A detached observer might describe it as a bleak scene, but Salah Hamood al-Hasni is bullish as he contemplates the arid steppes that border the headquarters of the Duqm Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZAD). “Duqm is the largest economic project in the Middle East region and one of the largest in the world,” the site’s general manager told Middle East Eye. Taken together, the economic projects underway here represent an investment of several billion dollars. Chinese firms aim to eventually invest up to $10.7bn. Once a sleepy fishing village in Oman’s central eastern seaboard, the port town of Duqm hopes to become a major Middle East logistics hub, connecting the Gulf to the world’s busiest maritime trade route. Taking inspiration from the world’s maritime capital, Singapore, Duqm’s economic zone comprises several projects, including a multi-purpose harbour, a refinery that aims to process 230,000 barrels of crude oil per day, and the largest dry dock in the Middle East, which will have a capacity of 200 ships per year. (…)