Lifestyle in Oman
The expat population comprises almost a third of Oman's total population and consists of mainly British, American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African citizens.
As an expat, the lifestyle in Oman you have largely depends on the town or city you live in. Muscat is the most developed and Westernised city with lots of shopping malls, restaurants, bars, sports clubs and entertainment venues. There's a particularly large expat population in the city and many expats run social clubs or organisations for their compatriots.
Towns in the rural areas are less cosmopolitan and your shopping, cuisine and entertainment experiences are likely to be correspondingly less Westernised. However, even small towns have large expat groups and expat social events.
Work-life balance in Oman
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, 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.
During Ramadan, all Muslims and people working in government organisations have reduced working hours – six hours instead of eight – in accordance with Oman's labour law. Some private sector companies also reduce working hours during Ramadan for both Muslims and expats.
Nightlife in Oman
Muscat offers the best opportunities for nightlife in Oman, but expats may find their choice of night spots is still somewhat limited. For one thing, this means the few places you can go are invariably quite busy, even on weekdays. Many nightclubs are linked to hotels and cater to a range of eclectic musical and cultural tastes. Trader Vics at the Intercontinental Hotel in Muscat offers a rich Cuban Salsa experience with a live band and a dancefloor. Rock Bottom is a more traditional steakhouse kind of venue with a rock ‘n roll theme. Club Safari, Uptown, Duke’s Bar and Pavo Real are also worth a visit.
Restaurants in Oman
Smaller towns in Oman are often extremely limited when it comes to the choice of restaurants on offer; expats will probably have a choice of Asian (Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani) or Turkish cuisine. But for those who enjoy a diverse range of cuisine options, you can get just about any cultural food experience in Muscat - Lebanese, Mexican, Chinese, Italian and Turkish food can all be found in the capital. Expats craving something familiar will find lots of global franchise stores such as McDonald's, Subway, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen and KFC, particularly in the capital city but also increasingly in smaller towns.
Events in Oman
Thanks to the efforts of Sultan Qaboos, a large amount of money has been invested in the arts in Muscat, and so expats will be pleased with the wide choice of entertainment options.
For opera lovers, the Royal Opera House located in the Shati Al-Qurm district of Muscat is an impressive architectural feat. Built on the orders of the Sultan Qaboos, the Opera House reflects contemporary Omani architecture and has a capacity to accommodate a maximum of 1100 people. The Opera House is the first in the world to be equipped with Radio Marconi’s multimedia interactive display seatback system, Mode 23. The complex consists of a concert theatre, auditorium, formal landscaped gardens, cultural market with retail stores, luxury restaurants and an art centre for musical, theatrical and operatic productions.
The Salalah Tourism Festival is another big event held annually in the Dhofar province between 21 June and 21 September. The festival presents activities to visitors including various artistic and cultural shows in addition to parades. There are a variety of local and international programmes to please every taste and guarantee a pleasurable and useful time.
Muscat was named the Arab Tourism Capital by the Arab League’s tourism ministers for 2012. The award recognises the progress being made by Oman’s tourism sector and Muscat as Oman’s tourist gateway. A number of cultural and artistic events will be held to commemorate this.
The Muscat Festival is one of the most important festivals held in Oman combining the effort of all official, private and public sectors in the country. This festival reflects the magical beauty of the Sultanate, the depth of its history and heritage, the urban development witnesses by the country while preserving its cultural heritage, as well as the customs and authentic Arab traditions of the Omani people. The festival is usually held in Muscat between January and February of each year and provides an excellent opportunity for shopping and sightseeing. The festival also offers a variety of cultural, traditional and artistic events.
The Cultural Theatre Programme occurs every year from December to the end of March. The Ministry of Tourism organises a number of cultural evenings at the Ancient Al Flavj Castle Theatre, hosting popular groups from around the world.