Duqm — say it, repeat it, and listen to how it sounds as you may be hearing a lot about this place in the near future.
MUSCAT, Oman- I’d never been in an airport departure lounge like this before. It was ornate. It was like the lobby of a ballroom. There was marble and tile and gold. Mirrors and well-dressed people. I was at the old Muscat airport, in the military section, getting ready to board a private flight to Duqm.
Duqm is being set up to be a game changer in the Middle East — a Dubai+ kind of game changer.
Oman is changing fast. The country really has no choice — no country can confidently rely on oil and gas exports in the 21st century. How Oman is changing is very similar to what Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Abu Dhabi, and a host of other resource-rich nations are attempting go transition in this phase of globalization. They are hurriedly setting up a new framework of transport infrastructure, upon which they are building their new engines of future economic sustenance. They are for real. Landscapes are changing fast, masses of people are being redeployed in new professions, and new economic sectors are being developed by all out fiat.
However, Oman has a distinct advantage in Duqm: a better location for maritime shipping than Dubai, better weather than almost anywhere else on the Arabian peninsula, and more easily developable space than almost anywhere else in the world.
Oman has also established itself as the “Singapore” of the Middle East — a country sitting in the middle of it all who remains neutral to players from east and west. While concurrently remaining true to its traditions, Oman has also innovated ways to modernize and let the outside world in. In other words, they seem to know how to be competitive.
Prior to Duqm, which sits on Oman’s south coast, becoming the country’s epicenter for economic diversification, there wasn’t really anything there but a few Bedouin fishing villages. And while these couple thousand locals deserve respect, they were rather easily removed from the scene. The government swept away their villages and provided them with a brand new modern town — a brand new modern town that they refused to move into.
Duqm is now two and a half times the size of Singapore — 1,700 square kilometers of pure potential. While all of the stations of the New Silk Road have the same pitch — strategically located between east and west, preferential policies for investors, one-stop shop for business registration, the hub of hubs — there is something about Duqm and Oman that seems a little more convincing than most of the rest.