Omanis are known for their polite demeanor, generous nature, and unmatched hospitality. An hospitality that can be matched only by their special Omani Halwa and Kahwa, the cardamom flavoured coffee. On arrival I Called On the Local Naval Commander of the RNO base at Salalah. I was accompanied by the Defense Adviser and Sea Trainee Pathania (The Captain’s Doggie). The purpose of taking the Sea Trainee along was for him to learn from these interactions with senior officers and dignitaries.
True to Traditional Omani hospitality we were welcomed by the Captain RNO base at Salalah with complete fanfare involving a Ceremonial Guard and the Halwa. The tradition is that when you visit an Omani house a large bowl of this Halwa made off dates and dry fruits is placed in the centre. Every guest takes a spoon full of this dish, holds the spoon in the left hand and uses the right hand to put the halwa in your mouth. The spoon can thus be used again by everybody. Let me tell you, once you have had one spoon of this rich and delicious dish it’s difficult to stop. This is followed by Kahwa, the cardamom flavoured coffee served to you in a small cup. One can have it again or decline in the peculiar Omani fashion where you put your hand on top of the cup and shake it to say ‘Shukran’. The initial pleasantries were followed by a fruitful discussion on our growing bilateral cooperation, both military and diplomatic. Our host had visited India on a couple of occasions and had fond memories from his visits.
After the exchange of gifts and some more pleasantries we depart for the ship. On the way back, with a hope that this visit would have been an excellent learning experience for the young turk, I asked the Subaltern, “So what have you learnt today? Any questions?” To this my ever attentive understudy most diligently says,” Sir, The Omani Halwa was exceptionally nice. Can we buy some on the way back?
Moral of the Story – Like the warning on a Gun Mount that says “Caution - Mounting May Train Without Warning”, the Trainees should come with --
“Caution – Sea Trainees May Train Without Warning”. (What they learn, is anybody’s guess.)