Friday, November 11, 2005
If you've been to Qurum from the beach road you've probably seen this partially torn down house. In case you're wondering about it, here's what I know. It's the kind of story you never read in the Times of Oman or Oman Observer. If I get any of the facts wrong, please correct me. What I know is based mostly on what I heard from various sources who may or not be biased (though they are from both sides of the story).
The picture above is of the late Sayyid Faisal bin Ali's house as it stands today. Sayyid Faisal was Oman's Minister of Heritage and Culture from 1976 till his death in 2003. He died without heirs and his house, which is located on prime location right next to the Crowne Plaza hotel overlooking one of the most beautiful views in Muscat, was sold last year by a group of investors. I don't know the price but I the smallest price I heard was 3 million rials. After tossing around many plans including either re-selling the land for a profit or developing into a resort, the partners decided to develop the land themselves into a combination of villas and apartments. The properties were snatched up by investors, some of whom quickly flipped their investment by selling again to others. All this while the original house itself was still standing and no development has taken place on the property itself.
Right next to this property there's an old apartment complex which is occupied mostly by European expats who are horrified at the thought of a large apartment building coming up next to them and blocking their view. As the scope of the development next door kept changing and the number of units increased, they began to grumble about the increased traffic in the neighborhood as well as well as their loss of privacy due to having a building overlooking their complex. Soon talk came out of how to stop the development.
At first there was talk of trying to accomodate them and even offering them partial use of the private beach in the new development. Then it became known that there were ancient graves on the Sayyid Faisal's property. These apparently weren't newly discovered graves, they've had been properly excavated by archaelogists in Sayyid Faisal life. The residents get up in arms: "how can the government allow the building of an apartment complex on top of an archeological site?" The story was spun to make it sound as if the archaelogical site was a new discovery. And who is it that owns their housing complex? None other than the present under-secretary of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture. They've contacted anyone who'd listen to them. Enter Al Roya magazine, which took up their cause and published an article calling for the government to stop the development.
It's become a huge mess and apparently the project's presently on hold. You have investors who've paid millions of rials to buy a property and others who've paid to buy into the development that will come up on it. Is it really about preserving our archaelogical heritage or has it been used simply as an excuse? Who knows, but if you pass by the beach road you will see this eyesore.
Anyone know more?