Education standards in Muscat have improved immensely, due to the government increasing its investment in the education sector. Public schools are free of charge and generally offer a satisfactory standard. Schools are single-sex and Arabic is the main language of instruction. The curriculum is Islamic.
Although the standard of education is good in Oman, expats often send their children to private or international schools, primarily because of the difference in academic content. These institutions are expensive, with many schools requiring an up-front payment of fees. It is also important to point out that there is an extremely high demand for places at international schools in Muscat so it is often very difficult to place your child at an international school last minute.
Muscat is not particularly affected by serious diseases; malaria, for example, is not present in Muscat. Expats are more at risk if they do not take proper precautions against the heat and sun, such as wearing sunscreen and keeping properly hydrated. Muscat’s national health service is improving quickly and enjoys growing investment. Oman hosts more than 180 healthcare facilities, and the best-resourced are unsurprisingly located in Muscat.
The consumption of prescription drugs, including common painkillers, should be accompanied by a letter of consent from a doctor, even if that doctor resides outside of Oman. This is because Muscat, and the rest of the country, has extremely rigorous anti-narcotic legislation. If you use prescription drugs, get good local advice on what you need to do to stay on the right side of the law. The tap water in Muscat should also not be consumed.
All citizens in Oman have the right to free, universal healthcare. In Muscat, the standard of care is high. However, you should not necessarily expect healthcare standards to match those in western countries across the board.Bear in mind that, if you are not an Omani citizen, you are not eligible for public healthcare. Therefore private health insurance is vital for all expats living in Muscat. The only exception to this is the use of A&E for medical emergencies.It is common for employment agreements to include private healthcare provision in Oman. However, it is highly recommended to check carefully what it covers. Many do not cover dental care, for example. There are many popular private clinics in Muscat, including Muscat Private Hospital. The emergency number in Muscat is 9999.
Muscat is blessed with several world-famous cultural attractions that reflect Oman’s rich historical and cultural life. They include Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. It is the biggest mosque in Oman, capable of holding 20,000 people, and constructed from 300,000 tons of sandstone. The impressive modern feat was completed in 2001.
Visitors to Oman also enjoy visiting the understated but unmistakably beautiful Royal Opera House. The institution regularly hosts performances of classic operas and recitals as well as music performances like jazz concerts. The Armed Forces Museum is also an interesting place to spend a few hours. Set in a fort that was built in 1845 during the reign of Sayyid Said bin Sultan, the museum traces the history of military activity in Oman from pre-Islamic times through to the Portuguese presence and the establishment of the armed forces right up to the present day.
Aside from the main tourist sites, there are plenty of pleasant leisure activities to enjoy. Qantab Beach, for instance, is clean, pleasant, and beautiful. Oman also hosts several golf resorts.
Because the expat community in Muscat is now so big, this group is well-catered for in terms of the city’s movie theaters. Many of the big cinemas show the latest flicks in English as well as other foreign languages like Hindi. Cinemas showing international films include Al Shatti Multiplex, Star Cinema and Ruwi Cinema.
Muscat offers a wealth of options for serious shoppers, from impressive outdoor bazaars to large-scale modern shopping malls. By far the most famous of the latter is Muscat Grand Mall where you can find a wide range of international designer items and household names. Old Metro Souk is the most popular traditional market, where you can bargain for items like antiques and gold and silver jewelry.
Organized sport is not one of Muscat’s traditional strong points. However, there are plenty of watersport options such as paragliding, sailing, and diving, as well as kayaking. There is also a well-established expat hockey club called The Muscat Arabian Foxes Hockey Club. They play a solid standard of social hockey year-round and sometimes participate in regional tournaments as well. The city hosts several mixed and female-only gyms, including those owned by local chain Horizon Fitness Oman.