By: Saleh Abdullah Alkhamyasi
The sultanate of Oman has unique geographical characteristics,
which combine the desert, the mountain, the plain and the sea. Therefore, if
the agricultural side with its mountain, desert and plain represent one
aspect of the Omani culture, the sea with its formidable challenges
represents the other .
Oman is blessed with 1700KM of
coast line that stretch from the tip of Musandam in the north of Oman to Dhalkut,
the last point in the governorate of Dhofar. It was
through towns such as Muscat, Mutrah,
Sur, Sohar, Salalah and Mirbat that Oman was able to interact with
the other nation which our merchants traded. This
evidently indicates that the Omani people were seafarer since ancient times.
Today we will trace the
story of a maritime legend which traded across the Indian ocean and moved among several
countries in the Gulf, Indian subcontinent and East Africa and was an ambassador of Oman wherever she landed.
The dhow "Fatah Al-khyr" whose name means "triumph of the good" was given this name
due to the fact that it rained in the first day in which it was constructed.
In addition the name signifies optimistic
expectations of her later commercial activities. It is of a ghanjah type which is
characterised with its small stem head ornament that has a rounded projection
carved with concentric circles. Surmounted by a trefoil
crest, with an iron ring. The trefoil crest is the hall
mark of the ghanjah. It design owe more to
the Indian Kutya.
was built in Sur in
1951under the supervision of an excellent and master carpenter Mohammed bin Khamis Alshagag Alaraimi with the help of many skilful carpenters and was
the first dhow to shift to a diesel engine in 1957. It was built in Alrashah(a
name of a place in Sur) for the Omani captain Said
bin Khamis AlQasimi. The
dhow has a capacity of 220tonnes therefore its construction took one year.
The dhow was destined to
work in Sur for 24 years where she was among the
Omani ambassadors who traded with countries such as the Gulf Countries,
Yemen, India, and East Africa. Among the nawkhudas
(sea captains) who sailed Fatah alkhyr
for many years in its voyages Abdullah bin Rashid
bin Said Alsinani and Said bin Mubarak
alattiqe Alfarsi. After
performing for almost a quarter of a century with its original owner this
dhow was sold to Saif bin
Said Aljarwani a merchant in Dubai to end up with a Yemeni
merchant. Ever since that time she embarked on her
agony and sense of alienation as a result of being away from her hometown. Even though she was executing her task efficiently and try her
best not to reveal her misery, when the night darkness shelter her
surrounding, she aired out her grievances alone in the beach and promised
herself to return to Sur one day as if she was
repeatedly singing the song of the renowned Lebanese singer Fairouz "we would return to our home one day".
She actually never gave up hope and her prayers were
answered in 1993.
In order to preserve this
valuable heritage the Omanis raised the required
amount to purchase this dhow- the only ghanjah believed to be existing to date.
Once the decision was made, the man entrusted to accomplish the mission was
the retired sea captain Mohammed bin Hamad bin Najim Alghailani who spared no
time and flew to Aden to initiate the
negotiation of the deal and defied the expectation of his fellow Omanis when he brought Fatah
Al-khyr to her cradle place. Since the sea is rough during the summer people thought that
he would bring her to Salalah and stop there.
The people of Oman were so delighted to see
one of their pearls restored. They flooded towards the beach to stare at her
with admiration and happiness. They were overwhelmed with her arrival to the
same station where she was built, after a long
separation and could not help but reveal their joy.
Some of the Suri poets expressed their utmost happiness for her
return through their poems. Among the poets was Mohammed Ali Bahwan who attempted to calm
her down and assured her that she reached
home safe and that she is among her loved ones. He could see her shocked
since modernity had changed the characteristics of the place and that she was
seeing youngsters whom she was not familiar with therefore, he tried to
attract her attention with his poem entitled "Returnee":
Oh Returnee do not show
the tears of sorrow
Your posture can tell more
than your tears
Do not complain I feel
your tears run in my blood
It is revealed as a result
of agony through expression
Oh my darling do not ask
who I might be
I am the grandson of those
who acquired their fame as seafarer
I am the grandson of those
who crossed the ocean in you
Those whose determination
Once the dhow reached her
original station, it was lifted up on the dry land.
As a result, today Fatah Al-Khyr
remains the legend, which speaks loudly about Oman's maritime heritage and
brings to mind similar stories such as that of Sultanah
who sailed as an Omani ambassador to New York back in the 1830s and many