Here's another in my highly irregular chain of MM guide to Oman posts, this one on the rites of passage for those that live here - specifically 10 ones that I've gone through. Some of them are now retired (you can't do these things anymore) but some are still alive and kicking! Life here in Oman is certainly colourful at times. This isn't meant as a negative list, I look back on these and smile, and if you've gone through them you may do too.
1. Waiting over an hour to get your visa when you arrive into the country. The first time I came here I had to line up at the Travelex counter for what seemed like an age, and then I had to line up for a tourist visa... this entire process took about an hour and a half.... after I'd been traveling for over 35 hours (there were no direct flights from Toronto at the time). Literally dead man walking, and also what I consider to be a rite of passage of life here in Oman (as an expat anyway)!
2. The airport roundabout. This one is now retired, thankfully. After my previously described marathon journey to get to Muscat, I was then scared almost out of my skin by the craziness of the roundabout that used to be by the airport. It was big, maybe 3 or 4 lanes? The thing about it was though, it was right on the SQH and the "limit" (ignored) was what it still is, 120 KM/h - so people going up and down the highway would fly into this roundabout at high speeds, and you were expected to join traffic from a stand-still. It was horrible!
3. The blood test place in Darsait. What a place that is, it is busy no matter what day or time of day you go, it's always jammed up it seems. The PRO in my old company was awesome, he knew people everywhere, including there - I used to be in and out in no time at all. Not the case with my current employer's PRO - he doesn't even show up - which invariably means... loonnnnnnng waits at the blood test place.
4. Getting your resident card. Basically this place is busier than the blood test place, and it takes AGES to get through here too! For a new expat to Oman, by this point, the penny may have dropped that patience is indeed a virtue, and you are checked that you have this virtue at every given opportunity.
5. Not being allowed to drive on, under or over the Highway because of a VIP convoy. They are not as frequent these days (perhaps the concept of helicopters has finally caught on) but it still happens once in a while. If it happens to you, expect at least 20 minutes of just sitting there!
6. Buying fruit or vegetables in a supermarket. I don't know about you, but where I come from, you bag up what you want, put it in your cart and then pay for it at check out. Not here you don't! Omanisation at it's finest... you have to line up separately to get your fruit and veg weighed and tagged, before going to the checkout where they simply scan it through. I didn't know that the first time I went shopping. At Lulu's. At 6pm.
7. Driving death valley road at night. This one is also retired, death valley road has now been replaced by the Muscat Expressway leg from Qurum to MQ. There used to be a road (one lane each direction) that wound its way up the wadi from Qurum. There was (and still is) an ROP station where all the wrecked cars from car accidents were brought. You could see the wrecks from the road - hence the name. Anyway, it didn't have any lights on it, and it was very windy, and people used to hammer up and down that road at well over 100... quite scary at night in a crap car!
8. Getting the run around by your bank. For me, it was HSBC, and I've written about it here and here. Suffice to say, if you have waited for months and months to open an account / get a card / recover funds misplaced by your bank / etc. Then this is just another rite of passage of life in Oman!
9. Having the battery die in your car. Perhaps it's just me, but I seem to replace my vehicles batteries every year, I'm now very proficient at jumping and push-starting cars! Battery usually dies int he summer, when you're nowhere near anyone, for added fun.
10. Expecting a delivery from a shop to turn up on time. I remember when my wife and I had saved up enough to purchase a mattress when we first got here (I think it was my 2nd or 3rd salary) and we were really excited to not be sleeping on a friends blow-up bed. It was a Raha mattress that we bought from Lulu's. They said they were going to deliver the mattress on a certain day and time. That's right, it didn't show up. I think it was 3 days later when it finally came! These days they usually come on the day they say now, but still tying them down to a time (or even morning/afternoon) can be a bit of an ask!
There are a lot more that I can think of, and I'm sure some of you can too! Share them if you want!