Saturday, August 5, 2017


Thank you all for your support /horror stories after my Bank Muscat rant below. After 52 days, my card was finally activated. 52 days of no credit card. For someone who travels a lot, this is a NIGHTMARE. Can't book flights, can't book hotels, can't book cars. Can't guarantee anything. I just felt so insecure. 

Oh, and on a positive note, the Salalah Grand Mall (sister of Muscat Grand Mall) is finally seeing the light of day. Last year a huge poster went up near my house saying this land has been blocked for Salalah Grand Mall (right in front of the Indian school... lucky kids). 

As of last week, the engineers' cabins went up and heavy machinery arrived. It's finally happening. This should ease up traffic at the other end of town. 

Oh, and no khareef posts because this year the rain sucks. Last year we had three months of basically non-stop rain. This year the mountains are all nice and wet,  but the town is basically dry. Sigh.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Letter to the CEO of Bank Muscat

Dear Abdulrazaq Bin Ali Issa,

I have been a customer at Bank Muscat for many years. I'm one of the quiet customers who never goes to the branch except to pick up a new credit card every two years. I use your excellent online banking for everything. I encourage other people to join Bank Muscat. It works for me.... or 'worked' for me for more than a decade. You were the 'reliable' bank in Oman. 

Until now. 

On June 14 I received a call from the infamous 24795555 .... your call centre. As an introvert, I cringed. I hate receiving calls, and I was worried they would try to sell me insurance or something. Reluctantly I answered. It was one of your cheerful employees.

Employee: "Hello Madam! We're calling to let you know that your credit card information has been compromised. We received a list of at-risk cards from VISA"

Me: "What? Compromised? How? What do I do?"

Employee: "Oh, no worried. We cancelled your card"

Me: "You what.....?"

Employee "We cancelled your card. Do you want a new one?"

Me: "WHAT DO YOU MEAN? I'm travelling outside the country in a week. All my hotel, car, ticket, everything bookings are under that card!!!!"

Employee "Don't worry Madam. You'll have your new card within three business days".

Of course three business days passed. Four business days. Five business days. Six business days. My heart sank. I called the call centre. Each time a new person answered me. Each time they told me "Hmmm.... I just checked in the system. Your card hasn't been issued yet. Try going to the branch". 
I go to the branch. Branch says "Hmmm... it shows your card hasn't been issued yet. Go to the call centre".

The same bloody circle. I was going outside the country in two days. I had no credit card. All my bookings were at risk. I was extremely frustrated. 

June 22 was the last working day before Eid holidays. That was the end of my hope for a credit card. Fortunately, a very kind family member allowed me to use their card (can't be legal, but what was I supposed to do?). I sent a very long complaint message to Customer Service via Online Banking. No answer of course. Bank Muscat are the record-breakers for shitty customer service. 

The nine-day Eid holiday came and went. I was still out of the country. I called the call centre "Ummm... your card is issued. Maybe it's in the branch?". He said "MAYBE". Yes he did. 

I go to the branch. No card. 

FINALLY I get the effing SMS saying "Please come to collect your card at XXX Branch". 

I run to the branch. I'm treated like shit. There is no order. It's a man's world. Everyone is in chaos. I sit at the very back because there's no other place for a woman to sit. As usual their "Women Only" counter was closed, as was the cashier. It was all a lie to begin with. Trying to compete with Bank Dhofar. 

A distracted employee tosses my envelope onto the table. I sign for my card. I ask him when it will be activated. He said "Half an hour max". 

Half an hour passes. One hour. Two hours. One day. Two days.

Unfortunately I was travelling yet again and I needed the bloody credit card. I called the Call Centre. 

Employee "Hello! What can I do for you"

Me: "Dude, I've been without a credit card for a month. I picked it up and it's not activated. What is going on?"

Employee "Well, Madam, it shows in our system that it's not activated. Go to the branch"

At this point, I'm trying not to swear at him. It's not his fault. He's just a call centre employee thrown at the frontline of shitty customer service practices. 

Second trip to the branch. Have to leave the office..... again. Oh sorry, Madam. The Branch Manager is on a course and he's the only one who can activate the card. 

You're joking, right? There is only ONE person in the country who can activate my bloody credit card?????

Two days pass. No activation. Third trip to the branch. Oh sorry, Manager still on a course and he's the only one who can activate the card.

By then I had to travel again. Using someone else's card. 

FORTY days passed since they cancelled my card. I called the call centre again. This time I just told the employee "Who can I complain to? I need to raise an official complaint".... he professionally tried to calm me. I explained the entire situation. Told him I'd been without a card for FORTY EFFING DAYS for absolutely no reason. Told him I'm leaving the bank and switching to Bank Dhofar. This is insane, etc etc.

This 'employee' told me "no no, don't worry Ma'am. I will PERSONALLY follow up tomorrow with the bank branch manager. By tomorrow your card will be activated. You can count on me".

I decided to give it one last shot. Meanwhile, my SO went to the bank on my behalf. They took down the credit card details and phone number and promised to activate it the moment the manager was back from his training or  foot massage or whatever. That's TWO 'You Can count on me" promises. 

It's been forty five days.

Forty... Five..... Days... since you cancelled my card. And you told me I'd have a new one within three days.

I never thought I'd see the day when I had to switch banks, but for real, this is unacceptable. 

Goodbye. Enjoy your plush office and your all-male (minus one) board of directors and all-male executive management team.

This girl is out of here. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

My Belated Women's Day Post

Goodness I've been lazy. I have notes written all over the place for the blog, but then I get sucked in to the 'holy-shit-the-world-is-falling-apart' mode and I lose the will to live. Is anyone else feeling this? I find it so difficult to blog about 'Salalah' when so many major things are happening in the world. The refugee crisis, climate change,Orange Face, women's rights, Syria, etc etc. Is it right to be sucked in regularly? Is it selfish to want to switch off? Am I doing enough? Am I not doing enough? 

Last week I felt the feminist blogging fire erupt after Salalah launched its first 'Ladies Mall'. Yes, a LADIES mall. And guess what? The photo in the newspaper of the opening showed men cutting the red ribbon surrounded by an arch of pink balloons. Not a woman in the photo. A 'men's initiative' apparently. I asked around. 

I was so pissed off. There are so many wrong things about this. Is this what we've come to? Men launching a women's mall to brainwash their women into thinking they are independent and respected? Salalah at its best. Herding women into a corner. Encouraging 'entrepreneurship' (i.e. selling frankincense and starting a home-baking business). They're happy to support women as long as it's within the limits they impose. DRIVES ME CRAZY.

Why can't you raise your girls to be strong and smart and sensible? Then you won't have to worry about them 'misbehaving' and you won't have to constantly obsess about how to chaperone them and control them. Treat them like humans from the day they are born and encourage them to be active members of society. 

I know TWO young women who were married off recently in 'arranged marriages'. University-educated women. Smart women. And I know for sure that they weren't entirely happy about it. Imagine! Someone else making life's big decision FOR YOU. As if you aren't capable enough of making your own decision.. . . especially when it comes to choosing a life partner. 

I hired a smart young woman a couple of years ago and during the offer-signing process, her father came to my office demanding to know what her salary would be. I refused to disclose such information and he made such a fuss about it. 'She's my daughter!!! I have every right to know her salary!!! She will be paying me monthly!!!!'. This is what women go through. I know so many women who were forced by their families to take out a loan the moment they got a job. 

A colleague of mine is university-educated, smart, excellent English, hard-working, ... a shining star at work. Constantly taking on new projects and challenging herself. A very serious employee. I predict a managerial position for her in the next 10 years. She's that kind of person. All nice and dandy, right? Except her husband won't 'let' her drive and gets whiny and sulky when she has to travel to Muscat for one or two days business trips (with other females). 

Examples like these are what drive me so mad. Examples like these remind me (and should remind you) that no, it's not all ok in Oman. Muscat may be modern and supportive of women's independence, but the rest of the country has a long way to go. 

There were plenty of people writing about the positive accomplishments in Oman for Women's Day (March 8) but it's not enough to just highlight the good stuff. It's good for SOME people, but a large portion of female society is still fighting for basic rights. The problem isn't legislation alone (marriage, divorce, inheritance.... these laws are so discriminatory, don't get me started). It's families. It's society. It has to start at home. 

If you are reading this and you have young daughters or are close to young girls, please support them. Get them a science kit instead of a barbie doll. Teach them how to rollerblade instead of manicures. Show them a world map. Take them to 'Hidden Figures' instead of princess movies. Buy them books. Tell them they can be whatever they want to be. Tell them they can change the world. They will thrive if they have a support network. Be that support network. 

Over and out for now.