Saturday, June 29, 2013


On a finer note, nothing makes me happier than waking up early on a weekend to the sound of birds and RAIN. There are six puddles in my garden. The best part is that it's likely to rain until September. Hooray. (and Home Centre is open! Finally some half-decent furniture in Salalah! And Carrefour is selling smoked salmon after Lulu stopped! And there are already UAE and Saudi license plates in Salalah when we weren't expecting the hordes of tourists until the end of Ramadan! And Ramadan is on July 10th! And desperate couples are getting married this week and the next (Ramadan fasting is going to make a happy honeymoon ... not) And our first proper cinema is opening on the 2nd day of Eid!) Overall, good signs everywhere. Have a happy Saturday wherever you are.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

British National in Nightmare Situation

Hi All,

Read the latest post from my pal Sythe over at Muscat Mutterings on a British man and his family who are in a nightmare situation with his employer and the Ministry of Manpower:

Unfortunately, there are many more who are in this type of situation and most of them are poor labourers who dont' know where to start in order to get help.


New Budget Airlines in Oman

I am staring at my computer screen wide-eyed. Today's newspapers tell me that new budget airlines in Oman are soon to become a reality!!!

From the Oman Observer
June 27, 2013

New budget airlines

Private players to be allowed to operate flights — By Kaushalendra Singh — SALALAH — Private players may soon be allowed to operate in the Sultanate’s low cost aviation sector as two to three companies along with the national carrier Oman Air are doing feasibility studies to explore the possibility. The Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA) is also considering the issue positively keeping in mind huge potential for budget airlines in the Sultanate.

According to Salim al Aufy, Chief Executive Officer of PACA, investors are looking at launching low cost carriers in domestic as well as international destinations, while the Sultanate’s civil aviation authority is also positive about the move. “We are open to this option to help boost residents’ travel options by allowing suitable partners in this sector. It is like serving local interests with international backing,” said Al Aufy, who was Guest of Honour at the Arab Aviation and Media Summit 2013.

The two-day summit began yesterday at Hilton Salalah Resort with the participation of about 100 journalists from 10 Middle Eastern countries. He said the current share of low carrier airlines in Oman was about 7 per cent with likely growth potential of 10 per cent in coming years. “We don’t want to flood the low cost sector at the same time we don’t want to starve our own passengers. We are taking a balanced approach to ensure better results,” he said.

The final decision on operation of low cost airlines, according to Al Aufi, is likely by the end of this year or early next year. He also mooted the idea of launching helicopter and amphibious services, corporate and executive jet services as many other steps being taken by the PACA to ensure better aviation transport system in the Sultanate. Al Aufy gave an overview of developments on Muscat Internation Airport and other regional airports in the Sultanate. The new terminal at Muscat International Airport, according to him, would be completed by 2014 and will have the capacity to handle 12 million passengers annually.

Further expansions planned in three subsequent phases will ultimately boost the airport’ capacity to 24, 36 and 48 million passengers when the demand is required. The new terminal at Salalah Airport envisages an expansion of capacity to 1 million passengers annually by 2014. The airport has been designed to allow for further expansions to cater for future demand growth to 2 and 6 million passengers annually when the demand is required.

“Salalah Airport may get operational earlier than Muscat Airport,” he said. Al Aufy expressed satisfaction over works on Sohar, Ras al Hadd and Duqm airports and said: “We have done flight test in Sohar and runways in Ras al Hadd and Duqm have been finalised. All the airports are of international standards by design.”

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Reply from Oman Air

Date      : 24th June 2013
Ref         : TC_18174
Dear Ms. Nadia,
Subject: Your travel experience on WY911 on 20th June from Muscat to Salalah
This has reference to your complaint addressed to our Chief Executive Officer – Mr. Wayne Pearce, highlighting your concerns and giving a candid description of your travel experience on the above flight. Thank you for taking the time and effort to share your experience with us.
We sincerely regret to learn about the inconvenience caused to you due to the delay of the above flight. Please be assured that this issue had our CEO’s utmost concern and is currently being reviewed by all concerned. We would appreciate your patience and understanding while we gather necessary information in order to revert to you conclusively.
We believe that it is the feedback from our valued customers that help us to identify areas that need improvement and enhancement as expected by our valued customers.
Oman Air assures you of its care and concern always.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Letter to the CEO of Oman Air

Dear Wayne Pearce,
I am told that you are the CEO of Oman Air, our national carrier. I have never written to a CEO before so I hope you don’t mind my honesty.  Someone told me that you are a good listener, so I hope you have time to read my letter.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Nadia and I am a blogger from Dhofar.  You may have even heard of my blog. It’s called Dhofari Gucci. I live in Salalah and often travel to Muscat for work and pleasure. You are the only airline that flies between Salalah and Muscat. There are several flights a day between the two cities and I thank you for that. It really is a great help to those of us living in the south.   
Last year I took 38 flights between Salalah and Muscat. I am a Silver Sindbad Member. I always book online, check in early, label my luggage, don’t complain, and am very polite to your sometimes incompetent staff.

Over the past three years I have flown Oman Air to Europe. The experience was always wonderful. The Air Bus planes are state of the art, there’s internet on board, my phone works, plenty of leg-room, great entertainment system, delicious food, and flights always arrive early. Oh, and the bathroom is even big enough to let you turn around in. I can actually sit down without my knees hitting the door. What a bonus!  I’m using Oman Air more and more to go abroad because compared to KLM, Lufthansa, British Airways, Swiss, my experience on Oman Air’s international flights has been much better.
There, I’ve gotten over the good part.

Now, I beg you to listen to me while I spew forth. I have been silent for years. When domestic Oman Air flights get on my nerves, I write letters to you on napkins on the plane. Then I throw the napkin out and tell myself to be patient because life is too short.
 Last February I wrote a three page letter to you when I flew in from Europe and waited patiently for my Salalah flight. After three hours of waiting at the gate, I was finally informed that the flight was ‘delayed’ (as if we didn’t know already?!). When the door to the gate opened, your poor passengers rushed to the bus … eager to just get on the flight. Unfortunately, the bus did not move for twenty five entire minutes. Yes, you read me correctly. Twenty five minutes. The doors were open. We exchanged desperate looks. We were hot and helpless.

By the time I got on the flight and settled down, I was beyond exhausted (remember, I had just flown in from Europe).  Within two minutes, the distressed looking cabin crew approached me to tell me to change seats because a woman at the back refused to sit next to a man. I begged them not to move me. The senior flight supervisor was brought over to convince me to move. In the end I had to. I was sent to the back of the plane and sandwiched between two women after I had originally selected a window seat. During that flight, I decided to vent by writing a letter to you. I never sent it.

Out of every four flights between Muscat and Salalah for me, at least one is delayed. Mr Pearce, this is not normal. It shouldn’t be acceptable.

As I type this now, I am sitting at (Gate 1) in Muscat Airport. You know, the ugly little gate on the ground floor where you send the Salalah passengers? That one. The one with the peeling metal seats that are designed to ruin people’s backs.

Well, my flight to Salalah was supposed to take off at 6:40. I have been at the airport since 3pm. After waiting in line at the Silver Sindbad queue for 25 minutes, someone finally paid attention to me. I smiled and said nothing. I want to be a good human.

At 6:00 I made my way to the gate like a good passenger and settled down to wait for the boarding call. 6:40 came and went, 7:40 came and went. Passengers started to get restless , children started crying, some people settled in for a nap. The Oman Air employee at the desk said ‘we will update you!’. Well, at 7:56 we finally got our first announcement:

 “Dear Passengers, we apologize for the delay. The new flight time is 8:30”.

That’s it. No explanation.  Despite the two hours delay and lack of professionalism and tact, I was thrilled to finally have a set time for departure.

It is now. 8:33. I am still at the gate.

The Oman air guys at the counter are chatting. Our flight has disappeared off the screen entirely. Some people are royally pissed off. No one has bothered to offer us an apology. People are lining up at the desk to beg for their boarding passes to go to the bathroom.

There are 17 Omani women on this flight. By the time they finally get us to the plane, it’s going to take at least ten minutes to re-shuffle passengers so every woman doesn’t have to sit next to a man. Where are your security measures? Why can’t your people just book women in to dedicated female rows? What’s so wrong with that?

By the time we take off and the food service comes around, you will toss a drink onto my table and a soggy sandwich. I will look up and ask for water but you will have already moved on to the second row. Never mind, I’ll think. I can survive without water.

 I will try to get the sandwich out of its box but the soggy dough will be glued to the side of the carton. It will take me two minutes to attempt to unpeel it without losing half the tasteless chicken mushroom sandwich. By the time I have successfully unpeeled it and taken my first bite, your crew will be back again to take my trash. It’s ok, the sandwich wasn’t edible anyway. Take my half-eaten soggy sandwich.

8:50 and I’m still at the gate. I remind you I’ve been here since 3:00. My back is aching. Someone else’s child has fallen asleep on my feet.

I am fantasizing about my flight. I booked a window seat. Once your staff remove my soggy sandwich I will pull out the inflight magazine, Wings of Oman. I am too tired to do work, so a little light reading is in order even if it’s full of grammar mistakes (hire an editor who speaks English, will ya?)

 I flip to the front page and there you are with your winning smile and confident pose. Wayne Peace, CEO of Oman Air. CEO of our national carrier.

You refer to Oman Air as one of the world’s leading luxury airlines. I agree. The WORLD’s leading luxury airlines. Unfortunately, Oman is not the WORLD. We are your trash. Your leftovers. Your ignorant citizens. The people you don’t give a shit about.

It’s 9:00 pm. I have been here for six hours, Mr. Pearce. Six hours. No explanation. No apology.

OH WAIT! There’s some action. An angry passenger is arguing with the Oman Air employee. He is now getting up on to a chair. He has called our attention. We all listen:

“Ladies and Gentlemen! I am an Omani citizen and I am a passenger on this flight! Listen up! We’re not taking off till after 10:00, you hear? TEN! Not an apology, not an explanation, no water, no food, nothing. I want you all to know that Oman Air doesn’t care about you. Doesn’t care about your babies or your sleeping children. Doesn’t care about even giving us an apology. All they care about is their money. Worthless fools Not even an explanation or an apology and this is our national carrier!!!”

A feeble cheer erupts form the crowd.

It’s 9:00.

An Oman Air employee comes to the middle of us and says ‘We’re offering you dinner upstairs. Come back here at 9:45”.

Thank you angry Omani passenger for getting us free dinner. However, I’m not interested.

If we come back to the gate at 9:45, I wouldn’t dream of taking off before 10:30.

No explanation, no apology.

People start to shuffle out slowly. Women with sleeping children remain. There are several angry passengers shouting at the employee. It’s not his fault. He’s taking the crap on behalf of top officials.


Mr. Pearce, I am tired. If I’m lucky, we’ll land a midnight. If we’re extremely lucky, we’ll get an apology.

Rumor is going around our gate that your staff are on strike. At this moment, I don’t blame them. If your passengers are treated like this, I can’t imagine how your staff are treated.

What are you thinking?

This isn’t a first time incident. This has happened to me again…. And again….. and again, Mr. Pearce.

What have I done to you to deserve this kind of treatment? I’m a loyal passenger.

The ironic part is that when you board domestic Oman Air flights, the senior flight supervisor cheerfully tells us “Thank you for choosing Oman Air”. As if we have another choice? As a favour, could you ask your staff to stop saying that on domestic flights? It sounds ridiculous and you know that everyone makes fun of Oman Air for continuing to say that.

Mr. Peace, I’m tired of being treated like a worthless object.

Yours Truly from Gate 1

Dhofari Gucci 
Update: we finally took off at 10:45. I asked the cabin crew what happened and they said 'operations problems!'. I was indeed shuffled from my window seat because they totally screw up the seating for a woman with three young children. I was thrown next to a woman who was sick. She asked for a blanket. The crew promised her one. They never brought it. My sandwich was indeed soggy and glued to the side of the carton. The male Omani cabin crew member was being rude to a Filipino woman who refused to move (her right!). He told me 'That stupid Asian woman.. she should cooperate!'. I gave him my coldest look and told him she was tired and had every right to sit in the seat she chose. He said 'we're all tired!!!!'. I told him 'It's your job to be polite to passengers even if you're tired!'. He stormed away. THANK YOU FOR CHOOSING OMAN AIR!


An article in the BBC three days ago indicated that Qatar's Emir and Prime Minister are putting together a succession plan that is to become public. To read the article click here. Do you realize what this means? A GCC ruler is actually planning to step down and peacefully hand the reins to someone younger. A GCC RULER! AN EMIR!
GCC Rulers have a history of super-glue-ing themselves to their thrones for decades and decades until they die. Unfortunately, in this day and age I'm not entirely sure this strategy is feasible anymore. (hint: Arab Spring)
What does this mean for Oman? If Qatar takes the first step and shows that it's not taboo to talk about an ordered succession plan, then maybe there's hope for Oman because we do not have a succession plan. The tale of two boxes containing a name (one at each end of the country) can't even convince a 5-year-old. Oman's succession strategy is not convincing. There is no obvious person being groomed to take over. And as pointed out in this Muscat Daily piece on Tuesday, Omani officials are basically unknown to the people.
For the past 43 years we have been loyal to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Him alone. We are not familiar with members of the Royal Family. We have never heard them speak. They do not mingle with locals (in Dhofar at least!) and it's worrying because the next Sultan supposedly has to be a member of the royal family of full Omani blood (that narrows it down because many of them have married foreigners).
If Omanis were to vote on this, they'd all just wish His Majesty will live forever and ever because whenever the moment comes that he is no longer here, it will be chaos.
The visit of His Excellency Yousuf bin Alawi Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs to Salalah on Friday was worrying (in my opinion). Change is in the air but I'll save his visit for my next post.
Your thoughts?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

It's HERE!

Mother Nature proved me wrong. It started raining at 2:05 a.m yesterday. Khareef is officially here.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Khareef on the horizon....

So in case you haven't noticed, Salalah is DEAD HUMID. My energy starts to drain the moment I step out of my house in the morning. My glasses fog up and my mascara starts to melt. I spend an extra two or three hours at work in the afternoon simply to avoid having to go out into the heat and humidity. Leaving work at 6 pm when the sun is disappearing is more attractive these days than leaving work at 3. That's how much I dislike this kind of weather. I avoid going out in the evening, I avoid errands, I avoid socializing.... it's just too hot.
Nevertheless, the horrid humidity in June is the build-up to the monsoon (Khareef). The ocean is in full monsoon swing already and we're all counting the days until the skies open up and the first drop of rain lands on the tip of my nose, probably at 7:30 am on June 21st. I'm willing to bet.
This year, the holy month of fasting (Ramadhan) is expected around July 9th depending on the moon. It will last probably until August 7th or 8th (again - depending on the moon). The Salalah Tourism Festival is set to start on the 2nd day of Eid Al Fitr (probably August 9th) and will end 25 days later (depending on the moon! If we depended on the moon a little more, the world would be a better place).
The invasion of tourists will probably start in the last days of Ramadhan. The government has promised there will be no fuel shortage this year (remember last year?) and I'm yet to see results of the 15 million rials that have been set aside to improve 'efficiency' during Dhofar tourist season.
On another note, there's a CNN video on Oman's First Chocolatiers (Salma's chocolates if you remember my post) . I've always been fascinated with how chocolates are made. The video answered my question.
Finally, I noticed the sign up for Home Centre at Salalah Gardens Mall (our new monster of a mall across from Lulu). I look forward to tasteful furniture and home items at last in Salalah. The current selection we have in town is nothing short of horrid.
And last but not least, I'm craving Pad Thai and Tom Yum Soup. Oh, Siam Kitchen, why did you close?
Yours Truly from in front of the air conditioner,
Dhofari Gucci


Monday, June 3, 2013

Washington Post Humor

So, the US didn't fail to pick up on our humorous (and sometimes obsessive and ridiculous attempts to re-write Omani history). I'm not entirely sure why we can't just admit that His Majesty overthrew his father in a semi-bloodless coup in 1970. We're happy he did because he did a world of good for this country. To read the Washington Post article on this, click here.

On another note, Carrefour was a true disappointment. There are about four or five products that I would drop in for every once in a while, but nothing with the 'wow' factor.  Lulu is ten times better, more organized and clean (there were flies sitting on the peaches at Carrefour). The live calf in a cage on opening night was HORRIBLE and bad taste.

And finally, despite all the rain and storm warnings for the weekend, Salalah got about 2 minutes of drizzle on Thursday night. That was it!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Public Holiday!

Thursday June 6th has been declared a public holiday for both the private and public sectors to mark the Israa wal Miraj, an Islamic holiday to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) spiritual/physical journey to the heavens on one night in the year 621 as is commonly believed. The night of the Miraj is one of the most significant events in the Islamic calendar.