Known for tiptoeing on the ocean bed to fish out historical artefacts from ships sunk over centuries in different parts of the world, Ahmed al Siyabi, a skilled Omani diver, is currently cooling his heels in Oman. However, though the lockdown has halted his thrill-filled underwater pursuits, Ahmed spends his evenings hiking in the hills at Ghala to keep the flame of his adventurous spirit burning bright, even at the age of 50.
Ahmed, who had been part of the team that recovered interesting artefacts from the Portuguese shipwreck – Esmeralda – off Hallaniyah island, in Oman’s Kuriya Muriya bay, a few years ago, also participated in the excavation of the San Girolamo shipwreck, in Croatia, a year ago. He had been the only one from Oman handpicked to join a team of 21 underwater archaeology experts and divers from Croatia, Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Japan.
An employee of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Ahmed, who shaped up as a skilled diver, though he was an electrical engineer, has kept diving not just as his profession but also as a lifelong passion. Every weekend, he goes on diving expeditions in Oman along with his brothers and nephews. However, he now laments, that as per new regulations, diving teams would have to comprise 4-5 members of a single family, not groups of like-minded individuals, which might create a few hurdles for his regular underwater adventures.
A PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Master Scuba Diving trainer, Ahmed views the current pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, which put a halt to all outdoor adventures, as something which the current generation has experienced for the first time. “It is unbelievable, that the whole world can get paralysed due to a virus,” says Ahmed, adding that people had no option but to stay put at home and wait for things to improve.
“I had a lot of things to do at home and this extra time came as a boon for me to finish pending tasks. Besides, I also got more time to relax. My home town is Ghala village, in Muscat Governorate and it is famous for its hot springs (falaj) in the mountains and the farms of palm trees,” he said, adding, “Everyday evening, I go for hiking-trekking through the rocky trails and all the way up to the top of the mountains. I enjoy being away from the noise of the city but I take care to be safe.”
As for the pandemic in Oman, Ahmed says it is not right for people to behave irresponsiblly and danger the lives of others. “My advice for everyone is, please stay safe and don’t be the reason to lose the beloved ones of your family and your friends. He himself takes great care for following all the official guidelines for hygiene and sanitisation, as well as avoiding visiting crowded places, in order to keep the virus at bay.
“It is very difficult to predict when this virus will go away but we must take all precautions till then. This disease has changed everyone’s life by taking away a lot of things from us and alterng the way we live. We cannot visit our family members, we cannot take up outdoor activity, we cannot travel abroad and we have to constantly think about our own health and safety, he said, adding, “This is a message for everyone to be disciplined to be safe and healthy.”