Sunday, September 24, 2023 | Rabi' al-awwal 8, 1445 H
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My Journey Starting with No. 4973

A Window into Contemporary Omani Literature

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 Coastal Route to Military

We left our hometown and went through Wadi Hawasina towards Khabora along the coastal line. We called at the Dhyia Bay for afternoon prayers. One of us, while washing for prayers, dove into a sea inlet, thinking it was a stream, just like the one he knew would flow after heavy rain. To his (and our) surprise, he almost drowned. We all ran to him and saved him. It was a lesson for him that sea water was different from valley water.

After the prayers, we continued with our journey, passed through A’Soweq and Barka till we reached A’Seeb at night. It was a rather exhausting journey, sitting all the way on wooden Bedford seats as they shook on the then unpaved road.

We waited in Wadi Lawami for about ten days, anticipating the order to be shifted to the Bait al Falaj Camp; there was nothing we could do except walk at leisure in A’Seeb souq and at the beach. Despite the ten too long days for young men eagerly awaiting a life they had always dreamt of, we did spend our days and nights in joy and happiness.

We reached Bait al Falaj, and set foot at “al Farara”, in the eastern part of Bait al Falaj. (“Al Farara” means a device to pull water from a well with the wind movement, similar to the one in Thomas Hospital in Mutrah). When the wind blew, we knew that the machine would begin to work, and would run and take a bath there.

My Salary is Only 60 Rupee

We stayed for a couple of days till came the day for medical check-up and other tests. Some of us passed all the tests, while others didn’t. I was amongst the former. At that moment my journey started with 4973, my military number which I at first thought warranted no attention, but it grew so important and would remain with me throughout my army career. Another number that I still fondly remember was 60, as my first salary was just 60 Rupee.

What beautiful days!

Each one us was given 20 Rupee at first to buy an aluminium container, a coal operated iron, a substance to whiten the clothes and a brush for cleaning the boots. We all went to Mutrah, and bought all that we needed. Once in the Mutrah Market, I remember a young man who failed the tests approached me asking for 10 baisa to buy lemon juice with sugar. I didn’t give him anything, saying, “That’s not fair”. To this day I don’t quite understand why I behaved in the way I did. I might have meant something like, “You failed; you have no right to claim benefits you’re not due”.

Later we were moved to the Ghala Traning Centre, where we spent six months. It was there that I came to learn what it meant to be a military man. Training was very tough, and the trainers were at pains to teach the new cohorts all manner of military exercises. We used to run from the training centre in Ghala to the Azeba Coast. We were, in the same period, trained in swimming. On a board attached to barrels through a long rope tied to a tree, we would be pushed out to the sea.

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