Muscat-based residents recount mugging incident in Georgia

Oman Monday 09/January/2023 21:00 PM
By: Times News Service
Muscat-based residents recount mugging incident in Georgia

Muscat: The time of holidays and festive season is just coming to an end. While many travellers arrived to enjoy the beauty of the Sultanate of Oman, quite a few of Omani citizens and residents travelled outside the country.

One of the popular destinations for Omani citizens and GCC residents in recent times has been Georgia due to its beauty, visa-on-arrival option and attractive air travel offers.

While the majority of travellers have returned with fond memories, a few of them had a different tale to share as they experienced their worst holidays in Georgia with a Muscat-based family mugged and harassed by local gangs.

The family’s decision to travel to the Caucasian country in a group was to have a nice holiday after a long hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The family and friends, who requested their names to be withheld, narrated the forgettable incident and warned travellers to be cautious and careful. Shaken to the core, the family said that the most surprising part was getting robbed by a street gang of youngsters.

Narrating the incident, the victim’s wife, who works for an IT company, said: “We were travelling to Georgia for the first time though we had friends in the group who had visited before. It was in Tbilisi that the incident happened and it was just a day before we were returning after enjoying Georgia’s snow-capped mountains, ancient fortresses, Old Town, caves, cathedrals, beaches and good food and resorts. The scary incident occurred in one of the busiest areas of the capital.

“We (my husband and my child) went out to do shopping and were moving in a large crowd from Freedom Square to Liberty Square Metro Station. A huge mall is near to the metro and just as we were entering the mall amid the loud and festive atmosphere, we were surrounded by a group of 15-20 youngsters, mostly young girls. They pushed me and my son and held my husband. While few caught his legs, others had his hand spread out while a couple of them tried to check his pockets. And soon, they all ran away and my husband realised that he had been pickpocketed. The wallet had credit cards, most importantly Oman resident cards and a couple of hundreds of dollars in cash.”

She added: We returned to the hotel and managed to block our credit cards as we had already started getting messages that it was being swiped. We contacted our local tour guide and hotel staff. The idea to approach the police and file a complaint was turned down as we were made to understand that one cannot leave Georgia if a case is filed till the investigation is over.
“We then decided to go back to the same marketplace where we had met the group with the men folk of our group joining us. We managed to spot a couple of those who were present at the time of the incident. We managed to engage in a conversation with the help of a nearby Samaritan who volunteered to act as an interpreter. After constant denials, we offered one of the boys’ cash against the return of the wallet and our resident cards. Following the assurance that we would not call the police and give them cash against the return of wallet and cards, one of the boys finally brought us the wallet and the resident cards. The few hundreds of dollars were missing and we gave them a few more to end our ordeal.”

One of the victim’s friends, a banker in Oman, said: During all these negotiations, we found that a family from the UAE also had lost their money in a similar modus operandi and learnt that few others have also been affected in the same vicinity. We checked with our guide and the hotel staff and they seemed to admit that such pickpocketing incidents were common, of late, in Tbilisi.”

Recollecting the incident, the victim’s wife said: “We are still in utter disbelief and thank God that we managed to get our resident cards. The group of boys and girls could be between ages of 10 to 15 years. We were later told that they were commonly referred to as gypsies. The hotel staff said that such incidents of robbery have seen a surge and they usually target Asian and Gulf tourists.”

“It’s important to create awareness among travelers in Oman as a lot of people visit Georgia,” the victim said.