The Sultanate of Masira
The Islamic Heart of Wellon
By D Hebditch
The Sultanate of Masira is located on the southern edge of the Golden Bay, surrounded by sea and the Blight it is geographically isolated from the rest of Wellon. However its unique culture derives not from its location but from its predominantly southern Arabian descended population and it is the only Islamic city in Wellon. Created as a haven for people who followed their defeated Sultan into exile it has grown into a thriving cultural and resource exploitation centre. The three and a half million Masirans are governed by a combination of religious and secular institutions which often causes controversy in other parts of Wellon.
Thanks to the Tirane Group for ideas and feedback on the nature of Islamic worship on Tirane. Thanks to David Gillon for feedback on early drafts.
Other Urban Areas
Courts and Justice
Natural Resources, Power and Industry
Commerce and Finance
Agriculture and Fisheries
Science and Education
Culture, Media and Recreation
The history of Masira is tied up intimately with the history of the Arabian expansion into the southern Arabian states during the second half of the 22nd Century. One by one Qatar, the UAE, Yemen and Oman were absorbed into Arabia. The process was partly economic, partly a hold-over from the French led occupation of the Arabian Peninsular and was predominantly a peaceful process. However attempts to consolidate centralised control from Riyadh and imposition of primacy of the Wahhabi sect of Islam caused a reaction amongst the population.
The Sultan of Oman maintained a policy of non-violent opposition whilst parts of Dhofar and the Radfan were often openly in revolt. Eventually after the death of the old Sultan, Riyadh backed forces in Muscat launched a coup to overthrow the new Sultan Qaboos Ibn-Taimur, the coup faltered but was eventually reinforced by Arabian forces. The Sultan was dispatched to the prison island of al-Masirah whilst his loyalist forces retreated to Dhofar. Eventually Arabian National Guard and Army units pacified the Dhofaris, but after losing the fight in Dhofar, loyalists staged a successful commando raid to free the Sultan and followed him into exile. The Sultan was behind several uprisings in Dhofar, Muscat and even in Dubai, all of which were doomed to failure.
The British had become involved through their links with Oman and the Sultan's residence in London. They were particularly embarrassed after revelations of the Sultan's employment of British mercenaries. With suffering in Oman rising steadily a Anglo-French diplomatic deal was brokered in meetings in Gibraltar to allow those Omanis who wanted to, to follow the Sultan into permanent exile on Tirane. The Sultan would be allowed to develop an area of Wellon with a fair degree of latitude about local laws and customs. With a heavy heart Sultan Qaboos (later known as Qaboos I) and his household departed to Wellon on a British colony ship in the summer of 2199.
What he found was a what initial appeared as an unpromising area along the coastline of the Golden Bay. A coastal strip fed by streams and rivers coming down from high ground to the south which shielded it from the worst of the Blight desert. However in terms of physical beauty it was very pleasant, with the blue-green slopes of the Djebel Azraq sheltering a glittering coastline. It was currently home to a small group of FPK scientists and freelance petroleum prospectors. Several of the Sultan's household became disenchanted but the Sultan saw the potential of the location, and decided to put his substantial finances to work in creating a new settlement. He was aided in this with Colonial Office grants and expertise which was supplemented with a large group of FPK specialists.
He decided, with no little irony, to call the new settlement Al-Masirah, which soon became anglicised to Masira. That first year 5000 colonists arrived from Earth, shipped down the coast from the spaceport at New Birmingham. They found a temporary camp, daily pre-dawn rainfall, a large supply depot and little to do but get to work. Agriculture was the first main effort and the rich wadis began to be cultivated. Alongside workers from Colonial Engineering a start was made on the heart of the new settlement with housing and buildings, including a small mosque, being built. One of the greatest infrastructure programs was the creation of a number of large subterranean aquifers at the top of the Djebel, able to feed the wadis throughout the seasons and Grandseasons.
This small start in what was to become the Central district of Masira city rapidly expanded with increasing numbers of Omanis arriving on Tirane and moving to the newly declared Sultanate. The new settlement was initially very poor, with the Sultan subsidising much of the housing and infrastructure from his own financial resources. However agriculture in the wadis and subsistence farming on the Djebel allowed the people some self sufficiency, some aid was forthcoming from the South Albion government and FPK but no more than allotted to any other similar settlement. The Sultan found the poverty and task of building the new community refreshing after his years of imprisonment and struggle in exile. Indeed he allowed his support of the active resistance to Arabian rule in Oman to ebb.
The arriving colonists came from a variety of sources, predominantly from Oman with the Dhofaris most strongly represented as well as a large number of citizens of the city of Muscat. The first arrivals were those most loyal to the Sultan, however after 2204 Arabian policy in Oman began to force even larger numbers to Tirane. Ultimately nearly 400 000 Omanis emigrated to Tirane over the course of 20 years. The Arabians took the opportunity to load large numbers of 'undesirables' from other areas into the colonisation effort resulting in communities from elsewhere in southern Arabia, the Gulf coast and Kuwait. This policy was eventually rescinded but only after seeding Masira with elements from these communities. Further emigration to the region came from elsewhere in Wellon in response to economic growth in the Sultanate. Low level colonisation direct from Islamic communities on Earth has provided a steady trickle of new comers to the settlement over the century.
After ten years the settlement of Masira began to be able to stand on its own two feet. Agriculture was fully operational having overcome the disastrous harvests of 2204 and 2207. Infrastructure and basic services and industries were formed and health and education facilities firmly established. In 2211 the population was increasing so fast the New Quarter was established as an area of cheap housing. Qaboos I initiated a dialogue within the settlement as to what its higher purpose would be. The ageing Sultan set forward a desire for Masira to be a catalyst for a return to the Golden Age of liberal Islam and contributed to the foundation of the Mouseion. Some of the more hard bitten Masirans, as they now thought of themselves, were sceptical of the old man's dreams but tentatively agreed that this was not a ignoble target to aim for.
In 2219 fortune smiled on Masira. Resource prospectors in the Golden Bay, formed by a meteor strike, located a Tantalum under the ocean floor. The resulting economic boom changed much in Masira. The economic situation in the city transformed overnight; joint venture companies and some individuals, Qaboos I included, became very rich. Whilst many Masirans got jobs in, or related to the Tantalum extraction a large number of non-Islamic workers came in from outside the Sultanate which led to the formation of the new town of Inniskilling. Part of the taxation on the Tantalum industry was out into trust and used to enhance educational and medical establishments. The strike was a relatively minor one, lasting only 15 years at its height but it changed Masira fundamentally.
In 2228 Sultan Qaboos I passed away in the palace he had built himself and his son Said became Sultan in his stead. Said had spent his whole adult life in opposition to the Arabian occupation and had led a guerrilla Firqat in Dhofar during the 2180s. Said was still passionately dedicated to freeing Oman which was his primary goal and he spent most of his time on Earth. As Sultan Said began to filter money from Masira into front companies on Terra, he brought about legislation in Masira to aid and obscure the origins of this money. Volunteers from the militia Sultan's Regiment were sent to Earth to participate in guerrilla and terrorist actions against the Arabians. Much to the annoyance of the British who thought the matter settled.
This concentration on Earth by Sultan Said led to problems for him at home. An Islamist faction grew up in Masira, influenced by the actions of Said as well as the Tantalum strikes with its resulting increased gap between rich and poor and the influx of non-Muslims. The main aim of the Masiran Islamists was the creation of an Islamic Republic of Masira, removing the Sultan, introducing total shariah law and succeeding from Wellon. Whilst Sultan Said dismissed the Islamists as Arabian puppets due to their roots in the old Kuwaiti and Muscat middle classes they were expressing popular grievances. Civil unrest grew and the Gendarmerie was used heavily handily to suppress the Islamists.
With Sultan Said away on Earth and the situation deteriorating, his able son Qaboos (later Qaboos II) was eventually appointed as Regent. Qaboos II laid several new policies in place which undercut the influence of the Islamists and reduced tension in Masira. However in 2234 Said returned to Masira after the failure of his latest Terran campaign and set about routing out the Islamists from Masira, launching the Gendarmerie and Sultan's Regiment into their strongholds. Predictably intense rioting erupted and the city swayed between Islamists and the Sultan's loyalists in what was known as the Islamist Crisis. Qaboos II pleaded with his father to back down, whilst British and South Albion paratroopers stood by to intervene from New Capetown. However at the height of the crisis Sultan Said died unexpectedly of a heart attack whilst in argument with his son, who took over as Sultan.
Under Qaboos II the crisis passed from its height, although bad blood certainly remained. He calmed the situation and introduced much needed reforms, such as the Ulama, genuine democracy and addressing the poverty of several key districts. These removed much of the support the Islamists enjoyed, leaving them with only an extremist rump. Qaboos II reintroduced several ideas of his grandfather Qaboos I, including the need to develop Masira as a centre for a new Golden Age of liberal Islam engaged with other cultures and religions. The rump Islamists were further tarnished with links to Arabian intelligence and faded as a cogent political force in the Sultanate.
Despite his willingness to credit his grandfather Qaboos II was the architect of modern Masira, establishing much of its legislative and constitutional precedence. He also managed to maintain the Sultanate's semi-autonomous status when the Dominion of Wellon was formed and became a well known figure in wider Wellonese politics. Although his later reputation was one of a jovial elder statesman no one ever doubted his political acuity or ruthlessness.
Throughout the four decades of Qaboos II's reign Masira grew steadily and surely. The town of Inniskilling was successfully integrated into the Sultanate and the industrial area of New Sfax firmly established. Masira also developed a tourist industry based mostly on visitors from other parts of Wellon but also from Muslims from the rest of Tirane. Masira diversified into petrochemical extraction following the mining out of the Tantalum and still has a significant polymer industry. Simultaneously with its economic growth the Sultanate grew culturally with the development of strains of Islam native to Tirane and the slow integration of the constituent communities.
Sultan Qaboos II died in a plane crash in the Golden Bay in 2276 and was greatly mourned. He was succeeded by his son Kamil who had grown up firmly in the shadow of his father and stayed firmly away from the limelight. His period as Sultan saw the political development of Masira come on leaps and bounds in the absence of a forward Sultan. Kamil was more interested in hunting and his boats than politics and was known for his patronage of the arts. He died in 2295 and was succeed by his sun Taimur, the current Sultan.
The Sultanate of Masira is located on the southern coast of the Golden Bay. It is an area of fertile coastal plain sealed off from the surrounding Blight desert by high ground, known as the Djebel Azraq or Blue Djebel, which rises to a 400m high plateau before shelving away into the desert. The coastline to either side of the Sultanate is extremely rocky and inhospitable.
The plain has a coastline some 100km long and is 27km deep at its widest point. The coastline is regular and has several excellent areas of beach. It has only one deep harbour near New Sfax but a channel has been dredged to aid navigation into the port of Masira City. The coastal plain is well irrigated thanks to the regular rains of the region. These feed five main rivers which flow down wadis from the Djebel. The wadis are wide, fertile and green throughout the seasons and grandseasons. The Djebel is covered with blue scrub grass whose colour gives the feature its name.
There are three major urban areas in the Sultanate; from east to west these are New Sfax, Masira City and Inniskilling. These are all of on the coast and take up over half of the useable land. The coastal plain is mainly flat, although there are some areas of high ground, now covered by the urban sprawl of Masira City, and Siwa Hill. At over 200m high Siwa Hill is a major landmark of the Sultanate.
The weather in Masira is incredibly regular, thanks largely to northerly prevailing winds in the early hours of the day. The winds almost always bring early morning rains across the Sultanate, however by mid-morning the wind dies away and the day heats up. The nights are usually also warm as the wind picks up from the south bringing the hot Blight air down across the Djebel. The effects of the seasons are to make the summers a little hotter and the winters a little wetter, but there is little major change.
The grandseasons make a little more difficult and the summer convergence can be very hot, whilst the winter convergence can cause serious flash flooding in the wadis. Tonnerre storms on the Golden Bay usually miss the Sultanate but their after effects can also cause major flooding. The Sultanate can sometimes suffer from sandstorms whipped in over the Djebel by the so called Sethia wind from the heart of the Blight. Although relatively rare the Sethia can leave the streets of Masira knee deep in sand when it occurs.
Masira City is the heart of the Sultanate and the main conurbation. Founded by Sultan Qaboos I it is also the oldest part of the Sultanate and the economic and political centre.
The Central district was the home to the original colony of exiled Omanis, whose prefabricated buildings were built in the shadow of the 5km long Raleigh's Ridge, the end of which juts out into the sea. Today the initial colony area is the site of Main Road which runs along the coastline and is lined with the most expensive shops, hotels and restaurants in the Sultanate. At the northern end of the ridge is the Sultan's Palace, a sprawling, white walled complex of buildings that has grown substantially over the years. Its glittering blue minarets are a distinctive signature of the city and are shown on many postcards.
The ridge is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the Sultanate and many of the area's key players have property here. These buildings are often large compounds, whilst the area has some major areas of park land containing Terran fauna. The western part of Central is home to the financial and commercial part of the city. This has been redeveloped in the last 30 years and is now an area of high rise buildings built in Novo Cano style, a somewhat controversial decision in the city. This part of the city is where many of the non-Masirans work and has a bustle and fast pace unusual in the rest of the city.
The Taqa district is to the west of Central on the coast and is bounded by Babiali to the south and Salalah to the west. The eastern part of the district is a continuation of the Central business district, although notably less high rise than its neighbour. The eastern part of the district is home to many of the main hotels of the city as well as much of its nightlife and is excluded from Shariah Law. The casinos, bars and night clubs are mainly the haunts of non-Masiran workers but many Masirans also make merry in this area. More conservative Masirans are disgusted by the activities that go on here.
Salalah is the westernmost of the coastal districts of Masira City, and perhaps its most run-down. Originally a small fishing settlement, the area has been on an economic downturn for many years. The coastal area of Salalah around a the small port hasn't changed much over the course of the century and is still an area of tight streets and small buildings. This part of Salalah is home to many of the Tiranean Islamists of the Sultanate. Much of the rest of the district has been redeveloped, with many minarcs being built over the years. This part of the city is increasingly popular amongst young people who work in Central or Babiali.
The New Quarter is the most famous part of Masira. It has developed from parts of the city opened by the Sultan to development by the poorest colonists. What has grown up is a chaotic, vibrant, rabbit warren a world away from the typical highly planned Wellonese city. This melting pot is a riot of tight streets, narrow canals, tall tenements, refurbished apartments, crowded markets, esoteric shops and cosmopolitan artists. The New Quarter is home to people who have originated from across Earth, Tirane and many of the colony worlds.
The New Quarter is seen by some as a centre of criminality within the city, indeed the district gives the Gendarmerie more trouble than any others. Some members of the criminal families based here have become near legendary figures in the Sultanate. Whilst some things go on in the New Quarter that are indefensible, indeed there are rumours of indenturing amongst the poorer families, many people find the place a refreshing place to live and property in the area can be expensive. Many conservative figures want the district bulldozed and replaced by new build minarcs, but most inhabitants of the New Quarter don't want anything to change.
Babiali is the governmental and academic district of the city. It is well known for its green parks, rooftop gardens and wide boulevards and has the reputation as being the nicest place to live in Masira. The Council and Ulama is located here in a sprawling complex at the centre of the district. The University, the Institute and the Mouseion are also found here. A large number of people also live in this district of which many are civil servants, whilst many minarcs are set aside for the students that study here. A final landmark is the Central Mosque, located in a quiet area in the east of the district. A nondescript, slightly decaying structure its congregation include the Sultan and other key figures of the city whilst the Imam is one of the most influential religious leaders. It is believed that the Sultan often worships here as a reminder of the humble roots of the Sultanate.
The Jaguar district is Masira's stereotypical area of suburbia. The district is a large, well spaced and well organised one utterly different to the neighbouring, crowded New Quarter. Most of the housing in the district is in the minarc style, and moving to the district from elsewhere in the city is seen as an act of social climbing. Jaguar has traditionally been home to most of the city's Anglo-Omani population, but today the population is very mixed.
Rakyut rivals the New Quarter as the most densely populated area of the city and the areas minarcs and other buildings are packed into its area. The population is predominantly Dhofari and the area is precisely defined, to an inhabitant at any rate, between the various Beits. Rakyut has a reputation as a lively, friendly community and the corner cafés are always busy. The area is also known for the large number of Christian churches on its southern edge.
Salahadin is built upon a high ground at the confluence of the Kathir and the Keynes rivers. It is one of the most recently built districts, growing up in the 2270's and is a self contained town in its own right. Salahadin was designed by developers from elsewhere in the city and aimed at wealthy new colonists. As a result Salahadin is seen as the least 'Masiran' parts of the city and is home to many colonists from the UAR, Iraq and North Africa. Many of these colonists have made little effort to integrate into Masiran society. The district has some of Masira's main hospitals and is home to the main football club Masira City FC.
New Sfax is the Sultanate's main industrial and port area. Located some 20km to the west of Masira City around the mouth of the Nahiz it has grown up around the area's best natural harbour. It is the centre of Masira's communications links with the port and LTA facilities and the international airport located just to the south. The town is characterised by large industrial zones with areas of parkland separating them. Few people live here and most commute in from Masira City or Inniskilling, however there are a few areas of restaurants and shops to cater for workers when they are here. The port area has numerous cheap hotels for sailors and other travellers but most travel into Masira City's Taqa district or on to Inniskilling to enjoy themselves. New Sfax has a good road net that is quiet at night, although young Masirans have taken to racing motorbikes around the streets after dark and the Gendarmerie is trying to stamp this out.
Inniskilling is Masira's second city and is located in the east of the Sultanate beyond the Arzat. Inniskilling has a much more mixed population than Masira City and is not under Shariah Law. Inniskilling was started as a dormitory town for workers from the rest of Wellon who came to Masira during the Tantalum boom, and the rowdy atmosphere was always very different from the rest of the Sultanate. Many of the workers chose to remain in Masira and formed the kernal of the city. Today it makes most of its money from its fine beaches and the tourists that come to the Sultanate. Many of the locals work in New Sfax or in resource extraction in the Golden Bay.
Inniskilling makes much of its legal status and its hotels, night-clubs and bars are crowded by Wellonese holiday makers. These usually laze on the beach or visit the New Quarter during the day and then enjoy Inniskilling's night life after dark. Predictably the more conservative Masirans disapprove of such antics but the money the tourists bring in and the jobs they provide have proven more important. Inniskilling is a pretty city with hotels in the coastal area and housing for locals built into the slopes of the Djebel.
There is a small settlement on the southern flank of Siwa Hill. This is a religious district unique in Wellon, and is home to an array of temples, churches, mosques, a synagogue and Dasin temples with their distinctive spires. The community is a peaceful one in serene surroundings, conducive to inter-religion dialogue that has little influence on the day-to-day life of Masira.
The Sultanate is run as a unitary authority under the Southern New Albion Assembly for administrative purposes, although the Sultanate is actually only answerable to the Wellon Government. This has at times caused some difficulty between the Sultanate and the Southern New Albion Assembly, but generally the later concentrate more on events around Point Sterling and the Coast and Islands. However should such a dispute occur the Chief Minister of the Sultanate can appeal direct to the Home Secretary of the Wellon Government or even to the Governor-General. This represents the updating of the Sultanate's original protectorate status under the British Governor-General.
The Sultanate government itself has evolved in a style akin to the British style of constitutional monarchy. Although this has developed without official sanction it is accepted without much demure in official circles, however it is occasionally controversial with certain of the opinion formers in secular Wellonese society.
The Sultanate is run in bicameral style; the Council as lower house, Ulama as upper house and the Sultan as an executive figurehead. Power predominantly rests with the Council of Masira, which almost identical to any other Wellonese Shire or Metropolitan Council. It is composed of Councillors from some 120 districts across the Sultanate who are elected for four year terms. The Council has its own Cabinet of Ministers drawn from the councillors, whilst the head of the council is known as the Chief Minister who is elected by the councillors and is usually the leader of the largest political party. The Council of Masira is located in the Babiali District and deals with the day to day running of the Sultanate.
Forming the 'upper house' is the Ulama of Masira. The term Ulama was traditionally used to denote a community of men learned in the ways of Islam, and indeed many of these Alim are represented in the Ulama of Masira. However here the membership has been widened to include notable people with more secular knowledge as well as learned people of other religions. Indeed amongst those on the Ulama include several atheist FPK members, the head of the Anglican community, the Dasin Shaykh, the Professor of Philosophy from the University and the Khalifa Ali Ibn-Salah, although he rarely attends, to name but a few. The Ulama was first gathered together at the time of the Islamist Crisis and has sat ever since. Membership is by both invitation and inclination and numbers fluctuate. The Ulama takes as its remit the morale and spiritual health of the Sultanate and advises both the Sultan and Council. It has no secular legal authority but has substantial moral authority, as well as religious authority over the devout. However the Ulama has the power to elect a new Sultan, although it never has done so.
The Sultan acts as the unofficial executive of the Sultanate. His official power rests in his ability to appeal direct to the both the Governor-General and the Prime Minister of Britain, laid down in the Gibraltar Accords, although these have rarely been exercised. His unofficial power has two roots, his position as owner of nearly 50% of the Sultanate's land and his moral authority as leader of the community. At the time of the Islamist Crisis, Sultan Qaboos II, gave the newly formed Ulama the authority to appoint a new Sultan should the consensus agree, this has had the effect of increasing the legitimacy of his position. He is consulted widely by the Council and the Ulama, he is also a member of the Upper House of the Wellon Parliament.
The decisions of the Council are translated into reality by the civil service. Originally this body was appointed largely by the Sultan, providing him with a source of patronage. However the corruption this engendered, especially under Sultan Said, badly damaged the legitimacy of the Sultanate and helped provoke the Islamist Crisis. Its reform created a body committed to robust impartiality and fearsome probity which it retains today. The civil service is well paid, highly educated and thoroughly humourless in its implementation of the council's decisions. In part it is this attitude that leads many Masirans to prefer the informal justice dispensed by the Sultan.
Masira's foreign relations, like those or the rest of Wellon, are run from New Camelot by Her Majesties Wellonic Government. However Masira's position as the only predominantly Islamic semi-autonomous enclave brings it a unusual level of prominence in the wider Muslim world. Many Terran Muslims believe that Masira should become the first Tiranean Islamic Republic and support Islamist groups in Masira which lack wider Masiran support outside the recent immigrant population. Masira's consistent rivalry with Arabia, and especially Masiran support of anti-Arabian groups can also be a problem. Arabian agents have consistently tried to infiltrate Masira, although with relatively little success thanks to the efforts of the Gendarmerie Special Branch.
The primary policing agency of the Sultanate is the Masiran Gendarmerie. The Gendarmerie was initially established after feuding amongst former members of the Firqats in 2208 and was composed primarily of other former Firqat members. This armed paramilitary force was officered initially by former military officers and the Sultan's favourites. However it soon proved unreliable and gained a reputation for corruption and brutality, being patently unsuitable for civilian policing. Under pressure from the British government the force was reformed with a wave of instructors and seconded officers coming in from the UK and other parts of British Tirane. The new Gendarmerie was much more effective and better trained, whilst most of its militaristic functions were delegated to the Sultan's Regiment.
Today the Gendarmerie is a reasonably well respected force with a better reputation than most of the southern police forces. The rather prominent political profile of the Sultanate results in any Gendarmerie misdemeanours being widely reported in the media. It is a conventionally organised force drawn from across Masiran society as well as from other parts of Wellon. Traditionally the Anglican Anglo-Omani community tends to dominate the senior echelons of the force, whilst the Chief Constable of the Gendarmerie is more often than not recruited from outside the Sultanate. These two factors result in the Gendarmerie being frequently criticised by Islamist opinion formers within the Sultanate.
Also present in the Sultanate is the Royal Wellon Constabulary which has a small office in the central district. This office is mostly engaged in monitoring the Masiran business, banking and information handling sectors. The intelligence community also has a small presence in Masira, again focused on its business dealings.
Masira has an array of Law Courts, both official and un-official. There are a number of Magistrate's Courts across the Sultanate to deal with local petty crime, whilst located in Babiali are the Sultanate Court and the Crown Court which deal with more serious civil and criminal crime. Appeals are referred to the Court of Appeal in Livingstone.
With the exception of the Court of Appeal the law courts of Masira dispense justice based on a combination of English Common Law with the addition of several elements of Shariah Law which have been added by the Council through the years. However these elements do not apply in several enclaves; including Inniskilling, parts of Taqa and smaller areas even down to individual minarcs. Like the rest of Wellon Masira has no capital punishment but it has an unusual system for Shariah punishments involving nanotechnology which take away the offenders ability to use certain limbs. For example a thief may be sentenced to lose the ability to use his left hand for three years.
The final court in Masira is the Court of Arbitration. This has no place in the typical Wellon system of law and is unique to Masira. Should Masirans come to dispute, rather than go through the usual channels of legal redress can appeal directly to the Sultan for arbitration. The Sultan will then appoint one of his own Household to investigate the claim before offering a ruling. This system is usually far quicker and less expensive than opening normal litigation and is very popular. The Sultan's judgement is only rarely disputed, as when it is the case is usually referred to the law courts. If the law courts do not take it on, the Sultan usually has enough clout to make life difficult for the offender.
Masira has its fair share of criminals. Many of these are white collar criminals working in the business and banking sectors, some of which have links to crime syndicates of North Albion. Petty crime is a problem frequently found in the New Quarter as well as amongst adolescents elsewhere in the city. The New Quarter is home to a number of criminal families whose reach extends across the Sultanate, whilst certain Islamist groups have also turned to crime to finance their activities. There are consistent rumours of a small group of assassins working from the New Quarter for the highest bidder. The Ash'in are rumoured to have been recruited from all races and religions and run by a shadowy old man, however no member of the Ash'in has ever been apprehended by the Gendarmerie and so many believe they are nothing but an urban myth.
The Wellon Defence Force does not have a strong presence in Masira. The Royal Wellon Navy has a small base in the city docks which is home to facilities to welcome and maintain visiting warships from the fleet. These usually come from carrier groups using the Colenso facilities with whose crews Masira is a popular port call. The only units stationed permanently at HMWS Aboukir are a number of Coast Guard ships and life boats. The RWAF similarly maintains facilities at Sultan Qaboos II Airport for use as a staging post. These see occasional use as a simulated enemy airbase for air exercises at Colenso, however the facilities for air and ground crew are severely limited compared with more permanent bases.
The only ground military unit based in the Sultanate is the 104th Battalion of the Royal Wellon Airmobile Regiment. This formation is the direct descendent of the Sultan's Regiment and traces its lineage to the Omani Sultan's Own Parachute Regiment. Officially a Home Service unit, usually a sedentary designation, 104 RWAR is actually a highly trained, formidably equipped unit which although based in Masira is free to operate anywhere in Wellon. 104 RWAR is based at Firqat Barracks on the Djebel at the eastern end of the Sultanate. Other Wellon Army units that recruit in the Sultanate include the 2nd Royal Southerns and the King's Own Western Dragoons. The RWN and RWAF are also successful recruiters from the Sultanate.
The Sultanate has a vestigial militia force known as the Firqats. These are descended from the guerrilla forces of Dhofar, the Radfan and urban terrorists of Muscat. Some of these had reformed on their arrival on Tirane and rivalries between some of them forced their suppression by the Gendarmerie. Some of the Firqats were disbanded then, whilst others became little more than social clubs and only a few continued as active, if disarmed organisations. However in recent years the Firqat tradition has been revived in militia form, there are now six active Firqats each the size of an infantry company. Generally they are poorly trained and equipped, whilst some are suspected of Islamist leanings attracting Gendarmerie Special Branch attention. The Kafer War has produced a surge of interest in the Firqats as potential guerrilla forces but so far the WDF is yet to produce a program to upgrade the units.
Masira has a reputation as being remote from the rest of Wellon, predominantly as the result of a lack of over ground linkages. However the Sultanate has a well developed internal transport network and excellent air and sea facilities.
Air links have always been important in the south and Masira has two major airports and a number of smaller strips. Sultan Qaboos II International Airport is the main facility located to the east of the city. This has two runways, one of which is capable of taking spaceplanes as well as the largest transatmospheric cruisers. It is the main route in and out of Masira for most people travelling for business and pleasure. New Sfax Airport concentrates more on STOL and LTA traffic, providing an air-sea interface. Lesser airstrips can be found across the Sultanate, ranging from the small City Airport catering for executive STOL aircraft to temporary strips used for a variety of local tasks.
Wellon Airways is the main carrier into Masira, with at least two flights a day to all the major cities of Wellon. It also runs flights to Mirambeau and Bennelong. NovoCano and French carriers have reciprocal arrangements. A number of cheaper carriers also run tourist flights into the Sultanate, however these are charter rather than scheduled services. Air Masira is the locally owned carrier, in which the Sultan has a large stake, which provides local links to New Capetown and the rest of the Westlands as well as luxurious flights to Point Sterling, Victoria and New Camelot.
Masira is closely linked to the sea and relies upon shipping for much of its movement of heavy goods or ore into the Wellonese economy. The City Docks are used primarily for passenger craft, including the fast ferry to New Capetown, however the harbour is a shallow one and capacity is somewhat limited. Indeed RWN warships on shore runs must stand-off the city and ferry sailors and supplies into the harbour. The city is also home to a number of upscale marinas home to an array of highly expensive yachts. The docks at New Sfax exploit the excellent deep harbour there and provides the majority of the Sultanate's cargo carrying capacity. Liners, tankers and cargo ships can all be found calling in at New Sfax. The co-location of the port with the airport catering to FTL traffic has proved a boon to business and rapid movement of ore. The New Sfax facilities are profitable, but no longer as modern as they once were.
Internal travel within the Sultanate relies on a combination of road and tram networks. Relatively few Masirans have cars, and those that do usually live in the interior or on the Djebel. The roads around the coastal area of the Sultanate are very good, but are infrequently used. Those in the interior have more traffic but become increasingly worn the further away from the coast you get. Only the so called Djebel Road, which has the designation SB 190, is a metalled road and even that is poorly maintained. Those Masirans that choose to journey out into the Blight usually have their own well equipped all-terrain vehicles and the lack of roads is not a particularly limiting factor. A final element to the road net is the so called ACV Lane, an area of common land leading over the Djebel from the Blight into New Sfax for heavy ACV traffic.
One of the reasons why levels of car ownership is so low in Masira is the presence of an excellent tram system that criss-crosses the Sultanate. A combination of slow and fast trams connect every major settlement in the area, with slow trams working the roads alone and the fast trams having access to a system of viaducts. Masira is proud of its tram system which moves the vast majority of the Sultanate's commuters every day and the trams are clean, modern, efficient and frequent. The trams are notable for the presence of a female-only section on each tram, although not compulsory many Masiran women, both Christian and Islamic, use this section as it is not usually crowded. Using the trams alone it is possible to traverse the Sultanate in less than an hour.
Much of the Sultanate's wealth depends on the natural resources of the surrounding region. In particular the Golden Bay has a substantial reserve of petrochemicals that are still being exploited and are usually refined in the industrial complex at New Sfax. As well as petrochemicals, prospectors have assessed that the sea bed of the Golden Bay has impressive mineral deposits, however these are as yet not economical to extract. Given the nature of the Golden Bay as an asteroid impact crater several specialist mineral prospecting concerns make a living scouring the sea bed for exotic minerals. These teams are often on the bread line, looking for the 'El Dorado' strike of tantalum to make their fortunes. Whilst no trace of tantalum has been found for nearly 30 years these teams locate enough valuable minerals to keep at least three specialist extraction vessels at work in the Golden Bay.
Other mineral resources have been found on the flanks of the Djebel, indeed much of the Sultanate's early wealth is built upon the minerals brought out of the hills. Today most of the mines are exhausted and active operations have moved to the Blight side of the Djebel or deeper into the desert. The mining that remains in the Djebel tends to be for the purposes of feeding Masira's jewellery industry. Commercial mining is conducted in the deep Blight and Masira is used as a transport hub, fed either by heavy ground ACVs or FTLs.
Masira is powered by several sources. The bulk of the power requirements are fed from a floating rectenna farm anchored to the sea bed some 20 km offshore. However there are other elements which make the best of Masira's regular weather patterns. Off-shore wind farms left over from the early days of the colony are the next most used in terms of production. Indeed the wind farms are owned by the Sultanate and are used to provide very cheap power for the most impoverished Masirans. In addition almost all Masiran buildings have solar panels to take advantage of the midday sun. Lastly the Djebel reservoirs have power generation units which are used to provide cheap power to the wadi farms.
Industry in the Sultanate is largely confined to New Sfax, which has a substantial heavy industrial complex. These are refineries for the most part, producing bulk goods from the raw materials mined in the area. These are then shipped out to New Birmingham or beyond through the port. Factories producing finished goods are less common, indeed the largest produces the city's trams. Most other large manufactured goods are brought into the city by sea. The Sultan has been responsible for leading the creation of a nascent aerospace sector and Royal Masiran Defence has won governmental contracts for its UAVs.
Ever since the time of Sultan Said, Masira has been noticeable for the secrecy of its banking and data protection laws. Initially used to protect the Sultan's own dealings with groups on earth, they soon attracted business from outside the Sultanate. Today the Sultanate is one of a network of small enclaves across Tirane offering such services, however Masira is one of the best respected of these. Indeed several of the major banks have a reputation to rival that of the Swiss banks on Earth, although some small institutions can disappear overnight. The banks also have an important product of offering 'Islamic Mortgages' which brings in much finance from Muslim communities in New Canberra and Nouvelle Provence.
Most of the major Wellonese firms have a presence here in order to take advantage of the slightly different laws of the Sultanate when compared with the rest of Wellon. Although minor an effective accountant can make a decent profit on these differences. Masira is home also to a large number of shipping firms and a large number of ships are registered here thanks to the combination of low fees, commercial confidentiality and the Wellon Red Ensign.
Most of the large commercial concerns native to Masira have their roots in the Tantalum boom of the 2220's, several of these invested wisely and survived the economic downturn where many did not. These companies are now diversified across the Masiran economy and have wide interests. The largest of these is Masira Commercial Enterprises, which controls a number of other companies and financial institutions, and has a substantial presence in the Westlands. The Sultan has a majority stake in MCE.
The Sultanate has a quite advanced system of agriculture, based around the well developed and fertile wadis. These are watered from the reservoirs and have long been sculpted and terraced to produce the most efficient area for high intensity agriculture. The wadis are some of the most expensive real estate in the Sultanate, more for the social value of owning land there than the profitability of the farming. Most of the wadi farming is of high value products such as fruits and exotic vegetables. Less efficient food production takes place on the interior of the coastal plain. This is, like the wadi farming, divided up into small holdings usually owned or leased by the more recent arrivals to Masira. Farming on the plain usually concentrates on the production of cereal crops. Farming in the Sultanate is notable especially for is concentration on Terran produce to the almost total exclusion of native Tiranean foods.
The slopes of the Djebel outside of the wadis are not suitable for large scale farming of Terran crops and instead are used to graze animals. These are usually the hardy, if foul tempered, amarre capra, genetically modified goats which are rumoured to be able to survive on just about anything. Large numbers of amarre capra roam the Djebel, occasionally being preyed upon by Rockats. Further out into the Blight specialist Azraqi hunters make a living tracking down Sand Snakes which are local delicacy.
Fishing in the Golden Bay and further out into the Great Western Ocean is a major industry for local Masirans. This provides a major part of the local diet, with paddler an especial delicacy. The fishing fleet operates mostly form New Sfax and a couple of smaller ports along the coast. The deeper ocean trawlers have occasionally clashed with their counterparts from both New Capetown and Amaterasu, and fisheries protection vessels from both sides keep a careful eye on the disputed fishing grounds.
In spite of these agricultural and fishing activities the Sultanate is currently far from self-sufficient in foodstuffs and relies upon imports from the rest of Wellon.
Education has always received a high priority in the Sultanate, thanks in part to the FPK's early groundwork. The education system is multi-layered with compulsory and voluntary aspects. The Sultanate has a comprehensive system of primary schooling from the ages of 5-11 after which secondary education is streamed into schools biased towards sciences, humanities, technology and so forth. Tertiary education follows the usual Wellonese pattern of attendance at a college of further education or a university. It should be noted that compulsory education in the Sultanate is entirely secular.
In addition to this compulsory education the Sultanate has an additional system of voluntary education based around schools run after main school hours. These range from religious schools to community groups, from 'cramers' to sports clubs. Many are aimed at catering for specific groups within the community and several are very prestigious and have an exclusive intake. For many in society these can take on great importance in later life and if Masira has an 'old school tie' system then this is it. However these extra two hours of education a day add greatly to the standard of education in the Sultanate which is well above the Wellonese average.
Wellon has a large number of tertiary colleges and two major universities. The University of Masira and the Masiran Institute. Of these the University has the better national reputation but the Institute is seen locally as a more seriously minded place of study. In addition to these there is the Mouseion, an Islamic foundation which also supports the research of the other local institutions. The FPK also has a large presence in the Sultanate, conducting research into the Blight and Golden Bay as well as monitoring the forming culture of Masira itself.
The Sultanate has a number of high cultural institutions based out of Bibalia. These include the Symphonia Al-Masirah as well as the large Qaboos II Gallery which was gifted with a wealthy endowment by the former Sultan. There are also establishments dedicated to ensuring the survival of southern Arabia's cultural traditions.
Masira is, like the rest of Wellon, well served by the media with access to any number of services from Wellon and Tirane. There are two main local stations which are dedicated to Masiran affairs and broadcast in both English and Arabic. The largest of these is WBC Masira the local branch of the Wellon Broadcasting Corporation which has a rather staid and 'correct' approach. The other is Masira Information and Media, MIM which is a privately owned corporation which runs several broadcast media stations and publishes a range of news papers including Kalam Al Masirah the Sultanate's major Arabic daily. MIM has a much more populist tone but is often reluctant to criticise the status quo in Masira, something that is usually left to the WBC.
Masira has an active sporting life with a variety of sports being popular. The major sport is football, with Masira City FC representing the Sultanate in the 2nd Division of the WPL. Masira City FC have generally struggled and are usually found in the lower half of the division despite noisy home support. The Sultanate has its own thriving semi-professional local league and there are hopes that home grown players will be able to eventually lift Masira City FC into the higher league. The other major sport is sailing, which is a very popular pastime in this coastal area. Whilst most of its practitioners are hobbyists, Masira has produced many professional crews that have done well in national and international competition.
Hunting on the Djebel is popular in the Sultanate, especially with the richer sections of society. However this is primarily conducted using older, even antique, methods. Hunting with hawks and reproduction muzzle loading weapons is the order of the day. Professionals employed to cull rockats and rockjumpers are equipped with modern equipment.
As alcohol is banned in most of the Sultanate much of the social life revolves around corner cafés. Conversation and game playing are very much a part of the day and many visitors find the willingness of Masirans to engage with outsiders refreshing. This has also led to the Sultanate gaining a deserved reputation as a hot bed of gossip, most of which never reaches conventional media outlets.
Taimur Ibn-Kamil, Sultan of Masira
The fifth Sultan is a young man of 32 who has only recently inherited the mantle of the Sultanate from his father. Handsome, charming and extremely rich he is one of the more renowned playboys of the core worlds. He was educated at a boarding school in Meritshire and later at Aston and Harvard Universities. He continued to be educated whilst home at Masira and amongst his many tutors were Alim of the Ulama and he struck up friendships with many of them that last today. After graduating he served for several years in 104 RWAR, first as soldier and later as a junior officer. However the death of his father brought an end to his military career.
Sultan Taimur is often dismissed by his detractors as little more than a dissolute raconteur which misses the steel, cunning and intelligence of the man. However despite his philanthropy and diligence some believe his love of the good life detracts from his other work. His membership of the Upper House and upper councils of the FPK being a point in question. In spite of rumours he remains an observant Muslim in the mainstream of Ibadite Islam, but does have a great deal of sympathy with the Jadallahis and maintains his friendship with Ali Ibn-Salah. Taimur is a showman still in the flush of youth, he may yet mature into a fine statesman.
Sir Abdullah Keynes, Chief Minister of the Sultanate of Masira
Sir Abdullah was born in Muscat on Earth in 2227 to one of the city's few remaining Anglo-Omani families, part of the powerful Beit Keynes, but his family soon emigrated to Masira. He was educated in the city although he attended university in at the European University in Mont Royal. Whilst always interested in politics the young Abdullah first gained a place as an administrator with Masira Commercial Enterprises before moving into politics in the late 2250s. A conservative Liberal Democrat, he has served in an array of positions in both the Masira Council and in the Wellonese Lower House and been Chief Minister of the Sultanate numerous times. He is undoubtedly a big fish in a small pond who made little impact nationally despite dominating Masira's political scene.
A friend and protégé of Sultan Qaboos II in his later life, Sir Abdullah is immaculately connected in Masiran society and is an expert manipulator of its political system. Sir Abdullah was regarded as the power behind the throne of Sultan Kamil and his long grip on power is regarded with suspicion by the new Sultan. Whilst always ambitious and very wealthy, Sir Abdullah has always tried to serve Masira well but his long years in and around power has tainted him in many eyes. He fears for the political instability of the Sultanate under the inexperienced Taimur and the rivalry between the two men is intense. Nevertheless Sir Abdullah intends to retire soon to live with his extended family on his estate in the Wadi Keynes. He is an observant Ibadite and regards the Jadallahis with suspicion.
Khalifa Ali Ibn-Salah
Ali Ibn-Salah is perhaps the most famous resident of Masira and is the informal spiritual head of the Jadallahi. Whose members have dubbed him the Khalifa, much to his embarrassment. He is a member of the Ulama and well known and respected around the Sultanate. A sprightly man in his mid-90's, his health is only just beginning to fail, restricting his wanderings. He is a first generation Masiran, born in the city in 2208 to Dhofari parents. He was an intelligent, inquisitive child with a wicked sense of humour, he often drove teachers to distraction. He developed into a talented Islamic scholar and a precocious alim. However he was not satisfied simply to remain in Masira and journeyed across Wellon and Tirane visiting places and communities. It was on these travels he developed some of his personal philosophies as well as gaining a small following at some of the Mosques he visited.
At the end of the 2230s he travelled to Earth to complete the Hajj, he also journeyed throughout the Middle East observing the countries and people. In the early 2240's Ali returned to Masira as a widely travelled and wiser man. His interpretation of the Ibadite traditions attracted many Muslims to his orbit, although he was always keen to try and avoid any cult of the personality growing up around him he was not always successful. He continued his journeys more locally, heading deep into the Blight and it was during one of these he discovered the Anvil of the Faith, eventually sparking the creation of the separate Jadallahi orientation. In response to this he removed himself from the mainstream of Masiran society and settled in isolation at his house on the edge of the desert. There he taught students and conversed with alim from the Sultanate and beyond.
He disappeared from the Sultanate during the 50's and headed out in to the colonial Arms, much to the consternation of his followers. Travelling incognito he visited many colonies and occasionally found controversy, notably being deported from the Arabian colony of Manzil al-Cenit on Beta Hydri. He returned to Masira in 2262 to find much has changed; his former home on the edge of the Blight had been expanded into a large complex known as the Ribat al-Jadall whilst many Jadallahi leaders had fallen into corruption. In a furious whirlwind of activity he ruthlessly destroyed the moral authority of these men and returned the basis of Jadallahi Islam to its egalitarian roots. In doing so he finally accepted his position as the moral leader of the Jadallahi. Since then he has travelled less but has achieved even greater influence in the Sultanate and in a wider Wellon.
He has never lost his probing intellect or irreverent, capricious sense of humour and gained the wisdom of common sense on his travels. Whilst a charitable, sensitive man he has been pray to vanity and arrogance in the past and possesses a combustible temper. Nevertheless he is a revered figure in the Sultanate and to have been one of his students is a mark of honour. He spends most of his time now in the Ribat, consigning his thoughts to paper and his witty, incisive writings have been well received over the last 60 years. He is now somewhat frail, although his former height and strength is still discernible. While his household is protective of him he is always willing to meet with visitors.
The Golden Rinn are the form of Rinn found in the Golden Bay. The Golden Rinn are larger and more aggressive than the common Rinn. Notable for their grey and yellow colouring they are often found close inshore and there are daily tourist trips into the bay to watch them. The males are extremely protective of their pods and feeding territories and duelling between males is common. These spectacular fights, half-in and half-out of the water are rarely fatal but some encounters can be. Swimming with these creatures is definitely not recommended. The Golden Rinn are not semi-amphibious like the common Rinn and concentrate on aquatic fish-form foods. They are one of the symbols of the Sultanate.
Rockjumpers are members of the Dranta family and are found along the coastline of the Golden Bay. Small, fleet-footed and robust they are grazers who live on the blue-green vegetation found on the Djebel. They are inquisitive, territorial and if possible even more foul tempered than the capras that share their grazing areas. Rockjumpers are renowned for their ability to travel almost anywhere and it is not uncommon for climbers on the Djebel to come face-to-face with Rockjumpers on even the sheerest rock faces. With the influx of capras and the suppression of the Rockat, their traditional predator, the Rockjumper has proliferated and become something of a menace. Indeed many people in the city have found their roof top gardens made of meal of by itinerant Rockjumpers. Whilst farming Rockjumpers has proved impractical they are occasionally culled, their meat tastes remarkably like bacon.
A small, member of the Tiranean arachnoform family the Silk Spider is found in caves on the djebel. It dwells within a cocoon of self-extruded silk like material, emerging at night to devour small insects. The delicate silk, when treated and woven makes a distinctively coloured light but hard wearing fabric. Attempts to replicate the fabric or farm the Silk Spider commercially have failed and the only reliable way of harvesting the cocoons is to gather them from the caves at night. Obviously this results in the material being in very short supply and is expensive, consequently it is much in demand in the fashion boutiques on Main Road. Harvesting is tightly regulated to ensure the survival, and profitability of the industry.
The Rockat is a member of the Tiracat family resembling a small, thinner Redkat. They are scavengers and resided originally on the Djebel and the outer edge of the Blight and traditionally preyed on Rockjumpers. Although not normally dangerous to humans they can attack if cornered or starving. Rockats were hunted extensively in the early years to protect the grazing animals on the djebel and surviving packs were forced into the Blight. Some individuals were forced into the city and so-called 'urban rockats' are blamed for many misfortunes.