Muntasir Shaaban Saleh Al Farsy
Atheer – Oman History
The ascension to power of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said took place on the 23rd of July 1970. The young prince took over from his father, Sultan Said bin Taimur, with the help of British military advisers, in what was a bloodless coup. Assisted by a trusted inner circle, the new Sultan was now ready to lead Oman into the twentieth century from an era of darkness.
“I promise to proceed forthwith in the process of creating a modern government. My first act will be the immediate abolition of all unnecessary restrictions on your lives and activities,” Qaboos said as he addressed his people.
To attract the help of educated Omanis, His Majesty invited Omanis who were living in East Africa, other parts of the Gulf, Europe and elsewhere to return home. One of the first and most important decisions taken by His Majesty was to release all but a few prisoners from the notorious Jalali prison in Muscat.
Little is known of our Sultan’s childhood, however what we do know is that his father left no stone unturned in providing his only son and the heir to the throne with an education. Teachers from the Al Saidiya school, Oman’s first government school, were brought to Al Husn Palace to tutor the young prince. Despite his father’s attempts to limit external influence in the day-to-day life of Omanis, this did not stop him from sending Qaboos abroad for further studies.
In 1958, the visionary prince set sail for Great Britain. He was tutored privately by a man named Phillip Roman, who hosted His Majesty in his village home in Felsham in Eastern Suffolk. This conservative family treated their guest with kindness, introducing him to a different world to the one with which he was familiar. It was during this period that the Sultan fell in love with European classical music. Under the rule of His Majesty’s father, listening to music had been something that was strictly forbidden and considered sinful to indulge in.
During these years Qaboos had a close chaperone, a military man by the name of Major Leslie Chauncey, who enjoyed a deep association with Oman and a profound relationship with its ruler. Retirement from his post as British Consul led to a better post for Chauncey, as the Sultan’s Personal Adviser in 1958.
Graduating from the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst in 1960 following two years as an officer cadet, Qaboos joined the First Battalion of the Cameronians and served in Germany for a year.
Following His Majesty’s discharge as a second lieutenant, his father Sultan Said asked the Chauncey family to accompany his young son on a three month-long world tour that was intended to make Qaboos aware that there were other solutions to that of Western development. His Majesty returned home in 1964 to educate himself on both the history of Oman and religious studies.
In an interview in 1995, Qaboos stated “my father’s insistence on my thoroughly studying my religion and the history and culture of my country were a profound help in forming my consciousness of my responsibilities toward my people and to humanity at large.”
Upon taking the reins of the country, the second step for the young Sultan was to end what had been a long period of isolation and restore connections with the other Gulf nations, as well as joining the United Nations and what was at the time called the League of Arab States.
Despite the changes that Oman has undergone in its quest towards modernisation, addressing students at Sultan Qaboos University in 1993, His Majesty spoke of the importance of preserving established Omani values, emphasising that “Oman has a deep-rooted history and we should not allow senseless imitation to impede our progress or affect our immortal heritage.”
There are various explanations of meaning of the name ‘Qaboos’ in Arabic, however one of the most widely accepted definitions is ‘a good looking man with a beautiful skin complexion.’ How befitting a definition if ever there was one!
Reference: Funsch, Linda Pappas. Oman Reborn: Balancing Tradition and Modernisation. 2015