WHENEVER we talk about Sultan Qaboos bin Said (May Allah be merciful to him), it means we are relating the history of a nation with the man.
He is not just a leader who passed through history, but the maker of one of the most significant Gulf renaissances in the 20th century and the first two decades of the current century. The man wanted his country to exit from darkness towards the contemporary light, so he strived for human development.
He developed its structures to be at the forefront of countries that contribute to global civilization activities. In this context, I will narrate one of the testimonies about this man.
Shortly after he took over the reins of leadership in 1970, I went to Muscat for an interview with him. It was the first press interview the new Sultan granted to any Arab media outfit at the time.
Muscat Airport was just a single tarmac with few hangers, while there was no structure surrounding it. The absence of hotels left me with just one option — stay at the Italian Oil Guest House which served as its base that housed its staff.
The following morning, I went to Sultan’s place inside a humble villa close to the Flag Palace (Qasr Al-Alam) which was later built in that district. Its furniture was simple and there was nothing like sham of life.
I sat beside him in the hall where the Omanis were congratulating their new Sultan, so we started talking about what he had in mind for the future of his country.
The Sultanate of Oman was then living in semi-isolation from the world, while battling with poverty and deprivation-induced problems. This is the reason why I felt it was an impossible venture when I was listening to his talk concerning vision for a modern State, relative to that period.
I was imagining how could the man achieve it within a few years in a country which lacked basic factors for that purpose? I regard that discussion as one of the important documents for realizing the vision of Qaboos bin Said (May Allah be merciful to him).
It included a presentation of the vision for education in terms of the need for Oman to flow into the contemporary world. He talked about improving the infrastructure to ensure that Oman becomes a major economic hub in the Gulf and Arabian regions within a few years.
His vision for health was to eradicate diseases that spread in many states in those days, as well as the need to upgrade armed forces while spreading improved culture across the nooks and crannies of the country.
He enthusiastically discussed his hobbies, such as listening to classical and opera music which was not popular in many Arab countries those days. As a matter of fact, he affirmed that Sultan was blessed with youths capable of working and making changes.
I may be saying it for the first time that despite my lack of conviction in what the determined youthful leader said then, I had no option but publish the talk which became a reality.
The achievements that followed testified to everything he said. After that long interview, I maintained a long-standing friendship with Qaboos bin Said. Every time I visited the Sultanate of Oman, I was always delighted to notice the content of the documented talk becoming a reality.
The development steps were fast such that the once humble capital transformed into a major Arab metropolis within some years, while schools and universities started sprouting like an oasis in the desert and mountains without vegetation.
It began to transform day by day into the fountain of knowledge, affirming statement of the great deceased that Oman is a good place where bad flowers cannot grow. The man toed a commendable path of governance by listening to the people directly without intermediaries. He embarked on annual tours in states, cities and villages where he sat down and listened to citizens.
He ensured redress against injustice and punished the offender immediately in a way to enshrine tranquility. Fairness and determination to implement the rule of law and confidence instilled in the minds of Omanis put the country among those with the lowest crime rates globally. That alone is the fruit of passionate works to which the man dedicated his life.
Even when the poisonous wind called the ‘Arab Spring’ blew in our small world and some Omanis went out hoisting flags on the street with the slogan, “Citizens and Sultan against Corruption,” Qaboos responded to the demand of his people immediately by ordering assurance of 50,000 jobs for the youths.
Qaboos did not own anything such that everything is registered as Stateowned. He did not have any property abroad due to his belief in his people and country. This is why he died snowwhite clean in history and buried in shroud without pockets.
He deserved to be referred to as leading his country with fatherly commitment and transparency. Qaboos bin Said was looking forward to the future, because he believed in the continuity of governance and as such opted for a successor entrusted with Oman Vision 2040 — Haitham Bin Tareq Al-Said — as the new Sultan to carry on with the journey of renaissance and development.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times