Moving to Oman?
Moving to Oman
Moving to Oman brings you to a less well-known corner of the Middle East. Unlike the neighboring United Arab Emirates, the Sultanate of Oman does not have the same reputation for glitz and commerce or as a top tourist destination. However, its popularity is growing, with the annual number of tourists growing from around two million in 2012 to over three million in 2016.
Muhafazahs and Wilayats
By moving to Oman, you will relocate to the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula, between Yemen and the UAE. The country also shares an inland border with Saudi Arabia, somewhere in the dunes of the Rub' al Khali, the largest sand desert in the world.
Oman has about the same surface area as Poland or the US state of Kansas. It is divided into four governorates (muhafazah) and five regions (mintaqat), which consist of 61 districts (wilayat). Most expatriates settle in the capital of Muscat, which forms a governorate of its own. Moreover, there’s a large foreign-born population in Salalah, in the southernmost province of Dhofar.
Be Prepared for Tropical Temperatures
Anyone moving to Oman should be prepared for the rather extreme climate. In the fertile Al Batinah coastal plain, the subtropical temperatures range from 22°C to 25°C in winter and reach up to 40°C in the summer months of June to September.
As is common in a desert climate, temperatures can differ drastically between day and night, particularly the further inland you go. Along the coast, the heat is more humid than dry. When the shamal wind blows from the desert, temperatures spike, so choose your luggage accordingly and make sure to pack some light, long-sleeved cotton or linen clothes.
While the rest of the country mostly has a desert climate, expats moving to Oman’s south are in for a surprise. Dhofar is a tropical region, influenced strongly by the monsoon (charif). After the heavy downpours, the province turns into a green oasis in full bloom — a wonder of nature that attracts visitors from throughout the country.
The Omani Population and Its Languages
Since a large part of Oman consists of desert, the population is relatively small, with a distinct trend towards urbanization. Around 4.6 million people live there, mostly in towns or cities — and an estimated 45% of the inhabitants are foreign residents. While there has been a rapid rise in the expat population over the last decade — in 2010, less than 30% of the population were foreign born — numbers have dropped somewhat since 2016 due to the economic downturn in the country.
Arriving from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Egypt, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, the foreign labor force is an important part of the Omani economy. There is also a far less sizable community of European and US expatriates.
The official language is Arabic, but non-Arabic speakers moving to Oman needn’t worry: English is widely understood or spoken, particularly in the capital and the business world, and Oman even ranks 9th out of 65 countries in the Expat Insider 2017 survey when it comes to the ease of living abroad without local language skills. Due to the large number of foreign-born workers, Farsi, Swahili, and various South Asian languages, such as Baluchi, Sindhi, and Urdu, can also be heard throughout Oman, particularly in the cities.
It’s All about Respect and Common Sense
Oman is a fairly safe country. Although the current ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said — who ascended to the throne in 1970 — is a mostly autocratic sovereign, the country witnessed far less political unrest during the Arab Spring than other Middle Eastern nations. Expats moving to Oman have little reason to fear a sudden political crisis. However, it’s still recommended to avoid all demonstrations as a foreign resident.
Violent crime is rare, so some general safety tips should suffice:
- Don’t enter unfamiliar neighborhoods or deserted areas.
- Do not travel after dark, particularly not alone.
- Pay attention to your valuables.
Furthermore, non-Muslims moving to Oman should respect Ibadhism, the local religion and a moderately conservative branch of Islam. This means no eating, drinking, or smoking in public during Ramadan, and wearing “modest” clothing outside beaches and pool areas (i.e. no shorts and sleeveless shirts for men, calf-length skirts and covered shoulders for women).
Generally speaking, foreign employees moving to Oman appreciate the country for its safety and hospitality. Respondents of the Expat Insider 2017 study even ranked it 6th out of 65 countries in regard to the ease of settling in.
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