Oman Through the Eyes of an Expat
Lohani Adeeb Khan
UoN Risk Management Officer
Hidden in the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, the Sultanate of Oman is the most welcoming monarchy in the Middle East. Growing up, I never pictured myself living abroad in this gem.
I moved to Oman in 2011 September and ever since I’ve been captivated by its beautiful mountains, stunning landscapes, seas, wadis, language, art, culture, and heritage. Unlike other GCC countries, Oman has passionately preserved its culture, traditions, architecture, its natural resources, and heritage besides embracing modernization.
The country has not let modernization prevail over its cultural values and heritage. Islam is embedded in every aspect of Omani life, even at the work; prayer times and religious practices such as fasting in Ramadan are given more significance than meetings or calls.
Greeting a passerby or a visitor with a smile and a salaam(salutation) is the norm and the most common humble gesture you’d envisage. The first thing a foreigner reminisces about Oman is its frankincense aroma. The Omanis burn frankincense for pleasure as well as for hygiene. It is believed to have antiseptic qualities, repels the bugs, and supposedly appeases the angels. You can relish the pleasant aroma of frankincense at every household, office, and souk in Oman.
Oman is a country where mountains, valleys (wadis), and canyons merge to create a dramatic and picturesque monumental scenery. More than being struck by the startling beauty of the country, one would be awed by the genuinely kind, humble, warm, and well-mannered nature of the Omani people. They are perhaps the best-behaved lot amongst all their GCC country cousins.
Be it a formal meeting or casual one, Omanis won’t let you leave their doorstep without serving you their traditional coffee and dates, treating their guests with utmost respect and generosity – a trait that has been forgotten in many cultures. It is quite easy to make friends with locals and other expats in Oman. According to Expat Insider 2022, Oman ranks second for general friendliness toward foreign residents.
Over the years, Oman has become a melting pot of cultures, giving its residents a social platform and exposure to diverse nationalities, cultures, cuisines, entertainment, and experiences. One could seldom encounter any discrimination based on race, color, religion, or position. Oman has been a peace hub for five decades now, through the legacy of HM late Sultan Qaboos’s foreign policy on peaceful co-existence with other nations, non-interference, and acceptance of diversity and uniqueness.
Oman has always facilitated peaceful negotiations between countries assuring security and stability while fostering economic growth. In these conflicting times, other nations are undergoing economic, political, and civic crises, this developing oasis has managed to steer clear of all the chaos. It’s no wonder that Oman has been one of the most politically stable and peaceful countries in the world.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ had once praised the residents of Oman. He ﷺ said to his companions that: "If you go to the people of Oman, they would never offend or harm you". The Prophet ﷺ reportedly supplicated to Allah to protect Oman from the enemies and wished for it to become a safe and rich country. The impact of the prophet’s invocation for Oman is very evident from Oman’s economic stability and sound bilateral relations with other nations.
The crime rate is very low in Oman. Even in today’s modern world, where fear, doubt, and mistrust are found all around; in Oman, you can find your forgotten wallets, mobile, or other items exactly in the same spot you had left them. The Sultanate of Oman has been ranked among the top four countries in the world for the year 2022 in the safety and crime index of Numbeo.
As an expat you feel marveled by the homogenous modest dressing style of Omani men in white and women in black. However, they individualize and mark a fashion statement with subtle fashion tweaks to their Maser(turban), Dishdasha (men’s robe), Abaya (ladies robe), and Sheila (Headscarf); with accessories and a hint of pleasant aromatic oud (natural perfume).
Oman with its rich geographical diversity and scenic beauty, the expats have sufficient destination options to explore locally. The varied terrains of the deserts, mountains, and ocean offer a range of outdoor activities and adventure sports to be enjoyed; from camping, hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling, parasailing, fishing, and sand boarding to barbeque gatherings. Residents can experience an extravagant urban millennial lifestyle in Muscat. Dubai is just a five-hour drive, so you can indulge in frantic city life for a weekend getaway if you desire a change of scenery.
The subtropical dry climate of Oman is accompanied by sparse monsoons, high humidity, and hot dusty winds in summer; and cool breezy winds in winter; when the majority of tourists and expat families flock to Oman. Extreme temperatures in Oman – both maximums and minimums have been increasing over the past decade. The Omani climate is very challenging for outdoor workers and is quite favorable for the corporate indoor lot.
Oman is one of the cleanest countries to the extent that driving a dusty/unclean car is immediately ticketed by police. Over the last five decades, Oman’s Health Care has evolved steadily. Since public health care in Oman is very expensive, the country offers free primary health care to Omanis and subsidized care for the expat population.
Expats will definitely find the cost of living in Oman more reasonable than that of many of the neighboring Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Moreover, there is no income tax on salaries in Oman unlike Asian and Western countries; however, this is slowly changing with the recent introduction of sales tax on certain items, as the government is trying to diversify the country’s income sources.
In recent years, to bring down the high levels of unemployment among Omani citizens, the Country has embarked on a process called Omanization by prioritizing and providing employment opportunities to Omani citizens. Though this move has impacted a small portion expat community, there are still opportunities for skilled expat workers, as many Omani employers are still seeking external expertise to bolster their workforce. Potential expats seeking new professional or entrepreneurial opportunities in the Middle East are still looking at Oman as the place to be because of its political stability, security, lifestyle, and affordable cost of living.
With over a decade now in Oman, I am no stranger to the region but Oman keeps amusing me in so many ways I cannot begin to describe. The country’s swift development of economy in a span of 50 years’ time is exceptionally remarkable; in terms of education, research, innovation, infrastructure, and business. Oman’s conventional society where family life is given utmost importance makes it a perfect haven for expat families. Oman has been a home away from home. The extent of humility, kindness, and respect of the Omani people makes you feel belonged; as if you lived here always. Omanis at heart, we expats feel truly privileged to have had the opportunity to live and work in Oman, contributing our love and sincere share to this country’s economic advancement and modernization. As an expat we might not belong to Oman, but Oman resides in our hearts and always will.