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:
Our regiment received orders to depart for Salalah to replace the Northern Frontiers Regiment. We had to cross the Dhofar mountains before the khareef season. By about mid-June, 1966, we set off by road, cutting across the Empty Quarter. It took us approximately seven days to arrive at the Om al Ghwaraf Camp.
During those days all the military barracks in Om al Ghwaraf were ready. The Muscat Regiment was the first to stay in them. We stayed there until August, engaged in daily exercises across the Jarbeeb Plain (Eteen), carrying out ambushes at the entrances of the valleys in Reshum, Jardom, Jarzeez, Nheez and Sahnot.
On intelligence of some anti-government activity, we received in the same month, August, orders to head towards Wadi Darbat. This took us, the soldiers, by surprise, as it came concurrent with the khareef, something akin to committing suicide. Nonetheless, more dangerous than suicide was not to obey the order; we had but do our duty notwithstanding weather conditions and seasons.
While heading towards Wadi Darbat, we took the “Rori” Lagoon as our headquarters. We stayed there for two nights. In the morning, we climbed up the mountain, walking midst swamps while the rain persisted, till we arrived at the coconuts-laden entrance of the valley. Because the sun was about to set and the fog too heavy, we had few chances to move on, thus, we decided to spend the night at that spot.
As usual, we dug trenches in case of a possible night attack. When night fell the trenches burnt like embers, for they were swarmed by a type of long, mud living insect we called “ghaweel alma”. By digging through the mud, we found that we had cut them up, and they oozed fire-like blood.
Some soldiers thought that was due to sorcery and, as a result, climbed out of the trenches. It was something, though, quite ordinary for us, the palm tree people. On our explanation, they came back to their places.
The following day, we resumed our journey at mid-day, heading deep inside the valley. Our group consisted of three platoons, the 9th, the 10th and the 11th; from the third company, the Muscat Regiment, under the command of Maj. Revend and another British captain. We patrolled the area as we moved on slowly.
When we reached the head of the valley in the evening, our commander ordered us to spend the night in a big cave due to heavy rain. Because the cave was directly exposed to a lake, the soldiers felt rather uncomfortable with the prospect of being surrounded by the enemy. Amongst the soldiers who were of the view that we look for another place was Srg. Mohammed bin Masaud al Busaidy, supported by other soldiers. Of course, the military man had but to obey the order.
After discussions between the commander and the heads of the other platoons, it was decided that we look for an alternative place. We did find another cave, spacious enough for three platoons, with a strategic location. We spent our night there. The following day we left the cave in the morning and spread out to inspect the area as we were instructed. We came back to the cave in the evening. I remember in the two nights we spent there we were stung several times by “Arnot”, a small insect rather active in the khareef period. Most of the soldiers fell ill.