Saturday, August 21, 2010
Recently, whilst out hunting for treasure, I came across the dragon sipping champagne and snacking on some flame-grilled Blue City management ribs. Even Ms Dragon was in attendance, back from a gruelling day of lounging on a yacht. What a great time to interview the Undercover Dragon I thought! And so I did......

1. Undercover Dragon, and Muscat Confidential has become the most
widely-known blog in the Oman expat community. Your style of writing,
and willingness to tackle some tough topics has been your
stock-in-trade these past 4 or so years. What was your inspiration?
Why did you decide to start blogging?

Well, thanks for the compliments! My inspiration was the piss-poor standard of the press in Oman, combined with the cultural tendency of Oman to not want to discuss anything controversial in public, even when it was 'common knowledge'. I didn't think either were good for the long term viability of the country, politically or economically. I wanted to show that a more open debate was both legal, tolerable and healthy.

2. Where did you come up with the name, Undercover Dragon?

I've always been a fan of the movie 'LA Confidential', so that's what stimulated the blog name. Undercover Dragon was a combination of my intent to remain anonymous and to be a bit of a fire breather. I think I've calmed down a bit over the years though...

3. Of all of the blog's you've written, what is the one that stands out for you? The one you are most proud of?

Hmmm. I guess the Blue City series was always fun to write, especially as I was proved correct in the end about its fundamental non-viability, even before the so-called global crisis hit. And the interviews with an expat homosexual and Omani bi-Lesbian about day to day life here were ground breaking too.

4. Do you feel that your blog has helped to educate people on corruption here in the Sultanate?

Only a tiny bit. Most of the true corruption is strictly quite legal, and most middle class Omani appear to accept the system as it is, seeing as they don't perceive they pay taxes anyhow, with an attitude that it's not their money anyhow. The issue is less one of corruption than incompetence. For example, it costs a lot more per square foot to build a 4 star hotel in Oman than in Europe, takes longer, and the result is to a lower standard. The economy is plagued with inefficiency and poor or lazy management, in both public and private sectors.

5. Do you ever get worried about being found-out and made to face legal charges from various people in the country? Or further afield?

I worry that it would cause a lot of hassle, cost and inconvenience for myself having to defend against frivolous charges. There is very little case law in Oman in these areas, and the law itself is so broad and ill-defined that that would be a risk. I was most concerned about the weird haters that seem to be out there finding out where I live or impacting my family.

6. Writing a local blog here with the readership that you have, have you ever considered writing a column for a local paper? Have you ever been approached by one of the local papers or magazines for this reason?

I did do the interview for Times of Oman, which was ironic, and Hi! Magazine too. But the pay for writing articles is too low to be worth the pressure, and I doubt any paper would want to sanction having Undercover Dragon as a staff writer!

7. How about a book?

I don't think many people would be interested. The Omani market is incredibly small, and outside Oman I don't think anyone cares. The blog will stay there in the internet for ever I guess, so it will always be caught by the search engines and their spiders for anyone would wants to read it. No publishers have made me any offers!

8. Being a social dragon, I'm sure you must have attended parties with regular humans. I know I've heard more than a few conversations over the years... "Who is the Dragon"? I think everyone & their dog has been fingered as the Dragon, are you ever tempted to tell anyone?

Oh yes, that has been one of the strangest parts of the blog. And yes, I have shared the secret with a very, very small number of trusted friends. Part of the problem is that the Dragon is not totally me. It's a character. And people would tend to confuse the two, as they do with actors, which I don't want either. But sometimes it is a temptation. I've also had many requests for clandestine meetings which I have always turned down. I've also come across people occasionally implying that they are the Dragon, which is really funny!

9. Do you have any regrets?

Only that I had more time to make the blog even better, and that the Government could make the law clearer as to what the boundaries are. Protection for journalists here is really substandard, even compared to a draconian system like the UAE, which is terrible. But it's not in the interests of the powerful in the country to change that. And most ordinary Omani who would like to see more and better journalism are too busy trying to pay the bills and keep their heads above the massive levels of debt they are in to care too much either. The public gets what the public wants.

10. What tips do you have for other bloggers out there?

If you want to do anything controversial, probably better to stay anonymous given the state of the law and the attitudes of a lot of people in Oman. But its not as easy to do this as you might think if there is any personal material in the blog. Little details leak out over time and someone dedicated can build a profile that would narrow you down. The other advice is generic - its easy to start a blog, but most people hit a soft patch after 1 or two months and stop. You have to find a niche and stick with it, posting regularly no matter what. If you write well you will find an audience. The growth in the Omani English-based blogs over the past couple of years has been great to see.

11. What are your plans moving forward?

Ah, more on that over at Muscat Confidential soon. I'm still on extended vacation! But some big news coming...

And that's that! I wonder what the big news will be....

le fin.


Anonymous said...

Come on then - who is it???

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Sythe: Thank you for the interview, UD was the first blog I ever read.

Non-Crowned Princess said...

Undercover Dragon is wonderful!!!

Empty Your Cup" AnyWhere" said...

LOL, it will take you all a 100 years of fustigation

Anonymous said...

so how is nick ?

Anonymous said...

It's a small fish in a big pond! Or is it a big fish in a small pond? Ha ha ha so much for the social life in Oman! Wasted!

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