After ruling for 49 years, the Arab world’s longest-serving ruler Sultan Qaboos Bin Said of Oman passed away at the age of 79 years. Among the leaders who reached Muscat to pay their tributes to one of the Arab world’s most dynamic leader were Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, the UK’s Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Sultan Qaboos shared little of his personal or political life in public but has earned respect and leadership for focussing on education, greater participation of women in civic affairs and Oman’s goal of diversifying its oil-based economy.
SULTAN QABOOS BIN SAID’S CHILDHOOD
Qaboos bin Said was born on November 18, 1940 in Muscat. Qaboos, a member of Oman’s Āl Bū Saʿīd dynasty, was educated at Bury Saint Edmunds, Suffolk, England, and at Sandhurst, the Royal Military Academy, in Berkshire. He was called home in 1965 by his father, Saʿīd ibn Taymūr, who kept his son a virtual prisoner for six years while maintaining his subjects in a state of relative underdevelopment despite the country’s growing oil revenues. In 1970 Qaboos took over the palace in a coup with British support and exiled his father. A palace coup on 23 July 1970 ended up with Sultan Said shooting himself in the foot before going into exile in London. Qaboos took power. “Yesterday, Oman was in darkness,” Qaboos said after the coup. “But tomorrow, a new dawn will rise for Oman and its people.”
BEING A SULTAN IN OMAN
The sultan is the paramount decision-maker in Oman. He also holds the positions of prime minister, supreme commander of the armed forces, minister of defence, minister of finance and minister of foreign affairs.
SULTAN QABOOS “MODERNIZED” OMAN
As soon as becoming Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said immediately undertook a range of ambitious modernization projects, including constructing roads, hospitals, schools, communications systems, and industrial and port facilities. He abrogated his father’s moralistic laws and established a Council of Ministers and first one and later two consultative bodies. Political power, however, remained concentrated in the royal family, although Qaboos’s regime gradually allowed other Omanis, including women to participate in the government. In 1996 he promulgated Oman’s first constitution, which formalized both a consultative legislature and the sultan as the unifying symbol of the state. Universal suffrage was granted to all Omani citizens at least 21 years of age, though political platforms, parties, and unauthorized public gatherings remained prohibited.
WITH AGE THE SULTAN BECAME FOND OF READING AND MUSIC
As he grew older, Sultan Qaboos also grew increasingly reclusive. He is known to have had three major passions – reading, music and yachting. He was said to “read voraciously”, as well as playing the organ and lute. He created a symphony orchestra and opened a royal opera house in Muscat in 2011. His yacht “Al Said” is among the world’s largest and was frequently seen anchored in Muscat’s mountain-ringed harbour. Qaboos was briefly married to a first cousin. They had no children and divorced in 1979. While other gulf states tried to outshine one another with malls and theme parks, Oman concentrated on cultural firsts for the region. As he passes away, Sultan Qaboos will be remembered as perhaps the most enigmatic figure in the fraternity of gulf leaders. Zeba Warsia – NMTV News.