The following is my English translation of excerpts from “A Soldier from Oman: Memory’s Nectar” by (ret.) Inspector-General Said bin Rashid al Kalbani
One of the noteworthy customs of that period [the 60s and 70s) was hadhra. If someone had something stolen or his property damaged, people would be called for a general gathering, hadhra. All the attendants and their children would be asked to take an oath of innocence. Whoever didn’t attend would be singled out. People would go to him and ask him why he missed the hadhra. If the reason given was fully convincing, it would be accepted, and the person would accordingly be judged innocent. This custom saved people resorting to court to resolve such issue
Around 1955 we received a short message informing us of the arrival of Uncle Ali al Kalbani from Africa. Upon his arrival we saw a big device we didn’t recognise. With its wooden structure, it was called “radio”. People back then didn’t know what a radio was and what it would present; they didn’t have a clue what culture change it would bring.
It operated by being connected to an antenna and was hanged onto a palm tree. People crowded in with astonishment, whispering, “Where the iron speaks there skulks the danger”. Some left saying that the Doomsday would soon come, while others, spellbound, kept listening.
The “Wood” Flies!
There were a number of Bani Kalban living in Kalbaa in Khor Fakhaan*. One day one of them visited Miskan. As was the custom, he was warmly welcomed and asked about his “news”**. He said in response, “Nothing, except we saw a wood fly!” (Ships in those days were called “wood”). He meant to say that he saw a ship flying. The coastal people of Khor Fakhan would normally sea ships sailing to the sea not an aircraft flying in the air. Thinking that he was either lying or laughing at them, people asked him to leave.
Our Donkey Deserves Warmth
We had a white coloured, quiet and obedient donkey. We appreciated him for the innumerable services he rendered us. In winter we kept him warm with burlap. He was so close to us that he would bray if we were late in feeding him.
Donkeys were an important means of transportation in those days. They carried manure to the farms, food to the neighbouring towns and whatever we could not carry ourselves, such as soil and clay-made bricks for building houses.
On mentioning building, we, the children, would bring soil, knead it in water and then take it to the builders. We also carried clay-bricks to them, singing as we did, “O builder take; take and give me”. We repeatedly sang this in order to motivate and energise ourselves.
*In the United Arab Emirates (the translator).
**It is the tradition in Oman that you greet a person by asking him about his “news”, a social gesture meant to show closeness and solidarity (the translator).