One year on from his death, Oman reflects on Sultan Qaboos’ legacy

Omanis say Qaboos' legacy 'will not be forgotten'

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Omanis quietly marked the anniversary of Sultan Qaboos's death on Sunday.

No official ceremonies were held, but state-run Oman television broadcast a programme on his legacy.

Another programme marked a new era under Sultan Haitham, while Omanis and residents looked to the future while reflecting on the past 50 years.

Sultan Qaboos, who ruled Oman from 1970 to 2020, came to power at the age of 29.

A moderniser with respect for Oman’s traditions, the graduate of Britain's Sandhurst military academy transformed the country into a respected international player. When he took over, the sultanate reportedly had only 12 hospital beds, 10 kilometres of surfaced roads and three primary schools.

Oman’s National Centre for Statistical Information estimates that 63 per cent of Oman’s population had never lived under another ruler until the sultan's death.

“No wonder so many Omani people feel connected with Sultan Qaboos a year after his death. His legacy will not be forgotten, forever etched in the history of Oman," said Raya Al Mahrooki, 44, a civil servant.

“He gave the people of Oman dignity and put Oman on the map as one of the fastest developing countries in the world. How can we forget him?”

Older Omanis still marvel at the pace Sultan Qaboos managed to change the nation.

“I was 40 when he became sultan, eleven years older than he was. I never thought a 29-year-old would have the capacity to build a nation from nothing to a very developed country with fewer resources,” said Hussain Al Shaibany, 90, a retired maintenance worker in the energy sector.

“I have lived a long time to see Oman before him and Oman after him. I am a living witness to his genius as a leader because I have seen the hard times and the good ones.”

Expatriates, who make up 41 per cent of the population in Oman, also remember the late sultan with great fondness. Gerry Moorcraft, 88, who first came to Oman with the British army in 1968 and has lived there since retiring in 1991, said he saw monumental change.

“There were no roads and no one was venturing outside after the sunset. The country was empty,” he said.

“Young Omanis left to seek jobs in the neighbouring countries and we had problems recruiting young soldiers during the Dhofar war."

As much as Omanis looked back with nostalgia, they also told The National they are looking forward with hope.

Sultan Haitham, who took over the reins of leadership from his cousin on January 11, 2020, is “perfect for the job”, said Fatma Al Lawati, 54, a retired teacher.

“Just one year later, he has already demonstrated his skills and ability to continue the legacy left behind by Qaboos, and even go beyond," she said.

“He is perfect for the job and we are all loyal to the new renaissance he has started.”

Sultan Haitham already revamped the government, streamlining it from 26 to 19 ministries.

He approved a 2040 economic vision starting from January 2021 to diversify the national income away from oil revenue. Other fiscal boosting initiatives he ordered include the introduction of income tax and VAT.