Viewing cable 05MUSCAT1185

05MUSCAT11852005-07-27 12:08:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MUSCAT 001185 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/26/2015 
REF: A. STATE 137596 
     ¶B. 04 MUSCAT 999 
Classified By: Ambassador Richard L. Baltimore III. 
Reason: 1.4 (b,d) 
¶1. (C) Per ref A, the requested information on Oman's female 
Minister of Tourism is provided below, keyed to ref A para 3 
format.  Much of this information was provided previously in 
ref B. 
¶2. (U) Rajiha bint Abdul Amer bin Ali, Minister of Tourism 
(since 2004) 
¶A. (U) Born: April 12, 1953; Mutrah, Muscat, Oman. 
¶B. (SBU) Personal and Career Data 
-- Married to Murtadha bin Hassan bin Ali, chairman of the 
Economic Committee of the appointed Majlis al-Dawla and a 
prominent businessman.  She has one son in his final 
undergraduate year at Syracuse University, New York, who 
would like to enroll in an MBA program in the U.S. or other 
Western country.  The elder of her two daughters is a teacher 
in Oman (educated abroad, lived for a time in Holland), while 
the younger daughter graduated Sultan Qaboos University 
Medical School in May 2005 and plans to pursue specialized 
medical training abroad, possibly in the U.S. 
-- Education: Undergraduate degree in Mathematics in Iraq. 
As of June 2004, she was working on a Ph.D. from Exeter 
University (UK). 
-- Languages, other: A native speaker of Arabic, Minister 
Rajiha has strong English-language skills. 
-- Career Data:  She got her start in 1972 as a statistician 
with the Whitehead Consultant Group, which had been 
contracted to establish the Statistical Unit for the 
then-Center for Economic Development.  She then served as the 
head of statistical services in the Sultanate as Director 
General in the Development Council, the precursor to the 
Ministry of Development, until 1988 before being elevated to 
Under Secretary for Planning Affairs at the Technical 
Secretariat of the Council.  In 1994, she was appointed Under 
Secretary for Statistics and Data at the Ministry of 
Development; after the merger of the Ministries of 
Development and Economy, she became in 1997 Under Secretary 
for Development Affairs at the Ministry of National Economy. 
She was appointed Minister for Tourism upon creation of that 
new ministry on July 9, 2004.  Among her other duties, she 
chairs the social investment committee of the Oman Society 
for Petroleum Services (OPAL); and was Rapporteur of the 
National IT Committee, which promotes e-government.  She has 
also been a board member of the Sultan Qaboos University, of 
The Wave tourism project, the National Road Safety Committee 
and the Kuwait-based Arab Planning Institute. 
¶C. (C) Religious Sect 
-- She is Shia, and has family origins believed to trace to 
Iraq via Bahrain.  According to her secular husband, she is 
fairly religious, as are her children. 
¶D. (C) Influence on Country Leaders 
-- Minister Rajiha enjoys a close working relationship with 
the powerful Minister of National Economy, Ahmed Abd al-Nabi 
Macki, as well as with Minister of Commerce and Industry 
Maqbool Sultan (both of whom are also Shia).  Her husband was 
appointed by the Sultan to the State Council, where he chairs 
the Economic Committee.  The two have bantered in the company 
of Embassy officers on their opposing views about the 
usefulness of the consultative State Council.  Her husband is 
an outspoken businessman who occasionally writes opinion 
pieces in the national and regional press. 
¶E. (C) Reason for Appointment 
-- Rajiha told the Ambassador that her appointment as Oman's 
third female minister came as a complete surprise to her. 
As one of the few female Under Secretaries in the government 
at the time, however, and having a solid professional 
reputation, her selection as a minister was, in retrospect, a 
natural choice.  She told the media after her appointment, 
"When I was informed about the Royal Decree appointing me in 
a ministerial capacity, I had mixed feelings.  I was excited, 
of course... (at) the same time, I was aware of the 
responsibilities and challenges....  Certainly the 
appointment reflects the emphasis placed by His Majesty the 
Sultan on supporting and encouraging Omani women to step 
forward and fully enjoy the rights extended to them and 
contribute wholly to the development of the country." 
¶F. (C) Views on the Sultan, His Policies, and on the U.S. 
-- Both Rajiha and her husband have maintained very close 
relations with the Embassy through the years.  She is 
responsive to Embassy requests, was pleased to participate 
with the Ambassador on a one-week Rule of Law Forum tour of 
Washington, New York and Dallas in 2004, and is complimentary 
of our Free Trade Agreement negotiations as well as of the 
Middle East Partnership Initiative.  In her former position, 
she expressed interest in micro-business programs for 
low-income women, e-legislation, joint ventures to promote 
exports, dry farming, water conservation, and fisheries 
--Her husband has business dealings with U.S. companies, and 
served on the inaugural board of the Muscat American Business 
Council in 2004-05.  She is fond of the U.S., particularly 
New York City, and was pleased that her children were able to 
study and have business internships there.  She and her 
husband have hosted Embassy staff to an annual dinner, 
usually around Ramadan, for the past several years.  They 
both made a brief appearance at the Deputy Chief of Mission's 
2004 Christmas party. 
-- In our many opportunities for informal chats with her, she 
has expressed only positive opinions on the Sultan and his 
policies, though her husband tends to be more critical.  She 
has expressed frustration with government officials, however, 
including for latent gender bias and old-fashioned attitudes. 
¶G. (C) Grooming for Ministerial Position 
-- Rajiha has enjoyed responsible positions in the government 
from the earliest years of the current Sultan's reign.  Her 
close working relationship with National Economy Minister 
Macki likely also played a role in her elevation to 
ministerial rank. 
¶H. (C) Her Views on Timing of Her Appointment 
-- See Section E above. 
¶I. (C) Goals and Aspirations 
-- Rajiha's entire career has been focused on development 
issues, and that is the approach she continues to take at the 
helm of the Tourism Ministry.  She sees tourism as just 
another means for spurring human resource development, as 
well as for extending key infrastructure (transportation, 
telecommunications, commercial and service outlets) to more 
areas of the country.  Given the priority that the Sultan has 
accorded to increasing tourism's share of GDP, it is unlikely 
that Rajiha might be transferred to another cabinet position 
in the next several years in order to give her ample time to 
get the new ministry established and large tourist 
infrastructure projects well on track.  She is a positive 
influence on modernization issues (such as e-government) and 
liberalized trade. 
¶J. (C) Meetings with U.S. Officials 
-- Rajiha has a poised but relaxed rapport with USG 
officials, whether it be in Oman or on travel to the U.S. 
She is not gregarious, but does have a quiet sense of humor 
and a favorable disposition toward the U.S. 
¶K. (C) Religious Conservatives 
-- Given the religious diversity in Oman, conservative 
attitudes toward women in high office are more of a social 
rather than religious phenomenon.  She acknowledges that many 
Omani males feel threatened by the competition in the 
workplace that women increasingly represent, and that 
prevailing attitudes still place a premium on women's 
commitments to their family above careers.  But those 
conservative currents in Omani society are not perceived as a 
physical threat.