A Soldier from Oman: Memory’s Nectar

From Chapter 1

Al Hadhra

One of the noteworthy customs of that period was hadhra. If someone had something stolen or his property damaged, people would be called for a general gathering, hadhra. All the attendants and their children would be asked to take an oath of innocence. Whoever didn’t attend would be singled out. People would go to him and ask him why he missed the hadhra. If the reason given was fully convincing, it would be accepted, and the person would accordingly be judged innocent. This custom saved people resorting to court to resolve such issues.

Shooting: Kanad furthers distances

Shooting is an age old original Omani sport that we all take pride in. We used to buy bullets from Ibri or Khabora. Bullets plates were melted and poured into moulds of stone. As regards the gun powder, it used to be a urea-like white material. It would be cooked and then left open, so the water would dry up. The remains were subsequently mixed with sulphur and the coal of the shakhr tree. The mixture would then be ground and sprinkled with a little water. We would try it with fire to see its power. If it was weak, we would add more till we got it to the level of the power we wanted.
We would measure its power when we saw how thoroughly it had been baked without leaving any trace on the palm of the hand. The cartridge would be retrieved and recharged with the appropriate numbers of matchsticks. For bird hunting, for example, a small amount would be used, and for deer hunting the quantity would be increased. The same was the case with distant targets. We would prepare for two shots per day, and sometime, perhaps for three. We hunted doves, birds and foxes. The latter we had no problem in eating. We would cook them with garlic and dry lemon. However, the elders didn’t eat them, and even went so far as not to allow us cook them at home.
We used to gather in the evening in a place known as shareeáa, the place the falaj went through, and was normally in front of a mountain. Every one of us would be carrying a rifle and would compete in shooting. The target, shabah, would be set on a mountain. After the inception of the Kanad 303 rifle we extended the shooting range. There were no awards for such activities. Competent in shooting, we did all that with pleasure to maintain a tradition.

By Said bin Rashid al Kalbani,
the first Inspector General of Oman

The fifth part of a series translated by
Khalid Mohammed Al Balushi
khalidb@squ.edu.om