The empty new town in the desert, built for Bedouin but never inhabited.
DUQM, Oman- A giant white village arose out of the desert on the horizon, glimmering in the evening sun.
“What is that place?” I asked the Omani guy who was driving me to the airport.
“That’s a new city.”
“Who lives there?”
In an interview that I did in Muscat with the director of the Duqm Special Economic Zone I asked some questions about the people who were living out in Duqm before they started building a new city there. Duqm is being built out in the middle of the desert. There were not many people out there, but there were some: Bedouin — fishermen and semi-nomadic herders. Bedouin that needed to be moved somewhere else.
“We had the usual problems,” the director responded.
The usual problems usually means forcibly relocating people to places they don’t want to be.
The Duqm SEZ authority actually made an entirely new town for the Bedouin who needed to be relocated. It’s an attractive, modern, middle class-looking town. The houses are two stories high and have garages. There is a mosque in the center. It looks like a glistening mirage of marble when viewed from a distance.
But it is completely empty.
“The government built a new house for them but they don’t want to go. They say the fish where the port is is better,” the Omani driver explained. “They don’t want to move. All they want is their camels.”
“Why don’t they want to go there?”
“They say they want Bedouin houses.”
“What’s a Bedouin house?”
“One here, one there, one over there. You know, scattered. They want places for their camels.”
“They don’t want to stay in accommodation provided by the state because they find it very unnatural,” my friend Monishankar Prasad explained to me later. “But modernity has to catch up with them, and the development paradigm gives them an opportunity to move into the modern economy, whether they like it or not.”
Moni did the environmental and social impact assessment for the new city of Duqm.
Photos of Bedouin in Duqm