as part of their major in information systems. There seemed to be a larger percentage of female students studying information systems than would be typical in US universities.
Bottom line -- I felt welcomed wherever I went in the country, I saw significant efforts going into education of both men and women, and I saw young people who were engaged in their education and doing good work. I was very pleased with my visit.