Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A laugh... and The National newspaper increasing reports from Oman

Here's a nice joke I thought I'd share. Some real updates later this week.

A young Omani man is seeking to join the ROP.

The ROP Sergeant doing the interview says: "Salim. Your qualifications all look good, but there is an attitude suitability test that you must take before you can be accepted."

Then, sliding a pistol across the desk, he says: "Take this pistol and go out and shoot six illegal Afgani immigrants, six drug smugglers, six Yemeni terrorists, and a wadi dog.”

"Why the wadi dog?" says Salim.

"Great attitude," says the Sergeant. "You pass the test. When can you start?"

Also, great to see The National's Omani reporter Saleh al Shaibany is starting to publish some real stories, his latest on the rise of expat beggars in Oman, following on from his nice article about the problems being faced by Omani women owning and running businesses.

Keep it up Saleh. (although, I'd prefer if you started to seek more in way of official comments from Muscat Municipality, ROP, etc. Even if that just means all you can report is "No comment".)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What is Oman really good at?

Eid Mubarak everyone. The Government declared a 9 day national holiday for Eid, and it's great. The bars are open again, I can eat out at my favorite places and eat pork and consume alcohol for lunch without having to check into an excellent local hotel, smoke in public, .... etc.

Eid for most Omanis is well described at Dhofari Gucci.

Photo: An Aussie Businessman

Meanwhile, I was pondering the natural advantages Oman has (and hasn't). For example, in Australia, there is a huge surfing and beach culture, so they also are home to many top businesses serving surfers - clothes, boards, etc.

Same for say, skiing in the Alps of Europe. Again, these countries host locally major international winter sporting goods manufacturers, export ski and snowboard instructors, host resorts.

So, what is Oman good at? Where is our local equivalent of Billabong or Atomic? What's our Ricardian natural advantage? How can Oman compete with countries like Vietnam, despite having a population with, shall we say, a totally different work ethic?

- Fishing?

It should be. The fishing used to be AMAZING in Oman. Of late one hears tales from Expat and Omani alike of a dearth of good big fish, excepting the offshore Dhofar perhaps. But shouldn't we be manufacturing really good fishing gear? Running more fishing oriented tourism? Exporting talent, in the way of Arabic speaking Captains for the (much bigger) Red Sea or Mediterranean markets? Processing fish properly here to export direct to prime markets like Japan, USA and China? Are we even properly running our fisheries? Are we world experts on running a fishery? Marine Biology?

- Trauma care.
This is a no brainer, definitely.

Oman has one of the world's highest rates of death and injury on the roads. We should have a specialist Trauma and Emergency Surgery Teaching hospital here. ET and Military surgeons from all over the world could train here. We can export trained expert Omani Doctors and Nurses (again, who speak Arabic and English). At the rate we seem to be going, there is no danger of running out of stupid Omani boys in really fast cars who don't know how to drive responsibly and safely. Already, Koula Hospital is world famous for having lots of fantastic wet work and gets a lot of visiting surgeons.

We could be developing medical equipment, treatment, etc.

- Um
What else? Goats and dates, obviously. I've commented on the business opportunities for dates previously. The opportunities are not huge, but hey, people need cereal.

- Oh, Sand and surf, obviously.
Hence OMRAAN, Blue City, the Wave, BAJ, Asian Games, etc, etc, etc. If only the people building these Hotel and Tourism developments, and working there and living in them, were Omanis. We would also need to be exporting trained F&B and Tourism staff, not importing them.

- Sailing?
But then why drop the ball on the America's Cup, have few good marinas, and hardly support the local sailors? How many of our victorious crews in Catamaran sailing are Omani? Could Oman become a 'New Zealand of the Middle East' for Sailing? Maybe. But not the way its going. Again, can you really forsee Omanis building world class racing boats, or tourist craft? Heck, even our local fishing boats are imported from the UAE. Pathetic.

Then, I started to run out of ideas. There's lots of things we know we aren't good at, [Education, Media, growing food, ...] - I think we import waaaaay too much, of everything. But I'm not talking about basic import substitution (although I think we need to do a hell of a lot more of that too).

Where is that expertise, the professionalism? A thing where people all over the world, people with money, would eventually say,
"Oh, look at that, Omani. Excellent choice. That is really good shit. "

Perhaps a School of Government, like the ones in New York, France and UK?

Readers? Any thoughts?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Social Distortion - a reader complaint

I thought I'd share an interesting email from a reader about a recent post I made, the one highlighting a big story in the UK media about a British MP and the many times he has stayed in Oman.

I think the comment highlights a real problem in Oman, one that also relates to the big, big problems many in this culture seem to have with the very concept of free speech. The issues (see below) some people might have with the article (and my subsequently bringing this overseas story to your attention) are real, and strongly felt. Some might even feel insulted, angry, and/or confused as to why anyone would even think to say such things, and even worse, to act upon such thoughts and publish them.

Fair enough.

But.... Free Speech quintessentially implies sometimes listening to other people when they say things you disagree with. Perhaps strongly. And perhaps even worse, seeing or reading or hearing things that occasionally one might find exceptionally offensive.

As its often said, Stalin was a great fan of free speech, as long as you only said what he agreed with.

How does Oman address this problem, while the Government are attempting to expose more and more of the population to the outside world, tourists, the Internet, and many Omani experience a severe reaction to many of the things they - as a result - see and hear?

(to Undercover Dragon)

This piece of news is in bad taste. Politicians come go and it is in the Arab tradition to offer them a gift at the end of their visit. Why single out this homosexual? The article in Daily mail dismayed many here in the Sultanate by associating an openly gay individual to our nation. Furthermore it is an insult to us seeing the individual's photo in the same page as MAWALANA The SULTAN who almost all Omanis revere. UD has hit all Oman below the belt by coming up with such a trash.

Take note almost all Omanis are dismayed by UD's action

Dragon Responds:
Omanis deserve to know what is being published elsewhere, about their country and HM, don't they? Simply pretending there is no outside world, like some kind of cultural and intellectual ostrich, is stupid and childish.

Grow up.

I did not publish such photos (as were published in the UK) partially for some of the reasons you mention.

That this British Member of Parliament came here, stayed here, and was a guest of HM is fact. That the man came here with his (now) partner is fact. That Alan Duncan is homosexual is (as far as anyone knows) a fact. That he remains a member of her Majesty's loyal opposition, and remains a member of Parliament, is a fact.

That this story was in the UK media, and discussed Oman and HM, is a fact.

That you choose to dislike that these things are facts, fair enough. And I can understand.

BUT, are you really that naive? How old are you?

Welcome to the world [identity withheld]. Not everyone gives a second thought about your concerns, or even agrees with them, you know?


OK Readers. There it is. Thought you'd be interested.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Blogging in the Gulf and Oman Media restrictions reported in the UAE press

Nice article in the UAE based paper the Khaleej Times by Oman Reporter Saleh al-Shaibany on media restrictions in Oman and the wider region. The article quotes as a source an un-named 'ex-editor' from the Omani and GCC press.

Saleh noted how the absence of a free press, and extremely vague and restrictive laws related to media and internet, are increasingly being used to protect senior Government Officials from any accountability for their performance, and indeed to shield them from possible discussion of corruption. As a result, bloggers and web-based discussion fora are the only place such things can be placed in the public domain. However, new laws are now being used to muzzle these internet voices too.

Certainly in Oman, the draconian Article 61 (especially clauses 61.3 and 61.4) was only recently put on the books, and prescribes up to 1 year in prison for a wide range of 'offences', the definition of which is untested by legal precedent, or even simple common sense:

"publishing anything deemed...contrary to public order and morality".

And that's in addition to the already rather nasty criminal law rule 74 and the already extremely broad (and criminal, not civil) Omani defamation laws. (For more detail comparing Omani and British law on this topic, see a post by the well known BlueChi.)

The recent arrest, detention and trial of Omani journalist and Forum Moderator Ali al-Zwaidi even prompted a joint letter by Reporters Without Borders and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, written to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, in protest at his arrest under Article 61. In the end, Ali was found not guilty of the Art.61 charge, but he was sentenced to two weeks imprisonment on a second charge of releasing confidential government documents, most of which he served before trial. It is strongly thought by many in the Omani bloggosphere that his conviction was mainly meant 'pour encourager les autres'.

It's certainly something many of us think about.

A good example of the sort of attitude common in the Gulf is the punishment meted out to a Bahraini student for being critical of the University administration.

Female Bahraini Youth Activist Punished

13 September 2009 MANAMA — A female youth activist has to repeat a semester of five courses as a punishment for distributing a statement criticising situations at the only government university — the University of Bahrain (UoB).

Noor Hussain, 22, who is also a member of the students’ councils at the UoB, distributed the printed statement on Bahraini Student Day, marked on February 25, 2009. The punishment was decided last week.

“She wasn’t the only one who distributed the statement that criticised some educational practices at the UoB, but she was the only one who received such tough punishment,” ....

In fact, it has reached the point where the best place to obtain stories about things happening in one's home country is in the newspapers of one's neigbouring countries in the GCC (one of the reasons so many issues discussed here at Muscat Confidential are based on reports from the UAE press).

Oman's print press is well known to be plagued by extreme self censorship, under-reporting, and a total unwillingness to threaten in any way the establishment or Government Authorities. (see Essa's volte face earlier this week, and this from a newspaper that is more full of Government propaganda and flattery than any I've ever seen.) The Week, a free weekly ad sheet in the capital, pat themselves on the back for reporting a few minor instances of uncollected rubbish or a nonsensical local dog ordinance.

So, well done Saleh. And with the by-line and Omani resident too - very brave, esp. considering what happened to Arun Solomon (allegedly). I wonder if you will now be asked to have a quiet chat with ISS or the Ministry of Information?

Saleh's full story:
Bloggers Carry the Torch Saleh al-Shaibany
12 September 2009, Khaleej Times

How many times have we talked about freedom of speech but still face the problem? In Oman and the rest of the Gulf, journalists still face harassment with authorities when they attempt to pour out their grievances on the way officials conduct themselves.

Journalists can be detained and questioned over reports they wrote in the local newspapers. Publishers who are bold enough to print such news can face threats of closure of their publications. But officials still deny that the region is suppressing the media when the grip is tightening all the time.

For example, murders and rapes in Oman are rarely reported but you do find relatives of the victims talk about it. Doctors, too, who treat victims, obviously pass over the information to reporters who cannot get their publications to print.

A former newspaper editor in Muscat, an expatriate, said that unwritten rules from the information ministry to newspapers restrict editors what they accept and publish from their journalists. Editors will rarely publish a piece that criticises a cabinet minister or grievances from members of public made towards a government office.

The former editor said the problem is not confined to just Oman. He came across the same with his editing spells elsewhere in the region.

The Gulf is fast becoming a society where senior government officials are above the law of punishment and shaming them in the press is unacceptable.

But one glimmer of light is shining bright over the dark secrets shrouding the corridors of power. We see Internet bloggers, mostly young Gulf nationals, battling the suppression of freedom of expression in the media.

Websites become more vocal and in turn popular by reporting things mainstream media cannot dare report.

There are blogs and forums that explicitly publish leaked government documents and shame officials, yet the government in most cases uses legal methods to prosecute authors if they are residents in the country by quoting laws in the legislation that are widely seen erected to protect bureaucrats.

It is said these documents are obtained by insiders, working with corrupt officials, within the civil service. Then they are handed over to bloggers as proof. But media experts say that there is always a threat hanging over website discussions with the government tracing the IP addresses of moderators and contributors.

They track you down the way they did with a website moderator and a whistle blower of a telecom company. The website moderator, an Arabic journalist, after receiving leaked government 
papers splashed the evidence in his 
blog and was sentenced to one year imprisonment.

The message is that if the media will only carry the carefully designed propaganda initiated from high places then the public will have no choice but to turn to blogs and websites to get to know more about their countries. And so it is left to bloggers to report the truth about corruption, though attempts are sometimes made to block them. The success of the blogs will be tested in the next few years to see whether the attempt to force changes in the local media will be successful or not.

If authorities choose to continue with their control over media, then it will be safe to assume that a bigger number of journalists will go underground to report and write what they want to.

Saleh Al Shaibany is an Oman-based

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Oman and HM in the British Press over controversial UK member of Parliament Alan Duncan

Interesting article published yesterday in the low-brow UK Tabloid the Daily Mail, about the UK Member of Parliament (and ex-oil trader) Alan Duncan, and his frequent holidays in Oman as a guest of His Majesty.

Alan is in a spot of bother over the UK's MP Expenses scandal, and the comment he made to a hidden camera complaining about the low 65k salary he gets as an MP. (Personally I think he's right, it's not exactly a huge salary, even for a part-time job).

But as a part of the debacle and his recent (slight) demotion in the Tory party, the UK press are delving into his many free holidays here in the Sultanate as a guest of HM. The gifts he received were, I'm sure, just the standard xmas cracker trinkets HM regularly provides his guests as a good host, but to the average reader of the Daily Mail - who probably wouldn't know what a French Cuff was in the first place - its all shocking, absolutely shocking.

The article also has some miscellaneous photo's of HM that really have nothing to do with the story at all, and you can follow the link to read the whole thing.

I think it's cute that Alan proposed to his partner while here on Valentines Day.

It would be nice if we could get the world press to stop referring to us 'Oil rich Middle Eastern country etc'. Its not really the association we want. Suggestions:
- Beautiful and peaceful Indian Ocean country, famed for its world class beaches and exotic holiday destinations.
- Oldest independent Middle Eastern nation, with a stable enlightened Government and a rich tradition of tolerance and friendliness.

Other suggestions readers?

Whining Tory Alan Duncan's £1m Gulf War oil 'rations' and glittering gifts from Sultan of Oman

Daily Mail 11th September 2009


In the past decade he has spent a staggering 99 days living it up in luxury in Oman - the tab picked up by the Sultan's government. Gifts from the same source include five watches, three sets of cufflinks, and a 'traditional Omani coffee pot and incense burner'.

He even had his appendix removed for free while on holiday there. No chance then, at least, of the 'rations' causing any problems as they work their way through Mr Duncan's system.

Photo: Alan Duncan (left) proposed to his partner James Dunseath (right) on Valentine's Day while in Oman


Having become the first Tory MP to come out as gay in 2002, last year he entered a civil partnership with his partner, 40-year-old, James Dunseath, a press officer in the City.

Mr Duncan proposed to Mr Dunseath on Valentine's Day while in Oman - a place that the politician knows particularly well. His links with the oil-rich Middle-Eastern country stem from his work, but as a politician he has been a regular visitor. Indeed, almost without fail he spends New Year there as a guest of the Sultanate and rarely returns without a valuable trinket or two. When struck down with appendicitis during a visit there in 2000, he was treated for free in the Royal Hospital.

While denying suggestions that there is anything improper in his relationship with the Omani regime, his outside business interests have caused problems.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Spin by ONA, and a telling off for Essa!

Regular readers of the scintillating Times of Oman were treated to a special mid-week 'Viewpoint' OpEd piece from Chief Editor Essa Al Zedjali yesterday (Essa normally fills the front page with his thoughts on a Sunday). Earlier this week, indeed, Essa had expressed concern that the Omani Ministry of Health wouldn't be able to handle the costs and emergency care requirements of H1N1.

On reading his new piece, it seems the next day he was called up the Minister and told in no uncertain terms that everything totally under control and to stop criticising the Government. LOL.

Laudable govt efforts to reassure citizens
Essa bin Mohammed Al Zedjali
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 12:09:34 AM Oman Time

IN my Viewpoint column titled “Combating H1N1 requires huge funding” published last Sunday, I said that the “capabilities of the Ministry of Health for making available efficient treatment and extending all types of health facilities to citizens as well as residents to help them combat the disease effectively or extirpate it altogether do not seem sufficient as it requires huge funding for the medications, especially the vaccines and the establishment of new laboratories”.


In fact, I was glad to have a telephone conversation with Dr Ali bin Mohammed bin Moosa, minister of health, on Monday morning, during which I enquired as to how we source additional funds for combating the H1N1 pandemic. The minister replied reassuringly that the government of His Majesty the Sultan has, through the Ministry of Finance, made available whatever additional finance the ministry needs ....

In other news:
A laughable headline in this morning's Oman Observer, as all the local papers struggled to find the good news spin to describe Oman's performance in the World Bank Ease of doing business ranking report.

Bottom line facts:
Oman was ranked 65th out of 183 countries for overall ease of doing business, down 3 places from last year when we were 62nd.

We ranked 7th in the MENA region, up 1 place, but still worst of all the GCC countries.

More work to be done chaps.

Sultanate ranked top on Doing Business 2010: report
WASHINGTON — The Sultanate was ranked number six on the ‘Doing Business Index Report for 2010 among the Middle Eastern and North African countries.’ The report was published by the World Bank (WB) yesterday in collaboration with the International Financing Institution on its website.
According to the ranking which covered 183 countries from April 2008 to June 2009, the Sultanate was ranked sixty-five. It was ranked second on the Employing Workers’ and the third on Registering Property Index and the fourth on Paying Taxes Indices at the Middle East and North African countries.

The report ranked the Sultanate 39 as a High Income country out of 47 countries included on the list and ranked the 6th on the Middle East and North African countries level. Each country is ranked under ten indices, such as, employing workers, processing of work permits, registering property, protecting investors, paying taxes and inter-border trade.

Despite the many challenges, in 2008/2009 more governments implemented regulatory reforms aimed at making it easier to do business than in any year since 2004, when Doing Business started to track reforms through its indicators. Doing Business recorded 287 such reforms in 131 economies between June 2008 and May 2009, 20 per cent more than in the year before. — ONA

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Yachts. Nothin' but trouble...

A nautical theme for today's post readers!

First, an update in the battle for Muscat's Capital Area Yacht Club. aka CAYC, a members only yacht club that happens to be right next to the newish Marina Bander Al Rowdha (a struggling commercial marina that also happens to be partially owned by... the MoT!)

It seems the Ministry of Tourism and their pet poodle OMRAAN still feel confident that intimidation, desperation and persistence will be enough to overturn the explicit written instruction of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos (who some time ago gave the CAYC a deed to their beautiful bay, which also happens to be Goldilocks 'just right' for an new ITD).

A hired heavy - an expat lawyer for MoT - apparently dropped by the CAYC recently and expressed disappointment that the plucky club had had the gall to keep the club facilities in good shape by renovating the patio.

Photo: The Capital Area Yacht Club... just right for OMRAAN

I'm reliably informed that on his recent surprise visit (co-incidentally just before a committee meeting) the Sudanese MoT lawyer asked the Club Manager "why they were carrying out improvements to the place?" (extension of patio area, new showers, shades etc). He then said rather ominously that they would be "moving within a week or two...".

What's next MoT? The old horse's head trick?

The MoT are now trying to move the case (a legal battle over the MoT's right to destroy the bay) to a different court, and are hoping to try their luck at the Oman Primary Court, even though the on-going case is already lodged with the Administrative Court. Any legal experts able to explain the difference?

Good luck CAYC. You should be able to get better lawyers than MoT, to be frank. In fact, maybe even get Omani lawyers, seeing as how the MoT seem unable to find one.

And for God's sake, look after that original deed from HM...

Readers. I encourage you to patronise the CAYC and give them some support. Most members are Omani, and it is a lovely place. After Ramadan, a lovely place for a swim, snorkle, a quiet ale and good value food. Not expensive to join either. Just mention that you're a guest of the Dragon and I'm sure you'll be taken care of. Note: this offer does not apply to one Mohammed Al Sunani - Director General of Planning & Projects at the MoT, a man who has better things to do than lounge around the CAYC, like maybe completing all the unfinished tourist development projects he's already started, perhaps?

In other news, a cautionary tale for my sailing chums.

a dear reader sent me these excellent photos from mid-July, when the Chairman of OHI, (HE?) Maqbool bin Hameed Al Saleh, had a bit of trouble with his nice beautiful yacht.

Photo: Not how it looked in the instruction manual.

I'm told he was out partying cruising on his boat with some guests, anchored at Bandar Khairan [aka 'BK'] for the night, when the wind picked up strongly.

Dragging its anchor under the squall, the crew were unable to get the engines started, and she quickly ran roughly aground, ripping her guts out.

Photo: Note to self: Million dollar Yachts and jagged rocks don't mix.


Fear not. Business is still good it seems, and the replacement craft (bigger, nicer) is on order.

BTW. Rumours I've heard, that this was an insurance job, really are totally ridiculous. HE was on board at the time, and people could have died. So, interesting as it may be to speculate, I'm afraid I can say it was not an insurance job, as anyone who knows anything about boats would probably know. And, I'll tell ya, get a boat like that in a swell/wind near rocks with no engines, and .... well, you're screwed.

OK, perhaps the crew, and almost by definition, her Captain, were more than a little remiss in their responsibilities. But we all know how hard it is to find good help, and the electrics were always a bit iffy since Gonu.

The real story is that, apparently, the ROP took some convincing it was important enough to come to the rescue. They thought it was either a hoax, or just some drowning illegal Afganis better left to... er... well, drown.

They had to be convinced by HE himself yelling down the phone with some gusto before they decided to leave port, it being a bit rough and all.


[A big thanks to my sources on this one: N, SM, S. ] You know who you are...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ask an Omani - The dating scene. Power cuts and homeless labourers.

Sorry for the lull dear readers, I had to take a business trip to London, via Switzerland naturally. Its good to be back. Interesting to see the power cuts in MQ & Shatti occuring regularly of late. Oman may be tendering for more power stations and foreign investment in the power sector, but as electricity is highly subsidised here, I'm curious who is going to pay the market price for that power and give the investors a reasonable return?

Lots of interesting stories in my in box, and I'll give you updates on several running stories later this week. There was a nice story in the UAE National about Homeless labourers in Oman too.

Number of homeless in Oman soars amid economic crunch
...“This is not the only homeless group living by a crust of bread and water,” he said. “They are everywhere in the country. Some absconded after their visas expired and some have entered the country illegally.”

They live in abandoned houses, construction sites, rooftops of commercial buildings, car parks of shopping malls and even behind rubbish bins.

But meanwhile, here's the latest installment of 'Ask an Omani' by our fantastic guest Omani - Omani Dreamer. Don't forget to email me your questions on local aspects of life and culture.

This weeks question: How is the dating scene amongst single young Omanis?

Anyone who has had single female friends come to visit (or an expat teenage daughter) knows it doesn't take long for the local lads to appear, eager to help them find their way around town and naturally, looking to hook up. But there's a lot of action in the local scene too.

Dating scene in Oman

Many wonder about the dating scene in Oman between our younger generation. Well, about 60% of the dating happens in Universities and Colleges! Many of the students that attend these colleges come from conservative families. However, in any case, there is a pattern that you will notice happening on the dating scene.

Some guys come to the college and have never seen uncovered girls (not wearing face cover, or the head scarf). Being sexually suppressed, they start to spot a potential victim. The whole thing begins with them trying to be nice and funny (sometimes the scene is just sad! But some girls still manage to giggle!). After they get the signs of OKAY, which are usually indicated through smiles and giggles, they start by asking help in assignments. Then, the guy starts telling the girl that she is different the rest and that he feels sooooooo comfortable around her…. Etc (you get the point).

Well, I must say that girl’s transformation is the most predictable of all. A girl comes to college and finds many boys that she is not used to seeing. Coming from a conservative family, she “rejects” the idea of even talking to a guy. She gives her “stares” of disapproval and gossips with her “similar mentality” friends about those “sluts” that talk with guys. Now, of course these girls would brag about how they are better than those “sluts” and that they are the “good apples” that are left. After the first month, these girls will find that they cannot help but smile whenever guys try to be funny.

Then, the transformation begins… you start seeing signs of make up on their faces. The head scarf becomes smaller (not bellow the chest). The abaya’s become tighter. After another month, the head scarf becomes loose and the silky (straightened) hair starts to show. All of this includes the smiles and giggles they have been sending towards the guys. Then, girls starts having that special someone in their lives that they talk to every night. Ohh, and yes, these are the girls that start with wearing clothes under their abayas and end up with undergarments under it only!

So here is the dating scene:

In a college, the girl and the boy look for a place that they “think” is invisible to everyone else. So, they might chose the library and go behind the book shelves. If the library is quite, you will be able to hear the giggles. Otherwise, that “invisible” place in not so… invisible. The guy might start touching the girl on her hand, then as the relationship advances, the more touching occurs. Then, all signs of compassion and love between the two appear in public. She leans on him, puts her arms around him.. etc. The difference is, it is not always love and compassion. Guys in this country like to brag about “how many” girls they have. They usually have more than one!

Then, as any relationship, things start to advance. Girls start attending college even when they don’t have classes (parents think they are studying very hard.. well.. they are working hard on something!). However, they are picked up from college by their guys. God knows where they go, but I’m guessing they just stay in the car and the guy gets some action. Once they are done, they guy drops the girl back at school...

Postscript: Co-incidentally there is a really great and detailed post today by Dhofari Gucci on the similar topic of Internet dating in Salalah. Check it out!

Of course in Oman we are still culturally some way away from where we could expect to get any info on premarital sex in Oman - we might all know its happening, but talking about it, or writing about it, still seems pretty impossible.