Muscat, Oman Report of what it's like to live there - 04/01/10
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?
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?
Emirates airlines flies directly from houston, about a 19-20 hour flight.
3. How long have you lived here?
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?
There are several areas to choose from. We lived in Al Azaibah and loved it. It was relatively close to the school and easily accessible to a lot of things. I hear that they are building a lot more mall structures and even a new ice skating rink (to replace the old one) in the Madinat Sultan Qaboos area where there are also lots of expats.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries cost a fortune! Not triple, but like 9-10 times more expensive. If you can learn to use some of the GCC products that is better. But to be honest, even that is expensive in Oman, because most isn't produced there. Get local checken. They do a great job trimming it up and it can be found in every grocery store. Most of the time you will find yourself jumping from store to store just to get the normal stuff on your list. It takes a lot of time and energy and can be tiring especially in the heat.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
You have all ranges, but the quality is definitely restricted. The Turkish House is good and relatively cheap. Nice restaurants in hotels can be quite expensive.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Not too many. Some pesky ants...muscat is a sandbox afterall!
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We didn't. We didn't have the help of the company with this one. In hindsight (we are currently living in Doha, Qatar) I would definitely sign up for aramex which is available.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Readily available. A full-time live-in is $400-700 a month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
They can be found in hotels, but are quite expensive. Just before I left, an all-women's gym opened up near my house...so there should be more there now.
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?
The sometimes print your complete number on your receipts, so don't throw those down, make sure to take care of them properly.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are two locations in Muscat where 'christian' denominations may meet. One is in downtown Ruwi and the other is right next to TAISM.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Yes. I don't remember the cost of TV, but it wasn't cheap. Newspapers can be had, but the government censors everything, so it is pretty useless.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You don't need to know much...thank you, please...and that is really just for respect for the country you are living in. Everyone speaks english. Oman has two official languages: arabic and english.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Nothing is really built for anyone who is handicapped.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
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?
I liked having a big 4x4...it was definitely needed. I wouldn't do anything smaller if you can afford it.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. I remember it being on the pricey side.
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)?
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?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
There are no restrictions except when visiting the mosque. There you must wear a head cover and your legs and arms must be covered. Other wise you can have a bear head and wear shirts and shorts...I would recommend covering up shoulders and most of your legs though because otherwise you are just drawing attention to yourself.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
No...really safe. Expect as a woman to be stared at...a lot. After about 9 months I got used to it. Mostly, indian workers stare. If you are of asian descent and a worker there is more of a concern. There are lots of rumors of mistreated housemaids - some I saw first hand.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
They definitely need to improve on this matter. I can list all sorts of misdiagnoses and mistreatments. I once visited a friend in the Sultan Qaboos emergency room and was appalled with how dirty and unhygienic.
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?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It can get hot. The winter and early springmonths are the best.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
My children attended The American International School of Muscat. It was a wonderful experience. Teachers were extremely happy to work there and compensated well...they enjoyed their jobs and our children benefitted from that. If I could choose one school in the world...this would be it. There is also ABA and another british school...people seemed to be satisfied with those as well.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
At TAISM, they do have specialists who evaluate for learning disabilities. I knew a woman who they suggested her child might have slight autism and they were willing to work with the family in this regard. Other than that I don't have any experiences.
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, TAISM at least, has all sorts of sports and things for the children.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large. I met someone from just about every country while living there. Very diverse.
2. Morale among expats:
Pretty good. Depended on the time of the year. Worse in hotter months, better during months when it was comfortable.
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?
You always have within your power to throw dinner parties and make your own social life...and you will need it here. There are lots of 'balls' every year and some social clubs.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Very family oriented. I think single people would be a little lonely, but men seem to like the infamous 'health clubs' which are really massage parlors...wives, keep your husbands out! They aren't just for massages!
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
There is an overlooked underground society there. No one is allowed to hold hands or kiss in public, so it wouldn't be noticeable on the streets.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is a caste system of sorts, but white collar expats are at the top. I was saddened at least to see how domestic help was treated by nationals.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There is shopping, classes (painting, sewing, bellydancing, karate), beaches...and there are always coffee mornings if you like that thing. You have to actively seek out things to do here and that can take some work. There is a wonderful book called off-roading and if you have that, a gps and a 4 wheeler and some friends you can see some amazing things. Don't be afraid tobe a tourist of uscat even if you live there...go on the boat tours and visit the amouage perfume factory.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Remember that just about everything is imported, even at the local souq...but you can get some decent pashmina's and tablecloths. Get some Omani beads and jewelry.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Oman had the advantage of just being beautiful. The sun always shone, the sky was always blue and the water was usually (except during red tide!) perfect. The people were hospitable. We did save a lot of money living there. There is a lot to do and see in Oman if you are willing to get out and go. Some days we would just drive around and see what came our way. The souk is always fun.
11. Can you save money?
Yes. We did!
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes. The superior education offered to my children and the general beauty of Oman call to me every so often.