There was a time when travelling from Ghala to Ruwi would take at least an hour. People would travel on the back of open pick-ups to reach their offices. Going to Madinat Sultan Qaboos was like going to another town. And, what was that construction in the middle of a wadi in Al Qurum? That is believed to be the first mall in Muscat — SABCO Shopping Center.
Trying to bring together bits of memories is more like working on pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This tapestry of associations had the collaboration of a number of people who live or had lived in Oman for many decades. Using voice-recording, they spoke about moments in their lives, and what they can still remember.
To some, just to look back at their experiences brought emotions to their voices; to others, it was a matter of fact. One woman opened up her heart by saying, “I came to Oman as a bride and now I leave as a widow. I lived most of my life in Oman.” Another person spoke on how young he was when he came in the early 70s.
People remember better the situations that touched profoundly their lives and their feelings. Many of these were details about their routines. It was a life of hardship. Now, with all amenities and facilities available, the place is a paradise.
It is also interesting to listen to how the collaborators felt encouraged to look back — some were glad to delve into parts of their lives that were long forgotten.
To mark the country’s 48th anniversary, when most news stories are about achievements of the country, I thought of acknowledging the thousands of people of so many nationalities who contributed in all areas to the development of Oman — a small appreciation for those who came and already left as well as to those who are still here.
As most patriotic anniversaries, every achievement is a step forward; however, many a times those who gave their sweat, blood, or even their lives — are unheard of during commemorations. From construction to the road workers, to all other categories of employees, they are essential for the progress.
Let’s not forget the invisible men who look after the manicured gardens, those who collect rubbish in the most remote areas of the country, those who lay pipelines, and those who look after the farmers — they all contribute to the attractiveness and economic accomplishments.
They all deserve to be part of the celebrations and get a heartful thank you. Sure, there is immense gratitude to those responsible for the best results of expansions that residents and visitors can enjoy. Yes, we have to look into the past when the coastal and the interior parts of the country were isolated; when transportation was not really there, or the number of hospitals was limited. Much progress has been achieved. There was a vision then; there is a vision now targeting 2040.
In memory recalls most of the collaborators spoke about the construction boom following the Renaissance in 1970. There are those who spoke fondly of the Bait al Falaj airport — the airstrip in Ruwi that served the country from 1929 until 1973. Some mentioned the Mutrah Hotel which was licensed only for foreigners. Later came the Al Falaj Hotel, the most luxurious guesthouse at the time. There was a cute memory of a deer having been spotted on top of the hill of Shatti al Qurum Heights. Fascinating reminiscences. The thank you is reciprocal between expatriate workers and national citizens.
There are so many touching stories to be told. Each one is part of a chapter in a person’s life — a tapestry of associations that together symbolise the progress of Oman.