Our Oman, our pride

T-Mag Thursday 26/July/2018 15:01 PM
By: Times News Service
Our Oman, our pride

Oman celebrated its 48th Renaissance Day and it is time for us to bask in the past glory, take pride in the glorious achievements of today, and march
towards a promising future.

July 23, 1970, a date that changed Oman’s history completely — one decision, one victory that changed all future courses of action for the Sultanate.

It has been 48 years since that blessed day when His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said took over the majestic throne of the Sultanate of Oman and ushered the nation and its people towards civilisation, progress, development, and prosperity. He single-handedly guided the nation to the 21st century, a much-needed pull that the country had been awaiting for years.

His Majesty’s ascension to the throne was a grand event and meant a lot not just to people who were in Oman at that time, but also to those who decided to move to Oman upon hearing about the change in government. After landing at the old Bait Al Falaj airport, which was nothing but an old dirt track for flights to land and take off, on a flight from Salalah along with a few companions, he was welcomed by his overjoyed subjects, after which he went directly to his palace in Muscat and gave a remarkably memorable speech in which he invited all Omanis by birth, origin, and nationality to return to Oman.

“I promise you (that I will) proceed forthwith in the process of creating a modern government,” said His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. “My first act will be the immediate abolition of all the unnecessary restrictions on your lives and activities. Yesterday, it was complete darkness (but) with the help of God, tomorrow will be a new dawn on Muscat, Oman and its people.”

There were a lot of fortunate people in Oman who were there to witness this historic moment and remember following the red car that took him from the airport to his palace. Others heard the news on the radio from different parts of the world and accepted the clarion call almost immediately, setting off to come to Oman. And there were the rest who saw before their eyes the Sultanate’s evolution and growth, like a well-nourished sapling to a huge tree, and the achievement of unfathomable successes in different spheres in just 48 years, which took most countries decades or even centuries to achieve.

As part of Times of Oman’s “Our Oman” campaign, we spoke to a few such people in Oman who generously and happily shared their stories and memories about the blessed Renaissance Day.
Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Saidi, Minister of Health
“In 1970, when His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said became the Sultan of Oman, life expectancy in the country was only 50 years. The mortality rate in pregnant women, infants less than one year old, and children below five years old was one of the highest worldwide. Today, our life expectancy has exceeded 76 years, and the mortality rate in children below five has declined to 9.5 per cent from 20 per cent in the 70s. When His Majesty became the ruler and started building Oman, he made education and health a priority, in addition to security. School and health care facilities started being built across the country. There are now a total of 5,034 hospital beds, according to the MoH’s annual health report. Also, regarding its support for primary health care, the MoH opened one new health centre in Dhofar Governorate. This increases the total number of health centres to 206, of which 65 are equipped with beds (a total of 109 beds), and 23 extended health centres in the MoH.”
Dr Ibrahim bin Hamoud Al Subhi, Oman’s first ambassador to China
“Let me just say that there can be no comparison between 1970 and 2018. In 1971, even getting bread to eat was like a dream. There were no supermarkets. Today, we have everything, thanks to God and thanks to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. May God give him every happiness and a long life. We are very happy about what we have achieved in this time. In 1970, we had only three schools with 900 students. Today, we have more than 550 schools with more than half a million students. So it’s not just about roads. It’s about health and educational infrastructure as well.”
Taghlib Al Hilal Al Barwani, Omani photographer
“I can’t put my feelings into words, as I never imagined myself taking pictures of His Majesty. As a photographer, I used to go to the palace every day to take pictures of His Majesty, and I followed him on all the tours and conferences he attended in the Emirates, Cairo, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, and many other countries. At that time, we didn’t have advanced technology to publish pictures right away. So I would come back to Muscat, if I was out of town, to develop the pictures and then publish them in the press.”
Abdullatif Al Balushi, Chairman of Bait Al Adam Museum
“I was studying in Bahrain. In 1970, we came to Oman for a school holiday and suddenly a week later the government changed. I call myself one of the lucky ones to have attended the arrival of His Majesty at Bait Al Falaj airport. I remember the aircraft he had taken from Salalah to Muscat, which was Gulf Air. He drove a red car and we followed him to Muscat Palace where he came out to the balcony to wave at the people who had come to welcome him.”
Ahmed Al Riyami, Omani author
“I believe what we have achieved here may take other countries centuries. From zero to 100, from nothing to everything. I didn’t believe it at first. But when His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said personally invited all Omanis, by birth, by origin, or by nationalisation, I was more than overjoyed.”
Al Sayyida Thubayta bint Seif Al Busaidi
“I asked my father, ‘will you be going to Oman?’ and he said, ‘no, we will be going back to Oman’. That is how it all started. That day meant a lot for the Omanis in Zanzibar. The atmosphere on the island changed. Everybody was happy, even my father. I hadn’t seen him that happy for quite a while. Everything in Zanzibar changed. People were talking about going back to Oman.”
Ahmed Al Mahrouqi, Omani traveller
“In 1970, I was in Tanzania, in a place called Kabanga. It was on the BBC where (my father) heard that His Majesty had taken over Oman. The very next day, (my) 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. 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.”
Vimal Purecha, partner at Ratansi Purshottam & Co
“My company has an almost 160-year history in Oman. My great-grandfather Ratansi Purshottam established the business in 1867. Even after five generations, we still do business under his name. Even Ratansi Purshottam’s ancestors were in Muscat, so the documented presence of my family in Oman goes back to 1838. I was at my university in India where I had a radio set. I learned from the radio that there has been a Renaissance in Muscat and His Majesty the Sultan had become the ruler. There would be many changes. The commentary which followed explained his vision for Oman, and it was very encouraging.”
Tahir Al Amri, Executive President of the Central Bank of Oman
“I was privileged to receive many things from the Blessed Renaissance. When I started school in the first grade in my hometown, it was the school’s first year of operations since it was built. Before that, students were taught in tents. One of the main reasons why I am so grateful to His Majesty is because when I was at the end of fifth grade, I got a scholarship from His Majesty to move into the first ever bilingual school in Oman, which had opened in Muscat. I then received another gift, which was the scholarship to study in the United Kingdom.”
Prof. Neela Al Lamki, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital
“In 1970, on Renaissance Day, my husband and I were in Canada, and we heard the news from my husband’s brother, who was working as an ambassador in Egypt. When we heard the news, we were extremely happy to learn that His Majesty had opened the door for all Omanis. Many members of our family were scattered in different Gulf countries, as well as other Arab countries such as Egypt, among others. They all were very happy to hear the news, and they started moving back to Oman from 1970 onwards.”