Saturday, September 13, 2008

More on Ras Al Hamra & Burhan Heights development

Just a quick post about the development at Burhan Heights, previously mis-reported as PDO Heights by Times of Oman (among others).

Here's a sat map from google of what is now a part of the heart of the capital area. The change in housing density going from Muscat to the area of the oil company is quite clear, and you can see why the Ministry of Tourism and others would be keen to send in the bulldozers and slap down a few 1000 condominiums and a few hotels.

Satellite view of Ras Al Hamra, Muscat.

'Omani in US' had commented previously on not knowing where Marjan beach was, so I highlighted it. The actual area being redeveloped by OHI is also shown. The yellow dotted line is the boundary of the oil company area used for the refinery and staff housing. In the 70s, when it was built, it really was totally undeveloped and in the middle of know-where. Now, thanks to the success of the oil company in finding and producing oil, which pretty much paid for the development of the whole country, its one PRIME piece of land. Note that Marjan beach, and in fact most of the PDO housing area, is still public access.

Due to the low housing density, few through roads and existence of sidewalks, its a common area for joggers and cyclists who don't want to get run over, and learner drivers. Its predominantly expat community means its also a popular spot for young Omani couples who want to make out in a place where they are unlikely to be stumbled upon by Uncle Abdullah.

It will one day be redeveloped. I hope they do a good job and don't cram too much in.

I'd like to be given a large plot on the hill next to PDO Club please. Must tell my boss at annual bonus time.... Muscati - you can be my neighbour!!


  1. Cheers UD for the highlight. Among my friends we always referred to Marjan beach as "the beach next to the SAF club".

    Speaking of which, do you know who owns that SAF club land and wtf is ever going to happen with it, if anything? I'm surprised no one has built a mansion on it. It's just odd in this day and age to see a decrepit piece of land in such a location in Muscat.

    -Omani in US

  2. As an aside, I disagree with Muscati's enthusiasm for the 'development' of the PDO area. I've been going to the club and the surrounding area since I was born (1983). In today's atmosphere of everyone salivating at the prospect of mega-hotels, exclusive residences, golf courses, and whatever else can be pulled out of the pages of Dubai and Las Vegas, the PDO area provides a pleasant counter-balance of serenity.

    Perhaps this sort of thinking is selfish on my part; I'm not sure. But given the mega projects announced throughout the country so far, I'd say that the probability of 'understated' development of the PDO area is rather low. The fine fellows at the Ministry of Tourism have been waiting to get their hands on it for so long that when they finally do, they'll just go crazy with the development.

    Only a humble person's opinion; I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

    -Omani in US

  3. 1) It doesn't have to be a tourism development. I wouldn't mind even if it was split up into 800 and 1000 meter plots and sold on the market for people to build houses on.

    2) Marjan Beach? I used to go to that beach with my family in the 70's and its name is Seih Al Maleh which is still called today, as evidenced by the name of the road that leads to the area from the Qurm roundabout.

    3) Don't get me started on this new naming thing. Burhan Heights???

    4) The OHI development has nothing to do with PDO. It is land bought from Shanfari two years ago.

    5) As far as I know, when people refer to the PDO area they just say PDO. When people say PDO heights, it's usually the other high areas close to PDO, including the area next to the refinery (also known sometimes as Qurm heights).

    6) Nice job with the Google Earth pic. I wonder where that idea came from.

    (You're welcome)

  4. Muscati,

    Yes I know the OHI development has nothing to do with PDO, I was only speculating on future developments.

    Thanks for clarification on your opinion, I think I agree with your comment no. 1.

    Also re: naming, you're right that people just say 'PDO' to refer to the whole thing, but I thought I'd make myself clearer to get with the new naming program :)

    Also, lol at your comment no. 3. Couldn't agree more.

    -Omani in US

  5. Muscati,

    Sorry, I also forgot to ask. Regarding your comment #1, do you honestly think that the land would be split into little housing plots? I think the chances of that are next to 0%, whereas the chances of a big mega-tourism-resort development are next to 100%, should that land ever be taken over from PDO. But perhaps I'm just cynical.

    -Omani in US

  6. A few comments that may be troublesome.

    First, I think that the region has missed the the industrialization boat, and then the international services boat, so Oman is currently relegated to the regional services and regional manufacturing roles, leaving only real estate as a major international field for the country. People want to make money on that real estate, meaning that they will sell your soul for the land. Witness Palestine. If you don't understand or disagree with that reference, let me know and I'll amplifly.

    Second, while it may seem to be a good idea to transfer prime real estate from the British or PDO to Omani hands, the devil you do know may be better than the one you don't. The commercial development of prime real estate may be more restrictive to average Omanis while not providing any more income to anyone but elites.

  7. PDO camp is also increasingly popular with theives it seems. At least one motorbike and one quad have gone missing this Ramadan already. Both were seriously locked and chained.

    A friends motorbike also survived an attempted theft last week. Similar story at Ramadan time last year when the need to put food and gifts on the table sends a mini crime wave across the city.

    Little response from PDO Security or the ROP I understand. A few night patrols would be in order. How hard would it be to see people loading a bike into a lorry in the small hours?

    The loss of PDO Camp easy pickings ground to light fingered section of the community would be the only one advantage of any planned development in my view.

    Though I do not work for PDO I personally would be very sorry to see the camp disappear under the bulldozers. I get depressed at the announcement of each and every unimaginative hotel/golf golf course/real estate development and fear that the sums involved are too great for it to not happen.

    A shame - I rather liked things as they were 6 years back. But thats progress I suppose.

  8. I reckon that the American Lion is spot-on with his second comment.

    -Omani in US

  9. I heard that the SAF beach club was "removed" from the SAF (albeit mainly the expat SAF) in order to build a nice big fat hotel. When the surveys were done.....not stable enough to build anything substantial on! Therefore it is still undeveloped and the NCOs of the SAF still have no beach club. Orificers get to use the Al Shafaq, an impressive, and impressively badly managed, building near CivAvYC.

  10. Muscati,
    I agree with you on the naming thing. Can't see why we need euro names at all.

    As for the development, lets see. But I think they'll squeeze a green golf course in, flatten a few hills, put at least 3 hotels in the beach areas, etc etc. Oh, and a few nice plots for some really primo palaces perhaps?

    SAF land was owned by a senior HH with links to the armed forces and he let the army have a club there for many years, and a great little club it was too in its day. But I heard that when he died in the late 90s, his HH nephew inherited the land, and evicted the SAF immediately (probably correct to emphasise the land was his and avoid cementing a precedent).

    And yes, he had plans for a hotel. But the land was not suitable for a tall building without tremendous expense, plus there would have been even more expense to hook up water, power and sewerage. So since then its just sat there, locked and lonely. Used mainly for quiet make out sessions, and as a shooting gallery for addicts.(Muscati, you must know who was/is the owner?)

  11. I spoke to one of the developers who said the golf course would go and only a driving range would be provided. Reasoning being that the area was already well served with golf courses - Like Muscat Golf and Country club maybe?

    Could be because villas are more profitable and take no looking after.

    I also heard first phase(s) will be increasing housing density in existing areas.

    Like you Dragon, I think inevitably this will happen, but perhaps rather slowly. It looks like the real estate market is heading for a nose dive in the short term at least.

  12. UD,

    Indeed, must have the primo palaces. What Gulf country would be complete without them?

    - Omani in US

  13. I remember being at the last New Year party at the SAF club. All a bit sad. After that I heard that there was going to be a "Boutique" hotel built. I remember seeing plans and hearing the name of the main developer - but the later information is gone from my mind. It was never supposed to be a large building, just a friendly small place a bit like the Chedi but very up-market.

    I find it hard to believe that the hotel as envisioned at that time could not have been built. There is a bit more to it than that.

  14. Muscati,

    all I can say is that I did the Google Earth thing without looking at your previous post... it was a truly independent invention!

    And word is the real redevelopment will be phased, and probably start in 2010 or 2011 with phase 1 being around the present golf course...

  15. I believe that the SAF club was on land owned by Sayyid Fahr, who was the Deputy Prime Minister for Defence and who had a very nice villa on the cliff top at the left hand side of the beach.
    I spent many happy hours at the club in the early 1980's when I was with SAF at Bait al Falaj and later on at MAM, near Seeb.
    It's a great shame if it's no longer available for use by SAF as it was ideal for families apart from anything else, but I suppose that life moves on and financial interests ultimately prevail!

    Dave Randle


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