A letter from Oman

This is a report from the Sultanate of Oman by ZS1D / G4KLF Tony Selmes, who is a member of this club at present residing in Oman.

Let me give you a little background about Oman, it is a Sultanate that is situated on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula sharing borders with the Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen, formerly known as Aden, to the south. On the western border is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and in the north west the Sultanate is split into two parts by the United Arab Emirates, with the northern most land edge ( called the Mussandam – which belongs to Oman ) protruding into the Straits of Hormuz. From that point it is possible to see Iran, only 23 miles across the sea, quite clearly on a clear day.

Oman is are a seafaring nation as well as a desert and Jebal    ( mountain ) people, Sinbad the sailor was an Omani. The population of one and three quarter million people also includes the expatriates who number approximately twenty thousand, consisting of British, Australian, New Zealanders, Americans and South Africans. There is also a strong contingent of Pakistanis, Indians, Sri Lankans and Phillipinos etc.

The Omani people themselves are a mixture of races, being great seafarers they were involved in the slavery and spice trades on the eastern coast of Africa. They once ruled Zanzibar Island, also parts of Pakistan C Baluchistan ) until fairly recent modern times. This is the reason for the Baluchi tribesmen, who often can only speak Baluchi and the many Swahali speaking and dark coloured Arabs from Zanzibar. In the north are the Shahar. a gipsy like people closely related to Iranians who speak a Farsi / Arabic language. The rest of the inhabitants consist of Bedouin (desert people) Jebalis and many other tribes.

Imagine a country with a spine of mountains running north 7 south, some rising to 13,000 feet throughout its length, which is approximately 2,000 kilometres. The northern enclave, the Mussandam, is nothing but wadis and mountains, which sweep down to the sea, creating spectacular capes and bays. Khumsa the northernmost town is completely landlocked by mountains and is only approachable by see. The capital area Muscat is situated on the edge of the coastal plain spreading to the north between mountains and the sea. It is fertile with many towns and oasis.

Oman is also sited on the edge of a geological fault line between Arabia and Iran. The Zagros Mountains in southern Iran are an extension of the northern mountains in the Mussandam. Thus Oman is situated in a natural area for deposits of oil and does have an extensive oil production capability. Indeed the country’s main revenue is based on oil which is being used to help Oman become a modern nation and rapidly making up for the years as a backward and remote country with few facilities. The present ruler, Sultan Said Bin Qabos, who came to power in 1970 is called the “Father of Renaissence”, by his people. Before the present Sultans rule life was very hard for the Omani people, no radios or smoking or wearing of western dress was allowed in public, and slavery was still prevalent. The Dhofaris, a mountainous area in the south occupied by a very independent people, were in revolt and there was a war going on for many years with the British SAS helping the Omani government. There was also trouble from the neighbouring countries.
The main source of revenue in those times came from dates and fishing with a little oil and mineral prouction. After 1970 the present ruler, an ex Sandhurst trained officer who formerly saw service with a Scottish regiment, took over the reins of the country. He created schools, hospitals, a modern police force and updated the military with modern weaponary and techniques. He initiated the building of a modern highway system throughout the land giving all weather roads with access to places of importance. The practice of slavery was abolished.

The new ruler opened up his country to a flood of ex patriots with their modern technology and alien ways. Today the country is very modern in its outlook and facilities. Tourism is slowly being allowed and is becoming a source of revenue. Before the 18th century very few visitors were allowed into Oman, during that period the British established a protection treaty with Oman in a bid to curtail French influence in the Gulf area. Thus throughout the 1700s and 1800s strong ties were forged between Britain and Oman which have continued to present times. Since my first visit to Oman in 196i1 I have seen tremendous changes in the country and the people, with the introduction of modern methods and technology, provided mainly by the British. Oman is working hard to become less reliant on oil revenue and concentrating on alternative industries with investment in plant and technology together with training institutes for the future skilled work force. Despite this mordernisation attention has been paid to the preservation of wildlife, Arab culture and traditions with stringent penalties for offenders. The people and their traditions are also protected from the worst of Western ways and Oman has succeeded in in a modern approach to life with give and take for Western ideals and traditions. Women are treated mainly as equals and are encouraged to take on careers. These tolerant views are reflected in the friendliness of the Omani people as opposed to the radical views shared by neighbouring nations.

With this tolerance of modern ideas and ways the ability to enjoy leisure time and hobbies has become more evident in Oman. King Hussein of Jordan (JYl ) is a very close friend of the Sultan and introduced the Sultan to amateur radio. The Sultan has a call -sign, A41AA, but has not operated on the air yet, nevertheless he has given the title “ Royal “ to the Royal Omani Amateur Radio Society (ROARS ), the only club or society in Oman with such a title. He purchased the ROARS HQ building and furnished it, he purchased the many HF and VHF rigs and last year presented a “ top of the range “ HF rig to the club station. The president of ROARS is also the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications and a very active amateur, A4lFK Ahmed. I believe Oman has more active radio amateurs than any other Arab country, There are over 300 members of ROARS with 40 to 50 active members, Only one of these ops is an ardent CW operator, A4lJZ, the rest preferring SSB. Mohib mostly favours top band QSOs but does occasionally venture onto the other bands. With A4 being a relatively rare country, any time an ALL operator is active there are massive pile ups. To the newly licensed Omani operator this is completely unnerving, so please consider this next time you are trying to get a QSO.

Remember that Oman is a Moslem country and for us out here the weekend starts on a Thursday afternoon with Friday as the Holy day and work recommences on a Saturday morning. You will therefore have a much better chance of an ALL QSO during that period. Other days you will find ALL ops on the “Arabian Knights” net, usually around 14.265 Mhz any time after 14.00GMT almost on a daily basis. We are four hours ahead of GMT here so when Westerners are thinking of relaxing and going on the air, Omanis are thinking of going to bed,

Amateur radio in Oman is catered for very well, with many special event call-signs and field day stations. Annually between November and December ROARS stages a special event day at Azaiba beach using traditionally built Barasti huts. These are built entirely of date palm leaves and create a cool shelter from the sun with enough breeze allowed through to cool the occupants. Azaiba is located 25 kms west of Muscat, the capital of Oman. This annual anniversary field day is usually a three or four day event and operates on 160 through 10 mostly SSB with a little CW. In 1987 the call A4XXV was used to denote the 15th anniversary of ROARS. A ribbon cutting ceremony was used to open the special event station and prominent amateurs were invited from overseas to attend the event and the special commemorative meal at the Muscat Sheraton Hotel.

In December 1988 another special event took place at ROARS. The Azaiba site was reopened to celebrate the 16th anniversary using the call A4XXA on 22nd December and changing to A43XA at midnight to conform with the new rules on prefixes formulated by the ITU. So from the 23rd December all prefixes in Oman changed from A4X to A4 plus another digit. ( A41 for Omanis, A43 special events, ALL5 for cx pats and ALL7 for the club, ALL7RS. ) A special award was established to mark the change from A4X to A41 etc. This award was for any amateur that worked both A4XXA and A43XA, between thirty and forty stations were eligible. The very first station to work both calls was Tom A4XZN, now A45ZK, I was operating the A4XXA / A43XA station on Morse at the time on 80 Metres having received special permission to operate CW. Tom started the QSO just before midnight and ended just after. Conditions were not favourable that night for operating on any of- the higher frequencies, but I managed to keep operations going for seven hours just on CW and thus keep the special event station active throughout the night. That gave as many operators as possible the chance to work the A43XA call during a period of bad propagation. The special event station closed down eight hours later than scheduled as conditions improved later and pile ups became the norm once again. Another HF station was opened for those eight hours to cope with the demand, in all three HF and one two metre station were operating.

It had been planned for a DXpedition to the Kuria Muria Islands off the east coast to be on the air at the same time. Originally Tom and myself were organising the expedition with any Omani helpers that we could muster. It would have been the first time in 30 years that radio amateur operation would have been allowed on the islands, the last operations were by RAE ops in the 1950s.

Tony Selmes – G4KLF. March 1989.

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