Late holiday announcement leads to exam, travel delays in Oman
September 20, 2017 | 9:28 PM
by Times News Service
Omanis say they are proud of Sultanate’s globally admired moon sighting protocols. Photo by Sanak Roy Choudhury

Muscat: Exams were postponed and holidays delayed for many pupils and their parents waiting to discover when the first day of the Islamic New Year would fall.

Read here: New Islamic year holiday announced in Oman

A large number of Indian expat school students were scheduled to sit exams on Thursday and Sunday, but the dates were put back because it was unclear on which day the holiday would be.

The moon sighting committee did not see the moon last night, and the religious affairs ministry announced that the first day of the new year would be Friday, with a public holiday set for Sunday.

Schools in Oman who had scheduled exams on Thursday and Sunday took no chances and pushed them back to next week ahead of the official announcement.

“As we didn’t know, we have shifted all the examinations to later,” a senior official at Indian Schools said. A circular from Indian School Muscat advised parents: “Please be informed that the examinations falling on the government declared holiday on account of Muharram have now been rescheduled to September 25.”

There was also a knock-on effect for parents, who had booked flights home to India for various festivals taking place across the country, thinking their children’s exams would be over.

“I had booked my tickets to Kolkata in India during Durga Puja, which is beginning next week, as the examinations were supposed to be over by Thursday or Sunday, but with the school deferring the dates of the examinations, I cannot travel then,” Ivy Roy, an Indian expatriate living in Oman, said.

Grade VII and VIII pupils at Indian School Muscat were supposed to finish their exams on Thursday. “The exams will get shifted to Monday,” a parent said.

“It is important for us to follow the Hijri calendar, which relies on the sighting of the moon, to establish the beginning and the end of every month,” said Al Arqam Al Busaidi.

Islamic teacher, Kamran Ahmed, explained: “Oman is known globally to be one of the leading countries in moon sightings, and so having this policy whereby we do not announce the Islamic holiday before sighting a moon is a good thing, and should not be changed as it follows Sharia laws.”

Qais Al Khonji, who has been named among the 50 most powerful Arab businessmen, added: “I think it is very important that the tradition of following the moon sighting continues, as it follows Sharia law.”

A section of travel agents who deal with international holiday packages are also worried as this is a lean season, when few people travel. “An early announcement would have helped us,” Sunil Prabhakar, CEO of Travel Point LLC, said.

Travel agents said that even planning a staycation will be difficult when the holidays are declared. “Even planning for Jabal Shams and Jabal Akhtar takes time,” Prabhakar said. Residents said last minute travelling always turns out to be more expensive and often tiring. “So, I may enjoy staying at home, doing nothing,” Salim, an Indian expat living in Oman, said.

There is, however, hope for the local hotel industry. “We hope to get last minute deals,” said Gautam Bose, director of Sales and Marketing, Sohar Beach Hotel. Vijay Handa, cluster general manager for the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve, said: “The resort has been instructed to be on alert because we are likely to receive last-minute calls.”

“It’s slow because the holidays were declared late and people just came back from Eid holidays a month back,” another travel agent said.

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