The following is my English translation of an excerpt from “A Soldier from Oman: Memory’s Nectar” by (ret.) Inspector-General Said bin Rashid Al Kalbani
The First Step: I am a Military Man
I don’t quite know why I didn’t dream of any place to work in other than the military. It happened as if it were predestined that I go down a route that would lead me to be a soldier, a military man.
I was simply attracted by the charm of those imposing bodies with special uniforms. Time pointed to the 1960s, and we had just begun to make our way into life with all our dreams and ambitions. I dreamt of joining the army, pursuing the footsteps of those young men, my next of kin, who had already had the honour of serving their country through the military. I remember, amongst many others, Mohammed Al Kalbani, Hamad Al Kalbani and Said Al Kalbani.
I should mention, with all honesty and sincerity, that they evoked my envy, ignited my desire to join the army. I wished I had been like them, done like them. With their remarkable fitness, their imposing power, their harmonized bodies, they were my role model. I would look at them with so much admiration and awe when they came to our small town during special occasions such as Eid(s) or shooting competitions.
At the end of Augustus 1964, a team of the Sultan’s armed forces arrived at Miskan in Bedford military vans, looking for people for military service. We knew they would come; therefore, we were, with all eagerness and zeal, waiting for them, waiting for those who would take us closer to our dreams and ambitions, lead us to the great honour that they had already achieved. Young men aspiring to an experience altogether different from what a rural town could offer, we would leave our homes, direct our eyes to those paths that would bring the Bedford vans to us, hopefully, sooner than we expected.
When they came closer to our village, we felt our dream was closer to reality. Our zeal was such that it almost took us to the vans before they reached us. Despite the dust coming from the huge tires, we all ran towards them, each hoping to be the lucky one.
I remember the head of the team was Denson, a British national, assisted by Maj. Mahmood bin Ibrahim Al Raisi and another soldier by the name of Rashid bin Abdullah Al Mamari.
So intense was my joy for being one amongst the seven selected to work in the army that I feel as if it happened yesterday. At that moment, I couldn’t believe that my long-awaited dream was about to come true.
My parents weren’t satisfied with my decision, perhaps because they expected me to be with them and because of their fear of an unknown future. This was the first time that I would go to Muscat for a period they weren’t used to. Nonetheless, they didn’t prevent me pursuing my dream.
On the day we left Miskan to start a new life, everyone was ready in a way hard to describe: our souls so intimately attached to the place on the one hand, a whole new life awaiting us, on the other. Between Muscat and Miskan there was a distance that at first conjured up a mixture of strange feelings: leaving our family, neighbours, tribesmen, the soil we lived on and lived with since we opened our eyes; at the other end of the spectrum, there was Muscat promising a life altogether different from what we were accustomed to.
We said “goodbye” to our hometown with tears held back in our eyes, as it was unmanly, by custom, to express our sadness. We had to show calmness and composure. Those with no experience at sea were supplied with some perfumes and mahalab* to avoid sea sickness on the journey.
*A plant, apparently believed to have healing power, (the translator).