IMG_2468 President Nathan (cropped) makes a welcome speech.preview

Speech by HE President SR Nathan, President of Singapore, welcoming Jewel of Muscat to Singapore

3rd July 2010

Your Highness, Sayyid Harib Bin Thuwainy Al-Said,
Captain Saleh Al-Jabri,
Crew of the Jewel of Muscat,
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to be here to welcome the arrival of the Jewel of Muscat on her maiden voyage to Singapore. I congratulate Captain Saleh and his crew on the success of their epic voyage from Oman to Singapore. They have demonstrated courage, fortitude and resourcefulness in replicating the voyage taken by the traders and seafarers of old many centuries ago. It is a reminder of how much we have benefitted by those old ties, which pre-dates the British, and how much we have been shaped by those who boldly took on the challenges of the sea in those days.

The word monsoon comes to us from the Arabic language, from the word mawsim (mao-sim), meaning “fixed season”. The monsoons are an essential part of the history and character of Singapore and Southeast Asia. For thousands of years they have brought to our region traders and merchants from China, India and the Middle East. With trade came people and ideas. Singapore’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious population is not a product of chance or coincidence. It is part of our historical identity, and an extension of the ties among the lands between the monsoons.

Lying across the other side of the Indian Ocean, trade and friendship have long been pillars of the Sultanate of Oman. For centuries, the maritime route between Arabia and China was the longest trading route in the world. Oman lay at one end of this route. It was Oman that produced the sailors and navigators that plied this route. The extraordinary achievements of these Omani seamen have been preserved and remembered in stories such as those of Sinbad. The voyage of the Jewel of Muscat, which has been captured in a documentary by National Geographic, adds to this rich tradition, and should be remembered as a symbol of goodwill between old friends linked by history.

With its arrival in Singapore, the Jewel of Muscat will in a way be reunited with the Tang Treasure, which Singapore acquired in 2005 with the generous support of the Estate of Tan Sri Khoo Teck Puat. This treasure which was intended for Arab destinations was in the sea until they were salvaged a few years ago, and which Singapore then acquired. Singapore is organising an international exhibition that will feature not only the Tang Treasure, but also the story of the maritime Silk Route and the voyage that was replicated by the Jewel of Muscat.

Being at the crossroads between East and West, Singapore is a fitting place for the Jewel to be based. Historically, ships from Arab destinations stopped in Singapore or in ports nearby to await the change of the monsoons, before continuing their journey eastwards to China or the other way. We hope that Captain Saleh and his crew will feel at home here before leaving to embark on new adventures.

On behalf of the people of Singapore, I would like to express my deep appreciation to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said and the Sultanate of Oman for the generous and deeply symbolic gift of the Jewel of Muscat. I would also like to thank all those in Oman, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and elsewhere who have been a part of this project. Finally, I would also like to thank all, in Oman and Singapore, who have supported the project as sponsors and partners. Your generous support has made the Jewel of Muscat project truly a joint endeavour between the peoples of our two countries.

The Jewel of Muscat project will be remembered as a historic testament to the excellent ties between Singapore and the Sultanate of Oman. It is also symbolic of the renewal and strengthening of the historical ties between Asia and the Middle East. I look forward to even more mutually beneficial cooperation in the future as we build upon the close relations between both regions.