Friday, March 11, 2011

More on Oman - The Sohar situation

At home things are slowly settling down. The Christchurch earthquake was predicted.

This is more on Sohar from a colleague living there.

'An uneasy calm has descended over the town over the last few days a mood heightened by the leadened skies caused by the unpleasant Shamal that has brought along with cooler weather dust shielding us from the growing strength of the returning sun. The town is calm in a way, because many of the shops are closed, the shopkeepers, according to a Pakistani computer salesman I had taken my printer to for repair, afraid to open in case they suffered the same fate as burnt out Lulu. Many long distance trucks and lorries are becalmed in long lines along the highway or on waste ground, unable to pass the still occupied globe roundabout. Some of the more adventurous of the drivers are taking circuitous routes through the town so one encounters these huge juggernauts along the twisting urban roads causing long traffic jams, resulting in crazed car owners performing idiotic acts like driving along the hardshoulder in the wrong direction to try and avoid the snarl ups, but in so doing causing even greater havoc. The police seem to have disappeared and have been replaced by the army who have set up a roadblock about 50 meters from my flat from where they divert the traffic on to the service roads. From where I live it is virtually impossible, unless one is prepared to drive an extra 20 km in traffic to get to the other side of the highway, but anyway as Lulu has gone and Al Fair has not yet reopened there is no point going over there.
The roundabout is still occupied and many tents are pitched around it, so it is permanently occupied at all times, but whether by the same people or whether they rotate occupancy I do not know. In the evening the crowd swells and last night it appeared that there was a particularly large group who were addressed by a loudspeaker that I could hear clearly in my flat a kilometer away. The roundabout is festooned with banner in English and Arabic proclaiming their loyalty to Sultan Qaboos, though according to Omani friends they still have several demands, such as the dismissal of more ministers and higher wages. From the news this morning I gather that these demands have been largely met by a major cabinet reshuffle. The new ministers are all elected members of the Majil Ashure, the fledgling parliament that is voted on by Omani citizens, both men and women.
The access to the roundabout is still blocked for vehicles and policed by Shibabs (youths), who are polite and show no aggression, but wave you away on to the service road. On the Shinas side of the roundabout near the flat, as I mentioned earlier, there is a military armoured car and several armed soldiers who direct the traffic on to the service road.'

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