About 30 years ago, many Gulf residents were complaining about the slow progress in the region. Just 10 years ago, I remember reading an article in a local paper saying that there was not enough entertainment. Now the story is different. The Gulf has astonishingly sped forward to an extent that the same residents now moan about the fast life. From just a few meandering roads to six-lane highways stretching from one city to another. Here in Muscat, teenagers wreck cars causing horrific accidents on these modern carriageways. Now they talk about increasing the license age to 25 from 17. Inside the malls, rap music play at deafening volume and youths dance on their heads the way we see on MTV. Outside these malls, they gather in a group wearing clothes my grandfather would have raised a walking stick instead of an eyebrow. Not that they would have cared. Respect of elders is far from their minds. Internet communication has removed the last straw of decency. We have pornography in our own homes at the touch of a few electronic buttons. To please the international community, artificial cities like the Wave in Muscat are built and planners forget to include mosques in the blue prints. The official who went through the plan with me was very apologetic but shrugged his shoulders. By law, every new town must have a mosque or two but these regulations slip the net with new tourist resorts. Old markets, which are part of the attraction for visitors, are things of the past. Golf courses, marinas, cinemas and international hotel chains are a priority but whose priority is it? European or American investors have better sport facilities and movie houses. Certainly, they dont come here to see another version of their own inventions. They want to see local heritage and cultures where they buy a property and not whitewashed facades. Remember, it is the Arabian Knights stories that they associate the Arab world with and not Arabian Blights. When the late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia said that a new era was dawning in the region, he never thought the desert sands would be near extinction. I am not exaggerating. How many city children have seen a camel more than a few times? Every single one of them is in captivity. If you think the beautiful sand dunes will be preserved for your Four Wheel-Drive to climb, then think again. That is not all. Prime beaches are taken away from local residents and ancient towns razed to ground to make way for secluded areas. Every square inch is under the surveyors scrutiny. When they are finished, it would be like looking inside the goldfish bowl from the sardine can for local residents. The wave of colonies of international investors is rolling high. Young graduates are pushed away from the cities when they look for their own homes to build. They live a great deal of distance from their offices and the gap is widening. The problem is that there is a mismatch of development. It seems like overnight progress has been intrusive to the quiet life. This is because planners are in a great hurry to pull in the funds of foreign investors. One fear is that even cultivated lands fall under the hammer of sale. Farmers cannot resist the lure of cash and in that they sell away the countryside. With it goes the locally produced crops and the hope that one day we would be self-sufficient in vegetables and fruits. Well, as long as there is oil and gas, who cares about a banana? Khaleej Times