Monday, June 26, 2006
It's about time!
In the 1960's Oman's capital was a wasteland except for Muscat, Matrah and the farms in Seeb. Oil was discovered and PDO came into existence. It was decided that Mina Al Fahal would be the main terminal for oil exports and hence PDO built its offices close by. PDO was also given a mountain (Qurm) and a beach (Sei7 Al Mala7) close by and told to use it for their staff accommodation and leisure facilities. In the 1970's when Oman changed, the other side of Qurm, which wasn't used by PDO, became the area chosen by the crème de la crème for their houses.
For the next thirty years we've had a contrast where one side of the mountain had huge extravagant houses and the other side has a scattering of PDO employee houses which are basically just a step above porta-cabins. Click on the picture above Google Earth image of Qurm to see how one side of the mountain is densely packed and the other is sparse. All these years this oil company has been sitting on some of the most expensive land in the heart of Muscat. If it was up to me I'd have the entire area taken from PDO and given over to some Emaar style tourism or housing development. Of course the people who run PDO are much smarter folks than me, and they're a step ahead. Yesterday PDO signed an MOU with the government-owned Omani Tourism Development Company to undertake a study on how to transfer PDO's housing area into a tourism complex in a way that PDO gets to keep a percentage of the new houses for its staff. So it's win-win for PDO. They get to be part of the redevelopment of the land before someone in the government wakes up and says "hey how come PDO's still sitting on all that prime real estate?" and they get to keep brand spanking new houses for the expat staff (as far as I know Omanis aren't eligible for company housing). [link]