Thursday, April 29, 2010

Blue City Update - The Bahraini's are back. AAJH just won't go away...

OK. About time for another serious post.

Before that, a Dragon pat on the head for the Omani press lately - Muscat Daily, Times of Oman & stalwart print-teenager Y Magazine all doing much better lately with publishing more real stories. Mainly focused on social issues, fair enough, but it's a start. Keep it up. And the 123 Orion gig tonight is SOLD OUT. I'll publish a report of how it went after the weekend. Wish I could have attended myself, but must instead complete a quick trip to Europe now the ash is clearing. (Those Swiss elves need feeding...)

So, what of Blue City?

Well, the contractors have been kicked out. Saleh Miri, the CEO, has 'resigned' and leaves at the end of July. The team recently found a couple of hundred million dollars under the sofa left over from the bonds and are using it to pay themselves off as they all look for work elsewhere.

The recent press announcement from AAJH, the Bahraini company who originated Blue City, was a bolt from the blue, as it were. Anees and his partner used their contacts to ensure it wasn't reported in any of the Omani papers, but Ahmed Janahi (the AAJ of AAJH) had a press conference last week about how they are heading back to Al Sawadi to rescue the project, cavalry style, armed with their original 70% shareholding, a boat-load of Qatari cash, and a seriously high powered politico-lawyer: former Qatari Justice minister Dr. Najeeb.

Dr Najeeb is no pussy folks. He's the guy Saddam Hussein chose to be his lawyer. He is more than aware that the Oman court decisions against AAJH are totally flawed. Local company, and originally 30% partners in Blue City, Cyclone LLC, locked out AAJH once they had obtained the $900 million in bond money.

Photo: Here come the Cavalry. Last week AAJH announce their intention to rescue Blue City...

The 50/50 shareholders of Cyclone are, of course, HRH Sayed Haitham Bin Tariq Al-Said and (no surprise here) one Mr. Anees Issa Mohamed Al-Zedjali, Chairman of ASIT (the holding company)& BCC1 (the phase 1 development company), erstwhile newspaper editor (The Times of Oman is owned and run by his Dad, Sh. Essa Al Zedjali) and blond marketing-talent spotter par excellence...

The Oman Supreme court are still to rule (due next month) on the Omani Court of Appeal's dubious decision reconfirming that AAJH did own 70% of the original Blue City company, but that a technicality meant they couldn't own it and they should be paid off at cost by Cyclone for the shares they didn't actually own to start with. Or something. (It's hard to parse their completely logically inconsistent court ruling. Sorry).

But now that AAJH have the good Dr. Najeeb on board, the Omani courts are in deep shit, IMHO. It's like riding into the tumbleweed strewn town with the legal equivalent of Clint Eastwood covering your back.

The hope is that Cyclone's super-wasta'd up 50% owner, HRH Sayed Haitham (the Sultan's nephew cousin (thx) and and Minister of Culture - that's where the essentially almost free land came from, his far too indulgent Uncle cousin), will realise that 30% of something good, along with a restored project due to the Qatari investors, is a hell of a lot better than 100% of a bankrupt $1 Billion international embarrassment. Whether he's smart enough to realise why the project went tits-up to start with, and has the balls to cut loose his incompetent business partner, is a more interesting question.

So, AAJH is back, and he's making a pretty strong play. It's going to be interesting to see how it ends up.

Also of interest is what the fate will be of the secret 'extra' 7km2 of primo beach front Blue City property that was part of the original almost gift from HM to the first Blue City Holding Company OASIS, but was NOT required to secure the mortgage on the class A bonds and is not part of the original Blue City Master Plan. The officially independently certified land valuation used to underpin the bonds when they were issued, secured on the remaining 25km2 of land for Blue City phases 1, 2, 3, 4 ++, was.... $3.5 Billion.

Hmmm. Even allowing a 50% discount post-real estate crash, not uplifting for the more valuable back front location, and allowing another 50% wastage for roads, utilities and lakes, that's still a sweet $250 million worth of real estate.

No wonder Anees wasn't too worried that his bond holders lost their shirts and the project was driven (with him at the wheel) into bankruptcy. He was still looking at half of that, no matter what, as long as the judges did what they were told.

I also wonder if HRH ever tells his Uncle how things are going with that land he was essentially given to create a new city for 250,000 people...

MANAMA: Qatari investment company Bin Muhanna Holding Group yesterday announced its participation as a main partner in the major Blue City project being set up in Oman by the UDM Group and Bahrain-based A A J Holding.

Bin Muhanna Holding chairman Dr. Najeeb bin Mohammed Al Noaimi said the firm were happy at becoming part of the major project. "We will now approach international banks, investors and insurance companies in order to restore confidence in this project, which has been facing obstacles and hindrances, and realise its objectives.

"We will also co-operate with all the partners, particularly A A J Holding, which started the project in 2004."

He said the company will work closely with all investment and financial centres to revive the project and realise its development objectives.

He said the project has faced major setbacks and obstacles, which were created by some investors, and this has reflected adversely on its reputation.

"We will now rise to the occasion of this partnership, and we will provide financial and legal assistance through our long experience in this field to develop the project and reach positive results."

A A J Holding president Ahmed Abu Baker Janahi said the company is proud of this partnership which comes at a time when the project needs investors who have financial and legal leverage. "This initiative will be a qualitative step and a much needed addition to the project that will enable it to overcome the obstacles and hindrances which have obstructed its development and affected its reputation on a global level," he said.

"We will also invite every sincere person or party wishing to develop the project and we hope that all other investors will serve the project's high interests and the interests of all local, regional and global partners who are keen for the success of the project, particularly when its failure will affect the investment climate in the entire region," he added.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Charity Gig 29th April for the Creative Learning Center!

Yes folks, after countless circuits of Al Jazaal, Traders, Cock Bottom, Left Bank, and Safari, what to do?

Well, this 29th April you can party in a different venue for a good cause. A fan of Muscat Confidential, 123 Orion, is holding their Mayday charity gig and the benefits will go to the Creative Learning Centre!


So, go party at the always fun Royal Flight, out by Seeb, and have a good time in aid of a good cause. Let's try and crack 600 rials!

Forgot to mention: First 2 people to email and mention "Muscat Confidential" get a "buy 1 ticket get 1 free deal"!!!! Be quick!!!!

123 Orion does Charity Gig at Royal Flight - 29 April 2010
We are avid readers of your excellent blog and like you are very much interested in the development of this beautiful country in which we live. We have also been supporting local charities through our occasional not to be missed public appearances!!

As a result of your blog we have decided to dedicate this year's Mayday gig (on Thursday 29 April, 8pm doors open) at the Royal Flight to the Creative Learning Center.

The 5 Riyal ticket includes fish'n'chips, an up-lifting live music fest thanks to the 123 Orion band, and the charitable contribution to the Creative Learning Centre. (nb: last year we raised 375 Riyals for an orphanage who spent the money wisely on musical instruments made by local craftspeople!!).

All details and information are on our website, but people wishing to get tickets should email tess_goodliffe(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)uk as for catering reasons we can’t do door-sales on the night.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

British Embassy in Oman - Request for Brits to register, plus a great bar!

Following on from our story about the CAYC, I'd like to give a bit of a plug for the British Embassy in Oman. They may not be able to intercede on your behalf if you break the law, but they will put you in touch with a few decent English-speaking local law firms. They are, from what I hear, pretty friendly and efficient, in as much as Her Majesty's Foreign office lets them. I've attended a few great weddings there over the years.

They have a problem: less than 10% of British Citizens in Oman actually register with the embassy. That makes it hard for the embassy to provide assistance, should shit connect with fan. So here's a plug from the British Embassy to all citizens to please register on-line on their website.

Photo: The British Embassy, Muscat Oman. Pic ripped from

If you need a visa, however, go to The Home Office people, here.

I think if you want to vote it may not be too late to register.

Dear Mr. Dragon,
We would like your help is to get British Citizens to register their details on LOCATE.

LOCATE is the on-line registration tool used by the FCO in times of crisis or emergency. NO ONE has access to individuals information apart from the Embassy here in Oman or, as mentioned, in a crisis and we need assistance from London. The tax man, lawyers and ex's will not be able to find individuals by them being registered. Individuals details are totally secure under the Data Protection Act.

The problem we have is that only approximately 300 British Citizens have registered as being in Oman (resident specific), but the ROP tell us that there are closer to 5,000 British Citizens with resident visas. If there was an emergency, the recent earthquakes being a classic example, we would be able to LOCATE individuals quickly and communicate on their behalf to family and friends (if requested) that they were safe thus allowing us to concentrate on the people that may really need our help. Also by being registered they would receive up-dates from the Embassy on matters of importance via our Warden's network or by SMS if time critical.

In order for people to register they need to go onto the Embassy website: and follow the links. People need to re-register annually and up-date their page when they travel.

We would be delighted to answer any questions your readers may have regarding Consular matters such as death and birth registration, notarial acts or marriages, but we would not be able to give any comment or advise on visa related matters. Our colleagues in UKBA (part of the Home Office) are solely responsible for visa related enquiries. Any questions or comments can be directed to them on or by calling the Visa Application Centre on 24497078. We are sorry that we cannot assist with Visas, but as I mentioned anything to do with Consular issues - not a problem.

Alison Hardy, British Vice Consul, The British Embassy, Muscat.

So there you go, British people. Go register. Tally-ho!

The Dragon's Inside tip: I would also enquire about getting on the list of "Friends of the Thirsty Camel". This way you would be sure to hear about all events they hold. Email irene(dot)bedwin(at)fco(dot)gov(dot)uk should anyone wish to go down this route and assuming you are not already a Friend! "The Thirsty Camel" is the embassy's own in-house bar, next to a nice pool. It serves duty free booze, brought in via the diplomatic bag I guess, and is open during Ramadan (as it's within the gilded gates of the Embassy and thus traditionally treated by Oman as Sovereign British soil.)

They do serve an excellent G&T. But don't tell anyone where you heard about it - it's not the done thing to advertise such fantastic facilities... so, wink wink, hush hush, on the QT!

The embassy is located next to the bridge in Shatti Embassy row, near the new Indian Embassy. Park opposite the school and walk - you can't take your car in.

Mail Address:
British Embassy
PO Box 185
Mina Al Fahal
Postal Code 116
Sultanate of Oman

(968) 24 609002 Commercial
(968) 24 609251 Consular
(968) 24 609224 Defence
(968) 24 609000 Out of hours emergencies

(968) 24 609000

(968) 24 609010 General
(968) 24 609011 Consular
(968) 24 609013 Chancery
(968) 24 609012 Commercial


Office hours:
Sat-Wed: 0330-1030 GMT
Sat-Wed: 0730-1430 Local Time
Sat-Wed: Consular opening hours 0800 - 1300 Local Time

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another tremendous charity in Oman! The Creative Learning Centre: a center for handicapped children and children with learning disabilities.

Photo: A beautiful Omani girl with Down's Syndrome, from CLC website.

NGOs and formal charities are pretty new to Oman. Following up from our feature highlighting Muscat Confidential's designated charity of Dar Al Atta last week, here's an interview with another dedicated woman doing great things: Kawthar Al Balushi and her Creative Learning Centre.

Her story reminds me of how lucky I am to have a healthy family, and how selfish I am with my time and talents compared to angels like Kawthar and Lubna.

One of the biggest growing problems in Oman is combination of the traditional attitude to handicapped children, a culture of inter-marrying between close family members (first cousins) and modern medical care. This has resulted in a flood of disabled children, in a country and society that is ill-equipped to cater for their needs. It's also a subject that is seldom talked about. The modern understanding science has brought to us about how many of these disabilities are caused is not widely known, and giving birth to a disabled child is often seen in Oman as a punishment from God or some other bullshit. Increased chance of Down's Syndrome, for example, is often associated with mothers who give birth in middle age (>40 yrs old).

I would note the Oman Government at present offers precious little support, or education, in regard to handicapped children. This should change. The way His Majesty requested that handicapped children take pride of place at a recent event, riding horses as a part of a parade before him, should be taken as an emphasis that these children deserve respect and fair treatment.

So, here's an interview with Kawthar Al-Balushi, Co-founder of the Creative Learning Center, an educational and care center for handicapped children and children with learning difficulties. I encourage readers to take up her request for assistance. She needs the help.

Any profits are donated to the orphanage for Omani children in Al Khuwair (although I'm not sure there are any profits right now. I suspect Kawthar and her family are still supporting the CLC with hefty sums of their own money, as well as huge commitments of time and dedication).

Undercover Dragon: Thank you for speaking with us here at Muscat Confidential Kawthar. What is the CLC and how did it come to begin and survive?

Kawthar Al Balushi: Creative Learning Center is a center for handicapped children and children with learning disabilities. Our mission is to educate the special needs child and those children with learning disabilities. We believe that all children are gifts from God and no child should be denied an education because of a disability. We also believe that all children are creative in their own way. Hence the name “Creative Learning Center”.

Anyone that wants more information about the center may contact 95307344

It began for the simple reason that I could not find good education for my own son who has mirror image dyslexia. We had put him in 3 or 4 different schools and within a month the school would call and tell us that they could not facilitate his needs. He was then home schooled until we opened the center.

When we first opened, we opened without anything. I had gotten money from friends and realities, around 11,000 RO. We had assumed this was enough to start and surely the community would community would come forward to support these children, especially the poor families. However, we found this was not the case at all. We found that many companies where not willing to support the center because it was private even though we had a social program for poor families.

The first year anyone whose income fell below 500 RO was going for free they had to only pay for the bus fees. 70% of our kids were on this social program so that put us in a deep dark hole.

We had to mortgage our house in order to survive. My husband mortgaged out house for 60,000 RO and this is how we made it through the first year.

How many children does it help right now? What is life like for a typical student vs how it would be if they were not at your school?

For many of the children going to the center, they were shut ins before they joined. Just wasting their day away with the TV.

Now, because there is something for them they are doing a lot of different activities.

For autistic children we first focus on the social aspect. We have to teach them how to sit, how to eat, how to go to the toilet. After that is accomplished we try to get them involved in different educational activities.

Photo: In class at the Creative Learning Centre, CLC.

The children have arts and crafts, computer, English and Arabic, music as well as the therapies they may need- such as phyical, occupational, and speech.

We have found that children with down syndrome are very capable of learning. We have a group of young learners with down syndrome who are now learning to read and write…. All they needed was the opportunity to learn.

UD: The tendency of Omani's to marry close genetic relatives, a high proportion of several recessive genetic illnesses, and modern medical care, have resulted in a surge of children affected by genetic abnormalities. How is this problem being currently addressed, and what is your advice to the Government on how to improve the situation (at a reasonable cost)?

KB: You are correct in this. I think there needs to be more education in the schools on what the results can be for those that intermarry. Many of the families here in Oman are still intermarrying their sons and daughters. We need to educate the students in high school about intermarrying and how this can result in genetic abnormalities in children.

UD: What is your greatest challenge in running the CLC?

Our biggest challenge is getting sponsorship for the children from under privileged families. The first year these families were going for free and that put us in a lot of financial difficulties. Now, students whose family’s combined income falls under 600 RO per month, pay a percentage of their income 5-15% depending on their social situation. In order for our social program to continue we have to have the support of the community.

UD: What is your biggest mistake with CLC?

KB: Trusting the wrong people when we first opened. There are a lot of sharks that want to thrive on the misfortune of others… and we meet a lot of those sharks when we first opened our doors.

UD: What has been your biggest joy?

KB: Seeing the smiling faces of the children coming through the door and the tears of a parent when they see their child read for the first time, speak for the first time or take a step for the first time… especially when the doctors told them they would never be able to do these skills.

UD: How can readers of Muscat Confidential assist in your efforts?

KB: The biggest way would be supporting the fees of an under privileged child. Another way would be to volunteer.. We are always looking for volunteers. A volunteer needs experience working with children. Preferably an educational degree of some kind. The last way would be with supplies… Such as art supplies, physical therapy equipment, book, toys, food etc.

UD: What advice would you give to an Omani couple who have just given birth to a disabled child?

KB: I would first say have patience… This child is your child and don’t give it away to the orphanage. I would also say educate yourself about your child’s condition. Education is power. And lastly see what medical facilities and educational facilities are available in Oman for your child’s condition. Above all do not take your frustration out on your child. All children are gifts from God no matter what their condition may be.

UD: Do you have anything else to say about the CLC and your mission to my readers?

KB: Yes, First I would like to talk about our programs.

The first program I want to talk about is our special education program.
We are taking children with autism, down syndrome, mentally challenged students as well as other conditions. As of right now we are teaching these children using the Montessori method of education. We have had good results with this method within the last 2 years. The children have improved behavior wise, socially and educationally.

Photo: Cooking with young children at CLC.

However, we are planning to move over to the ABA (applied behavior analysis) for autistic children the next year. It focus on the idea that by influencing a response associated with a behavior may cause that behavior to be shaped and controlled. ABA is a mixture of psychological and educational techniques that are utilized based upon the needs of each individual child.

We are planning to continue with the Montessori method of education for children with down syndrome, mentally challenged children and other conditions, because we have found that we have had good results using these methods.

Within this special education side, we have two sections of young adults whose ages fall between 19-27. We have one section of down syndrome learners and one section of students that are mentally challenged. We are hoping to expand on this section next year and hopefully move them into a building of their own. We feel that it is important for these young adults to get out of their home environment to have some activities to do. We focus on literacy skills (Arabic and English), computer skills, arts and music. They all enjoy the time with us.

We also have a section for children with learning disabilities. Most of these children have not been able to function in the mainstream school. A lot of them have been asked to leave the school. Most of the children are suffering from dyslexia. The conditions run from moderate to very severe. We have some students with ADD and ADHD. We also have a two children with autism in the learning disabilities section, we felt that they were ready to be changed from the special education side. They have come a far way in the last few years.

Photo: CLC students celebrate National Day!

We also have a High School section. For both morning and evening. This program is for students that have not been able to graduate from high school because of a disability. We have mostly dyslexic students in our high school programs. We also have 3 students that are mentally challenged in the morning program. They are doing well. The high school program comes from an accredited school with in the United States. So all the students completing the high school program will receive a US high school diploma. This program is only for students that have not been able to attend high school in Oman. We do not take transfers from other schools just because they want an American Certificate. They must have a disability to attend this program.

We also have an Evening Program. This focuses on children that have learning problems that are attending regular schools. Right now we only have support in English; however, we are hoping to expand that to Arabic as well. We have not been successful in getting Arabic speaking volunteers for this program.

There are therapies available for students at the center: speech, occupational, and physical.

We also see children that are not registered in the center, by appointment only. There is also educational evaluations available on Sat, Mon and Wed from 8-12 by appointment only. And in the evenings from 4-6 by appointment only.

We are planning a fun camp this year for both handicapped children and children with learning difficulties. It will be an activity based camp, completely in English. We will have sports activities, field trips, art activities, computer, and English language activities. It will start from June 1st till the end of August. There will be 3 sessions.

We will have the younger groups going in the morning from 9-1 (ages 5-12) and the older kids from 13 yrs and above going in the evenings.

Our plans for the future includes expanding our adult programs, so adults with special needs have a place to go and learn. We are hoping this will happen next year.

UD: One final question: When do you get a chance to sleep?!?

KB: Hardly at all!

UD: Thank you for the interview Kawthar.

Wow. What a story.

So, put away those tissues and get donating! Anyone that wants more information about the center may contact 95307344

Saturday, April 17, 2010

CAYC Saved - British Ambassador raises issue with HM

After years of intimidation, inducements, eviction notices, ancient deeds and legal wrangling in multiple courts, it seems a bit of common sense and a lot of wasta has done the trick for CAYC.

The embattled Yacht club had a meeting with The British Ambassador, Dr Noel Joseph Guckian OBE, a couple of weeks ago. The Ambassador lives in his gorgeous official residence on the cliff/ridge above CAYC and the Marina.

Photo: The British Ambassador's residence above The Marina and CAYC, ripped from Rougetete

I think its safe to assume he wasn't too pleased at the grand designs of the Ministry of Tourism for the CAYC's quiet little bay either.

Well, it seems last week, the Ambassador had an audience with HM Sultan Qaboos, and mentioned the CAYC problem, in between discussing important matters of state and topics of mutual interest.


File Photo: His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. HM signed the original deed of gift for the CAYC land.

As a result, CAYC is saved (at least for now), as long as they do some improvements and tidy up a bit.

Victory. Thanks to HM. It was that simple all along. What's crazy is that it always seems to take a personal intervention by HM to have common sense win the day.

CAYC are continuing their court cases until the rescue is confirmed and legal. Which may seem cautionary, but is sensible. MoT's grand design may well be shelved, but it won't be scrapped. They'll be back in a couple of years I'd bet.

Muscat Confidential has always been a big fan of CAYC. It's the only such club in Oman and has long been a haven for middle class locals and expats alike, who don't have military or PDO club access and want a simple, reasonably priced place to have a boat and take the family.

The 'plan' of the Ministry of Tourism to give them, in exchange, some crappy spare land at the Aviation Club near Seeb showed how little they pretend to know about tourism. The Aviation club is on the straight flat endless muddy beaches that stretch from the Crown Plaza to... Al Sawadi, and where there is nowhere pretty to sail/boat to, nowhere to snorkle, just bare sand-bottomed ocean. It is totally unlike their current protected bay, replete with rocks, good sand, Cat Island, and the sailing paradise of BK right next door. That's of course why the Tourist development would be in CAYC's bay and not at Aviation Club in the first place! LOL.

So well done Dr. Guckian.

And apologies to His Majesty on behalf of the Minister of Tourism for having had to waste your time on petty stuff like this, when you've got a country to run and everything. I guess good help really is hard to find, as they say. One might remind the Minister and her OMRAN Development arm that they seem to have an awful lot of suspended and abortive Integrated Tourist/Resident developments already on their plate...

Perhaps they could pull their finger out and invest their time and energy getting those current project done before abusing their power trying to steal other people's land for yet another development?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Free Jazz> Blues concert for Muscat residents from... Barack Obama

Yes, truth be told we are a bit of a cultural backwater here in the Sultanate. That's why there were so many happy people at the Tom Jones bash Wednesday. (our free ticket winner, Muscat based blogger Mr. Sythe wrote a nice review here).

So I was pleased to be informed by my new friend Dan Pattarini, Assistant Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Oman, about an free concert that the US Embassy are hosting at the Crowne Plaza, Muscat, this Monday night at 8:00 p.m.

The Little Joe McLerran Quartet is visiting Oman through a special program of the U.S. Department of State: The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad, produced in partnership with New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Free stuff: The US Embassy is providing a Blues concert open to the public on Monday.

Here's what Dan had to say:

Dear Mr. Dragon,
The concert is open to the public and we’d love to invite you and your readers to attend. Those wishing to attend the event should contact the Crowne Plaza to reserve a space which will be made available on a first come first serve basis.

The Little Joe McLerran Quartet

Monday, April 19, 8:00 p.m.
doors open at 7:30 p.m.)

on the Grand Lawn at the Crowne Plaza Muscat

Hey, free stuff. Get on it.

And don't forget to keep visiting the pet shops and taking photos to send to the petition and Y Magazine. I thought it was hilarious that 'The Week' were going to do a follow-up story on it, but the idea was quashed by Mohanna because it had already appeared here at Muscat Confidential. LMAO...

Pet shops in Oman and what you can do to help

If you want a great dog right now, (this one, in fact)

Photo: Grade A Heinz 57 dog available right now at CAYC, who are looking after the mutt. Very friendly and well behaved dog.

Call MOOSA on 99324419 - or
CAYC on 24737712.

Well, it seems a lot of people in Oman do care about animal treatment. I'm posting a couple of comments from the previous post on mis-treatment of animals at Creatures pet shop in Sabco centre.

Jet Driver did a nice follow-up post here and also got an official reply from famously nice and very professional Muscat vet Dr. Elke, who confirmed she is not the on-retainer vet for Creatures, despite reports.

Update 1: Petition
The reader whose puppy died is starting a petition to send to the authorities and try to get things changed. You can probably just send emails of support too.

May I ask that anybody who has had similar experiences, whether at Sabco or elsewhere, send me the details on All information received will be treated in the STRICTEST of confidence. My intention is to raise this problem with the highest authorities - if we do not at least try, nothing will ever happen.

Thank you.

Update 2: Y Mag article?
It looks like friend of animals Y magazine is also looking to take up the story.

If anyone has pictures of cruelty from ANY petshop in Oman, please email it to - urgently.

Update 3: Take direct action
I can tell you that the phone number for CREATURES TRADING is (+968) 24563721

Readers may wish to give them a call and tell them what you think about the situation...

Update 4: Adopt a pet

Contact Dr. Elke (or pretty much any vet) at Al Qurum Vet Clinic and they will be happy to give you a free pet all vaccinated and neutered, for you to look after and save from the big sleep.

If you don't want to get a pet yourself I'm sure Dr. Elke could do with a cash contribution to help her with the strays.

phone:+968 24562263
fax: +968 24562804
visit us- Our street address is:
Building 1467, Way 1822, Qurum

Monday, April 12, 2010

Don't buy a dog in Oman - another example of how badly Animals are treated in Oman

I know, Y magazine did a great bust on the helpless animal concentration and torture camp , oops, er, "Zoo", a couple of months ago. Readers may note that the "Zoo" is apparently still open for business and, so I hear, was even threatening Y with a law suit for having the audacity to actually publish the facts of their disgusting mistreatment of animals. After-all, it doesn't seem to be illegal in Oman to do that to animals.

But I received a nasty report on how those cute little puppies in the pet stores are obtained and treated. And it's mainly our own fault.

Photo: The cute puppy from the Sabco pet shop, "Creatures", that was about to die a horrific death a few days later.

Omani regulations require that a dog imported for sale is at least 4 months old. 16 weeks. And, naturally, that it's had its shots against common (and very nasty and usually fatal) doggy diseases, like distemper.

The problem is that this regulation is subverted as a matter of standard operating procedure by pet shops providing fake documentation. Now, while providing such false documents carries a penalty under Omani law of 3 to 10 years in jail, this ain't happening, naturally.

This is the story I received from a reliable source.

A fairly traumatic time in purchasing a new puppy from the pet shop in Sabco Centre.

To cut a long story short, the puppy was transferred from the shop to the vet clinic last week for some jabs etc. We arranged to pick it up today, but when we got there we were told it was about to die from Parvovirus. In 3 days it went from a lively, playful pup to a bag of bones dying in its own vomit – horrible to see.

Of course puppies do get illnesses and some do not survive. However, the way in which this pet shop has ignored the basic rules is shocking.

I attach herewith the "Pet Passport" we were given when we bought her, and the actual Kennel Club Reg / Birth Certificate.

The "Pet Passport" shows a DOB of 25 Nov 2009. The real birth certificate states the CORRECT DOB as 10 Jan 2010.

When I initially queried the difference, we were told that puppies are not allowed to be imported younger than 4 months of age, so the paperwork is fiddled. This seems to be a perfectly acceptable practice as far as the pet shop was concerned.

The pet shop... is complicit in breaking the rules and putting these animals health at risk.

The vet said that this puppy (and many others) was exported / imported at far too young an age. Also, its vaccinations were given far too young to be effective. (In fact, they would probably have proved harmful). This pet shop has always had a bad reputation when it comes to animal welfare. However, lately we thought they had improved.

People need to know that our puppy is suffering a horrible death covered in its own excrement just because they ignored the rules, and put money first.

Our dog had her DHPP Vaccine (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and Parvovirus) at 2 WEEKS of age (on 25/1/10 as indicated on the pet passport). The following states that it should only be given at 6 weeks+ to start taking over the maternal antibodies.


The high demand for pedigree puppies is fuelling this trade, which can be avoided if more people who want a dog approach the local Animal Rescue Charities, who have many dozen dogs at foster homes.

There is a very reputable, well run Pet Shop in Dubai who discuss at length these sort of problems in the UAE pet scene. These problems are:
- importing too young
- obtaining dogs from horrific "puppy farms" in the 3rd world (in the case above the dog was 'farmed' in Thailand)
- not effectively quarantining dogs before selling them
- not looking after the animals properly.

Of course, their dogs cost a lot more, as all that good treatment and European sourcing ain't free. Around 1,200 rials each. Our correspondent's dog from the Sabco death camp was (a still rather pricey) 650 rials. As is often the case in Oman, we tend to do things on the cheap, and suffer the results.


Just STOP!

There are thousands of abandoned dogs in need of a loving home. If you must have a dog (and do remember this is a Muslim country and populated by people who are generally not big doggie fans) get one of these. Contact any vet.

If you simply MUST have a fancy pure bread dog, import it yourself, perhaps through these nice people in Dubai. And always make sure it hasn't come from some nasty 3rd world breeding farm.

I know our dog buyer has learnt a lesson. But I'll be the first to point out what an idiot he was buying this dog in the first place. Ms Dragon would lock him in a cage and infect him with parvovirus if she had her want.

* and stop buying those long haired fancy cats too. Who does that??? Haven't you noticed it gets rather *%&^% hot in this country?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Facebook Fans of Muscat Confidential - Demographics

As I'm writing this, Muscat Confidential just reached 400 fans on Facebook. (you can become number 401 by clicking here). As a fan you get feeds to your facebook account, make comments on facebook, plus it means you can see the posts even if (once again) I get blocked by OmanHel...

What can I say? I'm flattered. The fan site was set up and is administered by Mohammed S. Al-Tamami, Founder & CEO of IT Company Tamami Networks LLC.

So, who are these fans? Note: this analysis is from before they reached the 400 - there were ~380 fans analysed.

Country of residence:
Facebook fans by country: Oman dominates with over 60%

No surprise there, I had to clip the graph otherwise Oman dominates. Most surprising? Sudan, with 2 fans!

Sex Ratio:

Most fans are guys, by a narrow margin, with 203 Males vs 165 Females. No surprise there I guess? Seems pretty evenly balanced. However, the biggest group by age/gender is 25-34 yr old females, at 74 fans. Ms. Dragon is probably just a little jealous...

So, thanks fans! Spread the word!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Free tickets to Tom Jones! And the winner is.....

Wow. A lot of entries were received for the Tom Jones Ticket Draw!

Tom Jones live in Muscat: 2 free tickets worth 50 Rials to our winner, from HiFM!

Early this morning all entrants (via blog comments and emails) were assigned a random number, and this number was used to decide the winner. The draw was, as mentioned, done under the independent supervision of Ms. Dragon...

Ms. Dragon: not to be trifled with!

And the lucky winner of those 2 free tickets is:

Non-Crowned Princess!

Update: NCP couldn't make it! Bummer NCP.

Sooooo, in second place was.... Mr Sythe!

An email has been sent to you with the details on how to claim your freebie. Remember, you (or someone you can get to go in your place) MUST pick up the tickets no later than 2 days before the concert from the Hi!FM offices in Al Khuwair.

Congratulations to NCP Mr Sythe. Commiserations to the rest. Better luck next time!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dar Al Atta'a - Muscat Confidential's Nominated charity. An interview with Lubna Al Kharusi

Muscat Confidential's advertising revenue all goes to charity. Our nominated charity of choice is an Omani NGO called Dar Al Atta'a.

Just to make sure, we asked Board Member Lubna Al Kharusi to answer a few questions about the charity; it's work, funding, problems, and the roles played by individuals, companies and the Government.

Even if you don't read the interview, go give money to Dar Al Atta'a. It's a good cause, and no public donations are used to administer the charity: all donations go 100% to help people. This is because Corporate donations fund all the admin costs. Neat model.

And of course, advertising on Muscat Confidential also goes 100% to those in need.

So here's the interview. I urge you to read what she has to say about demographic trends and unemployment at the end. And don't forget to enter the free Hi!FM giveaway to see Sir Tom Jones. It's not unusual, is it?

Muscat Confidential: Thanks for talking to us about the charity, Lubna. First up: What is Dar al Atta'a?

We are a non profit charity organisation that was formed in 2002. It started with a group of friends who wanted to help the poor in Oman by asking our family for donations to get things rolling. We formally registered the Charity in 2006 with the Ministry of Social Development so that we would be able to officially fundraise as well as organise events, hire staff and get properly set up to cater to the needs of the underprivileged. We cater to anyone who is poor in the Sultanate, of course our focus is on Omanis, however we have helped some expatriates as well.

Our main programs are:
1. The family care program: We provide aid to under-privileged families by helping them meet basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing.
2. The school program : This program provides uniforms, school supplies, books and nutritious meals to needy children as well as scholarships for higher education.
3. Hospital program : This program focuses on organizing entertainment activities for sick children at various hospitals. In addition to this, we also donate toys to the children’s wards at hospitals.

Other activities include the Let's Read! campaign, distribution of Zakat, Ramadan rations, Eid gifts, and distribution or sale of pre-used goods and clothing.

Something we are also looking at for the future is a micro-grant program for entrepeneurs, farmers etc whereby we will give grants to help people run or establish micro-businesses.

Muscat Confidential: What is your role at Dar al Atta'a?

I am a Board member, we are 8 on the Board. Mariam al Zadjali is the Chairperson (and the brainchild of Dar al Atta'a). As board members we pretty much do everything, though of course we each have specific responsibilities, like Eman Al Wahibi is the Vice Chair, Nada al Jamaly looks after the Family Care Program, Shatha Abass looks after Events, Sameera Sultan looks after the School Care Program, Rana Dabos looks after Membership & Volunteers, Ekhlaas Al Hashmi looks after Media and Promotions and i'm the Treasurer. We all help each other out. We also have some permanent staff and have just hired a new manager and accountant. Furthermore, the volunteers help out a lot when we have events or during peak times like Ramadan, Eid or before the school term begins.

MC: What are the challenges you face running Dar al Atta'a?

As any organisation we have some areas that require improvement, the first is our utilisation and communication with our members and volunteers and that is why we just elected Rana to be in charge of Membership and Volunteers. We would like to ensure full utilisation of volunteers and members and are therefore putting a program in place that will manage this.

The other issue we face is that charity organisations are a new concept to Oman, and therefore the mindsets need to be made ready for the idea of volunteering time, giving donations and trusting that their money will be utilised in the correct manner. It hasn't become 'fashionable' yet in Oman to be involved with community service, and people should be aware that even for the distribution of zakat and sadaqah, Dar Al Atta'a is an organisation they can rely on to distribute on their behalf.

MC: Of the funding you receive, what % is used running the charity and the management of the projects, vs the % that actually makes it to individuals and families in need?

100% of all the donations from individuals either through their bank accounts, cheques, cash donations or in the money boxes are used to help the needy. We finance our operating costs through corporate sponsorship, and usually the money needs to first be raised before we spend the money so for example all our staff costs are paid by a corporate sponsor. Money raised at events usually covers the cost of the actual event and that equates to usually less than 10%.

MC: Apart from making cash donations, how can readers of Muscat Confidential best help you? Is there anything you specifically need?

Tell all your friends about us and what we do. Come to our office and visit, volunteer your time. If you work for a company, convince your employer to donate to us either cash or goods and materials.

Do your spring cleaning and clear out your closet and home and donate to us whatever is in good condition, we collect anything and everything that can be used by someone else or sold. Furniture, clothing, books, toys, computers.

Convince your employer that they should have an HR scheme whereby employees can elect for an automatic deduction from their salary that goes to Dar al Atta'a and the Employer matches that contribution.

Send us your ideas. There are so many people who need your help.

You can contact us on 24692996, fax 24692044. our office is opposite the Pakistani Embassy in MSQ on Al Bashaer Road villa 119. email:

MC: I see you now have donation boxes in the supermarkets. Does this generate a significant amount of sponsorship money?

Yes, it is a fantastic source of fundraising, we have 400 boxes currently out and on average each one collects about RO 30 per month. People may not realise this but their spare change really makes a difference, each box almost covers one family's food rations in a month (to feed a family it costs us RO 35 per month), so please everyone keep giving us your spare change and encourage your friends to do the same. As mentioned 100% of the proceeds from those boxes goes to help families.

MC: I noticed for a while they weren't there. What's the story behind that??

Yes, the Ministry stopped these collection boxes so that regulations could be established around how they are managed. We at Dar al Atta have always given 100% raised in these boxes to charity and manage them using our office PRO whose salary is covered through corporate sponsorship of our operating expenses.

MC: Do you provide services to battered or abused women? If so, how can they seek your assistance? If not, do you know who does?

We currently do not offer psychological counseling, however we can help in other ways and have done so in the past.

MC: How many children and families did you help in 2009, and how?

We have an audited annual report that gives further details, but the highlights are:
New houses built - 6 ,
upgrades to existing homes 12
families sponsored - 84
Ramadan rations - 1666 families
School uniforms and stationary 3087 students,
daily school meals 655,
university and college scholarships full 29, partial 9

MC: Do you assist expats in need? If so, how?

Yes! Our focus is on Omanis, but we do help expatriates primarily in the distribution of pre-used items.

MC: Is there anything the Government could do to make it easier for Dar al Atta'a to be more effective?

The key thing that would make a difference today is online donations. The Government of course wants to control money laundering, and money donated online can come from anywhere in the world etc. At the moment the Ministry of Social Development has a website that represents all the local charities and you can donate online through their website, but we haven't received any money from their site to date. We would really prefer if donations could be made through our site, if they want to control money laundering they can set limits as to how much an individual can donate online via our site.

MC: Were you impacted by the economic downturn? Have you noticed any change in the demand for your services following the global downturn?

In Oman we did not really feel the economic downturn as much as other countries, we were still able to fundraise a similar levels to prior years, and the demand for our services is mostly a function of demographics, all those young kids who grow up not finding jobs, not being able to afford going to school. We have a young population and job creation is critical, and the need for an organisation like Dar Al Atta'a is there regardless of a financial crisis. At the moment as an organisation we give food rations which could be seen as handouts, but really they are an interim solution, our real objective is to empower people and help them change their situation for the better, through education, through job placements, through better living conditions, through possiblely in future giving micro-grants. We cannot ignore the poor and their current status, but we also shouldn't assume that their status is permanent, we have to help them improve their lives as a community.

The MONE publishes annual statistical bulletins and as of the 2009 bulletin the Omani population at the end of 2008 was estimated to be 1.97 million. Out of which about 47% are between the ages of 20-60 resulting in about 0.93 million employable Omanis.

According to the Ministry of National Economies monthly statistics (Feb 2010) 161,406 Omanis are working in the private sector, of which more than 67% earn less than RO 180 per month and more than 85% earn less than RO 300 a month. In addition (as of 2008 statistical bulletin) 116,154 Omanis worked in the Government sector and 8,251 work for government corporations like SQU, Omantel etc.

Considering that the private sector employs about 162,000 and the Government about 125,000, (totaling 287,000 employed Omanis) we are left with a substantial number (643,000 Omanis - about 70% of employable Omanis) who either are self employed entrepreneurs or are unemployed, of course a significant number are women who stay at home, but even if every woman not working chose to stay at home (so divide by 2 = 321,500), these self employed/ unemployed persons would account for about 35% of the Omani population between 20-60 years old. Furthermore, the Omani population is very young, so these youngsters will be in the job market for many years to come and it is critical that something is done to increase employment opportunities, promote entrepreneurship and to enable these people to lead productive lives. The government provided 48,462 (in 2007) with social welfare, which predominantly went to widows, the disabled, orphans, senile, and divorced women. Who is helping the rest?

Aside from employment, housing is another pressing issue. According to the 2003 census, out of the 430,996 households in the Sultanate, 13.6% are improvised housing such as tents, shacks etc (thats almost 60,000 households). In addition the average household size is 8 persons, whereby over 33% are 10 persons and above. Up until the end of 2007, the Government had granted 4,587 housing units to the poor predominantly in Al Sharqiyah and in Al Wusta region, where in Al Wusta almost 67% of the population live in improvised housing. In addition, the government in 2007 provided RO 4,825,809 in loans for low cost housing and RO 6,191,065 in low cost housing grants.

This is not enough, and the Government cannot be expected to solve all the problems, and they need to prioritise the neediest cases. That is where an NGO like Dar al Atta'a comes in, where we help people who would not be helped by the Government in the near future and meet our eligibility criteria.

But the number of people we can help is dependent on how much we can raise from the public, so everyone can make a difference.

Awesome. Thanks very much Lubna. Muscat Confidential is pleased to be a supporter of Dar Al Atta'a.

By the way, I'm sure someone out there can help them professionally update their website - for free, obviously. They would appreciate the assistance, and, lets face it, you'd be helping children, children who desperately need your help. Make a difference.

And send them money. Email them and they will send you a form. It's easy.

Remember: You can contact Dar Al Atta'a on 24692996, fax 24692044. The Dar Al Atta'aoffice is opposite the Pakistani Embassy in MSQ on Al Bashaer Road villa 119.


Monday, April 5, 2010

More problems at Bar Al Jissa Developments? Tales of dispute and... subsidence

Mega-conglomerate Zubair Corporation's Bar Al Jissa Development, built up on the cliffs next to the 3 Shangri La Hotels on the beach, was fortunately all sold out before the real estate melt down (off plan) at top top prices. Thus the properties have been pretty much built, albeit late.

The Dawn apartment, at Bar Al Jissa Developments. On the level?

But I'm told a few problems are still on-going. There may be a problem with villas in the upper and lower 'Dawn' Section. The upper Dawn problem potentially effects units 1 to 10, the row closest to the road. The others in lower Dawn are the first 3 in from the road. It's minor subsidence, aka 'settlement' in construction speak.

If this is the case, the problem is due to a combination of the way this area was filled & retained, and the structural slab design and/or the workmanship. In effect, it couldn't withstand the recent rain and all that irrigation water being pored on to make some landscaping grow. This water is washing away some support to the buildings' foundation.

'Settlement' is occurring that is resulting in ugly cracks, gaps, etc that can’t be glossed over with a dose of filler and paint. Last week long meetings were held between the parties concerned.

Now, these sort of problems are, apparently, not unusual. The developer, Zubair, should have held a 10% retention on the contractor and had warranties & liabilities defined with the architect, engineers, Project Management Company, etc.

Theoretically the developer should just fix it – in engineering after all, money fixes everything. They should simply get the problem fixed, get the approvals and proceed to get the owners moved in and close on the final payment.

Another problem is that builder Bodgeit and Legit L&T (the engineers building the place) are a Zubair local sponsored company. Ooops. In fact their performance has been so lacklustre Zubair themselves actually dropped the company from the shortlist to tender to build the apartments around the marina development.

So now expect the usual round of the Omani Business Game called "pin the problem on the foreigners". But most of those involved should have reasonable risk mitigation clauses in their contracts to cover themselves, liability wise, for the 'settlement'.

I'm told HSBC, the mortgage lender to at least 25 BAJ props, wisely won’t release the final payment until the Developer warrants the security (with independent eng. back-up) of their collateral. And the poor purchasers are still waiting for their houses, already more than a year late.

One solution is apparently to drill and inject concrete into the sub-soil to each dwelling footings to rectify movement. Ouch. Someone's going to have to pay. But who?

Let the games begin!

To anyone involved in this battle who's reading this: you may increase your chances of playing Russell Crow's character than one of the others by getting advice.

Parties to the dispute may wish to note the services available from Muscat Confidential's well qualified Corporate Sponsor, Paul J. Waters, manager of the Construction Law Advisory Services Division of respected local law firm Dr. Abdullah Alsaidi & Co Law Office.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Yet Another Muscat Confidential Ticket Giveaway, this time to see Sir Tom Jones - Thanks to HiFM and Darren Shortt!!

People have been talking about it. This event is proving a bit of a surprise hit to the promoters - Sir Tom Jones is coming to town.

And once again, you, dear reader, have a chance to win a pair of free tickets to see the legendary crooner in the flesh on the 14th April at the Intercon Gardens.

Tom Jones live in Muscat: 2 free tickets worth 50 Rials to give away, from HiFM!

For this concert, the winner will need to pre-collect the tickets no later than 2 days before the event from the HiFM! Office in Al Khuwair, the big building next to the motorway/wadi with Hifm banners on it! The winner will be emailed a contact number and the magic password.

All you have to do to be in the draw is either:
(1) put a comment in the comments section of this post with a way for me to contact you when you win; or,
(2) email me here at undercover(dot)dragon(at)gmail(dot)com

And that's it.

The draw will be held in a week's time at midnight on Wednesday 7th April using our reliable super-random number generator, military level encryption and - naturally - drawn under the independent supervision of no less an arbitrator than Ms. Dragon. Winners will be notified by email and via the blog.

So what are you waiting for? Free stuff. No strings.

Enter now!

And big thanks to Darren Shortt and HiFM for sorting us out. Don't forget Maz Jobrani and his 'Brown & Friendly' comedy show, live, in Muscat, on this Wednesday April 7th at the Crown Plaza. There may still be a few tickets available. I believe Darren will again be wearing his now infamously costumesque "Sleazy Promoter" waistcoat (or is it a vest?)

I may well see you there.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Draconian debt laws in the UAE. A Tale of Warning - Part Three

It's been a busy week, and I have to assume you already read the obvious stuff: the Omani Tennis coach busted front page, Muscat Daily, as having served 3 years in a US prison as a sex offender after getting consensually involved with a girl under 16 (who is now here with him). The quoted use of the word "grooming" in the article was comedy gold too.

What else?

The vast sums being planned for more desalination and power.

The law suit between Shell Oman Marketing and alledgedly - Al Sirooj, a major francisee(? rumour 1), or against Shell and a Government Company like OOC or ORPC over imported bunkering fuel???? (rumour 2).

The strange and eerie case of the sudden disappearance of fantabulous local blogger Muscato. I do fear for his safety.

And, I hope you didn't miss this incredible post about women's rights in south Omsn and the Sultanate in general by the wonderful Dhofari Gucci. Recommended reading.

Anyhow, so here's something else.

Continued from Part Two.

In theory Oman has on the books a lot of UAE-similarly ill-defined wacky laws, where imprisonment is an option. But fortunately the ROP are generally blessed with common sense, and a naturally tendency to want things sorted out amicably without requiring too much paperwork for the courts.

And a big difference: Here in Oman, employers usually take liability for debt (or in the case of Omanis, the banks are asked to forgive the debt. More on that story soon.)

This situation in the UAE, fragmented police forces and varying degrees of application of very ill-defined laws, is creating an environment where expats are being blackmailed and extorted by officials in the UAE and in the banks. These officials use the threat of imprisonment without due cause as a weapon, and it's proving very profitable.

Just because you live safely in Oman doesn't mean you can ignore this problem. Anyone in the UAE who is in a debt trap situation might wanty to visit Debt Prison . Net , a great site that shows there can be a solution oif you're willing to work hard and take a risk.

Now, here's a very scary tale from an Oman based Expat who is also an ex-UAE resident from many years ago (she chooses to remain anonymous). The following is another true story:

Busted at the Border
Dear Dragon,
Roughly a year ago (2009) I went for one of many trips to Dubai, in my car, alone, to visit friends and do some shopping. My last visit prior to this had been in Dec -08 for the same reason.

I take off early in the morning, reach the border round about 10am, as usual show my passport (European) and expect the stamps and to off to my breakfast date, and further some shopping.

Well, instead I'm told I've I need to see the supervisor... Ok, I get into the portacabin and in a small "office" is a man with a computer telling me with a smile on his face that I'm black listed!!!

WHAT!!!??? How, where, when, WHAT!!!

[The Debt Saga Begins]
Apparently on his screen it says I owe "someone" 14 000 DHS![US$3500] My heart races, I'm totally surprised! I used to live in Dubai many years ago but as you stated in your post, to leave the country you have to clear your bank, which I did and got the papers and release letter accordingly. I've been back MANY times after leaving Dubai and never before incountered any problems.

I'm taken to Hatta police station, call my husband, in tears, trying to tell him about the situation though I really don't know what the actual deal is. Here at the station the amount "owed" is suddenly 24 000 Dhs [US$6000].

Now all I want is to get out of there and home so I offer to pay the money there and then and deal with the rest later but NO, not possible since the case has been taken to court!!!???

I'm taken to a big police station, by "jailbus", downtown in Dubai, sat infront of an officer who's suppose to take my statement. He tells me there is a case against me for fraud. I have, according to him, signed 2 cheques, one in 2004 and one in 2005.

I'm totally & utterly stunned! I show him my passport which proves that I was not in Dubai on the stated dates, which he agrees is "odd", but keeps pointing at his screen saying "it says here".

I'm upset beyond words, not knowing what to do; he's writing a statement, in Arabic, that he wants me to sign. Not knowing what it realy reads, for all I know I could be confessing to murder. He goes off, comes back and tells me I have 2 options - me thinking one of them is leaving my id etc stay at my friends house over night to come back in the morning and sort this mistake out. Well, his two options are either staying in the prison at the station or go to the main prison... imagine my dispare!!!

[Immediate Prisonment is the only option]
I'm then "escorted" by a rather large female police officer to the prison at the station. The metal door is massive, at least 20 cm thick! It slam behind me and infront of me are a desk with 4 more large female guards telling me to give them all my possessions incl. my mobile, the only line to the outside, my husband and freedom!

I'm allowed to use my Omani rials to buy a phone card. Then I'm told to walk through an opening in the wall... that's it... I'm scared, confused and feel like I'm in a living nightmare...

I walk through the opening into a massive rom or more like a warehouse with an open "yard" in the middle cells along the walls with bunkbeds, already occupied to the brim, a second floor overlooking the "yard". A girl, who I later found out had been there for 4 months for slapping her Emirati boyfriend, came up to me with an old mattress and an old blanket she told me "find yourself a corner on the floor" Honestly!!! I have never done anything against the law in my life, been hard working until I had children and this is indescribable!

I didn't sleep much, as you can imagine: the flourecent lights stay on 24/7, toilets are holes in the ground with no privacy - hence my decision not to eat or drink again until I get out. Food served 3 times a day; you can bribe the guards to bring you food from the outside coffeeshop but I was not interested in any of it.

The girls inside are just normal girls who have been either wrongly inprisoned, like myself, or actually comitted a "crime" such as fraud, unpaid debts, having a boyfriend(!). A sad sad thing is the asian girls in there still called me, as a westerner, "madam"!!

I cried my self through the night, listening to endless stories of different destinies: that normally if you are accused of fraud you'll have at least 1 month to wait for your first trial, where you are taken in front of a judge and you have to state if you are guilty or not, and that is then recorded. Then you go back to the prison to await a further date in court where the judge will decide if you are guilty or not, and a minimum for fraud is 3 months...

[The Debt Keeps Getting Bigger]
Things just gets worse and worse... I'm on one of the 2 payphones available in the hall every 3 hours to get an update of the situation and it turns out that when the husband of my friend and his emirati PRO go to the bank, the one claiming that I signed the cheques, the manager there tells them it is not 24 000 it is 77 000 Dhs!!!!! [US$20,000] BUT he can do us "a favor" and give some discount (!!!???) - 15,000 Dhs worth of discount - so it takes the sum to 62 000 Dhs...

[The Payoff]
Luckily my friend's husband has the money, pays the bank, gets the paper of no claim, gets to the court where a judge is in a good mood and decides they have better things to do than persue this case, sigs it off, CID sign their part 3 minutes to 2pm (when they close) and papers are taken to the police station.

@ 6pm one of the guards, comes in shouts my name and tells me you are free to go!!!!

[A Hollywood Ending]
Everyone in that prison stood up, clapped their hands and whistled... like a good old american movie!!

My nightmare was over, we were 6500 rials poorer but that was a later problem - I was out! It was a bittersweet feeling seeing all this well meaning individuals, some actually had boken the laws other just very unfortunate and without the friends and financial means I have... their faces still haunts me!

After this, when I'm back home in Oman, we inquired about legal help to have this matter brought up again in court, and maybe be able to get back our money. We were advised to "let it go" as it would cost us probably the same amount, if not more, to hire someone. Even then no one would ever admit to being wrong, so we would get nothing by doing so, just more trouble. Plus being scared to death of ever having to go through that again - let it go!

The most expensive trip to Dubai in my life, but I was home, with my family and safe - that is worth 6500 rials.

Hearing similar stories afterwards it seems that there might be some kind of "inside" job going on in the UAE banks. Someone see the accounts being "closed" and they have the information, wait a while, then use the account...

I don't know but it is worth mentioning for others that when and if you leave any country and you "close" your accounts - keep the papers saying so! No matter how long after you've left!

In my case after 8 years, and 5 moves later - with no papers - it was rather costly!

All I can say is OMG. Just be careful folks. The UAE is not like Oman.

It's getting more and more totally bat-shit insane in our brotherly neighbouring Emirati state-lets.

Muscat Confidential rates the UAE a big : AVOID IF POSSIBLE.

All rights reserved, copyright Muscat Confidential.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Draconian debt laws in the UAE. A Tale of Warning - Part Two

Continued from Part One.

Effectively imprisoned in the UAE because of an exit ban imposed by his bank, and facing both the removal of his work permit, illegal status, and jail for being in debt, our correspondent makes a big decision: to leave the UAE and come to Oman, illegally.

His story continues...

PART TWO: The Escape
I decided I had to get out. I found someone who could facilitate this and paid a lot of money to be brought over the border into Oman.

I have seen the [UK] embassy who have said they cannot directly help me as I am illegal, the lawyer said the same, but I feel in the circumstances I would have hoped to be helped to get home to the UK. I did not expect to left in limbo. I am fully aware that I must spend some time in jail here and pay a fine but I just want a guarantee I will be returned to the UK after I have paid my dues to the Omanis.

I am running out of money, scared that if I am returned to the UAE I am going to spend more than a year in jail for 9000 dirhams which I paid and basically be a victim of a barbaric system with no support or influence from the embassy there.

Photo: Getting illegally from the UAE into Oman can be bought.

So, despite an Omani Government amnesty for illegal aliens (just extended for two months), it seems the British Embassy wouldn't help him get back to the UK.

Running out of money, he made the fateful decision to try to get a flight out...

At the check-in desk he was detained by the Omani authorities, arrested, and unfortunately, deported straight away back to the UAE.

He is now in Dubai prison.

Photo: Dubai Central Prison. Easier to see than you'd think...

As you might imagine, there's no internet where he is now, and he can only communicate through his lawyer. He's facing at least a year in jail, followed by deportation.

The lesson?

If you are an expat in the UAE and have debts you can't repay, and if you seem to be about to loose your job, the only sensible thing to do is to leave the UAE fast, via the airport, before you get slapped with a travel ban.

And wish the place good riddance.

Otherwise you will be imprisoned in horrible conditions in a Dubai jail, probably for months and possibly for years.

Such is the state of the law in the UAE. I fail to understand why tourists risk their lives even visiting the UAE, let alone working there. For example, The man who got 1 month for giving the bird, or many other cases of arrest and imprisonment for trivial or even non-sensical offenses. (hey, at least in Oman its only 2 weeks in prison for flicking the bird!! Go Oman!)

"One bloke was arrested for doing press-ups on the beach - cops accused him of making love to the GROUND and charged him with indecency."

What I don't understand is why our illegal alien wasn't helped by the British Embassy.

Also, paying to get to Oman is probably a waste of time, unless perhaps you then can arrange for someone to take you on a boat across to India.

In Part Three, the tale of an Omani-based expat who was arrested while visiting the UAE on a shopping trip, charged (falsely) with having a minor debt-charge. Her tale is really harrowing.