His Majesty Sultan Qaboos was a name I got used to as a child during my frequent trips to Oman for summer vacations.
There was warmth, love and respect every time his name was mentioned. And then I got to see him — the cinema theatres in Muscat in the 70s used to play Oman’s National Anthem prior to every screening. Everyone would stand up for the anthem and there he was on a white horse taking a salute. Thus he became my childhood hero.
Upon completing higher studies, in the corner of the heart I wanted to work in the Sultanate where history was being made. Today, looking back I am glad I could witness and report on many historical milestones in the country’s development but more because I could experience the excitement of those moments from the country’s national days to understanding the direction His Majesty wanted to steer the nation through symposiums and conferences.
It was fascinating to witness the love the people of Oman have for their leader through special moments of celebrations to prayers — there was a very special ingredient all the time — unconditional love. I was able to be part of it when in Sur the community built a traditional dhow as a gift to the Sultan and launched it in his presence. He waved and the cheering got louder. One was also able to witness the celebration of traditions.
He had joy on the face while the children performed at the national day pageants during the years when we almost always had four days of celebrations including the military tattoo where other nations participated too. Unforgettable was his pride while watching the military parade and the enthusiasm in watching the activities of the Royal Cavalry.
The Arabian horses were truly special. Under His Majesty Sultan Qaboos instructions the Royal Cavalry was established in the 1970s to preserve traditional horse and equestrian activities, an integral part of the Omani culture. From a few stables in Al Wattayah, the Royal Cavalry grew steadily and moved to the current headquarters in Al Adiyat, Seeb and branches were set up in Safinat, Qadihat, Shumookh stables and also France and UK.
The Royal Cavalry has played a crucial role in maintaining horse culture and sports among Omani people through training, racing, polo, dressage, endurance and show jumping events conducted regularly.
Striking was the power of his words during the speeches on various occasions ranging from the Meet the People Tour to National Day to Majlis Oman. With keen interest he visited the exhibitors at the Oman International Exhibition Centre on the occasion of celebrating the Year of the Private Sector. He also made us aware on environmental issues and the number of nature reserves is the proof of the importance of environmental protection as part of the national policies.
Truly understanding the role of His Majesty the Sultan as a leader was during the meeting of the GCC leaders at Al Bustan Palace Hotel. He is celebrated today by the world for his contribution to maintain peace but what the world should also understand is the way he maintained balance in policies ranging from foreign policies to tolerance.
Every visitor or resident of the country has had the freedom to practice their faith. In return each resident has shown throughout these years how to be compatible with this nation, its people and their values and principles no matter which culture he or she is from.
There have been challenges yet each time the leader came up with unique solutions making it all a unique experience of Oman.
He ensured education was given equal importance along with health and quality of living conditions. No matter where one was books and food reached everywhere including the remote mountain tops.
An important speech that
touched on art is this, “We have maintained and preserved our identity and intellectual inheritance, and we have adopted every means for development and modernisation. It has been very clear to us that our heritage is not only represented by forts, castles and ancient buildings, but by spiritual customs and traditions, by science, art and literature, transmitted by one generation to another. The real preservation of heritage will not be accomplished unless we understand this, and cherish it.”
As Oman looked towards modernisation and almost 50 years later the country is looking ahead with the spirit of innovation. He continued to inspire the citizens from the oil fuelled economy to diversification. While looking ahead to 2040 plans His Majesty Sultan Qaboos had to depart from his people but not before leaving it all in the capable hands of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik.
A new decade, a new era but with strong foundation in faith, values and traditions the Sultanate looks ahead for a bright future.
If we look closer at policies from practicing non-interference in other countries affairs to tolerance and others we realise that it is actually a philosophy one could adapt in one’s life to achieve peace and success.