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Volume 37, Number 5September/October 1986

In This Issue

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The Arab Participants

Written and photographed by Paul F. Hoye

On July 3 aboard the Shabab Oman, the Arab world's sole entry in the dramatic sail-past the restored Statue of Liberty by the most famous sailing ships in the world, a writer summed up America's immigrant experience. Scanning the thousands of yachts gunwale to gunwale across New York's gigantic harbor, he said: "You know, the streets really were paved with gold."

He had a point. Once a symbol of wealth, the estimated 30,000 yachts that had poured into New York Harbor that day to mark the re-dedication of the Statue of Liberty, were a symbol of the financial and vocational success achieved by so many of the early immigrants who poured into the United States believing the famous legend that the "streets are paved with gold." They weren't, of course, but they did lead to places that, soaked with the sweat of toil, often yielded wealth to the immigrants and their descendants.

Some of those descendants were in evidence July 3 as the Shabab Oman slipped away from it's moorings at the World's Fair Marina in Flushing, in the incredibly clear morning sun, to rendezvous with Small Ships and lead them down the East River as part of Liberty Weekend's Opening Day ceremonies.

Overhead, like darts flung at a target, the shuttles from up and down the East Coast, and farther, came thundering and flashing down onto La Guardia's runways, while ahead, trucks and cars raced across the Triborough Bridge, trying to beat the ban on traffic in downtown Manhattan.

On the ship's bridge, the officers conferred with pilot Craig Massey - their voices quiet and confident as they passed orders to the helmsman: "half-ahead... midship... starboard five... steady" - while on deck the Omani crewmen slowly lined up at attention as the ship eased into the East River.

By then, the early crowds were out in force, crammed onto the balustrades of Gracie Mansion - traditional home of New York City's mayor - packed into the windows of offices and apartment buildings and lined up on rooftops.

Slowly, majestically, the Shabab Oman cruised along in the sunlight, fleets of boats : swarming behind and beside her, the sailors coming to disciplined attention at such places as the United Nations building, wreathed in gun smoke as salutes were fired - and received. By 10:40, the Small Ships parade was over. Having passed the newly rebuilt Statue of Liberty, the Shabab Oman and its fleet sailed under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and dropped anchor off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, amid the other 60 Tall Ships and Small Ships that would, on July 4, cruise up the Hudson River to launch the Independence Day festivities.

For Captain Prentis and the Shabab Oman, the July 3 Small Ships parade on the East River was the climax of a 102-day voyage that had begun March 22 in Muscat - when Sultan Qaboos himself boarded the ship to wish the crew a bon voyage ; the first of several highlights that marked their long cruise from the Arabian Sea to the East River.

As ancient Omani ships once did - when Oman's maritime empire extended to Zanzibar - the Shabab Oman first followed the southern monsoon coasts of the Arabian Peninsula and then headed north through the Red Sea, stopping at Jiddah. After emerging from the Suez Canal, the ship stopped at Alexandria, crossed the Mediterranean to Gibraltar, entered the Atlantic and, after a stop at Madeira, sailed to Bermuda.

The ship's landfall in America was at Newport, Rhode Island, once a major U.S. Navy installation and the site of the famous summer "cottages" built by wealthy U.S. magnates. Strung along the richly landscaped edge of Ocean Drive on low cliffs above the Atlantic, some of these "cottages" were larger than the original European palaces, chateaux and manor houses which they resemble.

Because of its location - rucked into a fold of Narragansett Bay just off Long Island Sound - Newport was not only a natural landfall, but also a natural jumping-off point for the now famous Tall Ships, which also appeared during America's Bicentennial extravaganza in 1976. And again, on Saturday, June 28, the city and its harbor played host to both Tall Ships and Small Ships. Visitors crowded in to Newport from the New England states and swarmed north from New York, cramming the expressways and jamming the Newport, Jamestown and Mount Hope Bridges that link Newport to the mainland.

Despite traffic, wilting temperatures and a mid-afternoon thunderstorm, most visitors reported that the trip was worth it. Newport's elegantly reconstructed shorelines and it's magnificent estates are worth a visit by themselves. But on that last weekend in June there was also the panorama of wall-to-wall yachts, yawls, catamarans, schooners and fishing trawlers, the amusing crush of sun-glassed elders, in baggy shorts and colorful caps, squads of girls in striped tank-tops and a thousand varieties of T-shirts, and eager children clutching ice cream cones and long wedges of watermelons. In addition, out in the harbor, there were the square-rigged ships, their flags rippling in the sun-soaked breeze of a perfect day, their soaring masts, reefed sails and flapping pennants rich with history, ripe with nostalgia.

For many of the Omani crewmen, Newport was the first exposure to the freewheeling, often gaudy, incredibly casual costumes and customs of summertime America - and they seemed to love it. But for Newport and many New England visitors it was also their first - and only - exposure to Arabs and the Arab world - and they loved it too. Mr. and Mrs. Donald Rowell, of Narragansett, for example, had tied up beside the Shabab Oman and, they admitted candidly, were expecting the usual raucous behavior that Newport, and most of the Atlantic Navy towns have come to associate with sailors on weekend leave. "But not these boys," said Mrs. Rowell.'These boys were nice and quiet."

They were also happy and cooperative, as, during the weekend, some 200,000 visitors lined up in the sun to board one or more of the sailing ships berthed in Newport. Clad in blue, their blue-checked ghutras tightly rolled, the Omanis smiled and shook hands and, hour after endless hour, posed for photographs as thousands of tourists tried to record the visit for their albums and slide trays.

Meanwhile, down in his cabin, Captain Prentis was simultaneously arranging interviews with reporters and photographic sessions with TV cameramen, and trying to review the one-and-half-inch thick Captain's Guide an exhaustive outline of schedules, navigational instructions, harbor locations and parade procedures in New York. With a 15:00 departure scheduled for June 30, he had little time to spare. Yet he somehow managed to review, with more than a hint of amusement, the circumstances that had brought him to Newport.

Trim, graceful and gracious, Captain Prentis was rounding out more than 30 years of service with the Royal Navy when someone over dinner mentioned that the Sultanate of Oman was looking for a captain with some experience in square-rigged sailing ships. "Fortuitously," Captain Prentis said, "I was then possibly the only practicing master of square-rigged ships in the Royal Navy."

Aboard the Shabab Oman, training is important. The ship provides 30-odd training cruises of 10 to 14 days each year, plus one major cruise to such ports as Bombay, for 25 aspiring mariners from Oman and the other states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates.

Those cruises, interestingly, are not restricted to sailors.They include air force officers, infantrymen, artillerymen, and even Bedouin guides. The point, Captain Prentis said, is to show the often parochially oriented military men the size and variety of the country they serve, by cruising up and down Oman's 1,930-kilometer coast (1,200 miles).

In addition to some British officers, the Shabab Oman has, usually, two Omani officers, one of whom during the Liberty Weekend was Lt. Yusuf Ali of the Omani coastguard.

On June 30, Shabab Oman slipped out of Newport and sailed to Long Island for the upcoming "Operation Sail" for Small Ships, and one day later the Tall Ships followed. Unexpectedly, the governor of Rhode Island showed up and requested that the ships circle the harbor, so their departure was delayed. But all along Rhode Island coast thousands of spectators obstinately stayed put- some of them from early morning to late afternoon. Laden with picnic hampers and ice buckets, folding chairs and parasols, they had claimed their spots early and were not to be dislodged. At last, though, the ships hauled anchor, ran out their sheets and, like the fleets of another age, headed for New York.

To modern sailors, used to the rumbling power of diesels, the sight of sails may seem less exciting than it does to landlubbers. But even sailors, sweeping the horizon with binoculars, were moved that day as the Tall Ships, hull-down, inched across the sea under full sail. From Point Judith, whose granite teeth once trapped hundreds of ships much like these, it was easy to see why, in the past, the cry of "Sail-ho!" would send sailors scrambling to the yard - arms to see if it were a friend with news and fresh food, or the enemy laden with shot and shell.

With the Small Ships parade, Manhattan settled down to enjoy itself. By evening, expectations were running at fever pitch as President Reagan with French President Francois Mitterrand standing by, pushed the control button on Governors Island that triggered the relighting of the recently refurbished Statue of Liberty. By the time the presidents of the two countries had arrived on Governors Island, an international flotilla of yawls, schooners and ketches joined by cruisers, inflatable dinghies and kayaks, as well as naval ships, tour boats, fishing boats, barges, 350 Coast Guard vessels Shabab Oman, and the spectacular Tall Ships were on hand - stepping stones all across New York's vast harbor.

No one was disappointed. First the 20-meter (65-foot) base was drenched in bright red, then red-amber as the light moved slowly up the 27-meter (89-foot) pedestal and finally a brilliant blue light revealed the glorious 46-meter (151-foot) Lady Liberty.

One highlight of the opening night's activities was the swearing-in of 292 new citizens, from over 100 nations, on Ellis Island, as, simultaneously, more than 25,000 others became citizens in various places across the United States - on Ellis Island to the whistles and horns of ships blasting congratulations.

The next day - July 4 - the celebrations continued during what a headline in the New York Times called "A Very Special Day." It began with President Reagan boarding a battleship to review an armada of 32 naval vessels - 21 representing 13 foreign countries - and to receive a series of 21-gun salutes.

Meanwhile, the Shabab Oman and other Small and Tall Ships, sails unfurled, moved majestically across the harbor in a spanking 10-knot breeze, in a pathway cleared by 10 tugboats, the first two pumping red, white and blue towers of water 30 meters (100 feet) in the air.

On shore, 50 city blocks of lower Manhattan were closed to traffic to provide a pedestrian area for "the party": an enormous street fair called "The Harbor Festival" which began July 4 and lasted three days. The festival featured ethnic food and cultural shows - including Arabic - on eight stages especially erected for the occasion, and, unique to New York, camaraderie evident everywhere as persons of virtually every imaginable ancestry joined hands, and hearts, with hundreds of thousands of visitors, to wave flags and proclaim their patriotism.

As the day wore on, people milled about seeking the perfect spot to view what was probably the highlight of the celebration - the "biggest fireworks display in history" - as it was: a blazing 28 minute barrage of color from booming skyrockets which left awed viewers gasping. "We expected the best fireworks since Nero set Rome on fire, and we got them," bragged New York City's mayor, Ed Koch.

And it still wasn't over. On the next day, Nancy Reagan ceremoniously cut a ribbon to officially open the Statue of Liberty to the public again - after having been closed for a two-year, $69.8-million refurbishing. Meanwhile, the festivities continued with boat races, rowing races, blimp races,a parade of antique cars and visits to sailing and naval ships, like the Shabab Oman, which opened their gangplanks to the public. Still others swarmed through the streets of lower Manhattan, earing, drinking and making merry as they witnessed a Salute to Immigrant Cultures - with performers representing countless ethnic cultures - including a Near Eastern Music Ensemble which played traditional classical and folk music of the Arab Middle East.

The final event of the day was an enormous gathering - 800,000 persons - at Manhattan's Central Park for a concert by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Marine Band and an array of artists who interwove classical and patriotic tunes and ended the program by having the audience join in singing America the Beautiful.

Could there be more? Yes, indeed! Despite record-breaking heat, the final day of Liberty Weekend opened with a triathlon race of 450 athletes to the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, and ended with a Sports Spectacular of more than 100 top sports figures at an arena in nearby New Jersey and f three-hour extravaganza with a cast of 6,000. They performed on a 20-tiered motorized stage complete with waterfalls and fountains in a Hollywood-style finale, described, accurately, on one forlorn bumper sticker glimpsed in traffic. It read "Nobody Throws a Party Like NEW YORK."

The Paris Celebration
Written by Joseph Fitchett
Photographed by Yann Layma

Just as French talents were present at the Statue of Liberty's birth - French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi designed it, and French engineers Gustave Eiffel and Jean-Baptiste Gaget built it - Frenchmen were again intimately involved with the statue's restoration a century later. Ten artisans from Rheims traveled to New York, in 1984, to help restore the statue: hammering copper and making parts - the spikes, the torch and the flame-like their forefathers. Although the restorers, from Les Metalliers Champenois (Metal-Workers of Champagne), were mostly in their 20's, they were masters in their ancient craft: they arrived in New York with two tons of hand tools, including more than 100 different hammers of their own design.

Meanwhile, Paris itself was carrying out a much smaller facelift on its own much smaller version of Liberty - a copy of Bartholdi's statue on a small island in the Seine known as the Îl aux Cygnes (Island of the Swans). This 2.4-metre-high (eight foot) version was commissioned by the American community in Paris as a gift for the city in 1886, partly as a token of appreciation, partly as a kind of consolation prize; as Bartholdi's giant figure had risen during construction, Parisians had taken a fancy to it and were reluctant to see it go.

A few days before the celebrations in New York, Jacques Chirac, the mayor of Paris and prime minister of France, presided over a spirited ceremony to mark the unveiling of the restored Paris miniature version of Liberty. Chirac, who attended Harvard and adores Dixieland jazz, accompanied French and American dignitaries and ambassadors from dozens of nations on a boat trip from the statue upriver to the city hall for a reception - a good-natured, low-key foretaste of the festivities in New York 10 days later, at which French President Francois Mitterand was the only foreign head of state participating alongside President Reagan.

In Paris, François de Laboulaye - a recent French ambassador to Washington and grandson of Edouardde Laboulaye, leader of the group of French liberals who commissioned Liberty - said that the crowning success of his grandfather's project is that "Americans have adopted this French gift so completely that it incarnates their own dream of their own nation."

Paul F. Hoye
Written by Ismail Ibrahim Nawwab

As this issue of the magazine went to press, Paul F. Hoye, its editor for almost a quarter of a century, died of cancer after a brief illness. He was 59. Visionary and pragmatist, dreamer of dreams and man of dazzling achievements, Paul fell passionately and possessively in love with Aramco World from the time he assumed its editorship. His intense dedication to the publication continued unabated to, and through, the time of his suddenly discovered tragic illness. When I telephoned him from Saudi Arabia to enquire about his health, soon after cancer had been diagnosed, all he would talk about was the magazine. Even in those circumstances, he completed an Aramco World story at his desk in Leiden, The Netherlands. He was working from his own notes, firsthand impressions and photographs, having just returned from covering New York's gala July Fourth Liberty Weekend for this long-planned "Arab Immigrant" issue.

Paul's last story, and indeed his creation of this special issue, are symbolic in more than one way. First, they typify his deep and heartfelt determination to light a candle of understanding that would help to illumine the world of the Arabs and Islam for the eyes of the English-speaking West. Judging by Aramco World's standing worldwide among scholars, professionals and laymen, Paul has succeeded in realizing this goal. Second, they show the importance he attached to the objective, fair portrayal of Arabs and Muslims in the West, and particularly to the Arab-American connection. Two other special issues that demonstrate clearly his bold and solid achievements as a cross-cultural interpreter are those on the Hajj, the Muslim Pilgrimage to Makkah, and on the Arab woman. Paul's noble mind and tender heart are further attested by his super conception of-and tireless editorial toil and collaboration on - the much-acclaimed Aramco and Its World: Arabia and the Middle East, a volume sponsored by Aramco.

Paul began his writing career as a reporter on the Providence [Rhode Island] Journal. It was at the Journal that he met his wife-to-be Cathy, who, with their daughter, Eileen, and sons Patrick and Matthew, survives him.

In 1963, Paul won a Ford Foundation Fellowship in Advanced International Reporting at New York's Columbia University, where he studied Middle Eastern affairs. On completion of the program, he accepted the position of Aramco World's editor, based in Beirut. That was his home until 1976, when civil war forced the transfer of his editorial headquarters to Europe.

Under him, Aramco World winged its way from the confining goals of a run-of-the-mill, black-and-white company house organ, soared to wider cultural horizons, and reached the very heights of world-class corporate journalism. The magazine won several prestigious design and production awards, but the accolades Paul always prized most were the never-ceasing praises of its readers. He was extremely proud when, in a recent reader survey, seven of 10 persons responding rated Aramco World an excellent publication, many of them comparing it to Life or National Geographic. One reader quoted John Keats to describe it: "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."

"I start with the basic assumptions," Paul wrote recently, "that few people outside it know very much about the Middle East, but that many are fascinated by the myths and legends of its colorful past. In order to capture their interest in the Middle East today you have to present each subject with visually exciting color, graphics, layout, typography, illustrations and photography."

Though he used mainly what he called his team of professional free-lance editors and writers, Paul always kept the pages of the magazine open to amateurs and beginners, a policy which brought a perpetual freshness of style and viewpoint to the publication and won him their affectionate thanks for his unstinting help and encouragement.

Although 24 years an editor, Paul never lost his reporter's touch, personally covering such stories as an intercontinental tanker voyage and, for this issue, Arab participation in Liberty Weekend. He also never lost his verve in pursuing the exclusive story, dispatching the first team of journalists to report on Muslims in China and planning, even as he died, to follow up a new lead on the supposed whereabouts of Noah's Ark and, with a missing link restored, retrace the old Silk Road.

In his interest in his readers, his independence of mind, his quest for graphic excellence, his lively humor, his indefatigable energy, and his endeavor to make this a better world, Paul was the thoroughbred editor. Two other qualities were represented in him: great courage and profound religious faith. The first blazed new trails for the magazine, the second sustained him through his fruitful life and his brief but traumatic illness.

Paul F. Hoye's life is now extinguished. The beautiful candle that he lit still burns.

Ismail I. Nawwab

General Manager, Public Affairs

This article appeared on pages 34-39 of the September/October 1986 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.


Check the Public Affairs Digital Image Archive for September/October 1986 images.