If you step into this library, the hundreds of books about the environment that make the majority of the collection will transport you to different worlds you didn’t know exist. The library belongs to Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs and managed by the librarian Saif Mohammed al Sharji.
The books, usually in Arabic or English, also include topics such as history, geography, science and literature among others.
Saif’s journey as the keeper of the library was an unusual one. Now serving as a librarian for 33 years, he started off with little interest in books and was gradually enchanted by them when he was appointed as their keeper.
“I’d been working for 43 years, 33 years of which had been working as a librarian. I did not begin my career like this,” Saif shared as we were enjoying a cup of Kahwa.
Saif had his schooling in Tanzania and he came to Oman in the early beginning of Oman’s Renaissance in 1974. Aged 17 and full of confidence, he began to look for a job. As he hunted for something that would become his bread and butter, he realised that he has quite a challenge ahead — the language. But fortunately for his case, he got his break immediately in a British company that dealt with aircraft.
“I realised English was the business language and is required to secure a job in a company. I was lucky enough to obtain a job,” he shared.
“The first two years, I worked as a telephone operator. It was the best place to learn English because I was constantly speaking to people and my language improved. I then took up language courses at the British Council. In the 70s, the British Council was in Muttrah and I used to attend evening classes for two hours for four days a week,” he narrated.
Knowing or unknowingly the teenager was building his skills and scaling his career.
“One must develop communication skills so one can communicate well with people. When I switched from the Aircraft sector to the ministry, the focus also switched from English to Arabic,” he said.
As he started working for the ministry, Said also pursued his love for football. Maintaining a balance between work and life, he began playing for a local club called Al Arabi.
“Al Arabi was popular and had so many players that we had to form another group called Cosmos. I was the defender, the captain as well as the coach for the Cosmos. We were not professional then,” he shared.
“I played for Bausher Club for three seasons, played for Al Ahli Club for two seasons, three seasons for Ibra Club and Adam Club for three seasons and then I retired,” he said.
“Football in Oman was not like what it is today. The old guards as I call them never got a chance to play on the grass we used to play in Goubrah. We get together once a year on a big farm in Barka with our families and relive memories,” he said.
As he pursued his passion for the game, in the work department, he was thrust into librarianship.
He felt it was quite extraordinary for someone who likes playing games would also develop deep love for reading and books.
His schooling had given a very strong foundation for his interest in the environment.
“My favourite genre of books to read is anything to do with the environment. The interest came from growing up in Africa where you are constantly in touch with nature. In school, we had Field Science that took us students to outdoors where we learnt about the plants, insects, and animals. We had practical classes and not confined in the class rooms. And I became passionate about the environment,” he said.
Today, Al Sharji pass down his passion for the environment to students visiting the library.
“My father was my role model and he had a vision. My advice to the youth is that they have to do their homework well and must have a vision of what they want to be in life and go for it. Doors are open for all to achieve whatever you want to be. And read. Reading opens the door for knowledge and knowledge creates human expansion.”
The passion for the environment and to share the inspiration continues in this library, which is open to all.