Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Weight of Uncertainty

I often attempt to zoom out of my reality here in Dhofar and try to see our life from a different perspective... the bigger picture. Usually these attempts are successful when I'm in another country. Nevertheless, here I am yet again on an airplane between Muscat and Salalah thinking (no, I'm not going to complain about Oman Air again ... I have faith in the new CEO).
Anyway, I was thinking to myself how odd it is  to live in such a quiet peaceful country where you could almost swear there are no rules. There are rules of course, but they're almost invisible. 

For months I have been unable to blog about something that has hung heavy on the hearts of all Omanis since July. Most of you know what I'm talking about. 

His Majesty's health has been on everyone's minds, everyday. No one would talk about it openly but it was the topic of discussion behind closed doors. In July a cheerful message was released via the Oman News Agency informing us that His Majesty was off to Germany for his annual vacation. I thought to myself, that's odd. We're never informed of his personal holidays. Later, I recall a message saying he would be undergoing medical tests as well in Germany. 

Lack of further information led to speculation. External sources (outside Oman) speculated openly and even provided details on a possible illness. 

You see, in Oman we follow something called "the policy of silence". . . if we ignore problems in the press, they'll go away and won't grow out of proportion. Sometimes this policy works, other times it doesn't. In all cases, we are often unable to speak publicly about 'real' issues because of this form of censorship/self-censorship. 

When it came to His Majesty's health, newspapers and reporters worldwide were openly discussing it and those of us who blog about Oman were receiving emails from journalists/curious people abroad asking us for more details, asking us to confirm whether reports on cancer were true.

It hurt us that we were unable to either confirm or confidently deny these speculations/rumors. It hurt us that we were kept in the dark. It hurt us that our beloved leader was far away in a European city for months and none of us really knew what was going on. The world was looking at Oman and all we could do was stand there awkwardly and pray for his good health. Why? Because we were a nation kept in the dark. I asked myself, why should we be? Of course, no answer.

July came and went, August came and went, September, October,... ghost royal decrees were being issued every week. From where, I wonder?  Vague reports from ONA said he was following a medical program...more tests, etc. Omanis got more worried. We wanted a photo! A sign! A voice message! Anything! Just tell us he is ok. We can handle the rest. 

Then, last Wednesday morning the oddest thing happened. Oman News Agency announced that His Majesty would be giving a brief speech to the people of Oman from Germany. What?! 

People stopped work, schools stopped, everything stopped. People gathered around televisions waiting. It was very emotional. He appeared on the screen looking frail, but still powerful, confident, wise. My colleagues started crying. I was holding back tears. He's ok, I could hear my brain telling me... he's ok. He must be ok. He started speaking. The speech was brief, but it was enough. You could hear a collective sigh of relief across the country. 

Within minutes, you could hear cheers, cars beeping their horns, songs, happiness. It was like the country had come to life. Everyone in their hearts was thinking the same thing "He's sick, but he's ok! He's fighting! He's thinking of us! He's OK!". Celebrations continue to date. Omantel even changed the ringtone to national music for the whole country. People hung flags from their balconies, people decorated their cars, mosques gave sermons praying for his safe return.

It was the oddest feeling. One minute no one can talk about his health in public, and the next everyone is out in the streets celebrating his recovery. As I mentioned earlier, Oman is an odd country.

Yes, he's in his seventies and we're all human. We all get sick and all have to deal with difficulties in life. Yes, we will all end up the same way. But you must understand one thing if you are not Omani. You must understand what this man means to us. He resembles the only form of true leadership we know. He is the only person we feel our country is safe with. He is the one person Omani trust. Did Oman promote diverse leadership over the past four decades? Not really. We have been dedicated to him as a leader and only him.

I'll tell you why. People like my family will tell you why. My father was born in a cave. He lived a primitive and difficult life until he was an adult. No electricity, no running water, no warmth, living in the mountains of Dhofar sharing his shelter with animals. At times he was very hungry. There was never enough food. 

Today, he has a career, a big car, several houses, children, and a very comfortable life. No matter how happy he is now, he will never forget where he came from. People will never forget what Sultan Qaboos did for them and how he led this country from the darkness to where we are today. You need to understand that. 

In March 2011 I was in London. I met an elder Englishman, a bit of a political analyst. It was the peak of the Arab Spring. Leaders were dropping like flies. He confidently said "Oh, your leader is next, believe me". I didn't get angry or defensive. I simply laughed at him and said "You have no idea what you're talking about. Sultan Qaboos is different. He's something else. There's absolutely no comparison". On my walk home through the streets of London, his words bothered me, but deep inside I knew he was an ill-informed person. Despite this, I felt like I wanted to bite his head off and defend His Majesty. But then again, did he really need my defending? He's such a powerful and wise leader. Surely the world knows this? Surely the world sees him as we do?

For 44 years this man has paved the way for our future. He had a vision. He still has a vision. The past few months have been so difficult for Omanis. We have been walking around with heavy hearts. There are no other visible leaders in Oman. There is no clear successor. We don't want a successor. Not now. Not yet. None of us, young and old, can imagine Oman without him. None of us can even begin to comprehend our reality without this great human being in our lives. 

As the celebrations in the street continues, as Omani release the built-up worry and tension, I sit here on the airplane thinking about this country, my people, my leader. To those of you censoring this blog, I ask you to not harass me over this post. I am a citizen like you. I am extremely loyal to His Majesty just like you. 

To those of you who have kept us in the dark over the past few months, I urge you to have faith in us as a nation. Surely we are mature enough to handle information, whether good or bad. 

To His Majesty I say, .. your people truly love you. Get better, come home. We're waiting for you. We need you.

Yours from seat 11 A.



  1. Nicely written.
    Please know that we, in England, are thinking of this wonderful man and our prayers are with him.

    1. Our Prayers are with HM Sultan Qaboos and Omanis all over the world and including those whose Zanzibari fathers and grandfathers originate from there.Most were invited in 1974 to go and help build the Oman that is now.

    2. Made a Freudian slip-previous comment 1970(44 yrs ago) not 1974 as 1974 first time here in Rickmansworth/chorleywood

  2. As I read through this blog post you have brought me close to tears on a lot of what you’ve mentioned. No outsider would understand the tension we have faced as a nation, the long held sigh of relief just to receive the simple message that he is battling the sickness with all that he has. The Omani people just needed to see his resilience and gain strength from his worlds
    Thank you for the post for you have brought to words what I have struggled to portray. I have been contemplating a post like this but then with you words I feel justified that all what needed to be said was out there for others to see.

    Thank you again.

    Yours Bint Oman

  3. Wonderful wonderful post. I was crying by the end

  4. I suppose that you all are lucky that you have lucked out with a good, leader, who has built his country and his people up, rather them put them down. their are so many people from other nations who are struggling with leaders. but the question is, do you truly have freedom, suppose that some people were against this leader for whatever reason, would your leader willingly step down and give his place to a person of the chose by democratic vote. that is a true sign in my opinion of a good leader. but in the end, I am happy for you all, I am happy that you all have a leader who is good to his people, and whom his people respect.

  5. You write such interesting and absorbing pieces. It took about 2 days for news of your latest blog to reach some of those who, many years ago in the early 1970s, struggled alongside the Omani people to set the country on course for development and modernisation. We grew to love your country, and in particular Dhofar, then almost as much as you love it now.
    Your blog has kept us in the loop for a number of years and continues to entertain and inform us. Please keep writing.
    And all of this modernisation and development since the 1970s has been completed under the leadership and guidance of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. Long may he live and long may he reign.

  6. As an expatriate who have worked in Oman for 16 years, I really appreciate the leadership of H.M. The tremendous development that this country of 3 or 4 million people is really appreciated. At the same time, there are a few points I would like to place before the people.
    1. Without keeping his citizens in dark, the concerned people should reveal his(H.M) present condition.
    2. Successor should be announced soon
    3. Freedom of press and for the people. Because we cannot keep the doors shut for long. More the time it takes to open, more the force would it be

  7. There was a hit song in the UAE a few years back with the catchy words "We are all Khalifa now". While Qaboos has done lots of good, why does no one ask about the vast amount of money wasted? Why has HM built a medical facility at his house in Germany, aren't the hospitals in Oman good enough? Things are going to change sometime and people will need to accept the change quickly.

  8. We have a very narrow frame of thought to think that we are out of the dark ages

  9. DG,

    A wonderful post. Do NOT worry about censorship. The above post is frank and forthright without malice.

    May God the almighty grant good health to MAWLANA The Sultan !


  10. Johnson,

    Let me reply to the few points you placed before the people.

    His present condition is fine. He is undergoing treatment as per the program devised by his doctors and we pray and he recovers fast and comes back home soon.

    Successor can’t be announced now. We have system and that system is followed as defined by our basic law.

    Freedom of the press does exist and people practice it every day. Of course it is plain to everyone; one is free to express himself/herself as long as the utterance is within the law.


  11. Long live our Sultan .The whole Oman is mourning and praying for you ,get better soon
    We need you now more than ever .Allah bless you and our country .You are the best we are so blessed to have a leader like you.We love you.

  12. Allah bless our Sultan

  13. I cried all the way while reading. May Allah restore his health and keep his reign longer. Ameen

  14. Wondeful post mashaAllah!!! Long live our Sultan

  15. All Omani pray for you Mollana get soon fast and come home
    we love you

  16. Dear Seat 11 A,

    Thanks alot for your post. You made me read with tears.

    May Allah bless our father Qaboos and give him health Insha Allah.

    We all love you forever father.

    Asila Al Hajri

  17. Very nice and emotional blog. I agree with most of it. However, HM is a Sultan and a leader like no other. He is not a celebrity. If his wish is to keep his health issues private then as his loving nation we absolutely respect that.
    Meanwhile he remains in our hearts and prayers day and night.

    Fatima Al Maskery

  18. Thank you for your blog. We pray for his safe and healthy return .Ameen

  19. Mashallah well written and I do thank you for brining all the valid points as HM have lead down the foundation of establishing a modern oman and now its our turn of the young generation to Fouces on our economical growth for the good and prospects of our nation and further generation.

  20. Democracy isnt necessarily the answer for every country just as democratically elected leaders arent necessarily the good leaders. Yes they are the people's choice and so is our Sultan, elected democratically or not. What you presented is just a scenario and even if it isnt, the choice of the majority is, undoubtedly, clear and it will not change. We love the Sultan dearly and our prayers for his recovery continue and if you live in Oman you might as well join us so you continue to benefit from his leadership but if you dont then why not disclose your country of origin. We might have some learnings.

  21. Anon,
    Their country of origin is irrelevant. What matters to us Omanis is their good wishes for the nation and MAWLANA The Sultan. All the posts I read above express their sincere good wishes for the quick recovery of MAWLANA and his safe return home.

    Let me quote you “We might have some learnings.” What would you learn from knowing where people are? If it is helpful to you as a learning point, well I will tell you where I am. Am at Al Khwair Wilayat Bawsher, Muscat Governorate right now.

    Have a good day!


  22. "Mti- my reply was supposed to be addressed to Hebah Dwidari and you probably did not notice that it dwelled on her point on democracy for Oman. To quote her "but the question is, do you truly have freedom, suppose that some people were against this leader for whatever reason, would your leader willingly step down and give his place to a person of the chose by democratic vote. that is a true sign in my opinion of a good leader." Hence my request for her disclosure of country of origin. Coz if she is from Oman we are happy with the Sultan and if she isnt from Oman, then my next question would have been whether she comes from a democratic country and if the majority is happy with the outcome?

  23. You made me cry AGAIN ! But I feel good. Everyone is now happy although he is not back but we know he is okay - ALHAMDULILLAH.

  24. What next for Oman when old sultan is no more?
    Clearly there is need for democratic reforms, or else things could end up like the situation in Libya where a power vacuum left behind when "strongman" Gaddafi was deposed.

    People in this country must take off the rose-tinted glasses and must realize that there will be major power vacuum risk when "strongman" sultan is gone.

  25. Anon
    ",strongman" sultan is gone." Quote Anon.

    MAWLANA is fine and will soon come back home. There is NO, or, will there be, any power vacum.