Photo: Capital Area Yacht Centre, CAYC, Oman. Marina Bandar Rowdha is just visible next door.
Regular readers will know that Muscat's Capital Area Yacht Centre has been under attack from the Ministry of Tourism and their various bully-boys (such as OMRAN) for some time.
The previous Minister of Tourism, HE Rajiha bint Abd al-Amir bin Ali, recently passed away after loosing a battle with cancer. She was replaced by Mohsin Bin Mohammed Al Shaikh in February, but he was swiftly moved on in the big March-protests' cabinet reshuffle to become an advisor at the Diwan of Royal Court with Ministerial rank.
His replacement, Sheikh Abdulmalik bin Abdullah bin Ali al Khalili, was perhaps a surprising choice for Minister of Tourism. Previously he was strictly a money-man, chairman of BankMuscat and chairman of the Board's Audit Committee since 2001. Additionally, he served as the executive president of the Pension Fund of the Diwan of the Royal Court.
He might be new in the job, but his underlings made sure he got right onto the CAYC.
New Minister refuses to meet 'Expats'.
Demands CAYC move
I'm reliably told that HE Sheikh Abdulmalik requested a meeting on 25th April with CAYC's representatives in order to 'discuss the future of CAYC'. All the elected CAYC committee members** duly attended at the Ministry, but after being kept waiting for over an hour, they were informed that the minister would not meet the committee because there were two British expatriates present. He only wanted to talk to Omanis.
Really. (I wonder what he's got against expats? Maybe they don't respond as easily to the ol' Vitamin W?)
A new meeting was thus arranged for May 3rd, with only the Omani committee members present as instructed. They attended the meeting and were then told by the good Sheikh Abdulmalik that CAYC had to move to Azaiba, and the present beach would be made into a 'public beach'. End discussion. (Afterall, the Ministry of Tourism is reknowned for doing things for the benefit of the Omani public. Just look at what they did to Yeti, a beautiful public beach*.)
Azaiba, of course, is a pretty terrible place for a yacht club, being on a long stretch of boring sandy beach far away from the nice rocky bits one would actually sail a boat around. Places like, er, exactly where CAYC is already located. Although perhaps a banker can be excused for not knowing that.
I do have to wonder if the new Minister actually got a proper unbiased briefing of the CAYC situation (e.g. summary of previous meetings, Directives from H.M., and all the various court cases) from his senior advisor and Director of Tourism Mr. Mohammed Ali Said?
Photo: One of Oman’s most influential tourism figures.
Because the very same Mohammed Ali Said is also on the steering committee of the Marina Bandar Al Rowdha next door to CAYC. Rumour has it he has vowed to take the beach from CAYC for use by the Marina. Coincidentally, the Marina has been struggling financially ever since it opened, and does not currently have a nice beach of its own.
It seems very odd that The Ministry of Tourism feel themselves to be under no obligation to respect the title to the land personally given by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos to the CAYC.
[from CACY website]
His Excellency Mohammed Zubair officially opened the Capital Area Yacht Centre located on a beach, which was known locally as ‘Lone Tree Beach’, near Sidab on Saturday 2nd June 1979. This was the culmination of a good deal of community spirit, effort and imagination and very soon blossomed into the success story of Lone Tree Beach. The intention was to provide a safe beach and boat club with social facilities and amenities open to all residents of Oman, and also to provide a relaxed meeting place.
A meeting was held in the Ruwi Hotel in December 1976 to discuss the possibile formation of a beach club in Oman and a site was selected in the Sidab area then known as Lone Tree Beach. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, graciously granted the use of the land on condition that the Club should be open to anyone resident in Oman, and that it should be financially self-sufficient....
The centre can be joined by any resident of Oman to this day, and is financially self sufficient. But the will of HM doesn't seem to count for much in the Ministry of Tourism. Instead they have pursued a policy of intimidation and multiple legal actions.
One suspects there is more to this story, as you might notice that the CAYC land would be a very nice place to have available, should some of that land that end up excess to
Afterall, the Ministry of Tourism's "Senior Adviser to the Minister of Tourism and one of Oman’s most influential tourism figures", one Mohammed Ali Said, has stated his aim is to increase the Sultanate's 4 & 5 star hotel capacity from ~10,000 rooms in 2010 to 25,000 rooms by just 2015. Those Club Meds and Banyan Trees can hardly be put in the middle of Ruwi can they? So what if the CAYC has been there since 1979 providing the ONLY place where ordinary urban Omanis and Expats can keep a small boat at a reasonable price and bring their families to relax in a safe, hassle free environment?
I'd also be interested to know what legal authority the Minister of Tourism thinks gives him the power to single-handedly over-rule legal title and expropriate beach-front land? Isn't this exactly the sort of high-handed attitude that ordinary people here have been protesting against?
In a totally unrelated fact, with nothing to do with the Ministry of Tourism's campaign to get CAYC's land, I'm told Mr. Mohammed Ali Said was the brother in law of the previous Minister of Tourism HE Rajiha bint Abd al-Amir bin Ali. It's a small world.
Speaking of coincidences, it's ironic that on April 17th, BankMuscat’s Corporate Banking Team had
a day out at the CAYC which was full of excitement, fun and activities. “BankMuscat’s team truly enjoyed their day out at the CAYC and would like to thank the club’s management for a job well done”, Said Afaf Al Humaid who was organizing the event from the Bank.
Perhaps Said could call his old boss the Minister and ask him to keep his land-grabbing hands off what is already an excellent public venue for all residents of Oman, Omani and Expat alike?
*Yeti beach was redeveloped by MoT as a mega Integrated Tourist Development complex of private houses, 5 star hotels and expensive golf courses and marinas. Except the only thing to happen in the past 3 years is the beach was taken and the bay filled in with masses of imported rocks and sand to create more building area. The development is suspended.
**The six member CAYC committee is fully elected by members and comprises 4 Omanis and 2 Expats.