Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Omanization comes to our neighborhood
If you live in Madinat Qaboos (MQ) you probably know the small grocery shop in the Oman Oil station next to the British Council. I've been a frequent customer at this shop ever since we moved into the area in 1989. Long ago when the station was still a BP and long before BP begat the BP Express shop, for most people "going to the BP" meant buying from this shop. It is a tiny grocery shop run by Indian brothers which is packed to the ceiling with items. The guys are good, their prices are lower than any other supermarket in town and the service is amazing. Ask for anything which isn't in stock and they'll get it for you. They are open by 6 or 7am and stay open till past midnight.
Last Friday I went in at lunch time to buy a newspaper like I do every week and noticed the entire newspaper and magazine rack was empty. I looked around and some of the shelves were half empty too. What's up? "Didn't you know, we're closing," the eldest brother told me. What? Why? Turns up their landlord has raised the rent by 100 rials. But that's not the real reason. They told me that by October neighborhood grocery stores in Muscat will have to be "Omanized" and they see no reason why they should pay higher rent when they'll have to close down by October.
Yesterday over lunch my mom told me she passed by the shop and they were closing down. The Omani sponsor had come to help them out empty the shelves. She said the man was furious and told her these guys used to give him 500 rials a month for his sponsorship. He was blaming the government for his loss of income.
I feel sad that these guys are leaving after so long in Oman. But then again I guess Omanization cannot be avoided and these guys must have made a good living and have enough set aside back home. I'm embarrassed to say that I don't know their names even though I always stop for a few minutes' chat whenever I'm in the shop. These people have known me since I was 16. I've practically known them half my life.
Come October or November when we finally get a new grocery shop in the neighborhood, will the Omani owned and operated shop be open by 7am? Will we still have a cheap option for late night emergency groceries? Will the new guy be open on Fridays? Will he be cheaper than even the hypermarkets like these guys were? Or will I be here lamenting how things were better when the government didn't force expats out of business..