Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Dragon departs Oman?

Well dearest Readers,

I mentioned in an earlier post that this summer/Ramadan was a time of reflection.

Opportunities abound in this recovering fiscally pumped-up global economy. A key part of this summer's extended sojourn, far away from the radiating oppressive heat of the jebels, was to sample and contractually confirm the great treasures and pleasures that were placed on offer elsewhere for the rental of the Dragon's talents.

And the results are... well..."good news / bad news".

Good News
The Dragon will keep up the posts on Oman, perhaps with a slighty lower frequency.

Bad News
The treasure on offer was way too good to resist. Especially with the added attractions of:
(1) an excellent cave in the real world*, one I can actually own freehold;
(2) shockingly reasonable prices for champagne and pork products;
(3) a city where you can drink outside in a gorgeous bar watching sophisticated people passing by, none of whom mind that you're consuming alcohol and smoking during Ramadan...
(4) living in a country with real laws and an independent judiciary, away from the ever present worry of a knock on the door by the ROP because I'd been identified by the Zedjali clan, agents of De Verre, the many wastafarians I've pissed off, some religious wacko, Mohana, OMRAAN, etc, etc, etc.

Yep. The magic had worn off Oman, I have to admit.

From a place of wonder, populated by open and generous people, Oman had slowly emerged as a place that seemed increasingly dominated by the things I disliked (and lacking the things I do like):
- Unemployed ignorant young Omanis who think the world owes them a living, and increasingly turning to petty crime, violence, yobbism, and class A drugs.
- Wonderful, intelligent and talented young Omani women cowed into wearing Saudi-Wahibi rent-a-tents, unable to be in public, and acting like they are on parole with no prospects of what I would consider a free and fulfilling life.
- A state bureaucracy dominated by rent-taking self serving incompetents in service to the oligarchs.
- A conspiracy between civil servants and populace to provide succor rather than excellence, especially in the critical areas of education, employment and health.
- A pathetic media that keeps finding new lows when it comes to not reporting on the increasingly visceral problems of hard working, yet tremendously indebted, law abiding citizens.

And all supported by an underclass of semi-enslaved Indian, Sri Lankan, Afghani, Filipino, Indonesian, and Pakistani workers. Most of whom, in my experience, were far happier, polite, civil and accepting of their circumstance than they should be.

So, Ms Dragon and myself have packed up, kissed our many friends goodbye, and left Oman for greener pastures on the glorious wings of one-way business class.

As so many mouth-breathing retarded haters on this blog (and others) have commented - "you can go somewhere else". Well, guess what, we have. You may be interested to learn we've gone to a place for more money, not less (even including taxes), and with a lower cost of living too. LMAO.

You see, we were only ever here because we liked being here.

We stopped liking it.

To my many Omani and Expat friends, most of whom didn't - and still don't - know of my alter ego; We miss you very, very much.

To my 'net friends and many ananymous sources of 'goings on' - don't worry: the internet is still there and as long as you keep emailing me, and I keep posting, what does it matter that I'm not domiciled in Muscat? In fact, being now safely out of the reach of those that might do me injustice is another dose of good news.

I am now no longer bound by the draconian laws of Oman when it comes to what I want to post on Muscat Confidential. The laws of my new cave are,.... very, very liberal indeed.

So, watch this space. I still love the potential of the country and want to keep an eye on things. And I intend to give you news you don't get anywhere else.

So hello, and goodbye. Some shocking stories in the works. Send me an email if I get blocked - where I am I won't notice.

The Dragon

*The Real World...
What do I mean by "The Real World"? Well, a place where the law is more independent and is not as controlled by vague laws and arbitrary arrest and charges. Where your right to voice an opinion is free. Where you have the right to vote, to assemble, to unionise, to form political parties, to have a say on your taxation. Where one can surf the net without filters, and use Skype and Blackberry for f*&ks' sake.

PPS: So who is the Dragon?
Ahhh, I remain wary of the long arm of a few I have annoyed here at Muscat Confidential. I intend to remain anon for now. My exit may at least eliminate a few suspects who remain!

For the good people, and there are many, I may leave a clue or two in future... Stay tuned.


Monday, September 6, 2010

More Insanity in UAE: Expat couple beaten up by Emirati in IKEA

A reader forwarded me the following great link commenting about the case of 3 Emirati brothers who beat the crap out of an Expat couple in the Dubai IKEA cafeteria, for, er, sitting at their table.

The original story in the National is here.

His final 2 paragraphs sum it up pretty beautifully.

Wall St. WTF

Obviously an attack on a pregnant woman by three Emirati men in the middle of an IKEA cafeteria is horrific in its’ own right and pretty hard to understand. What’s more, Dubai is completely dependent on foreigners to do most of the work, to move there, buy apartments and set up businesses in order to dig Dubai out of its deep dark hole. You would think that the authorities would deal harshly with the culprits. Besmirching the reputation of Dubai as a tolerant multicultural hub poses an existential threat to Dubai itself. Alas, it is not so. The assault occurred in June of 2009, the first hearing was in August 2010. All three assailants are free men in a city where hundreds are in prison for bounced checks. Two of them failed to even show up for the hearing and were not even required to provide an explanation. It seems also that this is a civil case. Apparently if you are Emirati beating the hell out of a non-Emirati man and his pregnant non-Emirati wife is not a crime.

It’s their country, they can do what they want, but if you ask me this is no way to run a country completely dependent on its reputation among foreigners. As sad as the article itself is the comment at the bottom from an Emirati: “they should have moved.” They probably will, and not to the next table but rather to the next country and if enough foreigners decide to follow them the creditors will beat the hell out of Dubai.

Maybe the 3 nut-case Emiratis can claim they were under the influence of the Swedish meatballs. It is, afterall, the sort of defense that has been successfully used before in the UAE.

Photo: The mad Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan torturing a grain supplier: obviously only because of his medication.

As ever, UAE - Best Avoided

Sunday, September 5, 2010

British? Been abroad for a while? No more free NHS treatment for you then!

A public service announcement for expat Brits.

A reader tipped me off to this little snippet that may apply to some of the readers of Muscat Confidential [thx NB].

If you have been living overseas for more than 5 years (and you are not Military, Diplomatic, or a missionary) you and your family are not entitled to the UK's (in)famous free NHS treatment, unless it's an accident and you are being treated in an A&E sense.

Photo: This is the view you may have of the 'free' NHS if you live overseas! ripped from

Really. You can check out all the rules here. Its all very, very complicated.

It's because those free treatment rights are not a function of you being a UK citizen, but paying National Insurance or being permanently resident. So no taxation means no free ride on the NHS.

It can also be a problem for anyone who's been away for more than 3 months. So if you're a pensioner who has a nice pad at the Wave to enjoy the winter months in Oman, watch out!

In fact, the site recommends such emigre Brits get medical insurance for if they return to the UK on holiday.

You've been warned!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

No more Virtual Private Networks in Oman? TSA floats VPN ban for individuals. Meanwhile, Blue City plans the sell out...

It had to happen.

Tired of not being able to use (or at least recharge) skype? Want to watch streamed TV from the USA? Like the idea of surfing the net anon from Newark instead of Ruwi with a visible Internet address?

In the past, the answer was a VPN.

Virtual Private Network. Cheap ones were quickly blocked, but several commercial ones specifically advertised the ability to defeat Oman's filters.

VPN. A quirk of the internet protocol that allowed you to to establish an encrypted "pipe" to the servers of the civilised world (USA, Denmark, UK, Canada...) free of Omantel internet censors, snoops, etc. Want to go to Big Tits Unlimited?

In Oman a VPN was essential if the thumbnails of Google were too limiting.

This is just a Ramadan sensitive example. Try googling "censored big tits" yourself!

Well, no more, according to the Omani Telecom Authority [TSA], via Global Voices Online's Mohammed Al Modawwin

Oman: VPN Ban Soon
posted by Mohammed Al Modawwin on Sep 03, 2010

categories: Feature, Oman, law, regulation
In the latest episode of internet censorship in Oman, the Telecom Regulation Authority of Oman has announced its plans to completely ban the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and would require companies to acquire the TRA's permission before they can use them. The new regulation has not been passed yet and has been posted by the TRA online for public consultation.

The use of VPN by consumers has increased over the years as it is the only way for internet users in Oman to use VoIP services - which have been banned in Oman for a number of years now. Some VPN protocols such as PPTP are already completely blocked in Oman and providers of other VPN solutions are increasingly discovered by the ISP and are blocked on individual basis.

The use of VPN in the past has been a gray area in the country as the law does not permit the any unauthorized use of encryption, but the new draft regulations will explicitly make the use of VPN officially illegal for the private use of individuals.

Companies on the other hand will be able to use VPN upon completing a special form to be adopted by the TRA and acquiring its approval. Upon submitting the VPN use form the company would have to provide the following details:

Details of the user of the VPN. (Not clear if they are asking for details of individual users, or the company).
Explanation of the purpose for which the VPN will be used.
Details of the IP address of the source and destination of the communication.
Article 3 of the regulation specifies that the TRA may reject any application without providing reasons for its rejection.

The regulations are now up for public consultation, but it is unlikely for this to result in a change in the core ban specified in it as as the prohibition of VPN is in accordance with Oman's general policy against the use of encryption and the majority of the uses of VPN by private users in Oman are uses which are banned anyway by other regulations such as VoIP or merely avoiding the censorship of ISPs.

Well, quite.

OmanHel has been blocking Skype for years, because they, ah, don't like losing millions of dollars in international phone calls.

They have also been blocking "" for ages too, because, ummm, obviously, no one in Oman is allowed to look at digital images of really big mammary glands from Sp. Homo Sapiens, etc etc etc.

All this was easily avoidable. If you had the IT skills (or access to same) of a nintendo trained 11 years old. I've posted on this before.

But all this big titted cheap phone call encrypted enabling glory is now to be illegal.

And even worse, very effectively blocked by the filters [One of the reasons for my recent quiescence dear readers].

Great. You will soon be breaking the law if you surf in a way that the Omani authorities can't read along side you.

And, to think, we laughed at UAE banning text messages from Blackberries. LOL... WEEP.

So that's OK then.

Meanwhile, in other news,

Lavishly recompensed Blue City magnate & property development expert par excellence (and super-talented marketing talent spotter) Anees Al Zedjali has apparently come up with a cunning plan for his new UAE masters to repay some of the vast foreign debt (ie theirs):

Sell the fantastic land His Majesty graciously sold them (well, actually, mainly sold to HH Minister of Culture & Heritage, via Cyclone and BCC1) at a huge discount

Wow. What a business genius.

At least according to someone who shuld know and is willing to talk to the press Suketu Sanghvi, senior manager at Essdar (Essdar, 35-percent owned by the ruler of Dubai Sh. Maktoum's investment company Dubai Holding, which bought Blue City's $655.5 million Class A debt via a tender offer earlier in June as part of investment in its Gulf-focused distressed debt fund.) :

"Transactions in the distressed and special situations space go through cycles in each country and as such volumes of such transactions may significantly rise in some parts of the world and may drop in other parts " Suketu Sanghvi, senior managing director of structuring and investments at Essdar told Reuters.

"...people who have good understanding of local and regional markets on legal and financial implications of enforcement, work outs, restructuring and refinancing can take some wise investment decisions in the space."

Essdar, which has an asset management and corporate finance advisory business, was presented with a restructuring plan by Blue City's borrower and the firm is in the process of reviewing the plan, Sanghvi said.

"We are in discussions with the note holders what to do with it (restructuring plan). The plan provides for the sale of a significant part of the land," he said.

An hour from Oman's capital Muscat, Blue City was touted as Oman's biggest real estate project but it stalled amid dismal sales and clashes between shareholders.

So, thats alright then.

Let's let the UAE build Oman's new Emerald city for 200,000 people. Maybe they at least will take the project seriously, having put their own borrowed cash into it...