Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Coast is Clear

For the first time since February, the Governor of Dhofar's parking lot is clear. The army moved out last night. The protesters are not there. There are no tanks, tents, speakers, vendors, machine guns or soldiers. For the first time in three months, the employees of the governor's office can claim their old parking spaces. For the first time in three months, the central Salalah boys can play soccer in their favourite spot. Yay!

In the meantime, because Ramadhan will probably start on August 1st, the Salalah Monsoon Festival has been brought forward two weeks and will start on July 1st instead of the 15th. It will end on July 31st and not continue during Ramadhan (much better). I look forward to a chaotic July, a quiet rainy month of fasting, and a beautiful September Insha'Allah. Have a great day everyone!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Salalah: From Chaos to Cool?

Looks like the army are withdrawing sheepishly from Salalah. Dahariz Roundabout is clear. Nahdha road is clear. Entrance to Governor's road is clear. The only remaining occupied area is 'half' of Freedom Square. That's a pretty big difference compared to last week.

However, people are still waiting to hear from the missing protesters who were airlifted out of the square and to Muscat on May 12th. What are the charges? Where were they taken? Mahfaif has their photos up on his blog. Check it out here.

Salalah seems to be quiet. The monsoon has started. Not the rain, but the ocean is wild and soon we'll have no beach. Has anyone heard about a possible cyclone?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Prisoners Released

Wow. Just found this video of the release of some prisoners last night. You'd better watch before someone erases it from YouTube. Also made it to the news this morning. Salalah is very quiet today. I hope it stays that way. Amen.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


All prisoners (between three and four hundred) are being released now in small groups of 20. I saw a busload with my own two eyes being dropped off near Bank Dhofar at Dahariz. They were held at Arzat Prison (no charges) for nine days after being taken from Freedom Square on Thursday the 12th and the morning of the next day. Welcome home guys!

Saturday News

It looks like prisoners from Arzat Prison are being released in small groups starting now. They're being delivered to their houses to avoid chaos. Of course, it's hard to keep anything secret in this town. Also, some people tell me it's almost confirmed that some of the head prisoners who were airlifted out of Freedom Square by helicopter and taken immediately to the North on the 12th have been released. There were 14 of them as far as we know. I have the list of names. I have no idea whether rumors of their release are true or not, but I'll try to get more information. You should take a look at Amnesty International's report on the arrests in Oman here. Looks like Omani authorities are in trouble :)

In the meantime, I was surprised to find myself quoted time and time again in Gulf News. You can read the article here. We also made it to the newspaper today here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What is going on?!

Yes, that photo was taken inside the prison and those are some of our prisoners. Looks pretty tight in there, don't you think? Two days ago authorities agreed to release the prisoners without forcing them to sign the commitment form. Hundreds waited by Dahariz Roundabout (closest accessible area to prison - since ROP blocked the road). Fathers, brothers, friends,..... waiting. But.... No release. What does that mean? Well, families are angry. They've been waiting at the roundabout for two days. Meanwhile, the rest of the town is also anxious. The situation in Dhofar is tense. After Friday prayers today, I hear of a planned peaceful march demanding release of the prisoners. The march will start at Al Jama Mosque (a Rawas tribe mosque). It's amusing that the action will take place at Al Rawas tribe's mosque because just two days ago they published a full-page color greeting to His Majesty in the newspaper renewing their loyalty and love to him. Holla, people. Who said he'd lost any loyalty and love in the first place? And why 'just' Al Rawas tribe? And was every member of Al Rawas tribe informed of the ridiculous page? The next day the 'Al Kathir' town tribes did the same thing. PEOPLE! So does that mean mountain tribes, Bedouins, and black people of Dhofar are not loyal? Ridiculous. They picked the wrong timing. We all love His Majesty and he knows we do.

Big question is: where will all the action take place today? At Al Jama square (mosque)? At Dahariz Roundabout near the prison? At the still-occupied Freedom Square? On Al Nahdha street? Army commanders must be scratching their heads. Sources tell me the Firqat forces are moving into the centre of town. To those of you who don't know, Firqat forces are unique to Dhofar only and they were established after the Dhofar Rebellion in the 197os. If they really are being moved into the centre of town, it means the army are expecting chaos today and need their Jebbali mountain comrades to calm things down (i.e the Firqat).

Update just now from fellow blogger; the Dahariz Road (where people have been gathering this week) is blocked by the ROP. Hah. That's all for now folks. I'll let you know what the updates are.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

4:00 p.m on Thursday

Mini-update: so after the tribal sheikhs went to the prison yesterday to negotiate the release of all the protest prisoners without having to sign the damned paper, it was revealed upon their return that by 4 p.m today releases would be made. While they were inside, hundreds had gathered at the road leading to the prison since the ROP blocked the highway so no one could get anywhere near the prison.

The delegation of sheikhs emerged and informed the crowds that releases would be made overnight and this morning. They gave the army a deadline which was 4 p.m today. So the hundreds who gathered vowed to be back at that spot at 4 p.m today to either celebrate the release or raise hell.

It's 4:20 right now and nothing has happened. According to fellow bloggers who are there now there are hundreds at the roundabout already waiting. I hope the authorities were honest about the release, and I hope no violence occurs. It's the last thing we need.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Possible release?

Rumors have been flying around today about a possible release of our prisoners from Arzat Prison. We won't know for sure until it actually happens, but according to witnesses, there's a lot of extra activity around the prison today (ROP, army, tanks, etc). So, maybe they're preparing for something.

Also, hundreds are gathering right now at Dahariz Roundabout (near prison) as you can see in the photo above. They're waiting because there are tribal shiekhs at the prison now trying to negotiate changes to the committment form that prisoners have to sign in order to walk out. If the authorities don't agree to eliminate parts of the form (i.e admitting you're a criminal) the hundreds of supporters from Dahariz will be ready to head to the prison. If you're in the area, steer clear of Dahariz Roundabout and the road to Taqah.


Hi everyone. Yes, this morning I tried accessing Muscat Confidential and his recent post 'Oman's heavy handed treatment of peaceful protesters may catch global media's attention'. However, it was blocked and I got the usual message from the TRA. Now it seems it's open, so I'm confused as to what happened. We've already made it to global media from the very first day.
In the meantime, according to Mahfaif, the three-day 'no violence' period (agreed between army and boys throwing rocks) in central Salalah is over. I pray nothing happens today. Don't get mad at the soldiers. They're just doing their job. Yesterday's letter was delivered to the governor and read out loud (filmed by many including Oman TV). See video here from YouTube. The letter demanded (1) Removal of military from Salalah (2) release of all prisoners.
Please keep our country, His Majesty, and all the people of Oman (army and locals) in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Updates from Salalah

Right... things have been calm these past few days in town. A hundred or so tribal representatives/sheikhs marched past the army to the Governor's Office yesterday and delivered this letter (see above) for His Majesty. The letter was signed by "All Sheikhs & Leaders & Thinkers of Dhofar". In the letter they ask His Majesty to withdraw the army and to release all the hundreds of prisoners. They in return would calm the people of Dhofar. The governor promised to deliver the letter (which was 90% praise, 10% substance). We'll see what happens.

In the meantime, hundreds gather outside the prison everyday (mostly families and friends of those inside). Yesterday there was a lot of commotion because evidently rumors were flying around that the prisoners would be transferred to a prison facility outside of Salalah closer to Thumrait (in the desert). The families were furious so they sat outside the prison all day surrounded by tanks and army. Then, there were rumors from inside the prison (our prisoners still have their cell phones) that the army were trying to break up the group. At the moment, the recent prisoners are occupying huge tents on prison grounds and are sticking together as a group. Last night it seemed like they were almost being forced into cells that can accomodate up to 15 people, but they refused. Rumor had it they were being beaten up, so the group of supporters outside the prison demanded to be let in to check up on the prisoners and believe it or not they were. A small group of sheikhs were let into the prison to make sure the prisoners were ok and not being abused. According to a guy who went in, they are fine.

As for central Salalah, it looks like the army are slowly withdrawing. Al Nahdah street is now open and not lined with tanks. You can now access the area around the governor's office without going through 100000 checkpoints. Number of soldiers has decreased significantely over the past 24 hours. I wonder what it means ....

Tomorrow (May 18th) is the trial for some of the Sohar conspirators as far as I know. Some tell me there will be huge protests around the country tomorrow morning. We still have not heard from the 12 chief protests speakers who were taken to Muscat.

Tension in Salalah? Yes. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Note (Oh, and it rained heavily this morning again. Hooray)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tension in Salalah

And I'm still baffled. After Thursday and Friday's drama, things calmed down a bit. However, the army are still occupying central Salalah and making anyone in the area feel like an offender. Hundreds of protesters were taken to Arzat Prison and are still in there. Their families/friends are outside the prison all day demanding their release.

From what I've seen, many locals are upset because it almost feels like an invasion (my opinion). Worth noting that the soldiers and security forces are (no offence) are from the north of Oman. Not one southern face (and of course it's easy to tell the difference because southerners are a completely difference race). I'm talking about 'soldiers'. The only Dhofari security forces seem to be the Firqat Forces (unique to Dhofar from post-rebellion era) and they're not visible at all. I've driven around the 'occupied' area at least a dozen times and have not seen one. The relationship between the North and south has always been a weeee bit sensitive because people remember the rebellion in the 60s-70s. I'm not against people from the north at all, don't get me wrong. Some of my closest friends are from the north. We're all one country and we're loyal to one leader. I'm just saying this clear discrimination is worrying, and it leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Dhofaris. However, there's no point getting mad at the soldiers because they're just doing their job, regardless of where they're from. Remember, this is my PERSONAL opinion only.

Several head speakers from the protests were arrested and sent to Muscat immediately (namely Nasser Sakroon, Bakhit Al Mahri, Fahim Al Mashani, Salim Al Mashani, Amer Hardan , and others). God only knows where they'll end up. As for the remaining several hundreds who are in prison here, they're refusing the sign the committment form until the Muscat bunch are released. So, I don't anticipate them leaving prison anytime soon.

On a more cheerful note, it poured and poured and poured this morning. Rains of change, we say. Rain brings good things. The mountains are looking greener and visibility today is unbelievable. Poor soldiers though. I hear they got really wet.

Please pray for Salalah and pray this ends peacefully. No more injuries (and yes there have been injuries). These sit-ins were peaceful for 10 weeks. Completely peaceful. There's no reason to turn violent and bring the whole friggin army down here to 'break it up'. Salalah protests were never a threat to security. They stuck to the same parking lots for 10 weeks, and life was not disrupted. Bringing all these security forces to intimidate them was a bad move as far as I'm concerned. Dhofaris are hot-blooded, proud, and don't appreciate being intimidated. Remember this is my personal opinion only. I have nothing against the army and I believe the protests should have ended but not in such an aggressive manner.

We made it to international news at LA Times here, here and Al Jazeera here. And for a more balanced opinion in Arabic, read Mahfaif's post here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

URGENT: Army arrest hundreds in Salalah

I can't believe this is happening in Salalah. Looks like our town has pulled a Sohar on us. Last night helicopters, army tanks, riot police and other security forces pulled in to Salalah around 8 p.m. The main highway and roads were blocked. The entire area surrounding the 'People's Square' was isolated by army tanks. Just after 8, all protesters were arrested and loaded onto buses and taken to the royal airforce base. The worst part of the whole ordeal was that all phones were dead (on purpose of course). The entire mobile network was down for two hours. No one knew what was going on. The town was full of people out on the streets trying to make sense of what was happening. The internet was down until just a few minutes ago, hence the late post. (thank you Muscat Mutterings for getting the message through)

After everyone was arrested, the Army continued to occupy the area. Hundreds of ,men walked (no point driving since traffic was backed up, so they abandoned their cars) to the People's Square to see what was happening. Gunfire was heard by no one was hurt last night. After midnight the locals pushed past the riot police and occupied the square once more.

This morning at 5 a.m some of the young men who were arrested last night were released from RAFO. However, many of them refused to leave until their friends were released. Around 11 am the army surrounded the remaining protesters in the square and circled in on them and finally arrested them all. They were taken to Arzat prison.

After Friday prayers today (no prayers held at square since hundreds of soldiers are there - and yes there are hundreds), protesters marched to the square entrance to demand release of their friends. Some threw rocks at the soldiers I believe, and (witnesses confirmed this), the released tear gas at them. There were more clashes in the afternoon and this evening more tear gas bombs were thrown at the protesters and bullets were fired into the air to frighten them. No success.

I'm glad the internet and phones are back up but as far as I'm concerned, the government should have warned people that there would be NO COMMUNICATON for two friggin hours on Thursday night. What if an emergency happened?? All that just to arrest a few protesters?! The entire PROVINCE of Dhofar was out of reach. Everywhere from Hasik to Rakhyut.

There are army tanks and riot police all over central Salalah. Police have blocked off Al Nahdha road. Locals are confused/furious/anxious/no knowing what to think. If you're an expat, stay away from central Salalah. Everywhere from RAFO (fountain) roundabout to the Grand mosque and the whole area surrounding the governor's office. The army are arresting anyone who looks suspicious.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Top Blogs in Oman

Hey! I made it to Oman Collective Intelligence's #4. I'm flattered. According to OCI, Oman's most popular blogs are:
1. Muscat Confidential
2. Muscat Mutterings
3. Andy in Oman
4. Dhofari Gucci
5. Oman Travels into Oman
6. Muscat Jet Driver
7. Omani Cuisine
8. Shy Rebellious Arab Girl
9. How to live like an Omani Princess
10. Susan Al Shahri
11. Digital Oman
12. Angry in Oman
13. Sultanate Social
14. MoOn Smile-English (who?)
15. Blue Chi

Reminds me of our Times of Oman interviews back in the day.....
Anyway, thank you OCI for remembering us, and I'm surprised you're not on the list since you have more than NINE HUNDRED (!) followers :) .... And next time remember Jillian & Dan's blog! It's extremely popular in Oman, especially after the protests.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

More Royal Decrees...

Looks like His Majesty's been extremely busy working on protesters' demands lately. Just last night he announced plans to establish a new government university (FINALLY! Oman's 2nd). He also revealed plans to establish an Islamic bank (one of the demands of the protesters). This is great news for Oman, and I encourage protesters to drop the idea of canceling all personal loans. Oman's budget is not infinite. Canceling loans is not an investment. Education is.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Two days ago one of the key speakers at the Salalah demonstrations, Mr. Amer Hardan (see his photo here) was arrested by the ROP. This may seem like huge news to all you Dhofaris out there since no one has been arrested or harmed since the protests started ten weeks ago. No, before you get excited and tribal about this, the reason for his arrest is rather amusing. He tossed his cup of tea (his supporters say it was an 'accident') at the governor of Dhofar's head of security. Anyway, he was arrested on Saturday after the head of security filed a complaint. Yesterday, protesters headed to the prosecuter's headquarters and set up yet another sit-in. They refused to leave until Amer was freed. He was finally released in the afternoon. The End.

.On another note, I have mixed feelings about the whole Bin Laden thing this morning. President Obama announced to the world that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in a mansion outside of Islamabad. Ok, so they've been looking for him for ten EFFIN years, and they caught him. Bravo. However, did CNN just HAVE to include in its announcement that Americans were outside the While House cheering and singing? Did they? I know he was a bad guy and he killed tons of people, but I don't know how any decent human can celebrate the death of another. No matter how bad he was, I have faith that God will handle his punishment. Most people around the world are relieved that he was caught. But to celebrate? There's something wrong about it. Ugh.

.A total of 37 drops of rain fell onto my windshield this morning. Yes, that was it. It rained for approximately 5 seconds. Torture. The heat is killing me. Dear Monsoon, please be early this year.
Faithfully yours, Dhofari Gucci

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.~