Wednesday, August 12, 2015

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!

le fin.


Anonymous said...

My first resident's card was the day before Eid - "turn up early" said my PRO but when I got there at 7 the place was at least 100 deep and that was just for the fingerprints queue. Total waiting time was over 7 hours and for the next 2 years you could see from my resident card just how ****ed off I was at the end of the process!

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

35 hours flying? You were lucky... I swear I spent almost three days getting to Oman back then... lol and then would just stare and stare and stare as we lined up for visas and at the crazy-ass driving. Usually someone from PDO security or the houseboy picked us up. I remember driving in a pick-up or without a seatbelt in a Mercedes and feeling like I was on another planet;).

For women, waiting all DAY in the wrong resident visa line (men's) and then someone telling you to go to the other building, where, voila, only 1-2 hours later, you'd have a visa card if you shoved in line past the Omani women applying for their housemaids (who don't really have lines so its ok).

Anonymous said...

I remember renewing my first labour card back in the early 90s. In those days you went and did your paperwork, but that is where that day's travails ended. You then waited for a phone call to be told to collect your card.
This is before the days of computers and the house of cards that the system was back then. You could wait a month for a phone call, often more. I hadn't had a phone call all year by the time I had to go and renew it. The following discussion was long and heated and centred around the fact that he would not process a new labour card until I gave him my old labour card. As much as I tried, he could not get his head around the fact that I couldn't give him what he hadn't issued me 12 months prior.
Oh how we laughed. Not.

Anonymous said...

The five wonderful, life-changing moments when you think you've won 20,000 Rials after a phone call from a complete stranger to say you've won a competition you never entered. The soul-crushing low when you realise it was a scam. The smugness when you congratulate yourself you didn't get caught and lose any money.

Inrab70 said...

No. 7 was really a thrill back then. I remember going to Home Center and Assrain complex using that road... there was always that accident wrecked car which would set the bar higher for most ridiculous wreckage seen. Funny how i was talking to a colleague of mine just a couple of days ago regarding that road. Nice post sythe!!

Anonymous said...

I loved the airport parking. It was always fun trying to get parked when you had your holiday (that you'd been longing for over the last three months)and were due to fly out.

Seeing people routinely park on zebra crossings was also an eye opener for me. I honestly don't know how people that are so polite can also be so inconsiderate.


ex Qurum resident

Anonymous said...

Do you have the store list for Panorama Mall in Ghubra South? Anything new / different?

Anonymous said...

I think the decline in the number of VIP convoys on the SQH may be for a reason other than the discovery of helicopters...


Anonymous said...

I remember that when you checked in for an Oman Aviation flight you wouldn't bother arriving at the airport until the posted take-off time knowing it would be at least two hours late and once you checked in you went for a meal at the the Greek place at MAM or to Woodlands upstairs.

Anonymous said...

Where are they, the blue and red colour telli booths for coin & cards with beautiful scenery telling oman's culture ? Then came chip embedded telli cards, now extinct almost.
Jam packed 1,2,3 RO shops near Ruwi ROP stn before Lulus and C4s?
Wrecks road- haha haa...
It was 3 tracks. Night mare to cross from Bank muscat to high way. Finally gone forever.
Add to these, fasting unto death - a regular inspite of stern warnings. Improved a lot of course!

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