Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 10 April 2020

Qaboos bin Said: the Sultan who befriended everybody

A personal reflection on Oman’s loss of its beloved leader

Oman’s late Sultan Qaboos bin Said salutes at the start of a military parade at a stadium in Muscat on the occasion of the Sultanate's 40th National Day. AFP 
Oman’s late Sultan Qaboos bin Said salutes at the start of a military parade at a stadium in Muscat on the occasion of the Sultanate's 40th National Day. AFP 

Even though we knew it was inevitable, we pushed the possibility of his passing away out of our heads. Even when rumours of his deteriorating health surfaced, we dismissed them and thought that they were spread by hateful people. He would be fine, we thought, because we’ve always seen him overcome hardships.

But not fate, and no one can escape their fate. The dreaded day has arrived. Our beloved Qaboos bin Said, the Sultan of Oman, has passed away. Nothing prepared us Omanis for the tsunami of sadness that drowned our broken hearts.

The man who was the personification of Oman was able to handle any situation, never shamed his people and was always a dignified head of state. His picture was on all of our banknotes and in every home across Oman, hung on its walls like a badge of honour. The mere mentioning of his name made his people’s hearts flutter with love and pride for 50 years, is no longer with us.

We were still in a state of utter shock, asking “is this all real? Can this really be true? Our Sultan is no longer with us?”

While we the nation, through our screens, solemnly watched the Sultan being carried to his burial, I realised that for the first time, seeing our national flag (placed upon him) brought no happiness nor joy. Seeing him being carried by senior military personnel brought great sorrow. How we wished we were spared this.

It was humbling that he choose to have this moment be private. Only citizens of Oman filled the mosque so it was like a father lovingly asking his precious children to be with him at his last hour. We were truly blessed to have him.

Then the funeral was followed by downpours of rain. which used to be a symbol of good fortune. Yet nobody in all of Oman cared. We were still in a state of utter shock, asking “is this all real? Can this really be true? Our Sultan is no longer with us?”

After the funeral, something beautiful happened. We realised that we were not alone. Every country showed its support. They were all saddened that their friend, the Sultan, was gone. Soon, these nation’s flags were flown at half mast. Major statesmen wanted to come to Oman to pay their condolences.

What a beautiful legacy our Sultan has left us. Having so many friendly nations by our side, sharing our sorrow and reassuring us that he lives on in us was truly remarkable. Not only were they comforting us, they were mourning the loss of their friend.

Though it did not take away the sadness, it was much appreciated. We sincerely thank everybody for standing with us during this difficult time.

Everybody is now left with their own memory of the Sultan. Some lived to see the Sultan grow before their eyes when he took over Oman in 1970. Some saw how he was able to transform Oman into the modern country it is today. Some saw how he was able to resolve conflicts that seemed hopeless. Many looked forward to seeing his speak, then talked about it for days to come.

I tried to teach my son how to sing the national anthem, hoping that one day he would sing to the Sultan, putting a smile on his face.

But one thing for sure is that we all loved him so very much and miss having him in our lives. We lost a part of us on Friday, January 11, 2020 when he passed away. We will honour his efforts and the years he spent serving Oman.

May God guide Sultan Haitham bin Tarik to rule the country and may God protect Oman. Hopefully, one day my son will put a smile on Sultan Haitham’s face.

Fatima Al Ardhi is an art gallery owner based in Oman

Updated: January 16, 2020 06:42 PM

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