Sunday, April 14, 2024 | Shawwal 4, 1445 H
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Two men and the sea


Like many Omanis, I felt anxious when reading the news about the search for the cousin fishermen Ali and Salim Al-Jafari who disappeared while fishing in Al-Ashkharah in Sharqiya region on June the 9th.

I was equally relieved ten days later when I learned that they’d made their first contact from Pakistan. After arriving home, Oman Arabic newspaper published their first interview on the 21st of June where they shared their ten days ordeal.

It starts at 5 am of June the 9th when Ali and Salim went fishing on their 25-foot-long boat that has 200-horsepower engine, as they’ve done for years. The waters were choppy and the waves were high due to the start of monsoon season. It was 5 pm when they were done to discover that the engine wasn’t working. They were almost 60 nautical miles (111.12 km) away from Al-Ashkharah.

For a whole hour, they tried re-starting the engine and contacting a few acquaintances but failed as there was no network in the middle of the sea.

Ali and Salim realised that it was time to put their survival skills to test. To keep the boat afloat, the first thing they did was to throw their catch back in the water. At that time, the intensity of the wind was increasing and went on for three days, leaving both men cold and fearful. The wind finally ceased by the fourth but they were far away from land by now.

However, many commercial and military ships were passing by very close to them but none of them stopped even after seeing them. This didn’t dishearten the two fishermen who kept waving their hands whenever they spotted a sailing vessel and igniting a few torches by the evening, in hope that someone would eventually stop to rescue them.

They had 4 litters of water that they rationed carefully- taking a few sips daily just to quinch their thirst- but no food at all. When it was unbearably hot during the day, they’d fill the boat with sea water to cool their bodies. The sail was turned into a canopy to shelter them from the scorching sun and for ships to spot.

To keep their morals high, Ali and Salim shared stories they’d heard from their families about fishermen like them who went missing and came back- months later- with a survival story to share. Meanwhile, ships kept passing by and never stopping which convinced them that they must think they were pirates!

By the morning of the tenth day, they ran out of water but noticed three wooden fishing ships near them. The two men kept waving their hands and shouting, yet – as always- the fishermen ignored them.

It was around 3 pm when two ships left and one ship decided to approach them. Unfortunately, there was no common language between the fishermen but the wooden ship owners understood at once that these were merely fishermen- just like them- who were lost in the sea.

Ali and Salim learned that the fishermen were Pakistanis who were heading to Karachi. Once they boarded the ship, both men prostrated to God in gratitude for saving them and asked the captain for a phone to call their families.

Within hours, Ali and Salim were picked up by the Maritime Security ship that travelled faster to Karachi, where they were welcomed by the Omani consul and Pakistani authorities who got them medically checked before issuing them passports to travel back home.

Ali and Salim’s pictures and their survival story were instantly shared on social media. A brave story of perseverance and hope.

Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja.

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