Brows covered in sweat, Hamida al Habsi slowly inched her way forward on a steep slope in Bandar al Khairan. Her 13-year-old son, Abdullah, was almost a kilometre away with the rest of the trekkers who were heading towards a hidden camping spot facing one of Khairan’s scenic coast. At five in the afternoon, the weather was a good 28 degrees and the cold breeze and the thick clouds forming over the horizon helped a little bit in easing the pain on her back caused by the heavy backpack that contained their camping gears — tents, mats and food ration for the overnight camp. It was Hamida and Abdullah’s first backpacking and hiking trip in the country after their long vacation in Malaysia more than a month ago.
Abdullah was fitting in well with the members of the Hiko Adventures led by Munther al Jaabri. Combining forces with Ahmed al Jaabri’s Oman Outdoor Adventure group, the faces were familiar which made both mother and son at ease. They’d joined the group a few times in some of its easier outdoor activities. While Abdullah has all the eagerness of a child, every once in a while, he would stop to look for his mother. At 13, he is growing to be a well-rounded kid who cared deeply for his mother. Quite aware that his mom is carrying a heavy load, he offered to carry the bag every few metres just so his mom can take a rest. When the group is walking fast, both mother and son took a few minutes to rest. They have to stop several times and n these rests, Abdullah always asked his some of the most ludicrous questions.
“I’ve decided to get him more engaged in outdoor activities because, at home, he is always playing with gadgets,” Hamida shared. It was seldom that Abdullah was disconnected. The kid shared that his phone got busted when someone accidentally dropped it and while he always borrowed his mom or his siblings phone, he didn’t mind that he wasn’t playing or communicating with any of his friends while on that activity.
“I think it’s important that he learned to appreciate the beauty of nature. By exposing him to activities like hiking and camping, he learns important life lessons not taught in school,’ Hamida said.
Abdullah is the youngest in the family. A great storyteller, he brought joy to the trip. His eyes grow wild as he shared things that he saw and experienced in several of his travels.
Camp Leader Munther al Jaabri said that when activities are not that strenuous, they usually let kids join to slowly get them familiarised with being out in the wild.
He pointed out that kids especially the Omani children are the future of the country and if they are able to learn about their country at an earlier age, they would learn to love it more and become its ambassadors.
“Our family has been living in this part of the Sultanate for years. We are familiar with its terrain. We grew up exploring the different parts of Yiti and Khairan and there are so much that is yet to be discovered,” he said.
Munther and his cousin Ahmed took the group to part of Al Khairan known among the local population for its great sunsets and rich and diverse waters.
“There are many activities you can do here if you are into water activities. The water here is known for its rich underwater biodiversity. It has been the best place to dive,” Ahmed said.
While the rest of the group came for the view and the adventure, for Hamida, it was a teaching opportunity for his son. She gave him the freedom to interact with the people around and showed that he trusted Ahmed’s judgments and decisions.
Hamida hoped that every parent should realise that kids today are growing up faster than the previous generations.
“It’s funny because in the evening., Abdullah asked me ‘what’s for dinner’. He was quite surprised that I took out canned foods from the bag. He wasn’t used to it. Dinner is usually comprised of different items so he learnt that when camping, things are quite different,” she said.
For many parents especially in the West, concern over ‘Nature deficit disorder’ is on the rise. The disorder is used to describe kids spending more time inside the house that outside cause significantly by technology. It is believed that kids are spending more than seven hours a day in front of screens.
Hamida hoped his kids, especially Abdullah being the youngest, would grow to love the outdoors.
“Fortunately in Oman, being in the Middle East, the country offers lots of opportunities for outdoor activities. There’s a good mix of beaches and mountains which are good for hiking and camping,” Rose, one of the participants, shared.
“Here in Bandar Khairan, I noticed many parents bringing their kids for snorkelling and diving adventures. It’s a great start,” she added.
For Hamida, she’s made up her mind that in future adventures, as long as Abdullah can do it, she will definitely tag him along.
YERU EBUEN & TITASH CHAKRABORTY