Oman at a Glance
Living in Oman
Expat living in Oman is mostly safe and convenient, but the country does not quite attach the same importance to tourism as, for instance, the UAE. You will soon notice that free-time activities are indeed more leisurely here.
There are various cinemas around Muscat, but most show only selected Hollywood blockbusters and Bollywood hits. Nightlife in the capital is limited to the several hotel bars where non-Muslims are allowed to consume alcohol.
At least, sports fans should find something to suit their taste. Beach life in Oman is becoming ever more popular. Soccer and, to a lesser extent, volleyball are among the Omanis’ favorite recreations, both on the sports grounds and among the spectators.
While living in Oman, you should take the chance to explore both everyday life and the nation’s heritage. Shopping in Muttrah’s large souq combines the feel of a traditional Arab market with an impression of contemporary life in Oman. If you prefer delving into history and culture, don’t miss out on some impressive forts or on Muscat’s Grand Mosque.
Nature lovers can go diving, dolphin-watching, hiking in a wadi, or off-road driving in the desert. If you’d like to give the latter pursuits a try, make sure you have an experienced tour guide with you. Both sand dunes and desert valleys are riskier than they seem at first glance.
If all this isn’t enough for you, then take a rucksack and hop on an inter-city bus trip to Nizwa, a historical center of Islamic learning and Omani culture, or all the way down to Salalah, with its East African flair. In case you’d like to escape Oman for a while, the same bus company takes you across the border to Dubai, too.
For foreign residents living in Oman today, it can be hard to imagine how much life in Oman has changed over the last 45 years. The educational sector needed a complete overhaul to keep up with the demands of modernization.
In 1970, there were three formal schools in the country. Nowadays, there are over 1,000 – an urgent necessity as more than 30% of the population is younger than 15 years.
Thanks to the Omani school system, the present-day literacy rate is 81.4%, and the government continues to invest in education. After the latest school reform in 1998/99, children living in Oman attend a co-educational primary school for four years. Nurseries are pretty much non-existent, though, while pre-school is gradually becoming more common.
After grade four, there are two levels of gender-segregated secondary education, the first from grade five to ten, and the second (also called post-secondary) in grades 11 and 12. At Oman’s free state-sponsored schools, the curriculum includes Arabic, Islamic studies, English, math, science, computer skills, social studies, PE, arts, and music, with a focus on the sciences and IT in post-secondary education.
After graduating from 12th grade with the thanawiya amma certificate, students living in Oman can take a degree at Sultan Qaboos University, the only public university. In addition to SQU, there are a number of smaller, private institutions, often affiliated with overseas universities, as well as a variety of colleges for applied sciences, teacher training, and vocational qualifications.
Expat families living in Oman frequently have concerns about schooling. Beyond the culture shock expatriate kids often face, the language barrier at Omani public schools can prove extremely difficult for non-native speakers of Arabic. Moreover, some parents may prefer their teenagers to attend a co-ed school, or they are worried about the local system being unable to cope with the onslaught of new students.
So it doesn’t come as a surprise that there are several private international schools in Oman, especially in Muscat. Most of them are co-educational. A few offer support for non-native speakers of English, as well as internationally recognized diplomas such as the International Baccalaureate. Contact them well before you move, as they may have waiting lists, and consider the tuition fees for your life in Oman.