Immune to ‘Planning’: The Curious Dhofari Disease
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.
But Amer, GO BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!
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 Booking.com
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.