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An increasingly attractive option for expats, Oman is a culturally rich and environmentally diverse Gulf state that lies on the southeastern shores of the Arabian Peninsula and showcases 1,060 miles (1,700km) of sunny shoreline. Its coastal geography affords relaxing boat trips, fresh air and seafood while the expansive desert dunes may take one's breath away. Hearing about a move to Oman may come with many questions, but expats are guaranteed a financially and culturally rewarding experience.
The country is a gentle introduction to the Middle East as it is among the safest, most stable countries in the Gulf region with high-quality healthcare facilities. Expats make up a large proportion of Oman’s population, and Omanis are known to be warm and welcoming to all.
Oman has emerged as a major economic player in the Gulf region and is a prime example of what can be achieved when petrodollars are wisely invested in a country's infrastructure. That said, expats thinking of moving to Oman may be concerned about Omanisation and strict work visa laws to reduce the reliance on foreign labour. But fear not – for now, job opportunities for skilled expats still abound and should be taken advantage of while the going is good.
Those reluctant to make the move can draw encouragement from the promise of high salaries and low taxes. Together with the affordable cost of living and Omani employers' penchant for providing attractive expat salary packages, it makes financial sense for expats to seek employment in Oman.
The heat is a major element to consider, but luckily Omani accommodation affords a cool and comfortable refuge from the sun and air-conditioning is abundant. Some may be discouraged by the heat and the idea of relocating to the desert – perhaps picturing a barren, desolate and depressing landscape – but the same people are often pleasantly surprised by Oman's interesting topography. Expats can enjoy views of beautiful desert riverbeds (wadis), lush coconut and banana plantations, iconic white sand dunes, terraced rose plantations and frankincense trees and austere rocky outcrops.
Beyond exploring the country's fascinating landscape, there is plenty more for expats to see and do in Oman. A shopper's paradise, the capital city of Muscat has many open-air markets full of wonderful things to buy and offer interesting cultural interactions. Alternatively, Muscat's Corniche is a popular hangout for foreigners and locals alike, especially at dusk, and the adventurous can head into Oman's interior to visit ancient castles and forts, or try their hand at sand-skiing.
Despite the obvious economic benefits and the array of unique sights and attractions, expats relocating to the Sultanate of Oman will likely enjoy the openness and tolerance of its society and the determinedly friendly nature of its people. Knowing this is comforting to women and to expat families with children who hope to smoothly settle into a new school.
Oman is one of the most progressive countries in the Gulf and women play a more active and visible role in society. Female expats report feeling comfortable and respected in their vocational pursuits. Still, there may be some culture shock as it is a staunchly Islamic state and expats should adapt their behaviour to ensure that they remain in the good graces of Omani society.
We advise expats to have an open mind, see challenges not as hardships, but as opportunities to learn about a culture different to their own and to develop their cultural sensitivity and interpersonal skills. Go with the flow and expats will soon learn that the lifestyle is relaxed and easy-going.
Population: About 5.1 million
Capital city: Muscat
Neighbouring countries: Oman is situated at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest.
Geography: Oman sits at the confluence of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. Much of the country is covered by sandy desert, which makes up over 80 percent of the landmass. In the north, a narrow and fertile coastal plain fronts the Gulf of Oman and from there the land rises into the rugged Hajar Mountains.
Political system: Unitary parliamentary absolute monarchy
Main languages: Arabic and English
Major religions: Islam
Money: The Omani Rial (OMR) is the official currency. It is divided into 1,000 baisa. Oman has an established banking system with both local and international banks offering services for expats. It is easy and straightforward for expats to open a bank account.
Tipping: Not necessarily expected, but it is appreciated to add a 10 percent service charge in restaurants if not given and to round up taxi fare.
Time: GMT +4
Electricity: 240 V, 50 Hz. British-style three-point bladed plugs ('type G' plugs)
International dialling code: +968
Internet domain: .om
Emergency numbers: 9999
Transport and driving: Oman doesn't have an extensive public transport system and most expats choose to own a vehicle. Cars drive on the right side of the road.