Muscat: The Sultanate of Oman will have another public holiday in just two months. But why do we have to wait 12 days before knowing when the holiday will fall?
The waiting period for any holiday announcement is always far too long. For decades, Omanis, residents, businesses, schools and tourists have always been informed at the last minute, spending weeks and days speculating, assuming, hypothesizing how the upcoming holiday will look like based on past experience.
We can expect the next holiday, the Holy Mawlid Al Nabawi (the Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday, Peace Be Upon Him) in the middle of October. We also have our National Day in November, which will also give us another short break in 2021.
If we are already aware of these upcoming occasions, why can we not designate which days will be public holidays ahead of time?
Late in the evening on August 8, it was declared that the 1st of Muharram 1443 AH (which fell on Tuesday the 10th of August) would be the official holiday for the Islamic new year. At 8 pm on Sunday, we all discovered we have to work the next day, and the holiday would follow the day after.
Announcing holidays in this way has always created uncertainty and even anxiety. People and businesses, as well, cannot plan with any degree of accuracy and often have to reschedule and adjust plans to accommodate the unnecessary late announcements of holidays.
For what? What real purpose does this serve in 2021? After all, the Islamic world isn’t the only community that celebrates holidays not based on a fixed date. Such holidays are referred to as ‘movable holidays’.
Thanksgiving in the USA is a holiday based on the last Thursday in November. Presidents’ Day in the USA and Family Day in Canada is the third Monday of February. These official dates are known by everyone.
At the beginning of each calendar year, an official holiday calendar is published. Anyone living in these countries is aware of the fact that there is a public holiday on certain specific days, which allows their people to plan ahead.
Not having a published nation-wide holiday calendar is not only inconvenient, but can cause severe consequences.
Suppose someone has scheduled an important doctor’s appointment and has been waiting weeks to see the physician. Suddenly, a holiday is declared at the last minute and the appointment must be rescheduled for a later date, leaving the patient in even more distress.
Educational institutions are impacted by the lack of holiday planning, from scheduling exams to hosting school events.
Even international business deals can have a negative impact when holidays are announced abruptly. Imagine when business people arrive in the country to sign important contracts and suddenly it is announced that tomorrow is a holiday, this actually impacts the cost of their travel plans, views of the country and their potential investment.
I cannot find a solid reason why Oman cannot adopt the concept of movable holidays. As an example, the Prophet’s (PBUH) Birthday, will either be on the 18th or 19th of October this year. If Oman declares Sunday the 17th as the start of the holiday, this would give us enough time to plan ahead, and enjoy our country’s tourist attractions.
Another good example is National Day. The public holiday could start on the last Sunday of November for a period of two days. For this year, the suggested holiday would fall on the 28th and 29th of November.
Why should we have to wonder, speculate, wait, reschedule and guess when we already know there are holidays coming up?
The uncertainty over holiday timings, especially as holidays approach, leaves people restless and stressed. So many people travel during a holiday both locally and internationally. Being able to plan in advance not only eases the mind but has a positive financial impact for local businesses as well.
In order to improve how the country runs, from the highest ranks in government all the way down to the children who know nothing but play, we must start creating and announcing an annual holiday calendar. This calendar should be released at the beginning of each year, clarifying each day and date on which a holiday falls.
To improve operations in the business sector, moving the holidays to the beginning of the week, on Sunday, rather than on Thursday, will have a more positive impact for local businesses dealing with companies outside of Oman. Financial institutions will heavily benefit from this switch, as there will be more days to conduct business with the rest of the world.
Having an official holiday calendar is part of being a world-class, cosmopolitan and sustainable metropolis. I believe we are ready and need to make this leap. It may seem like a small gesture but it will have a very big impact on the country as a whole as well as the good people who call it home.