“My Hero, My Sultan”
Letter from Oman! Salome Bader is impressed with the National Day.
Dec 22, 2015
November 18 is the birthday of the Omani Sultan and simultaneously the National Day. This year I was able to experience the 45th anniversary of His Majesty. The preparations took place for weeks in advance of the National Day. The streets were decorated with fairy lights and flags, performers practiced for the festivities and performances, and the Omanis plastered their cars with flags, pictures of the Sultan, or sayings like “My Hero, my Sultan.”
Since our arrival, everyone had been raving about this day and promising a huge street party in honor of the 45th anniversary of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. Accordingly, I was excitedly looking forward to this day because we had never experienced so many efforts for an event. Up to now we had been confronted with spontaneity and a relaxed approach to all forms of work. For example, we have been waiting for more than two months for the Internet hook-up in our apartment.
Work during the Day, Street Events at Night
The first surprise was that on National Day, contrary to our expectations, no one had the day off work. Classes at the university were held just like on any other day. The celebrations took place in the evening, after dusk. We had arranged to meet with friends from the university and started out toward Qurm, the district of Muscat where the celebrations were being hosted. However, we could not advance very fast because seemingly every inhabitant of Muscat was on the road.
People wore scarves, masks, or wigs in green, red, and white – the national colors of Oman – or carried flags. The music was turned up in cars, and people were dancing in the streets, chatting with each other, and celebrating their National Day, kind of like the street celebrations in Germany after the Germans won the Soccer World Cup. By the time we finally got near Qurm, the police had cordoned off the street there. So we decided to drive over to the Matrah neighborhood, stopping at the Sultan' Palace on the way and then later returning to Qurm.
Some Violent Riots
That turned out to be a good decision because the next day we learned that there had been some violent clashes with the police in Qurm. The consequences of these excesses were also highly visible in Qurm two days later – a police car stood at nearly every intersection.
The festivities continued on to the next day, when an official ceremony took place in the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, with dancing music, and films showing how much Oman has changed in the past 45 years. Many children took part in the performances; apparently it is a tradition and a great honor for children between the ages of ten and twelve to be selected to perform in these celebrations. The end of the ceremony was very impressive. All the participants held signs in the air with a photo of the Sultan. This was accompanied by music that had been composed just for the 45-year anniversary. The cultural program was rounded off with fireworks in the Omani national colors.
The huge street party on the actual National Day and the new impressions I gained into the culture of the country the following day were the perfect mix. It was very moving to experience the national pride while the whole stadium was singing the national anthem – even though it wasn't my own national anthem – and to see how the Omanis celebrate their culture and the developments of recent years.