Oman’s oldest resident dies apparently aged 127, but would have outlived empires, countries and conflicts

Salim bin Hamad bin Abdullah Qassabi, who reportedly died aged 127-years-old
Updated 13 September 2017
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Oman’s oldest resident dies apparently aged 127, but would have outlived empires, countries and conflicts

DUBAI: An Oman-based website is claiming the country’s oldest resident died on Tuesday at the impressive age of 127-years-old – that is five years older than Jeanne Calment who was officially verified as the world’s longest living person who died in France in 1997.
It is not uncommon for claims of longevity that, if true, would put the official record breakers to shame.
And if Salim bin Hamad bin Abdullah Qassabi’s story in the Oman Daily Observer is true, then he was born in 1890 in the district of Bahla, south of the Hajjar mountains and close to Nizwa city.
His life would have spanned 13 decades, across three centuries. He would have lived through two world wars, and countless others.
His lifetime would have seen the shifting of international borders, the creation of new countries and the end of empires.
If true, Qassabi was born long before most countries in the Middle East were even created.
During his lifetime there was definitely the creation of technologies that have changed people’s lives forever.
The atom bomb was created and used – with devastating effect. And international travel became common place thanks to the introduction of commercial air travel.
Travel was something Qassabi was familiar with according to the Oman Daily Observer.
He traveled to Zanzibar in 1940, when it was still under British rule, where he remained for 22 years, working in trade and was also said to be supportive of Omani immigrants living there.
The Oman Daily Observer website described him as a man who was known “for his good deeds, tolerance and (for) resolving disputes.”
The report added that he left Zanzibar in 1962 following a coup, and returned to Oman, but two years later traveled to Kuwait where he worked.
He eventually returned to Oman where he spent the rest of his life.


Iraq’s top musicians play on despite unpaid wages

Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra conductor Mohammed Amin Ezzat leads musicians during a rehearsal at Baghdad's School of Music and Ballet. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Iraq’s top musicians play on despite unpaid wages

In a dusty Baghdad dance studio, conductor Mohammed Amin Ezzat tries to fire up the musicians of Iraq’s National Symphony Orchestra, whose enthusiasm has been dampened by eight months without pay.
An aging air conditioner fights to beat back the summer heat in the cramped space at the capital’s School of Music and Ballet as the 57-year-old maestro leads the group through a rehearsal of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain.”
The shaggy-haired Ezzat and the 40 musicians surrounding him are gearing up to perform at Baghdad’s National Theater on Saturday, but the group’s morale is at an all-time low.
The ensemble has lost more than half its members since the start of the year, when the government issued a directive barring state employees with two jobs from receiving two salaries.
The anti-corruption measure was suggested by the World Bank and should affect only about a third of the orchestra’s musicians, but because of delays in carrying out the reform wages have been withheld from the entire group.
“The orchestra is in great danger,” Ezzat said. “Some don’t have enough money to come, and others are disappointed by the impact of politics on the orchestra.”
Officially created in 1970 after several unsuccessful attempts, Iraq’s national orchestra has survived decades of upheaval.
It has survived wars, an invasion, a 12-year international embargo and a devastating three-year battle against Daesh militants, which came to an end last year.
But this may be the last straw for the outfit, a collateral victim of Iraq’s “war on corruption.”
“Not being paid for eight months has had a terrible psychological effect on the musicians, but we’ll continue to resist peacefully with our music,” said Ezzat, who became the orchestra’s first Iraqi conductor in 1989.
“We’re on the precipice but sure that we won’t jump.”
When all its salaries are tallied up — including the maestro’s $1,200 a month, peanuts for a major conductor — the orchestra costs the state about $85,000 (€73,000) a year.
The sum is a pittance compared to the exorbitant figures siphoned off by ministers and high officials who have either fled or been arrested.
The conductor, his daughter Noor, a timpanist, and his sons Hossam and Islam, who play the cello and viola respectively, have all been without a salary since January.
But according to Raed Allawi, the head of administrative affairs at Iraq’s Culture Ministry, there is no reason to panic — the wages will soon be paid.
“The Finance Ministry has asked for a regularization of contracts. Verification measures are underway and this explains the late payment of wages,” Allawi said.
“The orchestra is one of the country’s cultural showcases (and the ministry) respects its artists and their talent.”
For the symphony’s musicians, however, these are empty words they have heard already.
Saad Al-Dujaily, a professor of medicine and a flutist, thinks the measure is regressive. “I’ve been an obstetrician and a flute player since I was very young,” he said.
Because of the directive, the 57-year-old practitioner — who teaches at Baghdad’s Al-Nahrain University and plays in the national orchestra — is now entitled to only one salary.
“In Iraq, we’re proud to have more than one job, to have more than one love, to practice two professions with the same love and passion,” said Dujaily, who plans to continue with the orchestra to help preserve its quality.
Further along into the rehearsal, the studio’s electricity cuts, a common occurrence in a country plagued by power outages.
The orchestra cannot afford the diesel to fuel the building’s generator.
But the musicians play on in the windowless room, using their cell phones to illuminate the sheet music. “There have been crises in the past, but this is the worst,” said Doaa Majid Al-Azzawi, an oboe player.
“Especially since my father and I are musicians. We don’t know what will happen, but if the orchestra has to stop, it’s culture in Iraq that will be dealt a deadly blow,” the 25-year-old said.
When the studio’s lights eventually make a flickering return, so too does the players’ enthusiasm, and the music swells.
“As long as we live, music will live. It’s our culture,” said Noor, the conductor’s daughter.