Lying 450km south of Muscat in the arid and desolate Al Wusta governorate, Duqm today embodies both the ambitions and shortcomings of Oman’s efforts to revitalize its stagnant and oil-dependent economy. Planners envisage Duqm as an essential component of the sultanate’s economic future: the planned 230,000 b/d refinery would be the country’s largest; the expansive industrial zone would provide jobs and crucial non-hydrocarbons revenues; and the imagined commercial center would bustle with a vibrant mix of tourists and businesspeople alike – in other words, a state-of-the-art hub on par with Dubai.

But Duqm is also synonymous with perennial delays: it wouldn’t be the first of the region’s grandiose visions to fall flat. The “city” today consists of little more than an imposing deepwater port with a sizeable shipyard and a couple of luxurious (but mostly vacant) hotels. The only real industry consists of servicing mainly military, and a spattering of commercial, vessels, although Muscat expects Duqm to grow into a major maritime port connected to a future national rail system. The “international” airport only opens for the arrival of its six flights per week – all from Muscat. In its present state, Duqm resembles a common sight in the region – yet another unfinished megaproject plagued by underinvestment and overambition. (CONTINUED - 833 WORDS)