Muscat, Oman Report of what it's like to live there - 05/03/12
Personal Experiences from Muscat, Oman
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
6th expat post.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
East coast. Fly Muscat to Dubai, or Doha, then direct to the States. You could stop in Europe, but I'd rather just get it over with. From the Gulf to the East Coast is about 14 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
2 years, still there.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
A 10-minute or less commute. No traffic issues to speak of. Housing for families is quite large. All have someplace for a live-in nanny to sleep -- in either a downstairs bedroom or a separate maid's quarters apart from the main residence.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Everything is available here, but at a cost. It would almost be better if all these western products aren't here, because then I would not be tempted to buy them at triple the cost. The same raspberries that come from Watsonville, CA that you would buy at a US grocery store are available here, but they cost $12. Peanut butter, pop tarts, US cereals, cool whip all are available here, you just pay for it.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Food. Everything is really expensive.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Everything. McD's, Burger King, Chilis, TGIF, Hardees, KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino's, Papa John, Subway, Pinkberry, Baskin Robbins, Starbucks, Cinnabon, Coldstone Creamery, Dunkin Donuts, need I go on?
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
I have seen gluten-free stuff in the store, but I can't comment on cost.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants come into the houses during the summer to escape the outdoor heat. I have not seen cockroaches here.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
If you are a stay-at-home spouse just looking for someone to tidy up from time to time, or help with the cooking, you will be fine. If you need someone to provide regular child care or more extensive duties, you need to shop around. It's not easy. Sponsorship laws are strict and tedious. It's easiest to get someone handed down from a previous embassy family, if possible. If you are coming to post and someone has a really good recommendation on a good nanny, agree to take them sight unseen. Good help goes fast, and especially if you arrive at the end of the summer you might end up arriving after the last decent nanny has been taken.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy has a small gym.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
You can pay for groceries with a credit or debit card. ATMs are everywhere. Outside of town you should ask first and not assume they take credit.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, Christian services are here.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
AFN and satellite. AFN is free, satellite is reasonably priced.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would be somewhat tough. There are handicapped spots but they are frequently taken by able-bodied folks, some ramps. Outside of Muscat it would be much harder.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
No trains or buses. There are taxis but I don't know why anyone would use one. Everyone has a car here.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
The standard FS cars like Honda and Toyota are fine. Or a regular car. Unless you have something completely exotic, you would be fine here.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is fine and not too expensive. Get a VPN before you get to post. Skype is banned but you can circumvent it easily with a VPN
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
There is a good vet. It is probably best to have household help watch your pet. Not sure of kennels.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
No. Unless you count the school. I suppose that if you had a special skill like OT or speech you might be able to find work
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
I do not dress any differently here than I would in the US. If you are fond of daisy duke shorts and spaghetti strap tops, you might want to tone it down. Knee-length skirts and short-sleeve tops are fine for work.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No issues here. Medical care is OK.The private hospital is pretty decent.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Can be sandy and dusty. But no pollution. You can open all your windows in the winter, but you will find a fine layer of dust on all of your furniture each morning.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
HOT. The winter is heaven. From October/November to March it is about 75 each day and night. It rains about twice a year, and when it does, everything floods. Summer starts in April, and by June it's 120 with sauna-like humidity.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
TAISM and ABA are both good. ABA is closer to embassy housing, TAISM is the "official" school and is very well funded.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Some. TAISM has an excellent elementary-school counselor.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Several families use local preschools. There is not much in the way of Arabic immersion. Omanis want their kids to learn English, and they start them young. There is a preschool located directly across the street from the two main housing compounds (these hold 14 families) and you can walk your kid right across the street. Preschools end around noon. Pretty much everyone has live-in nannies. The sponsorship system makes it tough to try them out, though, as you need to pay for return to their home country if you terminate their employment. Most are from India or the Philippines. There are no native speakers of Arabic working as domestic help here.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Soccer, rugby, tae kwon do. TAISM also has a wide array of after school activities and a late bus to bring the kids home when they are done.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Pretty large - the international school has tons of different nationalities.
2. Morale among expats:
High, because Oman is in general just a good place to live. Morale at the embassy depends more on the leadership there and what section you work in.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
The American Club has plenty of activities, local bars, lots of other expats to meet, not only from other embassies, but outside companies as well
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for families, although it's dreadfully hot in the summer.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Not sure, but I think if you kept it quiet you would be fine.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
No. Oman is a very open country. With many Indian and Filipino catholics here, and Indians of various religious denominations. There are many places of worship here.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Great outdoor opportunities in a nice, clean country.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Camping, hiking, snorkeling, and diving are available but best done in winter.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Carpets and more carpets, and expensive heavy tables made from old Omani doors.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Stunning natural beauty, nice people. Easy to travel regionally (direct flights to Nepal, India, Europe, Kenya).
11. Can you save money?
NO, NO, and NO!
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, but after while the heat gets to be a bit much.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
notions that Oman is like the other Gulf countries.
3. But don't forget your:
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
The Amazing Race was here twice