Muscat: Ahmed Al Mahrouqi is a well-known Omani traveller who gave up travelling by car in 2014.
He has since favoured camels as his primary mode of transport, going on numerous trips within Oman and between the Sultanate and the UAE to empathise with the struggles of his forefathers and to pay homage to the ‘ship of the desert’.
Al Mahrouqi, who is now a father to eight children and grandfather to nine, was only a teenager when he heard on the BBC radio channel that His Majesty Sultan Qaboos was taking over Oman.
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“In 1970, I was in Tanzania, in a place called Kabanga,” he recalled. “Our father would usually sit down at night and listen to the BBC world service in Arabic. It was on the BBC where he heard that His Majesty had taken over Oman.” The very next day, Al Mahrouqi’s father started packing up and making preparations for the long journey to Oman.
“We started from Kabanga by truck to Mwanza, and from there by aircraft to Nairobi and then to Karachi on a Pakistani airline and from Karachi to Ruwi airport, which was just opposite the Sheraton,” he shared.
The old airport, known as Bait Al Falaj, featured a dirt track as a landing strip for flights, in contrast to the new Muscat International Airport, which officially opened its doors to the public in 2018 and spans across 580,000 square metres.
“When we arrived at the Bait Al Falaj airport, we went to Muttrah,” said Al Mahrouqi. “There were very few houses and most of them were made of date palm leaves. Now, you won’t find date palm houses anymore. You will see modern houses and good buildings.”
Al Mahrouqi explained how massive developments in infrastructure, especially in terms of cars, roads, and buildings, have been achieved in the last 48 years.
“Many changes have happened since 1970,” he said. “Before, we never had any cars that were easily available. We had to stay 3 to 4 days in Muttrah to find a truck going to Adam. A trip from Muttrah to Adam would take two days because there were no roads. Now, you can reach Adam in one-and-a-half hours with the air conditioner on full. At that time, there were no air conditioners in cars. And now people have electric cars.”
Al Mahrouqi says he is a happy man today and that he is proud of his father’s decision to relocate the whole family to Oman.
“I am very happy now because there is security and safety,” remarked Al Mahrouqi.
“Before, all of this wasn’t here. I want His Majesty to be healthy and carry on his mission of building Oman and keeping Oman safe.”