National Day: Sultan Haitham addresses Oman on its Golden Jubilee
The country saw a muted celebration with few fireworks and quiet streets
Sultan Haitham of Oman on Wednesday addressed the nation on television to begin a low-key celebration to mark the country’s 50th National Day.
“We decided to limit the 50th National Day celebrations in order to safeguard the safety of everyone,” Sultan Haitham said in his opening remarks, addressing the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.
His speech was televised minutes after the health ministry announced 411 new cases and 10 deaths in a total of 121,129 cases and 1,360 deaths recorded in Oman.
He also touched on the current economic challenges facing the sultanate, but said he was confident the country would come out of the current recession.
“Despite the challenges facing our economy, the financial balance plan and the measures that have been taken are sufficient to bring our economy to a safe shore,” Sultan Haitham said.
He said that the Cabinet reshuffle he ordered three months ago was part of a “development strategy and implementation of restructuring plans”.
But he said that the government “cannot do it alone” and that it was the responsibility of every Omani to contribute “to the economic plan and vision”.
Earlier in the day, Sultan Haitham pardoned 390 prisoners convicted of various crimes, among them foreign citizens.
He also paid tribute to his predecessor, Sultan Qaboos.
“Oman was able to overcome all challenges with the wisdom of the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said and the sacrifices of its loyal people,” he said.
National Day is usually an elaborate celebration in Oman, but this year, with many still mourning the loss of Sultan Qaboos, was like any other day for Omani citizens and residents. The decorations that normally line the streets were pared back, apart from national flags flying on the motorways. There were no events in city malls, street dancing or decorations on the walls of private homes.
“I have been living in Oman for 37 years and I have never seen a quiet National Day. It is as if someone took the heart out of the country. The sentiments of the passing away of Sultan Qaboos is still strong,” said Alice Sanderson, 56, a British boutique owner in Muscat.
Al Basateen Street in Muscat is usually known for its colourful National Day celebrations, but this year the atmosphere was quiet and sombre.
“There are about 100 houses in this street and each house will have different decorations on the walls and the roofs. There are no tables and chairs in the gardens prepared for National Day dinners and no patriotic music blaring from the speakers,” said Said Al Amri, 44, a resident of Al Basateen Street.
The government has allowed evening fireworks in just two cities, Muscat and Salalah, but only for five minutes, instead of the usual 30-minute displays.
Alongside Oman's muted celebrations, the UAE will celebrate Oman as well by highlighting the strong ties and strategic partnership between the two countries, under the slogan: "Oman is from us, and we are among them."
The UAE events will include lighting key landmarks around the country with the Omani flag, as well as festive celebrations at the country’s land ports. Omani visitors coming to the UAE will also be received with flowers and souvenirs.
Oman’s annual National Day coincides with the re-opening of land ports connecting the two countries after more than eight months of suspension because of the pandemic.
Updated: November 18, 2020 08:54 PM