Monday, January 20, 2014

The Value of Planning

Anyone who has lived in Salalah long enough knows that people here don't plan. In fact, they actively avoid planning. When they are forced into planning something, they take great measures to screw up the plans at the last minute. I'll never understand why. Maybe you can help me.

The reason this has come up today (and every other day in my life here in Dhofar) is because I was sitting with a colleague of mine who wanted to take annual leave. Why? Well, his sister is getting married and she mentioned that she wanted to go to Dubai to buy fake designer products and to spend her dowry in style. All fine till now right? Until he told me they intended to go 'tomorrow'. Naturally, being the obsessive compulsive person that I am, I immediately asked the usual "Did you book tickets? Hotel?". 

The answer was a blank 'no'.

But Amer, you said you're going tomorrow. Do you have any idea how many people are going to Dubai for the school holildays? Yes, he said.

So why didn't you book  tickets and plan in advance?

Well, we still hadn't decided, he said.


Ok, I'll see if I can go by a travel agent.


Nah, I don't like to take the shortcut. I'd rather waste my time at a travel agent.

A few hours pass.

Amer shows up at my office again. Ok, we have tickets he says.

What about your hotel I ask frantically.

Oh, we'll get something when we land at the airport. There are hotel offices there.

Me: AMER, no one does that anymore. It's high season. You have to book in advance.

Yes I know, he says. I'm sure when we get there, there won't be any reasonably priced hotels left. We might have to spend a lot of money just to find a room in Dubai.

By then, my fingers are already on the keyboard and logging into

Amer, look! There's nothing in Dubai under 60 OMR a night. NOTHING. But here, there's a small hotel in Ajman about 13 km away and it's a good price. Do you want me to book it for you?

Nah, he says. We'll get something at the airport.

I tell him that this non-planning mentality of Dhofaris just won't work anymore. You'll just waste time and effort and money. What's so difficult about booking in advance?

He says "Well I dunno, it's just how we Dhofaris are".

And off he goes with his tickets.

Later on I find out that they landed in Dubai at 7 pm and ended up in a lineup of people all needing accommodation. By 10 pm they had found a room in Sharjah. He sent me a long message complaining about the lineups and the chaos and the lack of hotels...... as ... if .... we ... hadn't....had....that ....conversation .... the .... day ..... before.

I tried not to pull my hair out in frustration. I shouldn't get frustrated. It's their lives.

Among my theories to explain this ridiculous phenomenon is that they refuse to plan anything in advance because:

1) They might jinx themselves and get cursed by the evil eye

2) They enjoy not planning because then tons of problems arise due to lack of planning and they get to be manly heroes by making a lot of noise in an attempt to solve the crisis. It makes them feel good. Gives them something to do.

3) They just don't value planning and don't see the benefits of planning ahead of time.

This goes for all planning crises in Salalah. Another example is weddings. A girl at college will go weeping to her teachers that she can't take a final exam because it's on her wedding day. The men in her family come and make a fuss at the college to 'rescue' her in her distress. But no one asks the obvious question: why the HECK did you plan your wedding in the middle of final exams?

I could give tons of examples. Tons.

It drives me crazy.

I'm typing this from the business class lounge at Salalah Airport. No, I'm not off to Dubai to rescue Amer. An older gentlemen (obviously a businessman) who was sitting on the other side of the lounge came up to me and pointed to a tiny walled-in corner of the room and said "That's for ladies". I look up from the laptop and smile "Yes?". He said "that room there is for ladies". I said "I know, can I help you with anything?". So he shuffles off back to his corner and huffs and puffs. If I were in a different mood, I'd probably give him a dose of feminism and ask him exactly what's bothering him about my presence in the main area of the lounge. Then I'd tell him he offended me and that I think men should be walled in instead.

Oh well, maybe another lifetime. 



  1. What we need is a section for old people.

  2. I can relate to this :) Thanks for sharing!

  3. :) I loved reading about your interaction with the man at the airport lounge! Thanks for sharing about your little corner of the world.

  4. lol, sooooo true!!!!

    And not just Dhofaris;)

    I like to plan EVERYTHING, and it annoys me so much, because my plans always get ruined by others.

    Why do I have to stay up two days in a row to finish stuff for work? Because two months ago when I wanted to work on this project I was told, it is a long way away yet, don't bother, and then, suddenly, it is like, can you get it done by tomorrow????

    Yes, I can write and research 25 pages by tomorrow. Somehow, someway, I always do. But it won't be nearly as good as if I'd done it two months ago.


  5. That made me chuckle Nadia ! funny and tragic at the same time..

  6. I thought it was just me - I really can't understand why everything here has to be a crisis done in a half-baked way at the last minute!

  7. its is true and many people even educated ones do the same...

  8. stop with the self hating. don't criticize your people in front of foreigners

  9. "KheirazadeJanuary 23, 2014 at 1:21 PM
    stop with the self hating. don't criticize your people in front of foreigners "

    You are very wrongkheirazade. I

    In front of foreigners or not, truth has to be told and a way has to be found to drag out that part of Oman from its medieval practices. To improve ways and habits of a society, constructive criticism is an ideal tool.


  10. I think criticism with a dose of humor is healthy. Oman needs to improve on professionalism and that's not going to happen unless we actually admit we have a problem (which we do).

  11. "You are very wrongkheirazade.

    In front of foreigners or not, truth has to be told and a way has to be found to drag out that part of Oman from its medieval practices. To improve ways and habits of a society, constructive criticism is an ideal tool.


    I think I have much more to criticize than what Dhofari Gucci has but I will not do it in English.

    Self-hating = criticizing your culture in a language that is not spoken by the majority of the natives.

    Do it IN ARABIC, not ENGLISH! Oman is Arab!

  12. Oh Miss Superior! And so misguided

  13. I think people in Dhofar live in a state of chaos.It's like their own bubble of confusion. They love it and relish it like their daily afternoon cup of tea. Planning and order simply reflect their notion of a person who is always on his guard but who also can be frantic and desperately miserable!

  14. Salam Nadia,
    I will comment in English though I prefer it better in Arabic as not to make it odd.
    Anyway, my question is whats up! U didnt write for quite long now. r u around or got bussy?

  15. The lack of planning ahead exists strongly in large Dhofari companies too...many examples abound.

    What has also seemed to come up in the comments is something I notice in Oman. While Omanis are some of the nicest people in the world, there is a strong dislike for hearing bad news (in particular about Oman).

    Discourse is the start toward improvement. The fact that it happens to be in English rather than Arabic doesn't make it more or less. In my mind it doesn't equal self-loathing either, it just narrows the audience.

    For example, I am not perfect...I do not know everything...and I could be more balanced in my work/life. I don't hate myself (in fact, one of my imperfections might be an ego that is a little large)...just recognize there is constant room for improvement.

    I wonder when the Salalah Shuffle will become a thing of the past if women start changing their attitudes regarding segregation.

    Keep up the commentary,

  16. i do agree with you however i hate the stereotyping in this post. I'm dhofari and i plan for each and single step i do. your post just ignore dhofaris like me and put us together in one hand with the "un-planners" ..

    other than this, i like how you deal with the man at the airport lounge, coz i really can't stand such people.