There’s lots to see and do in Oman – and plenty of opportunities if you want to live and work there, too. In terms of an expat location, however, it doesn’t exactly trip off of the tongue during conversations, at least not in the way near-neighbour Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) tends to do with its glitzy lifestyle. Oman is rather modest and conservative by comparison.
Yet, if you’re the sort of person who enjoys the great outdoors, Oman has plenty in the way of magnificent mountain peaks and wild undiscovered wadis to explore, not to mention empty sun-drenched beaches making up a thousand miles of unspoilt coastline. Then there’s dune bashing in a 4×4 in the incredible Wahiba Sands, an area of desert in the north-east of the country that’s also home to thousands of Bedouin tribesmen.
Yes, with plenty to see and do, a decent credit card is a must in order to make the most of this fabulous country. If wild adventure is not particularly your favourite scene then stick to Muscat, the capital of Oman, which has more than enough in the way of shopping malls, restaurants, clubs and other kinds of entertainment venues to keep the most inveterate of visitors smiling through the day and well into the night, money notwithstanding, of course!
Oman is doing well in attracting tourists, climbing four places in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) travel and tourism competitiveness report published earlier this year. The latest report ranks Oman in 57th place, four places higher compared to 2011 and a full 11 places up on 2009. The improvement is set to continue over the next decade, the WEF predicts, with projected growth averaging 5.2% over the period.
More than 36,000 people are currently employed in Oman’s tourism sector which is expected to grow in terms of jobs by more than 3% annually. WEF estimates put the value of the travel and tourism sector to the economy at more than $2 billion in 2012.
Within the MENA region, the report placed the UAE in the top spot with Qatar in second place. Bahrain was placed fourth, followed by Oman in fifth place, and Saudi Arabia in seventh. Kuwait was ranked 12th.
If tourists are important to the Omani economy then so are the large numbers of expats making up about a third of the population of the country, says the website Expat Arrivals. The expats consist mainly of British, American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African citizens.
The website says, “Working life in the Gulf is known for a peculiar phenomenon known as the split shift. Many companies in Oman such as shops (even in big malls) prefer to start work early, break for a long, three-hour lunch, and then return to work for a late afternoon session.
“Split shift timings are usually 8am to 1pm and 4pm to 7pm. Not all organisations follow this system, however. Government institutions will usually work from 7am to 2pm, and private companies with a Western ethos will usually work a full shift from 7am till 4pm.”
The official weekend in Oman is Thursday and Friday, says the website, although some institutions or companies require their employees to work on Thursdays until 1pm. Public holidays are determined by the government, and most are religious holidays determined by the Hiijri calendar and the moon. The holiday can’t be declared until the new moon has been spotted by the Moon Sighting Committee.
Interesting! You can find out more about life in Oman by visiting Expat Arrivals here.