Friday, September 22, 2023 | Rabi' al-awwal 6, 1445 H
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Mountain Men Forbear

A Window into Contemporary Omani Literature

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

Perhaps it was the mountainous nature of the area we grew in that provided us with the stamina necessary to stand the tough military exercises and duties. Indeed, since our childhood we led a life akin to military exercises: we ate leaves from the trees, hunted to eat, walked under the sun, drank lukewarm water and got injuries from thorns and bites from mosquitoes and all sorts of insects, both creeping and flying ones.

Our military training continued for six months. I remember when on leave we would set off in one of the Bedford vans on a perhaps three-day long journey towards Miskan. We would sometimes be confronted with heavy rains and overflowing valleys and stop off in a number of villages and towns such as Bidbid, Somail, Izki and Manah. Everyone would get off at their respective villages till we, in the end, reached the place we missed so much. Once in Miskan, we would provide camels to those dwelling in faraway villages. We also used Miskan as our point of departure on our return journey to Muscat.

Between Graduation and Army Companies

Graduation ceremony back then wasn’t different from today’s; the sheer exhilaration the graduates experience hasn’t changed. I remember with what tender affection we prepared our clothes for graduation, the day we awaited so long, the day that would serve as a confirmation that we deserved to be our country’s guards: we would sprinkle starch on our clothes to make them all the neater, all the more elegant.

After graduation, we were sent to the Muscat Regiment in Bidbid, and thence distributed to three companies named in the following manner:

A Company (in Rostaq)

B Company (in Izki)

C Company (in Bidbid, with the HQ commanded by the British national Maj. Revend*)

I was to be in Bidbid, specifically in platoon 9, led by Srg. Jan Mohammed Al Balushi, Corp. Saif bin Hamad Al Rahbi, the Deputy Corp. Khamis bin Abdullah Al Hosni and Private Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Hosni (Abu Shihab).

I remember the competition between the platoons of the Bidbid Regiment in the firing range. On the second day of our arrival, I was selected for the firing team of our platoon, although I wasn’t then competent enough. I remember how Corp. Saif Al Rahbi, who knew me while training in Ghala, became angry with me when he noted that my firing ability was below par. Corp. Khamis Al Hosni, who was with me in the firing team, responded that it was all due to the new firing range and the new rifle, and that in due course I would get used to them.

Amongst my best friends during that time were Saif and Khamis, whom I used to go out with to hunt ibex in Wadi Seq (in the Jawamed District).

* There were many British men serving in the Omani army both prior to and in the immediate aftermath of 1970.

For viewing the events from the perspective of one such men see Ian Gardiner’s In the Service of the Sultan, a First

Hand Account of the Dhofar Insurgency (South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military, 2006). The Omani writer and poet

Hilal Al Hajri examines the accounts of some British military men who served in Oman and of British travelers who

came as tourists in his British Travel-Writing on Oman: Orientalism Reappraised (Bern: Peter Lang AG, 2006) (the


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