In This City is a challenge to journey with us in prayer for 12 key cities in 2019. We ask you to commit to praying for fruit that will ripen and bear the seeds for mature, vibrant and multiplying churches across the Arab world. Find out more in this article from the leader of Pioneers’ Middle East Region.
Sohar, hemmed between mountains and sea, is a major Gulf port city in the Sultanate of Oman. It is located on the east coast of the Arabian peninsula. In the summer months, it swelters with highs of 50 °C (122 F). Though the population is just under 250,000, Sohar is a city full of life, with excellent beaches and many attractions.
Fishing and sea travel have been a prominent part of Sohar’s history for many centuries. In fact, legend says that Sinbad the Sailor came from here. Today, that connection with the sea continues, and you can watch local fishermen in small boats bring their daily haul to a 4×4 vehicle waiting to deliver the catch straight to the local fish market.
Sohar is also becoming a hub for business and industry. Development over the past 20 years has transformed Sohar into a major industrial centre for the nation. As a mass exporter of oil, and with the fastest-growing tourism industry in the Middle East, Oman is a rich country. The Port of Sohar is considered a world-class facility. Due to its location on the Strait of Hormuz, which provides the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf out to the open ocean, it is also strategically significant. Although government investment is not growing as quickly as anticipated, the city of Sohar has a special place in the Omani government’s economic plan for 2020.
Population: < 250,000 (Census 2016)
Religion: Muslim 85.9%, Christian 6.5%, Hindu 5.5%, other 2.1%.
Ethnic groups: Gulf Arab, Balushi, various South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi), various Latin American (Brazilian, Venezuelan), European, North American. The general ‘feel’ of the town is still local Gulf Arab.
Geographical size: 310 sq km | 120 sq mi (Oman)
Location: North Oman
Key historical events: As the largest town in the region, it has been argued that Sohar is identified with the ancient town called Omanah, which is believed to have given Oman its name. A Christian monastery and a bishop were present here circa 400 AD, evidence of the fact that there was a historical Christian church in Sohar. However, in the middle of the seventh century, during the time of Muhammad, the city accepted Islam without opposition.
Until the middle of last century, most of the local Omani population did not receive a formal education, and society remained traditional and unchanged. Since Sultan Qaboos came to the throne in 1970, the government has given high priority to education to develop work opportunities for locals. Adult literacy in Oman, including Sohar, is now high, and more access to education continues to be a vital factor in the country’s economic and social progress.
As in the rest of the Arab world, the population here is very young: 43 per cent of Omanis are under the age of 15. Omani society is largely tribal, and the local Ibadi version of Islam is closely tied to tradition, especially in the interior of the country, due to lengthy periods of isolation.
However, as coastal dwellers with a history of maritime connections to the world, the people of Sohar (and other coastal cities in Oman) are generally more open and tolerant of others. This sometimes causes tension with the more traditional and insular people from the country’s interior.
There are few known local Christian believers in the whole of Oman. Seekers can feel very isolated in their spiritual journey, with no one to share their challenges and new discoveries. Even in Sohar, it’s hard for seekers to question, let alone step outside of the accepted way of life led by those who follow their national religion.
For expat Christian workers seeking to serve the Lord in Sohar, it’s difficult to constantly balance their secular job, which allows them to be there, with family and ministry priorities. Moreover, because access to Christian teaching and fellowship is limited, it is a priority for them to look after their own spiritual growth.
- Pray that local believers would experience God’s presence and peace in the face of many challenges.
- As our media team helps local field workers to pinpoint media outreach to specific cities, pray that seekers in Sohar will find and respond to our media adverts and be willing to connect with Christians where they live.
- It’s proving difficult to create viable business platforms in Sohar to live and minister in Christ’s name. Pray for blessings on those who are seeking to start new businesses.
- Pray that the team in Sohar would continue to progress well in learning the Arabic language, which is vital for connecting with locals in outreach and discipleship.
One last thing…
Colossians 4:3 is a verse that was brought to us by one of our team members. Let us pray this verse over Sohar and our team there:
‘At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.’
Thank you for praying with us
Next month, we’ll pray for the city of Safi in Morocco.