|"Sultan in Suffolk"
|Qaboos bin Taimur returned to Dhofar in
1964 following a two year sojourn in Suffolk, two years at
Sandhurst and rushed world trip. He was 24 years old and
was then isolated in quarters in Salalah by his father where he
appears to have had limited access to outsiders. The contrast
between his previous few years and the situation that he found
himself in then was huge.
|Qaboos's grandfather Taimur bin Faisal
acceded to the throne when he was aged twenty seven. He really
did not enjoy the business of being a sultan, spent long periods
away from the country to the consternation of the British,
abdicated aged 46 to go and live in India with a Japanese wife.
He was not a good example to his son Said.
|Qaboos's father, Said bin Taimur,
attended Mayo College in India from 1922 to 1927 where he
mastered English and Urdu. He was to go to Beirut for futher
education but his father, Taimur bin Faisal, feared western
influence especially christianity. He had his son's English
books burned and packed him off to Bagdhad to learn about Arabic
literature and Arab history.
|Said bin Taimur, Qaboos's father, came
to the throne aged twenty one in 1932 when his father abdicated.
His limited education was inevitably matched with a very limited
experience. Through no fault of his own he had been ill-prepared
to take over the throne. He inherited a government that was in
debt to the Muscati merchants and a system of government that was
by the standards of the time primitive.
|He was, however, a determined young man
and set about trying to sort things out.
|His goverment of the country was through
the agency of the "walis" who were the senior officials or
governors in the various areas or "wilayats" of Oman. Legal
disputes came before the "quadis" or judges in each wilayat. It
was a system that had stood the test of time but time had moved
|His main pre-occupation was the national
debt which was largely held by the Muscati merchants.
|His source of revenue used to be, before
the "oily boys" came to the country, largely from customs dues.
Goods coming into the country, goods, often dates, going out of
the country. Goods moving from one part of the country, the
hinterland, to the coast and vice versa. Goods moving from one
wilayat to another wilayat.
|Zakhat, a semi-religious tax, was
also levied. This was rated at 5% or 10% according to the potential
produce from the land and whether it was watered by pump or by
|He managed by dint sophisticated double
entry book keeping, land grab and other creative means to remove the debt
in a couple of years. It became apparent in the 60's that his
main income stream was going change and not to come from customs
dues but from, in Middle Eastern terms, modest amounts of oil.
|On what did he spend his surplus income
|The simple answer is that he didn't. He
made some vague promises but did not deliver. There were few
black top roads. Few schools and few hospitals. Even if he wanted
to he did not have an effective civil administration that could
put such essential necessities of a modern state into place. He
was not going to delegate authority or allow others to oversee
it either. He was a suspicious absolute monarch.
|He spent some money on a skeleton army
and literally put the rest under the bed in his palace, Al Hisn,
in Salalah, where he resided most of the time guarded by his
faithful "khadim" or slaves.
|What of his elder son Qaboos ? He was
going to inherit at some time or another and perhaps Sultan bin
Taimur, conscious of his own inadequate training and experience,
was determined that Qaboos should not come to the throne
unprepared. Perhaps the British, his advisors, hoped that they
could have a hand in the future sultan's upbringing which would
make him an anglophile ?
|Qaboos's early education
commenced with instruction by
an elderly Islamic scholar in Salalah. This was followed by a
period in Pune as a student of Shankar Dayl Sharma.
|It would appear that Said bin Taimur was
anxious that then his son should experience an education heavily
influenced by the British. An ex-British consul from Muscat,
Major Chauncy, and the Foreign Office decided upon suitable
tutors for him prior to his going to the Royal Military Academy
|We then come
to the "Sultan in Suffolk" era when at the age of 17 he was
dispatched to Felsham near Bury St Edmunds to live in "Felsham
House" (?) with an
elderley ex-colonial shoolmaster and his wife, Philip and Laura
Romans. Felsham is a pretty little village with a church, a pub
and a garage and is about as isolated as you can get in Suffolk.
The nearest market town is Bury St Edmunds which is
extremely attractive. Qaboos
had ended up in an exemplar of prosperous well managed middle
England. In his non-military time in England, when not being
"crammed" by Philip Romans, he was to experience the mechanism
of administration locally and later in Warwickshire and
|Bury St Edmunds
|His stint in Suffolk was followed by his
time at Sandhurst and following that a quick and limited world
tour accompanied by Major Chauncey and his wife before he
returned to Salalah at the age of twenty four.
|The future sultan had been "educated"
with a heavy bias towards the British.
|One can only assume that he shared what
he had learned and had experienced with his father when he
returned to Salalah. This, after all, was something that his
father, precipitated onto his throne at the age of twenty one,
had not had the benefit of. Said bin Taimur had deliberately
educated his son, in a manner that had been denied him, then did
not set about preparing his son for succession to the throne by
further developing his education.
|What was it between father and son that
occasioned this ? Had Qaboos developed radically different ideas
that were at variance with those of his father.
|Said bin Taimur's main pre-occupation at
the time was probably the rebellion in Dhofar. His simplistic
way of dealing with this was similar to the example of Generals
Curtis LeMay and Westmoreland in Vietnam; "Bomb them back into
the stone age", "Grab them by the b**** and their hearts and
minds will follow".
|It wasn't working and the rebellion was
not being supressed.
|If we are to
take as an example Qaboos's future direction of the war and
conduct as a sultan it may be a pointer to his way of thinking
when he returned from his time in England. Perhaps his British
influenced education had encouraged him to think that "Hearts
and Minds" was the way forward not the brutalisation of those
who had different views ? He had seen what benefits came from a
democratically administered society whilst he lived in Suffolk.
His autocratic father did not have his son's
education and experience which
would have allowed him to modernise the way in which, through
the exercise of absolute power,
he ran the country.
|Qaboos's opinions would have been at
variance with his father's and because of this we are led to
believe that his father used his overwhelming authority to
control much of what Qaboos did, whom he saw and how much he
took part in the government of Muscat and Oman. He had a
frustrated, energetic young man in the wings whom he sought to
|Said bin Taimur had set up the perfect
storm by refusing to listen to the man he had so painstakingly
educated to have the experiences that he himself had been