Dubai: "He was more than a Sultan, he was a father to all Omanis," Abdullah Hussain Bin Saif, a retired lieutenant colonel with the royal Oman police was in tears as he spoke to Gulf News about the death of his beloved leader.
"We appreciate what he has done for Omanis, we were not the same country before Sultan Qaboos. He made life better in Oman. This country was like his mother like his family, it was everything to him. He has no family, the entire country is his family.
“All of us feel like we have lost a part of ourselves. He was a father, a brother and he guided us forward, he was our teacher.”
A very accessible leader
Abdullah, who took early retirement in 2013, said: "Sultan Qaboos used to go around meeting people on the streets. Along Oman, he had five or six stations and he would tour the country talking to people young and old, asking them what their needs were and what could be done to improve the country. He looked after all matters of Omanis, there are many stories, he went to hospitals and ministries to ensure things were going smooth. Even if you never met him, you would feel close to him. That's how he was."
The 51-year-old former cop, who stays in Salalah, Oman, added: "I was honoured to have the chance to meet him twice. He was so humble and kept a low profile. It was like you were meeting a regular person, he never had an air about himself. He was like a part of the people. A man of peace, he used to tell us to be nice to others, to our neighbours, to other countries. He taught us peace and tolerance."
[Sultan Qaboos was] a man of peace, he used to tell us to be nice to others, to our neighbours, to other countries. He taught us peace and tolerance.
"Fortunately, the new sultan is selected by his majesty, we will be faithful to him. If he has selected him, it means it's a person who will do the best for the country. We are going to support the new Sultan and be loyal to the maximum."
"My parents had tears in their eyes"
For Samah Issa Al Rawahi, a 28-year-old Omani, Sultan Qaboos was the only leader she ever knew. He was not only the country’s leader but was an inspiration for every Omani working towards building the country, Samah told Gulf News.
“It was really a shock to all of us. We knew about his health but we didn’t know what to expect. When the news broke, there was complete silence at my home. My parents had tears in their eyes. The phone kept ringing, we were all stuck to the television, trying to find out what’s happening,” Samah said.
When the news broke, there was complete silence at my home. My parents had tears in their eyes. The phone kept ringing, we were all stuck to the television, trying to find out what’s happening
As a channels and social media adviser at Petroleum Development Oman, Oman’s national oil company, Samah said Sultan Qaboos had inspired everyone, whether Omani or expatriate, to work towards progress.
“We grew up always calling him Baba Qaboos, for us losing him is like losing our father today. We’ve always looked up to him. Even our national anthem has his name in it. He has always been that leader for us - whether it is work our education, we did it thinking of him as our father,” she added.
Oman - an enemy to none
She also spoke about the the way Sultan Qaboos had united the communities living in Oman, and especially encouraged women and young people to be a part of the nation-building process.
“The whole country just loved him so much, whether they were Omani or not. Everyone has this tremendous amount of love and respect for the person that he was. He opened doors for all of us, where we were able to live and co-exist together. There are so many cultures, so many nationalities, we were always Omanis,” Samah said.
Remembering the one time she had the chance of seeing Sultan Qaboos in person, Samah spoke about the 40th National Day celebrations in Oman, when she was 13 years old.
“I was picked to dance in front of him and thankfully for me, I was in the front row. I still remember how he looked at all of us and smiled,” she said.
Looking forward, Samah said that Sultan Qaboos’s principles would continue to guide the citizens and residents of Oman.
“We lost someone we will never ever be privileged to have. But I was also appreciative of all the lessons he has taught to us, especially of Oman being a friend to everyone. He always said this: ‘Oman is a friend to all and enemy to none.’ We always keep that at the back of our mind, continuing with that idea of peace and promoting it. We hope that we will continue positioning Oman in the same way and continue to develop our nation.”
“We watched the funeral at home as a family"
Even the expatriate population in Oman expressed similar reactions to the demise of Sultan Qaboos.
Twenty three-year-old businessman Mohammad Reshi, an Indian expat living in Oman, told: “I’ve been awake since four in the morning, reading people’s posts online and sharing the grief.”
Reshi, who was born and brought up in Oman, called the Sultan the true driver of progress in Oman.
I’ve been awake since four in the morning, reading people’s posts online and sharing the grief.
He said: “While growing up, the atmosphere because of his leadership felt so lively and hopeful - the National Day celebrations and Muscat festivals, the togetherness and unity of people through happiness was his leadership.”
“We watched the funeral at home as a family. I’d like to say that Sultan Qaboos felt like a father to everyone living in Oman. He will forever be remembered and loved for being such a humble leader, with a strong sense of leadership and ambition to raise the status of his beloved nation. He was a man of peace.“
Reshi looked back at how Oman’s National Day was celebrated as a day to look back at what Oman was and what it had become.
“Sultan Qaboos used to commence the celebration live on television in front of his people, and then fireworks would go off. He would wave at his people, but it did not look like it was for people praising him, but just being humble and grateful for everyone’s effort put into the progress. It would be a spectacle, a heart-warming moment to watch.”