Alex Bratchenko –
Though born into a life of privilege, in his early days the young Qaboos must have yearned for an ordinary life, friends, fun and play. Born with a name that translates to, or has the meaning of, ‘beautiful face,’ could be a blessing or a curse, and though he must have been a beautiful baby, an elegant youth, and later an incredibly handsome man, it would have all meant little to a boy who would have just wanted playmates.
Deprived of childish companionship is no way to grow up. We all need to share experiences and thoughts as children, these all being ways of growing into, and learning about ourselves. Who can run fastest, jump highest, fight the best, count to ten quickest, find the other at hide and seek, play marbles, football and all the silly, infantile, stupid games that kids do? How he must have yearned for these things as he looked out from the palace?
Yet this Al Husn Palace bound, earnest young child, it appears, suffered in relative silence, his days an endless parade of religious scholars and tutors who may or may not have interested him, but who he certainly respected for their knowledge, and in many cases, tolerated for their dedication to his education and well-being. One can only imagine the turmoil of a young man seeking companionship and interaction with his peers, having to find solace in his faith and his academic development.
It was, whatever the circumstances and motivation, an incredibly wise decision that the teenage Qaboos should travel to England for a formal, yet still tutorial learning experience, as it must surely have teased the young prince’s intellect to live and learn in an environment totally different from his own. Here, in a society with traditions, religion, culture, language, dress and behaviour all very different from his home, it would appear he had too many questions to be asked and answered about his revitalising experiences to be concerned about boyhood games and angst.
And even at the culmination of his study programme, having achieved his family’s objectives, as any prince, he was led to a military education, this at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst in England where, as many of aristocratic blood before him, he was immersed in the physical and psychological demands that would test any and all.
This would have been no easy journey to an officer’s rank, as there would have been scepticism and distrust of a ‘poor little rich boy,’ from his peers surely, and the ‘dehumanising’ aspects of military drill sergeants who revel in ‘taking down a peg or two,’ the aristocratic elite, would have been a temptation, no, a necessity.
But this wiry young Omani was no fickle youth, and he would have fought like a tiger to maintain his dignity, aware that the future that awaited him would require his strength, resilience and fortitude. Hamlet: Act Three: Scene One, comes to mind…..“To be, or not to be: That is the question: Whether ‘this nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles.”
I firmly believe that the challenges faced there, in the midst of that endless confrontation that is military discipline, and with the words of Shakespeare ringing in his ears, he would have responded as only future kings are wont to do, determinedly quoting Hamlet further: “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; and thus the native hue of resolution is sickled o’er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great pith and moment.”
This man was no shrinking violet, he was to become His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, a man of learning, faith and compassion, yet forged in the furnaces of princes and kings, far from home, knowing that it would be his destiny to lead, and lead, he certainly did. Throughout his reign the iconic Sultan set the gold standard for national leadership, setting others a challenge as impossible as that of Excalibur, the sword in the rock!
And to finish with Hamlet, paraphrased: “Let him sleep now, and perchance to dream, for in those dreams what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause to respect the consummation of a purpose of so long, devoted life, given, for his undiscovered country.”
The writer is a UK based medical professional who lived in Oman for a short time, and visits Oman most years to visit friends and family. Her interests include the great outdoors and ocean racing.