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Situated in the southeastern quarter of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman is widely considered to be the friendliest Gulf state to live and work in. There is a large expat community welcomed by the local Omanis. Many foreign residents report that, despite strict regulations, the Omani lifestyle is laid-back and relaxed.
Work-life balance in Oman
Working life in the Gulf is known for a peculiar phenomenon known as the split shift. Many businesses in Oman 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. 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 Friday and Saturday. Public holidays are determined by the government, and most are religious holidays determined by the Hijri calendar and the moon. The holidays can’t be officially 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 – following Oman's labour law. Some private-sector companies also reduce working hours during Ramadan for both Muslims and expats.
Shopping and entertainment in Oman
Muscat is the most developed and Westernised city in Oman with lots of shopping malls, restaurants, bars, sports clubs and entertainment venues. It’s not difficult to meet and make friends provided the many social clubs and organisations.
Towns in the rural areas are less cosmopolitan, and shopping, cuisine and entertainment experiences are likely to be less Westernised – still, even small towns often have large expat groups and social events.
Women moving to Oman who may be concerned about the culture can connect with groups such as the American Women’s Association, Women’s Guild Oman and others via Facebook groups. Making connections and joining social events for entertainment can ease the culture shock.
Nightlife in Oman
Muscat offers the best opportunities for nightlife in Oman, but expats may find their choice of nightspots is still somewhat limited. For one thing, this means the few places one can go to are invariably quite busy, even on weekdays. Many nightclubs are linked to hotels and cater to a range of eclectic musical and cultural tastes.
Restaurants in Oman
Smaller towns in Oman are usually limited when it comes to the choice of restaurants on offer; expats will probably have a choice of Asian or Turkish cuisine. But for those who enjoy a diverse range of dining options, one can get just about any cultural food experience in Muscat.
Expats craving something familiar will find an array of global franchises, particularly in the capital city, but also increasingly in smaller towns.
Sports and outdoor activities in Oman
Outside the main towns and cities, Oman's diverse range of geographical features, including rugged mountain ranges, unspoilt wadis and desert sands, also allow expats to enjoy a range of adventure activities such as camping, swimming and dune riding.
Outdoor activities are difficult and unpleasant in the heat of summer and the Sultanate is known for its expansive desert. That said, cooler seasons make for the perfect time to explore more of the country and find some lush, green environments with stunning waterfalls in Salalah as well as a piece of coastal paradise.
Arts and culture in Oman
Oman is hardly just a barren, arid landscape. Arabic history and religion can be seen, heard and felt throughout the Sultanate. Centuries-old forts and castles can be visited as well as the many mosques with their unique architecture, particularly the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Alongside the many museums, we recommend the opulent Royal Opera
House in Muscat. There is much to see and do in Oman, and the more expats explore and get to know the local culture, the better they’ll settle in.
►For more on expat life in the Sultanate, see Pros and Cons of Moving to Oman
"I enjoy khareef season (Arabic for autumn) when you get to see waterfalls, green mountains, great beaches and even dolphins, and many people enjoy fishing here." Caroline loves how friendly and willing Omanis are to share their lifestyle with expats in this expat interview.
"If you can imagine Los Angeles with a Middle Eastern twist – that’s Muscat. It is a city with beautiful beaches, palm trees and fresh sea air." In our interview with Jenny it's easy to see the relaxed lifestyle in Oman.
Are you an expat living in Oman?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Oman. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Thomas Boughey was born in Sana'a, Yemen and raised in the Middle-East and South Africa. Having completed his tertiary education in Grahamstown, South Africa Thomas has recently taken up a teaching post at the University of A'Sharqiya in Ibra in Oman.
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