Unity Is Power

5:48 PM


June 2007, a month we, Omanis, will always remember. Whether you were out of the Sultanate during that time or were a witness to what was the worst natural disaster, we all recall very clearly what we were doing the moment the news broke. I was abroad at the time working as a researcher, clueless to the fact that something so radical was going to change our perception. I remember relaxing on my sofa after a long day at work only to watch the weather forecast on BBC and my country being called out. I literally froze in my place as the announcement was made that a Super Cyclonic Storm was heading to my birthplace and my home. Reaching out for my phone to call my family, it was instantly disconnected and the worry began to creep in stronger every second. Gonu hit Oman that dreadful summer seven and a half years ago and it changed our outlook on what to take for granted and what not to.

Interestingly though, this cyclone was a blessing in disguise and secretly many were happy that it somehow happened. We got to show our kids and young family members what solidarity really meant. Unity was there live in action, every skin color, race and tribe all working hand in hand to assist and reach out to those stranded and in need. The aspect of it wasn't only secluded to those in Oman at the time but spread to those who were away as all Omanis came together to console and calm those around them while we experienced what we called the most colossal natural disaster of our lives.  It didn't matter who you were so long as you held the red passport embossed with the two swords and the mighty Khanjar in its center.  We showed the world and our neighboring countries that we were a force to be reckoned with.

The communal action of June 2007 reminded me of an Arabic proverb that says ‘Unity is Power’.  I still recall how that proverb in third grade Arabic class was taught to us; using the metaphor of the jungle. How the animals, big and small, came into coalition to help the huge elephant who fell into a trench trap. But then, you grow up and the proverb gets translated into a way different concept than that we have learnt. We learn that grownups differentiate between each other and claim superiority on one another defeating the purpose of those value lessons absorbed and learnt. We discover that it is normal to label each other names, which some do not exist anymore, and even go as close as not mixing with certain people in the name of supremacy. Why? Why should tribalism define who we are?

Oman boasts itself for having a multicultural community; we come from various walks of life to form a country that is proud of its heritage and accomplishments throughout centuries. We are a country that once upon a time stood as a grand empire in the face of injustice and have become the peaceful nation we are. We have various cultures and sects that live in harmony which most Arab countries are jealous of. However, if we place a magnifying glass on our society, we would see that we clutch on prejudice and blame it on Arabian tribalism. Marriage for instance takes the cake; if you are from certain so called tribes, you can’t marry into certain tribes because they either are supposedly socially beneath you, or aren't pure enough or, better yet, migrated to the country and have no roots here. It is saddening that this mentality still exists while living in a civilized society.

Tribal connections once upon a time formed a powerful force against external enemies and created a collective identity. However, nowadays that isn't the case, tribalism in my opinion stands as the greatest obstacle to advancement of a country that needs further development. Why can’t we remove those red hazardous lines and cross them? After all, we have all established that we love our country and would like to see it move forward to an even better positioning in the global world. Why can’t we all unite and forget our race, color and tribes and practice unity and solidarity just the way we do when disaster strikes? 

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2 Comments

  1. Absolutely love this, and I remember the cyclone news as well. Very well written!

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  2. I was in Qurum for Gonu. I remember, all the Omani families there and expat workers, everyone hiked up to Ras Al Hamra and shared food and water and housing. We got to know Omanis (us very isolated expats) and some Bangladeshi women, and some South Africans... It was something very different. While we weren't touched by tragedy, some of my friends, in Qurayat, their entire village was gone, and many family members. It was the first time I went to an "Azza" and when my stepfather died, almost a whole village remembered that, and sent their condolences and asked to attend the funeral. Strangers really, people I didn't know beyond their address. Money and status didn't matter anymore, as many wealthy Omanis were stranded from their homes and some businesses destroyed (in Qurum) and they were taken in by poor Omanis who had almost nothing, but shared everything. It did change things, but tribalism not----maybe is the disaster happened in tribal areas---no Muscat and the batinah coast---maybe.

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