The celebration of Oman’s National Day takes place every year on November 18 as a celebration of independence from the Portuguese in 1650. National Day coincides with Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said’s birthday, which occurs November 18, adding additional significance to the day.

Flexing their superior naval tactics and technology, the Portuguese took control of the ports of Muscat and Sohar, and then rest of the coast of Oman in 1507. The Portuguese saw the ports along the coast of Oman as valuable stopping points in their Indian spice trade routes.

Unsatisfied with the Portuguese exploitation of resources in Oman, the Al-Ya’ribi clan wooed the British East India Company in 1646. Under an agreed treaty, British merchants were guaranteed legal rights while operating in Oman’s domain, effectively weakening the influence of Portugal in the region.

On November 18, 1650, Imam Sultan Bin Saif and others led an uprising that effectively expelled Portugal from Oman and its ports.  Oman has maintained its independence since and is generally recognized as being the longest continually independent Arab state in modern history.

Fast forward to the 20th century.  Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said was born in Salalah in Dhofar on November 18, 1940.  He rose to power after overthrowing his father, Said bin Taimur, in a palace coup in 1970.

Today, people celebrate both Oman’s independence from the Portuguese and the Sultan’s birthday on November 18. Fireworks displays, images of the sultan, and Oman’s flag can be seen during celebrations that focus on the progress the current sultan, Qaboos bin Said, has made for the people of Oman.  Cutouts of Sayyed Qaboos bin Said al Said and the royal flag of Oman line streets and highways throughout the country.

Since November 18 of this year was on a Friday, already a weekend day in the Sultanate, an additional 3-day holiday was to be granted to the general population. This holiday is never set in stone, but rotates every year.  It wasn’t announced until several days before it was granted and the University of Nizwa, a privately owned institution, didn’t announce the holiday until Sunday, November 20th.  My students already knew they were going to get a full 10 days off, beginning the weekend of November 24-25, plus Saturday-Wednesday, November 26-30, plus the following weekend, December 1-2.  Within that holiday period, the Islamic New Year fell on November 26.

HOWEVER.  The teachers at the University of Nizwa were told that we didn’t get the same holiday as the students.  The Chancellor required that teachers come to work on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 29-30, effectively cutting our holiday into two unequal parts.  We had a five-day holiday though, and I’m thankful for that, especially as we just had 10 days off in early November for Eid Al Adha.