Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Policing - 'Omani Style

This happened in Muscat maybe 15 years ago. I did not witness the event, but the story was told by a woman who was there. It illustrates a few of the differences of culture and custom which an English expatriate observes in Arabia.

She worked in Muscat, commuting into town by public bus. As a woman she had to sit in the reserved section, at the front, behind the driver. Most of the passengers were low-income men from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh: they filled the bus behind the small, women-only section.

One morning she saw an 'Omani man waving to stop the bus. He was not at a bus-stop, so the driver ignored him, but pulled into a bus-stop area a hundred yards or so further on. The 'Omani man had run to the bus-stop, and caught up as the driver opened the bus door.
The 'Omani climbed onto the bus, and began shouting at the driver, another 'Omani. The altercation became heated and quickly degenerated into fisticuffs.

She saw the bus-rage develop, then heard noises behind. Turning she saw that other passengers had opened the emergency door at the back of the bus, and a lot of them were getting out and running off. She knew they would be illegals, with no papers: they guessed the police would come, and wanted to scarper.

Sure enough a police car arrived, and then, just a few seconds later, a second. Two policemen got out of each car, and proceeded to greet each other in the 'Omani way, touching noses, shaking hands, and exchanging the ritual greetings, which can go on for some time.
"Good day - how are you - all well, praise God - what is your news - all is well, thanks be to God", often repeating greetings and questions.

While this was going on the miscreant 'Omani also ran off. The policemen then entered the bus, went through the greeting ritual with the driver, then checked the ID cards of the remaining passengers. Eventually the policemen drove off, and the bus continued its journey, with a depleted company on board.

It's not a style of policing we would recognise, but maybe it has merit.

This article about a road-rage incident in Morocco reminded me of this story.

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