Oman in the 70s through an expatriate's eye

Oman Saturday 13/August/2022 23:28 PM
By: Pankaj Kumar Sharma
Oman in the 70s through an expatriate's eye

Muscat: Ashok Sabharwal, who left for India after serving for 53 years in the Sultanate of Oman, gives a beautiful glimpse of the country during the early and late 1970s.

Though Oman has witnessed a massive growth over the last 50 years, the Indian expat had arrived at a small Bait Al Falaj airstrip on June 9, 1969.  He was taken by the Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) bus to Mina Al Fahal camp which took almost 40 minutes.

“I joined as the catering contractor of the PDO. The name of the company was Gulf Catering and Contracting Company (GCC), said the Indian expatriate, adding “The PDO camp at Mina Al Fahal camp was quite good with accommodation and other amenities.

“There was a bus service called Damra that took us twice a week to Muttrah and Muscat. There were a few shops in Muscat, mostly owned by the Indian community. Muttrah Souq also had some shops owned by the Omani and Indian communities.”

“Our salary used to be in red-colour Indian rupees and bank account was in sterling pound. There were two main banks - British Bank of Middle East (BBME) and Grindlays Bank. For the European community at PDO, our company had one shop, namely, Family Shop at Ras Al Hamra.

PDO also had one small hospital which was located where Khoula Hospital currently exists,” he said.
“Sometimes, we used to visit villages in Ghubra and Azaiba where most of our Omani employees used to stay. When I arrived here, I was infected with Malaria and became homesick.

“I thought I would complete only six months of the initial period and then won’t come back. But due to God’s grace, I continued and then came the monumental change on 23 July, 1970 when late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Taimour took over. Oman rode a different development trajectory and became a world-class country,” said Sabharwal.

When asked about his association with Times of Oman, he said the paper used to be published on a weekly basis and people waited with bated breath to get a copy.

“We had family relations with the late Essa bin Mohammed Al Zedjali, the founder of Times of Oman. Mr Essa used to enjoy our Diwali parties. My family was also invited to the silver jubilee celebrations of Times of Oman on 23rd of February at Muscat Intercontinental hotel.

“I had a very happy stay in Oman. That is why I spent almost 53 years here. I had sad feelings when I decided to retire. But Inshallah, I will be visiting Oman to meet my friends - Omani and expatriates,” he concluded.