Saturday, April 21, 2012

Communication, Oman Style

It's the IT age. Instant communication is everything. The internet, cell phones, television, and so much more have now become connected in one little contraption: the smartphone. Oman is no exception to this crazy: in fact, just about everyone here has a BlackBerry. In the USA, I had never heard of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). Here, it is everything and people use it far more than texting or calling. If they don't have BBM, people probably have an iPhone and therefore use What'sApp

What I find most interesting about this cell phone craze, though, is how limited it is to Muscat and other cities. Even in some parts of the Muscat region one is hard-pressed to find cell phone service. We went to a wadi yesterday, and I was shocked to find that there, just 15 minutes off the highway (on the other side of which is a large, modern residential area), there was no service. I know that service doesn't get there because of the mountains, but it just seems bizarre that somewhere so close to home could be so disconnected. Perhaps this is a telltale sign of Omani culture in general, with Muscat zooming towards modernity and the rest of the country staying back in tradition. Honestly, that's one of Oman's unique traits that I like the most: it is modern and traditional at the same time, providing an even ground in a region that can be considered extreme.

Also related to communication here is an idea I was completely oblivious to in the world of phone contracts: credit. Here, every phone has a SIM card. You have to put credit onto your phone in order to text or call. A text is 7 baisa each (about 2.5 cents) and a call within Oman is 20 baisa per minute (about 7 cents). Every SIM card is tied into a company; here the main two are Nawras and Oman Mobile. Bailey and I were talking the other day about how much we miss not having to deal with credit!

I find that Muscat's modernized communication and inter-connectivity to the outer world is both beneficial and harmful to me as an exchange student. On one hand, I am easily able to stay in touch with my other life in America. I can email, facebook, and blog. On the other hand, sometimes too much connectivity can be detrimental to the adjustment process here. It's an increasingly small world, and I hope that next year the internet will be able to keep me in touch with my friends and family in Oman. 


  1. You don't have 'credit' for phones in the USA? I'm sure you must have! Most countries have the option of either a contract or top-up/credit/pay as you go (whatever you want to call it).
    I was actually surprised here in the opposite way - in that I find my phone works in places I DONT expect it to (e.g. parts of the Empty Quarter!). But yeah, I think it's good to have connectivity-free zones. Sometimes it's good to switch off!

  2. Yes, the SIM card thing! It's still something to get used to. Czechs are so shocked and absolutely uncomprehending when I tell them we don't use SIMS, and non-contract phones (track phones I think they're called? haha) are a rarity.
    I've felt like such a dunce this year getting all worked up about having to refill my phone, but it's nice to know others met a surprise as well.