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National Geographic Picks Short Film Shot in Oman For Showcase $OMAG.us

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 12:25 PM on Thursday, September 1st, 2016

National Geographic picks short film shot in Oman for showcase

 

Muscat Daily staff writer
August 17, 2015
Muscat –

With more than 160,000 hits on the video sharing portal Vimeo, the four-minute film 12 Days in Oman is in the spotlight again as it has been selected by National Geographic’s Short Film Showcase.

Shot over 12 days in Oman, the video has got rave reviews on social media and thousands of ‘thank you’ posts for showcasing Oman’s beauty to the world.

Made by young German traveller and filmmaker Marko Roth

, a footage of the film has also been included in a music video for German music band Gamper & Dadoni.

Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers and posted on the Web and selected by National Geographic editors.

“We look for work that affirms National Geographic’s mission of inspiring people to care about the planet,” said Rachel Link of National Geographic.

About 12 Days in Oman Link said, “Immerse yourself in the smells, sights, and sounds of this stunning country situated on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Take in every inch of its beauty as these travellers climb mountains, dive into crystal clear waters, and walk through bustling city streets.”

Roth told National Geographic that choosing Oman as a destination was just by chance.

pic of marko roth-himself

“My friends Lucas, Dominik, Vivi, and I were looking for cheap flights and found one to Muscat. A place we had never heard about meant something new to discover – we had to go,” he said.

The best part of the trip for the team was that they found Oman to be secluded and not over exposed by tourism. “We never saw any big tourist groups, no annoying people with their huge cameras. It was calm. We had to work to discover all the beautiful spots. There were no signs and you couldn’t really trust the GPS. I loved that.”

One thing that struck Roth and his team and also overwhelmed them was how open and cultured Omanis were. “All Omanis were so friendly and helpful. We received amazing feedback for the film. Two Omanis invited us for dinner and we received more than 80 messages thanking us.”

Asked if he were to recommend things for people to do/eat/see while they’re in Oman, he said that for meals, one can get chicken sandwich and dates anywhere. “I fell in love with dates in Oman. It’s almost impossible to find tastier ones in Germany. You get your daily dose of Arabic tea with dates everywhere.”

Recommending exploring Muscat, Salalah, and Musandam and to check out the dry riverbeds or wadis, he said, “There are amazing spots to cliff-jump!”

Roth said he found Oman even safer than his own country.

 

Phase 1 of Omagine project gets shareholders’ nod $OMAG.us

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 8:41 AM on Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Omag

The following news pieces were published in the Muscat Daily and the Oman Observer:

Phase 1 of Omagine project gets shareholders’ nod
Phase 1 of Omagine project gets shareholders’ nod

  • Agreed to move ahead with Phase 1 of the eagerly anticipated development with an investment of around $220 million
  • Phase 1 strategy was firmed up during a series of shareholder meetings held over the course of the past two months.
  • Phase 1 envisages the construction of one hotel, 250 residences and the first of seven so-called ‘Pearl’ structures – 20-metre-diameter buildings located along an open boardwalk that will provide an iconic appeal to the overall Omagine project

By Conrad Prabhu — MUSCAT: August 23: The shareholders of Omagine LLC, which is developing a mixed-use tourism and residential real estate scheme just off Muscat International Airport on the Sea of Oman coast, have agreed to move ahead with Phase 1 of the eagerly anticipated development with an investment of around $220 million. The developer’s US-based holding company, Omagine Inc, said in a quarterly filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the Phase 1 strategy was firmed up during a series of shareholder meetings held over the course of the past two months.

Phase 1 envisages the construction of one hotel, 250 residences and the first of seven so-called ‘Pearl’ structures – 20-metre-diameter buildings located along an open boardwalk that will provide an iconic appeal to the overall Omagine project. At the same time, the shareholders agreed to appoint a local Omani bank as the company’s financial adviser and lender. The bank in question, which has not been identified, has agreed in principle to be the developer’s financial adviser and to provide the debt financing required for Omagine to design, develop and construct Phase One valued at approximately $220 million.

Additionally, Omagine agreed to take steps to formalise an agreement with Lebanon-based multinational construction firm Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) as the general contractor for the Omagine project. CCC-Oman and CCC-Panama, wholly owned subsidiaries of Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCIC), have a combined 15 per cent stake in the Omagine project.

The revelations mark an important effort to get construction work started in earnest on the ambitious development. The lavish scheme is due to come up a roughly 1 million sq metre beachfront location, whose area will been augmented by a further 100,000 sq metres thanks to the addition of reclaimed land.

Conceived as an elegant integration of cultural, scientific, heritage, entertainment and residential components, the Omagine project will be distinguished by the presence of seven pearl shaped buildings located along the waterfront. These ‘Pearls’ will serve as backdrops for entertainment and exhibitions.
Other notable features of the ambitious development include an amphitheatre and stage, enclosed harbour and marina, boat slips and docking facilities, canal, three hotels of 5-, 4- and 4-star rating, shopping and retail establishments, and commercial office buildings.

More than 2,000 residences will be constructed and offered for sale in the context of the project’s designation as an Integrated Tourism Complex (ITC).

Initial phases of the Omagine project are planned to be completed by late 2021, according to the filing. New York headquartered Omagine Inc has a 60-per cent shareholding in Omagine LLC, which is also owned by Royal Court Affairs of Oman (25 per cent), and two subsidiaries of Consolidated Contractors International Company SAL (15 per cent).

Source: http://omanobserver.om/phase-1-omagine-project-gets-shareholders-nod/

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August 24, 2016

OMANI BANK LIKELY TO BE FINANCIAL ADVISOR, LENDER FOR PHASE ONE OF OMAGINE PROJECT

An artist’s rendering of the Omagine project (Source: omagine.com)

By Gulam Ali Khan
August 23, 2016
Muscat –

Omagine LLC, which plans to develop a US$2.5bn beachfront tourism and real-estate project in Muscat, is likely to hire an Omani bank as its financial advisor, that would also provide debt financing for phase one of the project.

“During the period between July 19 to August 18 Omagine LLC shareholders met several times both separately and together with the senior management of the Omani bank and as of the date hereof, the Omani bank has agreed in principle to be Omagine LLC’s financial advisor and to provide the debt financing required for the Omagine project to design, develop and construct phase one valued at approximately US$220mn,” US-based Omagine Inc – the majority shareholder in Omagine LLC – said in its quarterly report filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday.

The company, however, did not disclose the name of the bank.

Omagine Inc said Omagine LLC’s shareholders held two meetings on July 19 and August 18 and reviewed and discussed the present status of the project to take it forward. The meetings recommended that the company hire a local Omani bank as its financial advisor and lender.

The foregoing arrangement with the Omani bank is subject to its final due diligence and the execution of an agreement with Omagine LLC, the company said. But the Omani bank, Omagine Inc said, has indicated to the shareholders that, barring any unknown impediment (of which neither management nor the Omani bank are aware), it will deliver a robust term sheet specifying the debt financing and advisory services to Omagine LLC on or before September 4, 2016.

Plans for phase one of the Omagine project – which is presently budgeted at approximately US$220mn – comprise the design and development of one hotel, 250 residences, and one pearl building and associated enabling works and infrastructure within the site, Omagine Inc said.

It said debt financing for phase one is expected to be supplied by the Omani bank and not be syndicated. The Omani bank may, depending upon future circumstances, be Omagine LLC’s financial advisor for follow-on phases or for the entire project, the company said. “As such the financial advisor will arrange the syndicated bank financing for the numbered sections to be constructed subsequent to phase one.”

Omagine Inc further said that it is presently expected that a definitive agreement between Omagine LLC and the Omani bank with respect to phase one will be executed with the next three weeks, but added, “No assurance, however, can be given that any such agreement will be signed until it is actually signed by the parties.”

Notwithstanding the foregoing likely solution, Omagine Inc added the management of Omagine LLC is continuing discussions with other interested investors and contractors in China, Europe and the US.

Read more: http://www.muscatdaily.com/Archive/Business/Omani-bank-likely-to-be-financial-advisor-lender-for-phase-one-of-Omagine-project-4sl7#ixzz4IFfuBsMf

$2.5 billion Omagine pearl project set for 2017 in Oman $OMAG.us

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 8:16 AM on Wednesday, July 13th, 2016
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  • Construction work on the multi-billion dollar Omagine Project is scheduled to begin in 2017 and should be complete by 2024, according to the Ministry of Tourism (MoT)
  • Multi-Billion Dollar Development Agreement with the Government of the Sultanate of Oman
  • Omagine Owns 60%; Royal Court Affairs 25%; Consolidated Contractors Owns 15%
  • Developed on 245 acres of beachfront land on Gulf of Oman
  • Estimated cost approximately $2.5 Billion

July 12, 2016 | 10:01 PM

by Rahul Das/[email protected]

Sharelines

$2.5 billion Omagine project set for 2017

Omagine Project to create more than 1,000 jobs for #Omanis

The Omagine Project will have three hotels, a boutique mall, an open air amphitheatre, exhibition venues, a harbour and marina area, offices and more than 2,000 residences.

Muscat: Construction work on the multi-billion dollar Omagine Project is scheduled to begin in 2017 and should be complete by 2024, according to the Ministry of Tourism (MoT).

Located in Seeb, the project features seven pearl-shaped buildings which will host hotels, offices, residences and entertainment venues on one million square metres of land, the MoT said.

The project is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs for nationals when it is completed in seven year’s time. The slump in global oil prices has meant project managers have been seeking further funding globally, according to Omagine chairman Frank J. Drohan.

Speaking to Times of Oman, Drohan said that they are in advanced discussions with several institutional and private entities in the United States, Europe and China to finance the project as a quite rational response to the present regional banking environment. “Other companies and governments regionally are quite rationally also reaching out to the international financial markets,” he said.

In a quarterly report submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in March 2016, Omagine LLC, reported that “with the sudden fall in deposits from oil sales, bank liquidity at local banking institutions in the GCC came under immense pressure as deposits fell dramatically while simultaneously governments became large borrowers (where they were not before).

“Such sudden and large government borrowings from commercial banking institutions began to crowd out commercial borrowing capacity of private companies. The largest banks of course weathered this storm more handily than the mid-size or smaller banks,” the statement said.

Drohan said that the longer term project finance is needed only after the detailed master planning and architectural design is completed. “And that is the reason we are working hard on many fronts with Consolidated Contractors Co (CCC) and other investors in Oman and the GCC, Europe, the US and China to make that happen,” he said.

Drohan also said CCC may still be the general contractor for the Omagine Project with a United States, European or China based contractor working as a substantial sub-contractor under CCC Oman.

It was in October 2014, Omagine LLC, signed a development agreement with the Government of Oman for the development of a $2.5 billion real-estate and tourism project known as the Omagine Project.

In March 2015 the Ministry of Finance in Oman ratified the development agreement.

In July 2015 the development rights to the 245 acres of beachfront land were registered with the government of Oman.

The actual contract agreement is now fully drafted and is ready to be signed. “During the past month, I and our staff have been in Washington, Europe and Beijing with investors and to negotiate the terms of a construction sub-contract to CCC,” he told Times of Oman.

In May, Omagine Inc. also sponsored The World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship (WSIE) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

The Omagine Project will have three hotels (which will include serviced apartments and chalets), a boutique mall, an open air amphitheatre, exhibition venues, a harbour and marina area, offices, more than 2,000 residences and a large number of cafes, restaurants and entertainment venues. The Omagine Project will have seven pearl shaped buildings, each with a different theme, such as the Oman Pearl, Innovation Pearl, Energy Pearl, Culture Pearl and Earth, Sea and Sky Pearls.

The Pearls will feature a wide range of tourism experiences, simulations, games, interactive demonstrations, multi-media presentations and a planetarium and a multiplex.

Omagine In Talks With Chinese Contractors For Oman Project $OMAG.us

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 6:59 PM on Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

 Omag

An artistic rendition of the $2.5bn Omagine Project (Source: omagine.com)

  • In view of the current weak economic conditions in the GCC region due to the slump in oil prices, Omagine LLC, which plans to develop a US$2.5bn beach-front real-estate and tourism project in Oman, said it is in discussions with two leading Chinese contractors for construction of the project
By Gulam Ali Khan
May 21, 2016
Muscat –

In view of the current weak economic conditions in the GCC region due to the slump in oil prices, Omagine LLC, which plans to develop a US$2.5bn beach-front real-estate and tourism project in Oman, said it is in discussions with two leading Chinese contractors for construction of the project.

In a quarterly report submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week, Omagine LLC’s US-based parent Omagine Inc said that since December 2015 Omagine LLC held multiple meetings with Consolidated Contractors International Co (CCIC), CCC-Oman and Royal Court Affairs (RCA) in an effort to conclude the foregoing arrangements and sign the CCC contract for the project. CCC-Oman is a subsidiary of CCIC.

“All parties are willing but the reality of the current economic scene and the effect it is having on bank liquidity and therefore on future requirements that Omagine LLC will have for construction financing was well recognised by all Omagine LLC shareholders,” Omagine Inc said.

It said that extensive financial negotiations and legal re-drafting of multiple versions of the CCC contract and the amended and restated shareholder agreement have taken place since December 2015.

Given the present liquidity issues at local banks, Omagine Inc said the matter of project construction debt financing is an issue that now moved to the forefront of the agendas of all concerned.

Furthermore, as an exercise in caution, the company said Omagine LLC’s management in February travelled to Beijing and Hong Kong where they held discussions with top executives of two of China’s leading building contractors – each of which is multiple times the size of CCIC.

“These discussions are well advanced at present and negotiations with the larger of the two Chinese contractors are at an advanced stage,” Omagine Inc added.

It said that the proposal being discussed with each of such Chinese contractor is identical and includes a requirement for the award of the Omagine Project construction contract to the Chinese contractor (as a sub-contractor to CCC-Oman) if, and only if, both of the following conditions are fulfilled: (i) an investment into Omagine LLC by the contractor (or its parent company), and (ii) the Chinese contractor (or its parent company) must arrange for the project finance for Omagine Project.

Omagine Inc added the Chinese banks have no such liquidity issue and they are moreover encouraged and directed by Chinese government to support their overseas Chinese contractors in this manner.

“Management is presently cautiously optimistic that it can arrange a transaction involving both CCIC and one of the Chinese contractors which will be beneficial to all parties concerned. No assurance however can be given at this time that management will be successful in this endeavor,” it said.

Omagine Inc added an agreement has been reached with CCIC regarding a new structure of the CCC contract whereby CCC-Oman would be the general contractor and managing contractor (but not necessarily the actual builder) and would oversee and manage the Chinese sub-contractor and CCIC would be paid a fixed fee for this.

“The descriptions of the draft CCC contract as previously disclosed during 2015 are no longer accurate or operative as we have now agreed to a management type general contractor agreement with CCC-Oman based on a flat fee,” the company added.

Omagine said it has held extensive presentations and meetings with local, regional and international banks with respect to the provision of syndicated bank financing, adding “thesediscussions and negotiations are ongoing with Chinese and US-based banks since the onset of the liquidity squeeze in GCC banks.”

Read more: http://www.muscatdaily.com/Archive/Business/Omagine-in-talks-with-Chinese-contractors-for-Oman-project-4pob#ixzz49QZCoxAO

US Department of State’s Special Representative for Global Partnerships to Discuss Collaborative Innovation for Peace Making at 10th Annual World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship at United Nations $OMAG.us #TheWSIE #WSIEPartners

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 1:31 PM on Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Omag

NEW YORK, May 17, 2016 – UNITED NATIONS — One of Wednesday, May 18th’s sessions of The 10th Annual World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship (WSIE 2016) at the United Nations’ General Assembly hall in New York City will feature a discussion about “Innovating for Peace”.

The 20-minute unscripted Innovation for Peace conversation will take place on Wednesday at 12:35 PM EDT by U.S. Department of State Special Representative for Global Partnerships, Andrew O’Brien.

Andrew O’Brien
Special Representative for Global Partnerships
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/209622.htm

Titled “Can We Innovate for Peace?” the discussion will center around the following theme:

Diplomacy is often thought of as a stodgy process – but like all else in this new hyper-connected world, diplomacy must aggressively embrace the innovative use of new technologies, ideas, sustainable designs, citizen-centric solutions and open innovations to enhance how policy leaders think, learn, work and partner to craft good policy outcomes – and avoid bad ones – like wars.

Open models for partnerships in this frenetically fast moving world will foster wider understanding and clearer perceptions of the other side’s interests, needs, fears and requirements — hence, better diplomatic outcomes.

WSIE 2016 is hosted in partnership with the UN Conference on Trade & Development, along with the support of the Secretary of State’s Office of Science & Technology at the Department of State.

In celebration of its 10th anniversary on May 18 – 19th, WSIE will feature panel discussions and presentations profiling the challenges and opportunities faced in seven topic areas by entrepreneurs and enterprises around the world:

(1) Design

(2) Sharing economy

(3) Energy

(4) Industrial Internet

(5) Digital life

(6) Commerce

(7) Health

10th Annual World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship: New Frontiers
http://bit.ly/1R8hzsv

More than 100 presenters — designers, chief executives, innovators, entrepreneurs — will contribute to conversations about new ideas, products, experiences and transformations.

The two-day summit, themed “Celebrating the Crazy Ones: New Frontiers,” offers a bold and provocative exploration of what the future of business, marketspaces, digital trends, products, minds, machines, experiences, and transdisciplinary innovations might look like by 2020.

At WSIE 2016’s “New Frontiers,” 350 attendees — including some of the world’s eminent dreamers and doers — will plot the frontier of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Seating is limited so to ensure proper access to the United Nations Secretariat building, please confirm your attendance at www.thewsie.org/media.

All guests must be confirmed on the WSIE 2016 webpage in order to receive an access badge to UN Headquarters.

If not currently UN accredited please apply for clearance via the link below:

http://www.un.org/en/media/accreditation/request.shtml

WSIE 2016 is presented by Omagine, Inc. (OMAG) and held in collaboration with some of the world’s most innovative companies, including: Gensler, Henry Schein, Libra Group, Mastercard, HCL Technologies, Vancive, Avery Dennison and Direct Energy.

For more information about the Summit, visit www.theWSIE.org or contact Michele Wallace at [email protected]egamediaworldwide.com, 917-741-5147.

The Omagine Project at the United Nations General Assembly – May 18, 2016 #TheWSIE #WSIEPartners

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 7:57 AM on Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Smart cities concept in Oman can improve efficiency: Telecom official $OMAG

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 12:32 PM on Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Smart cities concept in Oman can improve efficiency: Telecom official

April 13, 2016 | 5:59 PM

By ERIK PRINS/[email protected]

Darren Tong, chief operating officer of Telecom Oman, said that that city planners, developers and businesses should take the opportunity to improve efficiency to reach the goal of a smart city. Photo – Supplied

Muscat: There is a lot of potential to improve efficiency in Oman by introducing the concept of smart cities, Darren Tong, chief operating officer of Telecom Oman said.

“Whatever it is what the city does, whether it’s water management, waste management, traffic management or car parks, there’s a lot of information out there about how things are wasted,” he said. He noted that currently, this information is not being connected and not analysed. “If you do that, you can find means to improve,” he said.

Tong explained that the concept of smart cities is all about reducing waste, improving time management and optimising human interactions. He said that exchanging ideas and knowledge can be made easier by improving connections between people.

“We are having trouble with meeting each other because we are stuck in traffic jams, have trouble connecting with each other because servers are down.

Also, smart technologies can help reduce waste of electricity and water. We are wasting energy because every room has an air condition while not all rooms are occupied,” he said. “Since water in Oman is desalinated and there is no electronic monitoring with electronic meters, when the water leaks, it just flows away and is wasted,” he said.

He said that digitalisation would help here, by connecting sensors with 3G technologies and a data centre absorbing all the information. The information can then be analysed to find ways to optimise the process.

Tong said that city planners, developers and businesses should take the opportunity to improve efficiency to reach the goal of a smart city. “If you identify the needs and certain areas of inefficiency, as an entrepreneur we can go and address it,” he said.

He said that Oman is in a starting stage of introducing smart cities. “Right now, nothing is connected, nothing is studied or analysed. The potential however, is to cut your energy costs by half,” he said.

“Smart city is a way for Oman to participate in the digital economy, train its human resources and take advantage of using data to make government services more efficient.”

He said that Telecom Oman, which is seeking a licence to operate as a third telecom operator in Oman, can provide the infrastructure to help stakeholders make this move towards more efficiency. He said that Telecom Oman is seeking to play a role in the development of Omagine, a new project where smart city technologies will be displayed. “This is where the technologies are showcased, tested and hopefully rolled out to the rest of the country. By 2020 we should be able to see a first version of a smart city here in Oman” he said.

He said that there is also potential for e-business to flourish in Oman.

“A lot of Omani’s are still involved with brick-and-mortar. They like to visit shops and they like to feel and hold the product,” he said. He noted that new technologies like data centres can help the industry to grow in Oman, by inviting big players in e-commerce to base their operations here.

Tong said that as a new telecom operator, it wants to be more than a provider offering phone calls and internet. “We want to be a catalyst in introducing new technologies and solutions to Oman,” he said.

He added that Telecom Oman not only wants to provide the infrastructure like fibre optic or towers, but also provide the products and services on top of it, like apps, data centres.

“Whoever wants to set up a business somewhere, we can do the mobile phone service, internet and ERP and CRS systems and other services, while the entrepreneur can focus on what he is good at,” he said.
http://timesofoman.com/article/81459/Business/Smart-cities-concept-in-Oman-can-improve-efficiency:-Telecom-official

Omagine in talks for funding Phase 1 $2.5bn realty project

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 1:11 PM on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

  • Received a term sheet from the unnamed Qatari lender setting out the terms covering the provision of $25 million loan to finance the first phase of the design and construction of the estimated $2.5 billion development
  • Phase 1, due for execution over the next 10-12 months, includes the master planning, design, engineering and construction work necessary for vertical construction to begin and the administrative, financial and marketing activities necessary for the implementation of Omagine LLC’s business plan, it noted

Conrad Prabhu

MUSCAT — Nov 28: Omagine LLC, which has signed a deal with the Omani government to develop a mixed use tourism and real estate project in Muscat Governorate, says it is currently in discussion with a Qatari bank for financing the first phase activities of this ambitious scheme.

The company’s US-based majority shareholder, Omagine Inc, stated in a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it has received a term sheet from the unnamed Qatari lender setting out the terms covering the provision of $25 million loan to finance the first phase of the design and construction of the estimated $2.5 billion development.

Click here to read entire article.

Oman Is Like a Flawless Topaz Hidden Under the Gaudy Jewel Box of the Emirates

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 12:02 PM on Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

The thinking person’s Dubai

Wadi Bani Khalid, 203 km from Muscat. Photo: 123Rf
 

Clad in the blazing oranges and yellows and turquoises of the desert, Bedouin women are shouting numbers at little boys leading camels around an enclosure. Grey-bearded men in long white robes and turbans are circling around the narrow streets of the small, dusty town, where camels are hitched to posts like horses in a cowboy movie. The women are wearing hawk-faced black masks over their faces—whitened, to protect them from the sun, and made vivid with eyeliner and mascara—so they might be countesses just emerging from a Venetian costume ball. This Thursday-morning camel auction has been taking place in the Omani town of Sinaw for centuries, but only recently can newly bought humped creatures be seen in the backs of Toyota pick-up trucks, being driven away together with watermelons, sacks of dates and clumps of grass.

Three hours later, I am being driven across great dunes of sand, stretching out as far as I can see in every direction. My guide Hilal zigzags across the emptiness till, gears grinding over whorled hilltops of sand, we see a small cluster of domed white tents far below. Pulling up at the Desert Nights Camp in Wahiba Sands, we’re met with glasses of chilled mango juice. Then I’m led across to my tent, the silence stretching all around. I find myself in a three-room suite with a mini-bar, air-conditioning and a highly welcome rainforest shower.

Unlike Arab Emirates

I suppose I’d been visiting Oman long enough not to be shocked by the rare mix of exoticism and extravagant comfort; for years now, the sultanate tucked between Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, has been at once remote and luxurious, full of adventure and strikingly safe. For many, it’s the thinking person’s Dubai—low-key and elegant, where its neighbour looks like the bastard child of Beverly Hills and Las Vegas. If you want malls, go to the city of Lamborghinis in the sand; if you want walls—a reserved, mysterious and protected place that invites you into centuries of sophistication—head to Oman. With a population a fifth of Mumbai’s scattered across a country larger than Britain, it’s like the flawless topaz hidden under the gaudy jewel box of the emirates.

As soon as Sultan Qaboos bin Said, now 70, came to power in 1970, he decided to proceed with the care and caution demonstrated even today by local drivers on their largely empty roads. Learning from the mistakes of other oil-rich states and determined not to lose the old and the distinct, even as he brought much-needed modernity to his land, he slowly fashioned a tasteful, bespoke, understated version of Arabia that did not aim to erase tradition so much as to heighten and clarify it with the help of the new.

As late as the 1960s, there were exactly three schools, two hospitals and nine kilometres of sealed roads in all of Oman; the sultan of the time, the current ruler’s father, had retreated to his palace in the southern city of Salalah, banned sunglasses and radios, and even locked the doors of Old Muscat at night in an effort to preserve his nation. Now, Muscat has opened up—and all its buildings are white, or painted pastel colours, constructed in traditional style and less than nine storeys high. The result is a city that looks like a bone-white vision of a fairy-tale Arabia, even as it now has an opera house, a new airport under construction and fresh hotels coming up.

“Ladies here in Oman work—and drive,” Hilal told me as we passed the palaces of Old Muscat. “Not like Saudi Arabia.” Sultan Qaboos realised that oil would be gone soon, so he encouraged his people to engage with the modern world, and fashion lives that would not run out when the oil did. “Here in Oman, the taxi drivers are Omani,” Hilal continued, with unfeigned pride. “The construction workers are Omani. Seventy-five percent of the population is Omani. Only we have tailors, foreigners. Laundry. Hairdressing…” The contrast with the other emirates did not need to be spelled out.

I’d visited Oman before and savoured the misty, even mystical monsoon season, the khareef, in the south, which turns the Dhofar region into a cool, green sanctuary for Arabs from across the peninsula. Less than three hours by daily flight from Mumbai, with beaches more unspoiled than Thailand’s, forts as glamorous as Rajasthan’s, and deserts and mountains as spectacular as anything you’d see in Australia or the American West, Oman struck me as a treasure waiting to be discovered.

Now, returning 10 years on, I thought I’d spend a week travelling around the north to see what kind of pleasures might await a visitor today. The rare place of deep foreignness, where no shopkeeper hassles you and taxi drivers patiently count out their notes in your palm to make sure they’re not short-changing you, Oman continues somehow to open its doors to everyone without ever quite losing its soul. The only challenge is to see it before the rest of the world gets in on the secret.

A Shangri-La in the sands

Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa

Al-Waha hotel at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa.

I based myself on this trip at the Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, tucked behind dramatic limestone cliffs and around a private beach a few miles outside of Muscat. Taking over a largely forgotten bay at Bandar Jissah, the Shangri-La came up with the idea of opening three separate properties, linked at the core: al-Waha, aimed at families (complete with its own souq, amphitheatre and archaeological site); al-Husn, a sumptuous ‘six-star’, adults-only castle; and, in the middle, the more businesslike al-Bandar. All three have 17 restaurants scattered across them. But those staying in al-Husn, as I did, can enjoy a stately afternoon tea in a palatial courtyard while families with kids can romp around a river and an Omani Heritage Village not far away.

Within 10 hours of arriving in the country, I was out on the water, watching schools of dolphins flourishing through the air, five of them knifing through the waves like synchronised swimmers and 30 in all, on every side of our little vessel, cresting over the blue-green bay. Oman has long been home to some of the world’s most accomplished sailors; Sindbad was said to have come from here, and between the 18th and 19th centuries, its navies had brought parts of Pakistan, Zanzibar and Kenya under Omani control. As a sweet-smiling teenager from Oman’s shipbuilding capital of Sur piloted us through the water, the stony, sand-coloured landscape of the interior was broken up by green waters and headlands, red and golden in the sun.

The old town of Muscat, 15 minutes away by car, is most notable for its calm: if you walk through the small souq in the Muttrah area, you will hear none of the clamour of Istanbul or Old Delhi. And when you are finished at the Bait Al Zubair museum, you can look at the nearby sultans’ palaces and government offices—as stately and pristine as when they were built. One of the grand pleasures of Muscat is walking along the corniche in the dusk—spotlit castles above you and hilltop restaurants such as the Mumtaz Mahal waiting to impress.

Driving through

Grand Mosque, Oman.

The Grand Mosque. Photo: 123Rf
 
The next morning, Hilal and I drove a little out of town to visit the Grand Mosque, completed in 2001, and one of the largest Muslim houses of prayer in the world. A group of pilgrims from Thailand had arrived just as we did, and we walked together in silence under eight-tonne chandeliers from Austria, over the 21-tonne carpet handwoven by 600 women in Isfahan, between its Indian sandstone walls and Carrara marble surfaces and the great ceilings made of Burma teak. It seemed at once lavish and deeply quiet, up-to-the-minute and full of practised devotion: Oman, you could say, in miniature.

Then, very quickly, we were off, into the depths of the country. We were bouncing for 90 minutes up a scrabbly, sandy path through the high mountains. On one side was a sheer drop, of a thousand feet or more; all around the Al Hajar range was a landscape of black mountains and buttes worthy of Arizona. At the end of the road loomed the country’s highest peak, the 9,000ft Jabal Shams, and Wadi Ghul, a stunning array of 3,000ft vertical cliffs and depths that Omanis call their Grand Canyon. I checked into a little stone house at the British-run Jebel Shams Resort and heard nothing but silence for the next many hours. That sense of quiet is one of the singular blessings of Oman still, and even as the Arab world was experiencing convulsions this spring, Oman was barely disturbed.

Set, like most of Oman’s 500 forts, above an oasis, the Jabrin Castle, a 17th-century centre of learning, is a complex of courtyards, hidden rooms, twisting staircases, a constantly evolving study in light and shade. In one corner was a breeze-softened library—in another, the castle’s jails and holes, through which hot date oil might be poured upon invaders. Jabrin was a reminder of Oman’s exquisite beauty and fierce sense of protectiveness, as it, at once, cultivates its inner treasures and remains on guard against invasion. I listened to the excited cries of a group of schoolgirls—all dressed in black abayas and white head-scarves—and watched a girl in an emerald gown tending to the date palms through the palace windows.

An hour or so later, we were in Nizwa Fort, home to a celebrated cattle auction every Friday morning (cows are brought 965km from Salalah in the south and sold for US$500 or Rs32,000s apiece). Not very far away was the Wadi Bani Khalid, where locals delightedly picnicked under pavilions and frolicked in deep green water pools. Whether passing the stunning new palaces that are schools and hospitals set up in remote areas or overtaking blue water trucks ferrying to villagers still living in spiky mountains, we saw how Oman seems to be concerned still with sustaining its own life and not turning itself into something else—a modern Macau.

The climax of my tour came as Hilal and I drove six hours north of Muscat, passing through the United Arab Emirates en route and then—in the middle of a lunar landscape, all grey limestone valleys and emptiness—saw a small, almost invisible brown sign by the side of the road. We passed through a security post and then took a 5km, 15-minute drive along a narrow, unpaved path, up and over a mountain. At the top, suddenly, we saw a blue-green bay below with a traditional village on one side, and on the other, a set of structures that honoured the village’s architecture in a more lavish form.

When we arrived at the gorgeous Six Senses Zighy Bay resort, I was shown to my private villa, which (like all the 79 others here) came with its own plunge pool, own traditional Omani summer hut, its own outdoor and indoor showers, its own bathtub (this, in a country where water is famously scarce and in a resort where a swimming pool and a mile-long stretch of empty beach were less than a minute’s walk away). The Six Senses even has its own time-zone—one hour ahead of Oman time—so that you can watch the sun rise and set at an hour convenient for your sleeping.

The next day, a villager called Humeid took me out on the water to explore the secret bays and coves all around and then led me on a drive through the mega-stalagmites that are like mountains here, teaching me to read the landscape. (“This was a wild fox-trap,” he pointed out to a scatter of stones. “That was where black Omani honey was made,” he motioned.) We looked out on a vast landscape of rocks. “How many villages are here?” he asked. I could see none. “Seven,” he said and pointed out one stone house camouflaged on a cliff and another designed to fade into the background.

We drove up to a lonely hut on top of a peak and went in for some coffee and halwa with an old man who lived alone here. “He never married?” I asked. “No,” said Humeid. “He likes just to live with his goats. With the silence. Watching the mountains, thinking about God.” The man, toothless, smiled at me and begged me to eat more. Alone, at the top of the mountain, surveying a huge landscape of emptiness and silence, I had arrived at Oman’s Oman, the still point at the centre of one of the most untouched and stirring places I have seen.

Source: http://www.cntraveller.in/story/thinking-person-s-dubai

Funds, banks show keen interest in $2.5bn Oman project: Omagine

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 5:07 PM on Monday, July 13th, 2015

 

  • With enormous liquidity available in Oman and other GCC countries, investors, funds and banks in the region have shown a high level of interest in Oman’s upcoming US$2.5bn mixed-use tourism and real-estate project knows as the Omagine Project
  • Over the past six months, Omagine LLC has conducted many presentations with sovereign funds, investment funds and high net-worth individuals in Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE, who have indicated a high level of interest in becoming equity investors in the Omagine Project

By Gulam Ali Khan

July 12, 2015

Muscat – With enormous liquidity available in Oman and other GCC countries, investors, funds and banks in the region have shown a high level of interest in Oman’s upcoming US$2.5bn mixed-use tourism and real-estate project knows as the Omagine Project.

Over the past six months, Omagine LLC has conducted many presentations with sovereign funds, investment funds and high net-worth individuals in Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE, who have indicated a high level of interest in becoming equity investors in the Omagine Project, Omagine Inc said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday.

Omagine Inc owns a 60 per cent stake in Omagine LLC, which is developing the project.

“We have witnessed a large appetite for both investing in Omagine’s equity and for providing project financing debt facilities for project development,” said Agron Telaku, Omagine’s vice president for finance.

He said banks with which Omagine and its contracting partner CCC have met have indicated that Omagine’s usufruct rights over the project land can and will be utilised as collateral to support project financing debt facilities. “We have also met with several very high net-worth investors who have indicated a high level of interest in becoming equity investors. These investor discussions are ongoing.”

Frank Drohan, managing director and president of Omagine, said, “There is enormous banking liquidity in Oman and the GCC. Over the past six months we have conducted, and will continue to conduct, numerous meetings with major local and international banks. We have witnessed a large appetite at such banks for providing project financing debt facilities for the Omagine Project’s development.”

Omagine LLC signed the usufruct agreement with Oman on July 1, whereby the sultanate’s government granted Omagine certain rights over the 1mn sqm beachfront land, which includes the right to sell the land on freehold basis.

Omagine had contracted three real-estate valuation firms – Savills, DTZ International and JLL – to provide Omagine with the value of the usufruct rights. The average of all three valuations was recorded at RO276.66mn, according to the filing with SEC.

“The registration of the usufruct agreement with the government is a welcome milestone event. Now that we have unfettered access to the land we are rapidly progressing on the development of the Omagine Project and the finalisation of the CCC construction contract,” Drohan said.

He said that the company has conducted exhaustive interviews and has reviewed multiple iterations of proposals from key consultants. “We now expect to be making several crucial consultant appointments in the coming several months, including: A financial advisor, hospitality advisor, real-estate advisor, master planner, engineering consultant, construction management consultant and programme manager.”

Read more: http://www.muscatdaily.com/Archive/Business/Funds-banks-show-keen-interest-in-2.5bn-Oman-project-Omagine-46b4/(language)/eng-GB#ixzz3fnQdcVjG