Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Salalah Marriot Again?

It's Wednesday! And we have a LONG weekend! And I am DYING to get out of work and start my weekend projects. I'm going to finish reading 2 books, bake, write, attempt to make Biryani, do a lot of housework, vegetate on the sofa with movies, and just chill. Maybe go shopping. Or .... maybe not go shopping. Yesterday was payday for most people, so you can imagine what the traffic will be like today all over Oman. Funny how it's so predictable.
So back to the Marriot issue. New readers suddenly popped up to criticize/wonder why I said it hurts to know that young Omani men from the mountains and area around Mirbat will end up being offered jobs at these tourist resorts. They argued that tourism was part of the strategy for economic diversification, etc, etc. To quote some "It is also a lovely and interesting experience when a tourist meets a local instead of an expatriate while staying in a country. It adds to the fun of being on holiday. Having expatriate staff will only add to the resort alienating itself from the rich Omani culture".
And then FINALLY one reader understood my point of view. She wrote "After 25 years of living on and off in the UAE I have seen the ugly things that tourism can do to a country. It brings in more alcohol, more prostitution, etc...Oman is a beautiful country filled with beautiful people. It is pristine in the sense that it hasn't been covered in the ugly filth that Dubai underground is famous for. Oman isn't flashy and hedonistic like Dubai. I am sure that there many Omanis who do not want what happened to Dubai to happen to any part of Oman.It would be nice instead for the Omani government to focus on Eco-Tourism or something else to keep Oman beautiful the way it is.So I can see why Dhofari Gucci wrote what she wrote about". THANK YOU Miss MishMish!
So with all due respect to the Westerners who commented earlier, I am completely pro-tourism. I want the whole world to see how beautiful Oman is and to experience our culture. OUR culture. OUR culture. I want tourists to come and experience the real Oman. I want our young Omani men to show them our way of life. I want the tourists to experience camping under the stars, milking camels, mountain-climbing, traditional music, traditional food, ... I want them to visit the old archaeological sites, to study cave-writings and visit old tombs. I want them to admire our beautiful beaches. I want to meet them and invite them to my home to meet some real Omanis.
But wake up everyone, are young Omanis working in the hotel business going to help with this kind of real tourism? They're forced to wear hideous bellhop uniforms and speak English all the time. They're exposed to drunken tourists and alcohol on a daily basis, and then many of them start drinking too. They are exposed to over-weight Germans in tiny bikinis lounging by the pool on a daily basis or perhaps topless Swedes who think it's OK. They have to survive the hotel dance clubs and loud music. How is that going to help them? A young man who spends all his life in the mountains in a small village raising animals and then gets offered a job in a hotel and is exposed to all this ... what do you think will happen to him? Scarred for life? That may be the case.
So, yeah, I may have insulted the Germans and Swedes, but I'm just trying to explain why I feel ill when I see young Omanis working in the hotel business. The hotels are in NO WAY related to anything Omani. Besides the tiny gift shops that sell wooden camels made in Pakistan, 5-star hotels and resorts are a reflection of Western culture. If I were a businessman I'd build the perfect 5-star Omani hotel .. a true reflection of who we are. Tourists would love it. It would have all the comforts and facilities of a Western 5-star hotel, but yes I'd get rid of the alcohol. No matter how close I am to my Western friends, I will never ever understand why they drink. And I don't think they'll ever understand why I'm Muslim. And so we leave it at that. Synergize and celebrate the differences and remain friends.
I hope I got the message through. There's no way I can stop this kind of development, but the least I can do is speak up and let you know what most Omanis feel.
On a lighter note, evidently the locals in Mirbat think the Marriot is a curse because it was built over a very old graveyard. Some swear that before the hotel was even opened, they could hear racket and voices when there was no one there. My colleague from Mirbat told me that some of the older generation spoke to HE the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Yousuf Bin Alawi (who seems to be the mastermind of the project? Correct me if I'm wrong. I didn't have time to do research) begging him to stop construction because of the graves, ...
Food for thought. Cheer up, it's the weekend after all.


  1. Excellent post Nadia, I SO agree!

  2. and - many tourists (eg those who tour rather than lounge on a beach) are actually surprised to find hotels with alcohol - have a look at a nice Dhofari (check the posts 2nd half - it was a tour after all ) experience some of our guests had - guess where though ;)

  3. What you are saying is true. I agree with your point of view!!!! Would be wonderful to have hotels like you describe i- I'm sure tourists would love it!

  4. I agree with you Nadia. Oman is a wonderful country, and drinking does not go with the theme..

    I think I would build a hotel made of clay :P.. and have breakfast made of Omani bread dipped in hot tea w/milk ;) .. (of course people will have other more western choices)

    Nadia, we better start making lots of money soon! build us REAL hotels!

  5. I recently went to Mirbat and I found it a mystery. What do people live of? On first sight fishing seems to be the only real source of employment, but its 100% run by Bangladeshis. How do people earn a living in this place? Did I miss something...

  6. Intrigued you should say that about hotels being a Western expectation. I always thought the flash hotels being built in Muscat were a reflection of what Arab tourists themselves wanted and expected when they went away.

    Strange as it may seem, not all Westerners want to stay in hotels like that. They want a sense of adventure. Many people enjoy camping for example.

    If Oman truly wants to diversify, then the people, the Omanis, have to work in a way that supports that diversification.

    I consider your description of Omanis working in hotels to be an accurate reflection of what YOU think of hotel employees.

    In France and Italy, there is a lot of prestige attached to being a waiter or hotel employee.

  7. ....OVER A GRAVEYARD????? Oh no! I've just booked myself into that hotel. Hope I'll get some sleep!

  8. Hi Nadia, although I have since given up my blog, MiddleEastMemoirs, I still read yours religiously! I just wanted to tell you that your blog gets better and better every day.

    Miss corresponding with you!


  9. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND AT ALLLLLLLLLL why alcohol is served in Oman hotels, not one bit. Even as an expat growing up here, it caused so much grief for one, and yeah, alot of the expat families who were not heavy drinkers became alcoholics after a few years in Oman since a social nightlife in Oman in this alternate European set evolved heavily around having a drink in one's hand [because OF the hotel scene]. When I wasn't dragged to the hotel scene? I was exploring villages and 4x4ing in the mountains and the desert, seeing forts, camping, meeting locals, seeing masjids: the REAL OMAN.

  10. Nadia,

    Nice point. I think the idea of more Omani centric tourist places is spot on, and would sell. But I don't think the demand will be even close to that for beaches, beers and bikinis. So the question is better posed as one of options, not absolutes. Is it better for your Dhofari Young Man (or woman) to be unemployed, unable to marry or hold his/her head up earning an income and supporting a family, than to work in a big international hotel?

    Better to deal with the problem directly. Get the guests to be more aware of cultural sensitivities, get more stylish Omani-based uniforms, and have an induction course to ease the locals into understanding the foreigners.

    And chase the idea of more destinations of the type you describe. A tourist version of Islamic compliant finance, if you will. I'm sure there would be a lot of demand for such places amongst the local and regional Islamic communities.

  11. Nice blog and I agree with you in regards to the possible impact of tourism in Oman if there is no support from authorities in providing proper awareness and briefing/training as noted by UD . We visit different countries to experience new traditions and cultures as well as have fun, relax, shop and get away from our everyday life. Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, Latin America and so on all have their own identities and attractions. Why come to Oman only to see another Bali, London or Dubai? I think tourists would appreciate an Omani hotel that has both modern comforts but is also in tune with the local culture. We should a hotel or tourist development be catered towards alcohol indulgence and nudity, why can’t it be respectful to its local inhabitants and their culture? I lay the blame to the Ministry of Tourism and they lack of imagination and quite frankly respect for the Omani people. Surprisingly most of the alcohol sold in hotels and clubs are on MoT owned properties. I wouldn’t be surprised of MoT had a hidden rule/requirement for alcohol to be served in all Omani hotels. There needs to be a balance.

    Omani Princes (not Omani) brings up a very good point. Alcohol abuse is a growing issue in Oman. I have experienced an ever growing problem with drunk drivers on the road. It is dangerous for the drinkers as well as innocent bystanders. I think it’s arrogant of some expatriates to support alcohol in hotels only for their personal desires. Most expats have a liquor purchasing license through work which is more than enough to acquire alcohol for personal consumption. The same license could also be used to be served alcohol in hotel restaurants and bars. If the idea is to provide comfort and alcohol for tourists then it should also be limited to them only.

    Your blog is one of the very few blogs that enjoy reading and I respect your dedication to providing views from an Omani prospective.
    PEACE – “Grey Sheep”

  12. With respect to your post here

    I don't think that neither the Marriot nor Hilton reflect the Omani culture or what so ever. These are international brands. They seek opportunities all around the world. They exist wherever there is a chance for any economic benefits. They try to paint a colorful cultural atmosphere and try to blend with what they have. So please don't go and through it on them. These are companies and not any small companies these are the BIG ones. If anyone is to blame is Omanis themselves. Try to answer some of these questions.

    1. Who possess the license for that project?
    2. Did westerners impose alcohol upon us?
    3. Who is the supplier of alcohol in Oman?

    If you look into these questions carefully, you will be surprised that the answer for all of them is "Omani"

    I think that it is not wise to blame others for our failure. It is not the westerner tourist's fault that these kinds of hotels exist here. Another thing is that were not thinking much about the change that is going to come to our area till it is a fact, and if we don't what to end up like Dubai or Thailand, I think that we have to hurry. We have to discipline ourselves, our children. I don't think that a God fearing Guy from the Mounties or any place will work in such hotels, and if so it is his own fault. No one dragged him to work there. If he is a none educated person, who waste his school days running out of class and chasing car races, well it is his own fault. If a student finishes high school with a total score of D, or 45% like old grades, what are you expecting from him to work? a rocket scientist???? Come on………. I think that our children especially in Dhofar are spoiled children.

    I'm not a fan of such hotels and I really hate to see them flourishing in our land, but let's face it, it is out of my hands. The only thing is left is what I can write here. I don't want to see alcohol in Oman, I don't what to see ladies with bikinis as well, but I can't blame them if they can't understand our culture if we don't work to let them know that we don't like it that way.

    Finally, alcohol is not there for westerners only, but for all.......welcome to the land of magic.

    Nothing personal.......Peace

  13. .... So, I went to the Salalah Marriot and here's a summery of my findings:

    - Didn't miss the alcohol because the food was soooo good and a lot of it was very "traditional" Arabic/ Omani (think Umm Ali, Zaatar bread, lovely crisp salads and heavenly pastries).
    - The was a handful of expats and many Omani / Salalah men, women & children. One of the largest companies in Salalah even had a function there.
    - There were ladies in bikinis but they didn't seem to disturb anyone. (They respectfully covered up when walking around the pool). What's wrong with people in swimsuits anyway?
    - The staff was lovely but only about 30% are Omani.
    - The place is GREAT for kids (think large kiddie pool and playground) and the setting is STUNNING!

    ... the food was so good I need to mention it a second time here. Not only the buffet but also the a la carte was of great quality and the portions are large.

    So, maybe this hotel will have an impact on it's surrounding but as it is now it definitely (to me) seems an excellent weekend get-away.

  14. the Marriott isnt the only hotel in Dhofar built over an ancient (pre-Islamic) graveyard!

  15. What's wrong with bellhop uniforms ?

  16. This post was very exciting to look over, I enjoyed it completely.