Arts & Culture The Embracing Our Past Issue

The time travellers of Oman

Omani photographer Adnan Al Balushi goes on a drive across Oman, and meets with different nationals who have seen the vast changes that the Sultanate has been through in the past 50 years. They reflect on their lives then and now exclusively share their experiences with our readers.

Reflecting back on Oman in the past 60 years, Saada Al Hattali, a housewife from Hail Al Shas village in Oman, states that life pre-1970 was full of hardship and insecurity. The dirt roads from one village to the other were frightening and tiring. ‘Food for us was nothing more than bread, dates, and the occasional meat, and it was all homegrown.’

Salem Al Shaie, a retiree from Nizwa, states that life as a young man was very harsh. ‘ I started working as a construction worker when I was just a small child. Construction then was very basic. Houses were made from mud available from our immediate environment. Whatever wood we could find we used to construct pillars and for ceilings.’ As a result, houses were of poor strcuture and extremely simple, he adds. ‘There were no blue prints, or architects. We just went with the flow’. Salem had to leave Oman as a teenager in search of a better livelihood. He travelled to Bahrain. In 1971, he returned, after Sultan Qaboos Al Said ruled the country. Then, Salem joined the army, and his livelihood compared to his earlier years was completely transformed. ‘My life became easier, and so did everyone else’s,’ he adds.

Life for Sulaiman Al Sharyani from Nizwa was different from everyone else who faced economical challenges in the mid-last century and barely made enough living. A leather crafstman like his father, and their forefathers before that, his family led a successful business. ‘In the 1980s, the country’s rapid development meant that there was an influx of imported goods from around the world, and our business was affected’ .That didn’t stop Sulaiman, however. He improvised.  ‘I turned my business to target tourists instead of locals and decided to participate at events and festivals, where they are frequently present,’ he explains.

Though life for Hameeda Al Rashidi was extremely tough as a young woman, at least it was healthier, she says. ‘In the past, we worked all day. We ran chores, managed the house, grew our own crops, and our food was completely natural. Young women nowadays are not the same as how we were when we grew up, and diseases are more widespread. I blame it on the lavish lifestyle, depending on cars, and not working as much as we did when we were their age’.

Saif Al Hadhrami from Nakhal, is one of the country’s most senior citizens. He has no birth certificate, but his approximate age is believed to be more than 100 years old. Physically fit and active, he attributes this to his healthy lifestyle of walking instead of riding cars, and eating natural foods. In his early years, he worked as a farmer. Under the rule of Sultan Qaboos Al Said, and after 1970, Saif worked in the municipality, where his livelihood improved immensely. ‘My life became easier, and agriculture is easier than how it was in the past, with the availability of watering systems, and improvements in the sector’. To this day, Saif visits the Nakhal market daily, maintaining his lifestyle of travelling on foot, even though it’s quite a distance from his place of residence.

Adnan Al Balushi is a photo storyteller from Oman.