Surely those of you who reside in the capital feel some pangs of conscience when you reflect upon the lot of those of us in other parts of the Sultanate, don’t you? After all, Muscat, the nation’s port capital city, with half of the Sultanate’s population, monopolises the country despite being just 274 sq kms of the nation’s 309,500 sq kms, less than 1 per cent of its area.
And before you go throwing your hands in the air, as you do, it is much the same the world over. In my home country New Zealand, for instance, we have a very similar situation in that the largest city is slightly larger, but indeed has half of the nation’s population, and most of the squillionaires, but is not the capital city in spite of all that, with a geographical option preferred, and the capital being Wellington, in the centre of the country.
Anyway, Muscat has an amazing climate, with fabulous seas, beaches, and mountains a stone’s throw away. It has thousands of high-quality retail outlets and shopping malls, a delicate mix of high-rise and traditional architecture, classy coffee shops, and every service that can be found in any major city around the world. It oozes modernity, contemporaneity, and progress from every pore, and it has culture, global culture, stimulated by the embassies, consulates, and businesses from every corner of the globe. It has culture, most freely expressed in its wonderful Grand Mosque, Royal Opera House, its museums and libraries, and so many educational institutions where parents, pupils and students have, to some extent, choices, and so there are significant elements of prerogative because of that. In many respects one must, as much as we are slaves to human nature, feel therefore some entitlement to the business, professional, cultural and leisure opportunities that exist at our fingertips, while those distanced from all of these bounteous offerings will be, not outrageously, but like a window-shopper, be entitled to a modicum of frustration at being unable to experience those same opportunities.
As such, it does grate somewhat to find that despite paying the same amount as the capital residents for monthly Internet plans, and prospering with the latest fibre technological advances, the ‘provinces’ still labour under antiquated cable Internet systems. Added to this, network providers continue to flood consumers outside the capital with the option to upgrade, then respond with a terse message confirming that they are outside the coverage area. Responses too, to requests for service by those providers appear to gain no traction at all through their ‘helpline,’ despite our numerous ‘speed tests,’ and ‘location’ confirmations.
There is no doubt that the lockdowns contributed to the greater Internet usage, and online learning has certainly overloaded this aged system to the extent that very few are enjoying a positive experience, either in work, study, or entertainment. Really, talk of Netflix bingeing may be a ‘thing,’ in the capital, but here the Internet experience is abysmal.
Too often too, international freight forwarders and couriers are lax in their service to the interior’s residents. Recent experiences in this sector have seen me engage a transport company to carry furniture from Dubai to Nizwa, with a tariff agreed for door-to-door delivery. Upon its arrival in Muscat however, we were contacted by the freighter to say “You have to collect your furniture from Muscat. We don’t deliver to Nizwa.” It took another weeks before the freight, at an extra cost to us, was delivered by a passing truck.
These are just a couple of examples, from my experience of the regions being ‘short-changed,’ and I know neither was probably malicious or intentional, however they do reflect an unsettling culture of entitlement that may be emergent in the capital. Obviously, this is not an element of Omani culture, tradition, or personality, but more a subliminal seduction of that fickleness of human nature. Emma Goldman wrote, “The human is a fickle baby, that must have new toys every day,” So, will you share your ‘toys?’