How Internet came to Villa No. 5

Note: While I am an admitted Internet addict, I must also share with readers that most of our communications–with employers and relocation services, banks and schools, as well as with loved ones from home–rely on e-mail or other forms of Internet-based communication. Thus the urgent need to have access to this tool. Not to mention the psychological value of that comfort at a stressful moment.


It all began like any other moving-in chore.

Our lovely relocation assistant did the worst of it for us–collecting the form, taking the number, standing in line. She brought the form to our villa the day before we moved in, and we filled it out and she took it back to the telecom company. She was enthusiastic, telling us how we would like this new, second-generation Internet service so much better than the old service that most of Dubai was still using. (Reader, ask yourself: Why is most of Dubai still using the old service?)

S. returned the next day with a new, clean form. Turns out, the signature on the form wasn’t exact enough a match with the passport photocopy she also carried along, so the thing had to be redone. I didn’t see it as an omen, just an annoyance. We shrugged and off she went with a newly-filled form. We were told to expect a call in twenty-four to forty-eight hours.

A few days went by. No call. I emailed, or perhaps texted, S., and she called back to encourage me to be patient. “Within a week,” she said, “ten days at most, they will call.”

Except they didn’t.

Since “ten days most,” we took up the daily ritual of calling and very politely nagging customer service reps. All of whom are completely and totally powerless. And right at the time of “at most ten days,” Mbarek was off to spend three weeks in the desert of Saudi Arabia for work. There we were, barely a week into our new place, husband on a truck out in the desert, too close to Yemen for my comfort, and I was feeling utterly cut off. So, as part of my Daily Getting By, I logged a call, and sometimes two calls, to the telecom company. I won’t tell you which, but that shouldn’t really matter, since I think they are basically both owned by the same person(s), and if I tell you we live in Jumeira, you can figure it out if you need to.


One week went by, and I survived it with the kids by alternating between periods locked in my room and weeping, cooking meals, taking naps and reading the free daily (absolute trash rag) newspaper that arrives on the doorstep. For a few days, there were complimentary copies of the Real Newspaper, which was a real treat. We also began frequenting the pool, as this was the time before daily temperatures soared above 105. We’d swim before ten and after four, and even met a few families at the pool before they all shipped off for their summer holidays.

Then, they were gone. And we remained. Without an Internet connection. We’d learned, with the help of S. and an honest CSR, that the necessary fibre-optic cable had not been installed in our part of town. It wouldn’t be possible to get the new Internet without them, and at the same time, we would not be allowed by the telecom to subscribe to the “old” service. But our case was somehow in the system labeled “urgent” and placed on high priority, they’d assured us. As soon as it was possible, we would have it.

We’d paid a family subscription to the public library, and its Internet services are part of the subscription. So, all we had to do was show up and sign onto computers, right? Well, except that Noah is at once “too young” to be allowed on the adult machines and “too old” to sit next to me in the women’s section where I could use a machine, and the children’s library, where both children would be allowed to use a computer (for half an hour!), doesn’t open until 3:30 in the afternoon, and even then the computers aren’t available until after the children’s “summer activity” presentation ends…”Oh, seven-thirty?” was the answer I was given when we asked about that. Yes, at night.

So we used the public library exactly twice, and my calls to the telecom company increased. Then, one day, a team showed up and pulled cables into the garage. I asked them if it was the cabling for the new Internet service. “Yes,” they said, assuring me that within ten days I would be surfing. I thought I’d give them a chance; let the telecom call me. Maybe, just maybe, I thought, before I discovered that our tape measure was now missing from the garage.

I was wrong. So after a couple more days, I emailed S. and asked her to check on it for me. I was feeling rather finished, and, I added, soon Mbarek would be back and he was going to be really, really upset that we’d been left hanging so long.

So she called on my behalf and then emailed to tell me that the telecom company had called Mbarek’s cell twice and he didn’t answer.

I had called them before he left. Given them my number as the one they should use, should they ever call with news. Had them read it back to me. Called another CSR, who pulled up my case number and read off the phone number again. It was there; no one had ever called me.

So I called them again, left another “memo” with another CSR.

In defense of the CSRs, it isn’t their fault and it’s a problem they can’t fix. They take calls, log orders, complaints, changes. The actual installation is performed by external, contracted service providers.

The next day, I picked up Mbarek at the airport. On the ride home, he was on the phone with the Telecom company.

Next, he was told someone had tried calling me on my mobile, and I didn’t answer. A look at my missed call log shows that someone is either mistaken or lying. This was in the local branch office of the telecom company, where he heard the installation tech lie, right over speakerphone to the service rep sitting before him. He then heard the service rep demand that we have the installation tomorrow, before lunch. There were protests, but he insisted.

By ten o’clock this morning, we had not received a call and were not hopeful, so Mbarek returned to the branch office, took another number and sat in front of a service rep, again. There, the rep called an installer and demanded they come no later than one o’clock to our villa. Again, protests. Again, told they had tried to call and sent us back to the end of the queue. But the rep was insistent, and my husband returned home–with a mobile number he should call if it came around one o’clock and no one showed.

Which, of course, happened. So, Mbarek called the number. It rang and then, mysteriously, cut off. He tried calling again, only to get a message that the mobile had been turned off.

Not even kidding.

So he got into the car and again drove to the telecom office. There, at nearly two o’clock, he got a call from the installers, saying they would be by in five minutes. While I was in the shower, of course.

Three hours, three trips for hardware and a huge mess in my garage, front garden, hallway and living room later, we have Internet.

And I’ll bet it is so much better than that old Internet the rest of Dubai is suffering through.

And it will be so great in 16 days when I’m back from North Africa and can actually use it.


3 responses to “How Internet came to Villa No. 5

  • Mollie Michie-Lepp

    only 16 days left! What an unbelieveable headache you’ve been through, I’m thinkingit was seriously theraputic to post this.

  • Sarah

    What an ordeal. Sadly not rare in this part of the world. Have you read alexander’s blog fake plastic souks? He often shares some of the beurocratic red tape he finds himself wrapped in. Ahh, this country gives us so much blog fodder!

  • Seabee

    Welcome to Dubai companies’ understanding of ‘customer service’, it’s par for the course I’m afraid.

    We blog about it to make ourselves feel a little less stressed and I think it helps!

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