Living in Oman?
Living in Oman
What to Do in Your Spare Time?
There are various cinemas in the bigger cities, particularly Muscat, but most show only selected Hollywood blockbusters and Bollywood hits. Nightlife in Oman is mostly found in the capital, where it includes several hotel bars where non-Muslims are allowed to consume alcohol. For a more authentic experience, head to one of the local cafés for fresh juice or coffee.
Sports fans at least should find something to suit their taste. Football and, to a lesser extent, volleyball are among the Omanis’ favorite leisure activities, both on the sports grounds and among the spectators. Beach life is also becoming more and more popular.
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 a try, make sure you have an experienced tour guide with you. Both sand dunes and desert valleys can be more dangerous than they seem at first glance.
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 history and culture, don’t miss out on some impressive forts or Muscat’s Grand Mosque.
If all this isn’t enough for you, then take a rucksack and hop on an intercity 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.
The Modernized Education System
For foreign residents living in Oman today, it can be hard to imagine how much life has changed since Sultan Qaboos came to power in 1970. Following a period of isolation under the previous ruler, it was not only the educational sector that needed a complete overhaul to keep up with the demands of modernization.
In 1970, there were three formal schools in the country, and only about one in five Omani adults could read and write. Nowadays, there are well over 1,000 public schools, and the literacy rate had risen to about 93% in 2015, with the government continuing to invest in education.
Children living in Oman attend a co-educational primary school (i.e. the first cycle) for four years. Nurseries are pretty much limited to Muscat, though, while preschool options are increasingly common and are also encouraged by the government.
After grade four, there are two levels of gender-segregated education, the first from grades five to ten (the second cycle of basic education) and the second for grades 11 and 12 (post-basic education). At Oman’s free state-sponsored schools, the first-level curriculum includes Arabic, Islamic studies, English, math, science, environmental life skills, IT, science, physical education (PE), arts, and music, with a particular focus on the sciences and social studies in post-secondary education. Next to these fields, post-basic education also focuses on such topics as environmental science, computer programming, and graphic design, while encouraging students to practice independent learning.
After graduating from twelfth grade with the thanawiya amma certificate, students living in Oman can pursue a degree at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), the only public university. In addition, there are eight private universities, often affiliated with overseas universities, as well as a variety of both public and private colleges for applied sciences, teacher training, and vocational qualifications.
International Schools: The Safe Option
Expat parents about to live in Oman may have some concerns about schooling. Beyond the culture shock that expat 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 school without gender segregation, or they are worried about the quality of the local education system.
Luckily, there are several private international schools in Oman, especially in Muscat. Most of them are co-educational (i.e. with mixed-gender classes). 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 don’t forget to consider the rather high tuition fees in your budget.
Private international or national schools in Oman include but are not limited to the following:
- Al Ibdaa International School
- Al Batinah International School
- Al Injaz Private School
- Al Sahwa Schools
- American British Academy (ABA)
- British School Muscat
- École Française de Mascate
- Indian School Al Ghubra
- Indian School Al Wadi Al Kabir
- Indian School Muscat
- Muscat International School
- Pakistan School Muscat
- Sohar International School
- The American International School of Muscat
- The Sultan’s School
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