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Preface Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:24 AM

The Sultanate of Oman, a land steeped in the rich traditions of its past, is also a country with a dynamic present and a promising future. Building on foundations laid long ago by adventurous seafarers and proud Bedouin nomads, the Omani people are still outward looking and independent.

Oman is a sportsman’s paradise, especially during the cooler part of the year from November to March. You can enjoy everything from tennis to turtle-watching in the shade of Oman's majestic mountains or on the fine white sand of its unspoiled beaches.

Oman has many of the comforts of home, including modern highways, supermarkets, and communications, while still preserving the charm of its own unique heritage. The challenges to living in Oman, primarily isolation and severe heat during summer, are overcome by a combination of patience and a sense of humor (not to mention the ubiquitous air-conditioner). Having a willingness to adapt to a new culture, and the ability to experience Oman as an adventure unavailable to most people, will go far toward maintaining high morale.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:26 AM

Oman occupies the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered on the north by the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), on the northwest by Saudi Arabia, on the southwest by the Republic of Yemen, and on the southeast by the Gulf of Oman. Oman compares in size to Kansas, about 80,000 square miles.

Oman has three distinct topographical regions. The first consists of two flat, relatively fertile coastal strips up to 20 miles wide: one in the north stretching from the Muscat capital area to the border with the U.A.E., and one surrounding the southern city of Salalah. The second feature includes two mountainous regions: one in the north with elevations ranging from several hundred feet to the craggy peaks of Jebel Akhdar at 10,000 feet, and the other bordering the Salalah Plain in the south. Both are deeply scarred throughout by dry streambeds called “wadis.” The third feature is sandy wasteland, mainly in the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) along the border with Saudi Arabia.

Oman’s climate is one of the hottest in the world. Temperatures reach 130°F in the summer from April to October and rarely drop below 65°F in the cooler season from November to March. Average annual rainfall measures only 4 or 5 inches and occurs during December into April. Despite limited rainfall, however, humidity averages 65% to 80%. Summer monsoons create a tropical climate in the south.

Population Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:26 AM

Oman's population is about 2.4 million, of whom 1.8 million are Omanis. Arabs predominate, but the long history of trading along the coast and colonization in Africa and the Indian subcontinent have produced considerable ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity in the population.

Arabic is the official and most widely spoken language. Hindi, Urdu, Swahili, Loti, and local dialects are also used. Several non-Arabic related languages survive in the mountains of the southwestern Dhofar Region. Many Omani Government officials and most merchants dealing with the expatriate community speak English.

Oman is the only Islamic country with most of its population adhering to the Ibadhi sect of Islam. A significant minority of Sunni Muslims (primarily of the Shafa'ei school) is concentrated in the south. The expatriate community numbers more than 600,000 and is primarily south Asian, including Muslims, Christians, and Hindus.

Many Omanis live in areas where fishing or subsistence farming offers the only employment. Oman has a young and rapidly growing population. Literacy is about 80% among men and 60% among women.

Omanis are reserved but friendly. They regularly share coffee, tea, dates, or halwa (a sweet, honey-colored dessert) upon meeting a visitor in an office or a remote village. Many Omanis observe prohibitions against alcohol but are seldom offended by its offer. Almost all abstain from eating pork.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:28 AM

The Sultan of Oman is a monarch who rules with the assistance of his ministers. The Sultanate has no political parties. Reigning since July 1970, the Sultan created a consultative council in 1981, and in 1991, he replaced that body with one whose members are elected from each district of the country. In 1996, the Sultan promulgated “The Basic Law,” which serves as Oman’s “Constitution.”

Oman’s legal system employs an array of institutions and traditions. The law consists of decrees by the Sultan and individual ministers, a penal code, police and commercial court regulations, and Shari’a (Islamic law drawn from the Quran and oral history of the Prophet Muhammad’s words and deeds). Civil courts hear criminal cases; Shari’a courts deal primarily with family and civil law. In less populated areas and among the Bedouin, tribal custom is often the only law, although the system of primary courts is expanding throughout the country.

For administrative purposes, the country is divided into 59 “wilayats” (districts), which are grouped into regions or governates. A “wali” (governor) appointed by the Minister of Interior presides over each wilayat, oversees administrative tasks, and serves as the principal conduit of information between the people and the central government.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:29 AM

The Omanis are known for their craftsmanship in silver- and gold- smithing and boatbuilding. Oman is perhaps most famous for its national symbol, the “khanjar,” an ornate, curved dagger embossed in silver commonly worn by men in the interior, and elsewhere on special occasions. Other handicrafts include weaving and pottery. The famous Omani dhow is still being handmade in Sur.

Traditional art forms such as singing and dancing are seen mostly in the interior. Western culture has made inroads (mostly in the capital area) but Islamic and Omani culture and customs still prevail.

Oman has stressed the importance of scientific and technical progress since 1970. In 1986, Sultan Qaboos University opened its doors to both men and women students. It boasts modern facilities and a highly qualified staff, including American and European professors. A number of colleges also exist, as well as hundreds of public primary and secondary schools. Many Omanis also go abroad each year to further their education, often to the U.K. or U.S.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:30 AM

The Omani economy is based on oil. Although Oman is not a large oil producer by Arabian Peninsula standards (currently, about 900,000 barrels per day), petroleum revenues account for about 85% of export earnings, 75% of government revenues, and about 33% of gross domestic product (GDP). Ownership of the primary producer, Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), is divided among the Government, (60%), and foreign partners, notably Shell (34%), as well as Total and Partex. Several foreign companies, including several American companies, have concessions for oil exploration.

During the past 30 years, Oman has concentrated on developing a modern infrastructure. The country now has an excellent highway system, modern airports at Seeb and Salalah, a deepwater port at Mina Qaboos and a state-of-the-art container port at Salalah. Industrial projects include a copper mining and smelting operation, an 80,000-barrel oil refinery, an LNG processing plant, and two cement plants. Industrial zones in the capital, Salalah, and Sohar highlight the modest light industries. At the same time, the Government seeks to develop the agriculture and fisheries sectors, from which much of the Omani population still derives its livelihood.

Oman's prosperity was originally concentrated in the capital area surrounding Muscat, but more and more Government services are available to the inhabitants of the interior. Virtually everything in the Omani economy is imported. Much U.S. trade with Oman is concentrated in the oil and gas and aviation equipment sectors.

Like other countries in the region, Oman relies on imported labor to carry out its development plans. The expatriate workforce was estimated to be about 600,000 in 1999. Americans hold a handful of positions in the Omani Government and in the private sector but technical advisers and managers are mostly from the U.K. and the Indian subcontinent.

The Government invested substantially in education. Many primary and secondary schools have been built, along with vocational training centers and the flagship educational institution, Sultan Qaboos University.


Automobiles Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:31 AM

Private cars provide the only practical and dependable means of transportation within the country. The most commonly driven cars, and therefore those for which parts and servicing are most available, are Toyotas, Mazdas, Nissans, and Hondas. Mercedes, BMW, Peugeot, Land Rover, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler products are also sold here. Local General Motors, Ford and Chrysler agencies have adequate spare parts and repair services. Because spare parts are extremely expensive, you may wish to bring a supply of commonly used parts, such as air filters, fan belts, etc. Right-hand-drive vehicles cannot be registered in Oman.

Note: American diplomats may import cars that do not conform to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) standards, but they must reexport them upon their departure or they can sell the vehicle to another U.S. diplomat only. At present, no restrictions apply to the sale of personally owned GCC vehicles to members of the local population by Mission employees. There is an active used car market in Oman and depreciation is comparable to the U.S.

Try to time the shipment of your car so that it arrives as soon as possible after you do, or plan to purchase a new or secondhand car here. Having transportation in the early part of your tour will make adjustment at post much easier. Rental cars are available but can be expensive over a long period of time.

Unleaded gasoline is available at most stations here in Oman, so it is not necessary to adapt vehicles before shipping. Gasoline prices are about the same as the U.S. Cars should be equipped with cooling systems adapted to high temperatures. Air-conditioning is essential! Tinted windows will improve the efficiency of air-conditioning, but windows tinted more than 25 % are not permitted.

Oman’s more than 4,500 miles of paved roads include routes from the capital area to the U.A.E. border, Nizwa, Ibra, Rustaq, Salalah, Sur, and other interior towns.

Most gravel roads, dirt roads and off-road trails require four-wheel-drive or sturdy, high-clearance vehicles. Driving is on the right, as in the U.S. If you enjoy camping and weekend trips, bring a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

An Omani drivers license will be issued to Embassy personnel with diplomatic title and status on presentation of a U.S. license that has been in force for more than a year. You must have a current valid drivers license upon arrival; otherwise, you will need to go through an onerous process required for all first time license applicants. Diplomatic license tags for personally owned vehicles are issued gratis to Embassy staff.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:32 AM

Taxi services are available 24 hours daily at the airport, larger hotels, and by a few dial-a-taxi services. The posted cost of a taxi from the airport to Madinat al-Sultan Qaboos or Al Khuwair (Embassy area) is 5 Rials ($13). Taxi fares generally range from 1-5 Rials ($2.60-$13) to and from most commonly visited sites in the Muscat area. However, Westerners are sometimes quoted higher fares.

Local bus service is not recommended as it predominantly operates along the major thoroughfares and the only way to board such conveyances is to stand alongside the high-speed expressway in the stifling heat and flag down the vehicle. These buses or minivans do not operate in the areas where the American community lives. It is recommended that unescorted women not use this service due to potential harassment.

Cars may be rented by the day, week or month. Daily rates vary between 11 Rials ($28.57) and 20 Rials ($51.96) depending upon the size and make of the vehicle. Monthly rates for a mid-sized car will average about $500 per month. These rates for sedans are inclusive of insurance and unlimited mileage. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are about twice this cost.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:32 AM

Bus service (along the main highway) is available for the 25-mile trip from old Muscat to Seeb Airport, as well as to Sohar, Nizwa, Rostaq, and several other interior towns. Bus service takes 12 hours from Muscat to Salalah, and a little less by private car. Oman's major cargo port is the l.5 million-ton capacity Mina al-Sultan Qaboos (Port) located in Mutrah. Although Oman does not receive direct service from American shipping lines, it does get regularly scheduled foreign flag service from the U.S. east coast.

Diplomats must obtain passes through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for travel by road or air to certain points in Oman such as Musandam.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:38 AM

We can not send a diplomatic note to get a SIMM until you receive a Ministry of Foreign Affairs residency card, but start the paperwork for a SIMM soon after your arrival. You can upgrade to new phones during your tour and keep the same SIMM/phone number. Your address book and preferences transfer to new GSMs on the SIMM.

GSMs are $100-400. You need a SIMM, about $18, and connection fee is $40. GSM service is $11 per month with varying rates for calls, e.g., 100 local calls = $10.

Contact the Mailroom staff in the basement to apply for an Internet account, ISDN service, or a SIMM. To buy a GSM, contact GSO procurement staff on the first floor.

The Mission provides one phone in your residence. For additional phones, contract with Omantel or an installation service. If you live in a government-owned house, contact the IPC with your request. Both the Mailroom staff and the Telephone Technician, in basement offices, will help you contact installation contractors. The Ambassador, DCM, and Marine Security Guards’ residences have Embassy extensions and IVG/DSN access. Home phone service is about $8 per month. Calls to the U.S. average $2 per minute.

Wireless Service Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:37 AM Cellular or mobile phones in Oman are called “GSMs,” named for coding used in most of the world. Your American cell phone is likely CDMA or TDMA coded and won’t work unless it’s a new tri-band GSM. GSMs work in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Roaming service is free. You pay local rates plus 15 percent for calls made from outside Oman. You’ll get a GSM/SIMM from the person that you replace. But if you are in a new position or billet, and for your spouse, you’ll need SIMM chips-brains for GSMs.

Internet Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:19 AM

Connect to Internet as soon as you arrive while waiting for your own account. Via your modem, dial 1312 and enter Omantel for both name and password. The phone number from where you are calling will be charged standard dial-up rates. Omantel is the only Internet service provider (ISP). Data calls are free. 56K installation is about $25, monthly rate $5, and usage 50¢ per hour. ISDN installation is $52, monthly rate $24, and usage 60¢ per hour. Rates are subject to change.

56K Dial-up, ISDN, and DSL services are available. For ISDN, you need an ISDN modem and the cost for the service is $100-150. The ISP will install a termination unit to your existing telephone line. When connecting via ISDN at 64K, you can use your other home phones on the same line, but when you select 128K, you lose the ability to call or receive calls on your other phones. Switching back and forth from 64K to 128K requires three mouse clicks. Your landlord must agree to let you have ISDN service in the house. If you order ISDN, remember to have it uninstalled when you move.

Omantel censors certain Internet sites. For example, using a search engine to find hits on “Middlesex, England,” may result in an ISP censor message because of the word “sex.” All State workstations in the Embassy have Internet, known as “OpenNet Plus.”

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:43 AM

The State Department diplomatic pouch is used for all official mail but may also be used for personal mail. Post recommends the use of the pouch address for any reading or recorded materials to which you subscribe that might offend local Islamic sensibilities. The maximum weight for a box is 40 pounds. It may not exceed 24 inches in length or 62 inches length and girth combined. Do not send any mail through the pouch that needs to be signed for (i.e., registered, certified, or insured). Of course, no liquids, aerosols or highly flammable materials may be sent through the pouch. Mail sent through the pouch generally takes longer than through the APO. Note: Pouch mail is not sent from Washington until the mailbags are full. First-class mail takes about 10-14 days; magazines and packages take about 2 weeks to a month, sometimes longer.

Your diplomatic pouch address is:

Your Name Department of State-Muscat 6220 Muscat Place Washington, DC 20521-6220

Personal Pouch address is:

Your Name Department of State 6220 Muscat Place Dulles, VA 20189-6220

International mail services are available, but rarely used. All international mail sent to Oman is subject to, and probably will be, inspected. It could be confiscated if deemed unacceptable or offensive to Islamic sensibilities. Letter mail costs around 50 cents. Packages are extremely expensive to mail.

Your International address is: Embassy of the United States of America Your Name P.O. Box 202 Code No. 115 Medinat Qaboos, Sultanate of Oman


The Embassy has an APO for sending and receiving packages and letters. A package up to 108 inches in size (length and girth combined) for priority and standard, and 70 pounds maximum, may be sent via APO. Anything over that is subject to very expensive surcharges. Omani customs officials may inspect items mailed via APO. Items that are restricted in Oman are: pork products, alcohol, pornographic material of any kind and suggestive magazines. Videotapes may be confiscated if deemed unsuitable. Mail normally takes between 7-10 days, but occasionally takes longer. Be sure to send change of address notifications in advance of your move. Insured, registered and certified mail services are available and money orders are sold daily. All transactions at the APO are in U.S. dollars.

Your APO mailing address is: Your Name American Embassy-Muscat Unit 73000, Box __* APO AE 09890-3000

*You will be assigned a box number on arrival. Generally, it is the same number as your predecessor. Check ahead with Post to obtain the number if it is not provided in a message from Post.

Radio and TV Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:41 AM

There is only one English-language FM station (90.5) in Oman. Radio Oman usually broadcasts from 6:45 a.m. to 11 p.m. (later during Ramadan month) with a variety of music, interview, information, and call-in programs.

Some Mission families have WorldSpace satellite radios. Each of the three world bands-two overlap in Muscat-has 40+ stations with everything from country music to financial news. You can buy a WorldSpace digital receiver for $100-$125. Unlike satellite radio in the U.S., there is no monthly fee. Contact the IPC for more information.

You will receive an Emergency and Evacuation radio during your check-in. When not carrying your radio, keep it in the charger, turned-on in your safe haven room at home. Your call sign is the number on the radio. Test it with post one at least monthly.

Satellite Television. As with radio, there is only one broadcast television station in Oman. There is no cable television service. Mission families are provided a satellite terminal and receiver for American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS/AFN). AFRTS has 3 (analog) to 6 (digital) TV and several radio channels: news, sports and a variety of U.S. programs, specials, and American radio. Although the embassy provides one satellite receiver, you’ll need another one for each additional TV. Additional analog receivers are available locally.

There are two English-language commercial satellite TV services: Showtime and Orbit/Star. Showtime has 20 English-language and 30 Arabic stations. Orbit/Star has English channels, and is oriented toward the U.K. community. There are also Arabic and Indian audience satellite broadcasts packages available.

AFRTS is free but only available to direct-hire U.S. embassy employees and their families. Showtime and Orbit/Star service varies from $40-100 per month. Satellite dish installations charges and receiver rentals/purchase are separate. For commercial satellite service, contact the GSO procurement staff on the first floor.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 7/10/2003 11:29 AM

International newspapers arrive in Oman about 3-4 days after publication. The Express and Times (London papers) sell for about $3.75 in Oman. The International Herald Tribune is also delayed a day and costs about $2.60. English-language periodicals that are regularly available a week or so after publication are Time, Newsweek, The Economist, Events, and Middle East International at about $3 a copy.

Local English-language daily papers include The Oman Daily Observer and Times of Oman, which cost about 25 cents per copy. The Khaleej Times from the U.A.E. is also available at about 30 cents a copy.

The Family bookshop (a chain bookstore) carries a varied assortment of hardback and paperback books, including current bestsellers, although they are expensive by U.S. standards. As all reading material is censored, not all books are available. Many individuals obtain reading material through book club services and mail order from the U.S. The CLO office and the MEA also have lots of books.

Greeting cards, seasonal decorations, and gift-wrap are available at most book and card shops as well as at the main supermarkets, but they are quite expensive.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:45 AM

The Embassy Health Unit is staffed by two part-time registered nurses. The State Department regional medical officer (RMO) is based in Sanaa, Yemen, and visits post quarterly. The RMO/P visits twice a year or on request and can be contacted via e-mail at any time. We also have the services of the USAF flight surgeon who is assigned to a unit deployed in Muscat. He is available once a week (visits may vary due to availability).

The Health Unit provides immunizations, evaluation, first-aid treatment of acute minor illnesses and injuries, and physicals in conjunction with the RMO's visits or with local doctors. The Health Unit staff gives referrals to local medical facilities as necessary and emergency assistance and follow-up. There are many pharmacies available with a basic supply of medicines.

For emergencies in Muscat, employees and dependents should go either to Al Khoula Hospital or to the Royal Hospital. Khoula Hospital has the regional trauma center, which specializes in burns, plastic surgery, and neurosurgery. The Royal Hospital specializes in Cardiology, Pulmonary, OBGYNE, and Pediatrics. The central blood bank is located across the road.

There are two private hospitals in Muscat. First is the Al Shati Hospital, which is a 30-bed facility. Although this hospital does not have all the specialties it does have a 24-hour walk-in clinic, ideal for minor casualties and primary care consultations. The second is Muscat Private Hospital, which is a 70-bed facility. It has a 24-hour emergency department staffed with Western doctors but only with limited capabilities. The hospital has most specialties, including the first private mammogram facility in Oman. Nursing care in the private hospital is comparable to U.S. standards.

There are several private medical clinics with Western-trained physicians for minor problems.

Oman has a couple of good dental facilities providing routine care and orthodontics. Periodontal services are available every few months. Periodontists come from other countries and work at the local dental clinics.

There are many opticians in Oman to prescribe glasses and contact lenses. Costs are higher than in the U.S.

Community Health Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:20 AM

Although Oman’s sanitation level can be good in some locations, cases of giardia and amoebic dysentery do occur from time to time. However, owing to the post's ongoing community health education, the frequency of bacterial infections and parasitic infestations has diminished over the past several years.

Although the incidence of malaria progressively declined from 1981-86, in 1990 it nearly doubled. Oman has implemented an aggressive malaria prevention program. There is now no malaria in the capital area.

Incidences of meningococcal infection, Hepatitis A & B, and typhoid are slowly decreasing but still persist. Polio has been completely eradicated. All food handlers are immunized yearly against salmonella typhoid, and all babies born receive Hepatitis B vaccine.

In the capital, municipal sewage systems operate in most areas. Garbage is collected regularly from bins located throughout the city. Municipal workers spray for mosquitoes and other insects on a periodic basis. Cockroaches, ants and rats are common pests.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:46 AM

Maintain recommended schedules for typhoid, tetanus, Hepatitis A, poliomyelitis, Meningitis and Hepatitis B prevention. Sanitation standards at leading restaurants and major hotels are adequate.

For those on prescription drugs, bring a 6-month supply and arrange with a pharmacist in the U.S. to have the medication sent periodically through the pouch. Many U.S. medications or their equivalents can be purchased locally, but are not always available routinely. They can also be more expensive to buy here.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:47 AM

The Mission’s small size limits the opportunities for eligible family member employment. However, the Embassy invites all eligible family members to fill part-time, intermittent and temporary positions as available. Host government regulations require family members of official Americans who want to work outside the Embassy to forfeit their diplomatic immunity, and the Embassy has never granted such a request, although as a matter of policy it encourages spouses to find employment. Several Embassy spouses work outside the Embassy, e.g., at The American International School of Muscat (TAISM).

American Embassy - Muscat

Post City Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:20 AM

The Muscat capital area consists of towns and neighborhoods strung along the Gulf of Oman for more than 50 miles. Only one of these is old Muscat (population 6,000), the original seat of government and still the site of one of the Sultan’s palaces.

Old Muscat lies between the sea and stark, brown hills that rise to 1,500 feet. Old Muscat has been completely rebuilt but retains a feel of what it used to be.

About 3 miles from Muscat is Oman’s former commercial center, the city of Mutrah, with 10,000 inhabitants. Mutrah is also the site of one of the country’s major ports, Mina al-Sultan Qaboos.

Because of Muscat’s limited land area, Ruwi Valley, just beyond Mutrah, is the location of several government ministries and is the heart of the modern commercial district. With a population of about 30,000, it is also a residential area.

Expansion of the capital area in recent years has brought rapid development to places beyond Ruwi as well. Most Embassy houses are located in the suburbs of Shati Al-Qurum and Madinat al-Sultan Qaboos.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:49 AM

The U.S. has maintained relations with the Sultanate of Oman since the early years of American independence. A treaty of friendship and commerce was concluded in 1833. The U.S. maintained a Consulate in Muscat from 1880 until 1915. In April 1972, the first U.S. Ambassador to Oman, then resident in Kuwait, presented his credentials to the Sultan. On July 4, 1972, the U.S. officially established the Embassy in Oman. The Chancery, located in a 100-year-old building in the oldest section of Muscat near the sea and Fort Jalali, was opened in March 1973. Two years later, the first resident Ambassador arrived and presented his credentials to the Sultan.

The new Embassy was opened in May 1989 and is located in al-Khuwair, about 12 miles from old Muscat. The new location is within 1-5 miles of Embassy housing and is in the diplomatic quarter near many Omani ministries. The Chancery houses all State offices, the Defense Attach‚ Office (DAO), the Office of Military Cooperation (OMC), and the Executive Coordinating Agency (ECA). The American staff of all agencies includes 56 direct-hire employees, 1 personal services contractor, and about 12 Family Member Appointment (FMA) and locally hired employees. The post also employs a local staff of about 90 Omani and third-country nationals (mostly Indians, Pakistanis, and Filipinos).

Employees are paid biweekly; earnings and leave statements are available through the Department of State’s E-phone on Tuesday before the Thursday payday. The workweek is Saturday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with one-half hour for lunch. The Embassy telephone number is (968) 698-989. After business hours, call 699-049 to reach the Marine Security Guard.

The CLO coordinator writes to newcomers before their arrival and ensures that school-aged children are enrolled at school. The Embassy sponsors the American-curriculum-based The Ameri-can International School Muscat (TAISM). See Education for more details. Some children have gone to the American-British Academy, or the British school. CLO also provides a welcome packet of helpful information and assigns a social sponsor to each newcomer. The social sponsors and the Embassy expediter meet newcomers at the airport and assist them through customs. Be sure to inform the post in advance of flight information, accompanying dependents, pets, and baggage.

The post Web site is


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:50 AM

Post makes every effort to move new Embassy personnel directly into permanent quarters. If permanent quarters are not available upon arrival, new Embassy personnel will stay in either a temporary house or one of the local hotels.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:50 AM

All Embassy personnel occupy furnished government-owned or -leased quarters. Most houses are detached, single-family dwellings with a patio, and very few have garden areas or grass yards. The Embassy also leases a few U.S.-style townhouses. Most U.S. personnel live in the residential areas of Madinat al-Sultan Qaboos and Shati Al-Qurum, which are about 1-5 miles from the Chancery. Housing assignments are based on the post housing profile, family size, date of arrival, and Department housing guidelines (A-171), procedures, and regulations.

Furnishings Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:51 AM

All quarters are completely furnished and have a refrigerator, electric or gas range, washer, dryer, vacuum cleaner, microwave oven, and freezer. Draperies and carpets are also provided. The Embassy has a small supply of baby cribs. Advise the post well in advance if you will need one. Bring china, silverware, glassware, kitchen gadgets, table and bed linens (beds are queen size in master bedrooms and twin in others), blankets, pictures, wastepaper baskets, and coathangers. Include a minimum supply of these items in your airfreight. The Embassy provides a Welcome Kit of basic kitchen equipment, towels, and bed linen to newcomers whose airfreight shipments have not yet arrived.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:51 AM

All Embassy housing has hot-and-cold running water. Many homes have either central air conditioning or a window or split air-conditioning unit in each room. Electricity is 220v, 50-cycles, 1-3 phase and is generally reliable. The plugs are the three-prong, 13-amp British type. The GSO provides four step-down transformers, but you should bring some of your own if you have a lot of personal 110-volt electric/electronic gear. Surge protectors are recommended for electronic equipment and computers. Plug adaptors are easily purchased locally for multivoltage equipment with American or European plugs. All Embassy-provided appliances are 220v or come with a transformer. Muscat city water is considered potable, but its quality is not always consistent. Most Western families buy bottled water for drinking and cooking. Water pressure is generally not a problem.

Food Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:20 AM

Several grocery stores operate throughout the Muscat area and offer a varied assortment of predominantly imported products. Most foodstuffs are available, although seasonal variations and occasional shortages occur. The high cost of food is only partially offset by the cost-of-living allowance. A variety of fresh fruit and vegetables are available at stores and local vendors. Although stores do run out of items, substitutes can be found. Locally caught fish is excellent and is sold daily at the fish markets in Mutrah and Seeb.

Canned and frozen products are imported from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia. Fresh and frozen meat is imported from Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and, in limited amounts, from the U.S. American canned and bottled soft drinks are available, including diet drinks. A large variety of snackfoods (predominantly of British and local manufacture) are available. Fresh milk and dairy products from an Omani are available, as are locally produced eggs, which are all of good quality. Milk is also available in powdered, canned, or reconstituted forms. Local bakeries produce tasty bread and rolls. Another alternative is to order food and other consumables online and have them shipped via APO, which allows liquids to be sent. The CLO has information on various Web sites used by personnel at post for ordering consumables and other items.

Clothing Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:53 AM

Cotton summer clothing can be worn year round. Cotton/polyester blends retain heat, and are uncomfortable in the hotter months. One or two outfits of warm clothing for use during the cool season are satisfactory. A light sweater or jacket is good for the winter evenings or inside the air-conditioned buildings. Limited footwear for men and women and children is available locally.

Although more items are becoming available locally with the influx of new commercial enterprises, the high cost of these imports and limited selection often makes them unattractive buys for Embassy staff. There are many tailors willing to make garments at reasonable prices but it is strongly recommended that you obtain recommendations before trying one. Clothing items are also obtainable through mail order and via the Internet.

Men Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:53 AM

Only Omani men wear the long straight garment called a “dishdasha.” It is not advisable for Westerners to wear the local dress. On ceremonial occasions, affluent Omanis wear a flowing black robe called a “bisht” over the dishdasha and wear a belt with their khanjar. The traditional male head covering in Oman is different from other Arab nations. They wear the “masar,” which is a length of patterned, colorful cloth wrapped like a turban. On less formal occasions, a small-embroidered cotton cap is worn.

Male staff members wear lightweight slacks with a shirt and tie. Many evening events require a suit and tie. On rare occasions, such as the Marine Ball, a tuxedo is required.

Women Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:54 AM

Many Omani women appear in public in the abaya, a black cape that covers them from the neck down and usually they have their heads covered by a black veil. Younger Omani females often wear just veil, which totally covers their hair, yet leaves their face visible. These head coverings are often quite colorful and match their dress.

Female staff generally wear street-length apparel suitable for the office. Longer skirts and dresses are recommended for general shopping and trips to the souk. Bare shoulders, sundresses, shorts, short skirts and sleeveless tops are not recommended for public venues.

Children Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:55 AM

A relatively good selection of children's clothing is available. More trendy items, such as Bennetton for Kids, are available but expensive.

Many employees purchase clothing from the U.S. by mail order and on the Internet. Mail orders through JCPenney, for example, typically arrive within 2-3 weeks via APO.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:56 AM

Most toiletries, cosmetics, nonprescription drugs, and household items are available. Specific brand names may be problematic so you may want to bring a sufficient supply for personal use.

Color print film such as 35 mm, 110, and 126 is available, as are flashcubes and batteries. Experienced, commercial color film developing services are available locally but can be expensive. Usually, you receive a roll of film and small photo album for every roll of film developed.

Sewing supplies are obtainable, but the quality is not comparable to U.S. supplies. Zippers are generally metal and the longest dress length zipper is 20” so bring dress zippers from home if you plan to have clothing made. Most thread is cotton. A wide variety is obtainable, but the thread tends to break easily. Craft supplies are very limited in availability.

Basic Services Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:56 AM

Muscat has a few good garages and many more below-standard repair shops. Several women’s hair stylists and a few barbers are satisfactory. Drycleaning and laundry services are relatively good and at affordable prices. Shoe repair work is very limited. The cost of services generally compares to or exceeds U.S. prices.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:57 AM

Most middle-class Omani families and Westerners in Muscat employ domestic help whether part-time or full-time. Monthly wages range from $260 for a full-time cleaner to $350 for a full-time cook/server. Full-time domestics receive medical insurance coverage and quarters or an allowance to cover these costs. Many Embassy houses have servants’ quarters. Full-time domestics may receive a round-trip ticket to their home country provided by the employer after 2 years’ service. This is a negotiable item between the employer and the domestic. Provisions of Omani law apply to domestic help; guidance is available from the Personnel Office.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:57 AM

The Protestant and Catholic Churches at two sites in Ruwi and Ghala, and occasionally at the Amana Center in old Muscat, conduct weekly services and a range of social activities in English. There are also Hindu temples in Muscat.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:58 AM The American International School of Muscat (TAISM) is the only U.S. Embassy-sponsored school in Oman. TAISM has programs for grades prep through grade 12 in this school which is on its fourth year of operation. TAISM was founded because of serious concerns about the ability of other schools in Muscat to provide an education that would enable American children to enroll without difficulties in the next grade level of school in the U.S. or in other American schools abroad.

TAISM occupies a new, state-of-the-art facility, which is located about 15 minutes from the Embassy by car. The accrediting organizations for TAISM are the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the European Council of International Schools (ECIS). The Department of State Office of Overseas Schools has consistently provided significant support for the school and considers it a model for other overseas American schools. Classes usually begin around the third week of August. Contact the CLO for the actual starting date or check the school’s Web site at

TAISM has 27 full-time faculty members and administrators and 5 part-time teachers, most from the U.S., including the director and the principal. It also has teachers from Canada, France, Lebanon, and Peru. The international student body is composed of 25 nationalities. The average student-teacher ratio is 10:1 with the average class size of 16. Normally, no more than 20 students are in a class. The low student-teacher ratio increases direct teacher interaction with students, which allows for a more individualized approach to learning than would be impossible otherwise.

The TAISM campus, which opened for the 2002-2003 school year offers large classrooms, information technology and computer labs, art room, performance hall for music, science laboratories and preparation room, library/media center, cafeteria, rooms for small group instruction, playing fields, gymnasium, and a competition swimming pool.

The other educational options available in Muscat are The British School and the American-British Academy.

Away From Post Last Updated: 7/10/2003 9:59 AM The away-from-post-educational allowance is available beginning at grade 6. Some parents with children in the upper grade levels (particularly high-school-aged students) have opted in the past for this benefit.

Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:21 AM

Classes in dance and aerobics are available for children and adults. Instructors are expatriate community members. Programs in other fine arts such as painting, sculpture, drawing and crafts are offered from time to time. The Historical Association of Oman regularly offers lectures on geography, geology, sociology, anthropology, and archeology. Many language programs and computer classes are available to the public.

Several private English-speaking nursery schools accept children from 2 years of age and will change diapers. Space is limited but most parents have been able to place their children in satisfactory schools. In 2002, TAISM school opened its new facility to prekindergarten, as well as kindergarten students.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:01 AM

Many Embassy staff participate in a softball league during the cooler season. The teams are made up of employees, dependents, and American community members. They play at the Muscat Sports Complex, which is located near Seeb International Airport. There are also three running clubs and a couple of groups that play basketball and rugby. The Embassy has a small outdoor pool at the Employee association club in Madinat Qaboos for employees/members and their families to utilize. No lifeguard stands duty and employees/members use it at their own risk. Several large hotels have swimming pools that can be utilized for a fee. Among other facilities offered at the hotels are lighted tennis courts and air-conditioned squash courts. Most of the hotels operate a fitness center, which can be used by paying a membership fee for a set period (3 months, 6 months, annual). The cost of an annual club membership is approximately $650-$750 for singles and $1,000-$1,200 for a couple with two children. Two of the local hotels have bowling alleys.

Water sports are popular in Muscat. There are many different sports, which are available at all of the dive centers, such as snorkeling, scuba diving and water skiing. There are at least three different dive centers in Oman. They also have equipment rental and rent such things as jet skis and kayaks. Many beaches are accessible by car; others can only be reached by boat. Deep-sea and surf fishing are also options that can be pursued. Fishing gear is sold locally but can be expensive; you may prefer to bring your own.

Camping and hiking gear, including camp beds, sleeping bags, tents, and lanterns should be included with your HHE. These items are available locally but are very expensive. A good ice chest is a useful item for picnics or a trip to the fish market. Bring plenty of sunscreen with you, as it is expensive locally.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:01 AM

There are a large number of tour operators in Oman offering a wide-range of organized tours and sightseeing activities. Several old forts are within a day's drive and can be a pleasant weekend excursion for the family. Your time in Oman will not be complete without camping in the desert, a trip to turtle beach, climbing in the mountains, or combing the colorful souks. During the cooler months the CLO organizes many weekend outings for the Embassy community, which include wadis, forts, souqs, etc. The choices are limitless.

Entertainment Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:02 AM

Europeans and Americans patronize many restaurants in the capital city. There are numerous Indian restaurants, as well as Chinese, Italian, French, Mexican, and others which Embassy personnel frequent. In addition, many fast food franchises have opened in Muscat (McDonald’s, KFC, Hardees, Pizza Hut, Chilis, Starbucks). A hamburger, fries, and soft drink will cost you less than US $5.

There are currently two movie theaters in Ruwi and one in the Shati Al-Qurum area. One cinema theater shows mainly Indian films with an occasional English-language film and another shows a mix of the latest American and British releases, plus some Indian films. Most Embassy personnel have videotape players and receive tapes from home or rent tapes from the Employees' Association or local video and DVD rental companies. There is also a free video library in the CLO office.

The Embassy has an Employees’ Association called the Muscat Employee Association (MEA) that operates a snackbar in the Chancery for Embassy employees and maintains a recreational center called the Oasis in the residential area of Madinat Qaboos. MEA hosts various social functions and events for the American community in Oman. The Association also serves as a clearinghouse for liquor purchases. Most employees are members of MEA (a refundable membership fee is collected on joining) and make use of its facilities.

Social Activities Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:03 AM

Senior staff members have a moderate to heavy schedule of receptions and private dinner parties during the peak seasons before and after Ramadan and before the summer. The main social activity for most Embassy personnel is informal dinners or gatherings, primarily with other members of the non-Omani community, either at home or at major hotels that offer special arrangements for dinner. Omani men do attend formal and informal social gatherings, but their Omani wives rarely accompany their husbands.

The American Women’s Group (AWG) has a large expatriate membership. In fact, the membership is mainly non-American. Most activities are held during the day and this generally precludes female American staff from participating. The American Women’s Group meets monthly and contributes to the social life for ladies in the American and international community. The AWG has monthly activities and luncheons and with your membership card you can receive discounts all over town.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:04 AM

Most officers, regardless of rank, are expected to attend official functions. The Ambassador and DCM, agency and section heads also have representational responsibilities. Some of the senior officers are required to attend official and semi-official functions, such as National Day celebrations and VIP receptions, regularly. Home entertaining is prevalent and an excellent way to meet representational requirements. Since household help is available at a reasonable cost, home entertaining is also cost-effective. The two functions sponsored by the Embassy that virtually everyone attends are Fourth of July Independence Day and the U.S. Marine Corps Ball (held in November). Attendance at other events will depend largely on the employee’s rank and position.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:04 AM

All newcomers and visitors receive a Welcome Kit that details prevailing standards of dress and social conduct. Oman is a Muslim country and Islam touches all aspects of daily life. Dress in public should always be modest, i.e., no shorts, V-necks, halter-tops, sundresses, bare shoulders, etc. Athletic clothing may be worn in public, but only when the wearer is obviously engaged in athletic activity. Formal courtesy calls to the various ministries and diplomatic missions are not generally expected, except by the Ambassador, DCM, DATT, and OMC chief. Business cards, however, are important and are used extensively. Reasonably priced, good quality cards can be purchased locally.

Special Information Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:04 AM

State Department personnel on a 24-month or longer tour are entitled to Rest and Recuperation travel to London or the U.S.

Post Orientation Program

The CLO Coordinator provides a one-half-day orientation twice a year to all newcomers arriving in Muscat. This orientation includes Embassy section heads describing their organization and job responsibilities and several outside experts speaking on the history and culture of Oman. In addition, throughout the year, lectures, and slide shows on various aspects of Oman's culture and history may be arranged for Embassy employees whenever appropriate speakers are available.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:11 AM

Most Americans initially enter Oman by air, usually via London, Frankfurt, or Amsterdam. Entry by road from the U.A.E. is possible. Please notify post in advance if you intend to enter by road.

Arrange for early shipment of unaccompanied airfreight (UAB), which takes about 3 or 4 weeks to arrive and be cleared. Do not ship UAB to any destination agent. UAB shipments should be marked and consigned as below to the American Embassy with the name of the owner clearly indicated.

American Embassy (Employee's Name) P.O. Box 202, Code 115 Madinat Qaboos, Sultanate of Oman Discharge: Seeb International Airport

Surface shipments take about 35-40 days to arrive from the U.S. Direct surface shipment from the U.S. to Muscat is frequent and should be used. Make sure that the ship intends to stop in Mina al-Sultan Qaboos the port in Muscat. Personal effects should be marked and consigned as below:

American Embassy (Employee's Name) P.O. Box 202, Code 115 Madinat Qaboos, Sultanate of Oman Discharge: Mina al-Sultan Qaboos

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:15 AM

U.S. Government personnel assigned to Oman may not bring any type of firearms or ammunition to this country.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:21 AM

The unit of currency is the Omani rial, divided into 1,000 baizas. The current bank rate of exchange is about $2.60 to the rial. No currency restrictions affect import, export, purchase, sale, or use of U.S. or Omani funds. The rial is pegged to the dollar.

Local banks exchange currency or checks for rials. American and American-affiliated banks include Citibank, Grindley’s (Citibank), National Bank of Oman (Bank of America), and the Bank of Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait (Chemical Bank). You can easily open checking accounts in Omani banks. They do not bear interest.

Oman uses the metric system. Highway signs are in Arabic and English and give distances and speeds in kilometers.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:21 AM

Oman has no sales taxes. Liquor licenses must be obtained through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Almost all Embassy employees sign their liquor licenses over to the MEA and then purchase their liquor from the association, as they need it. No licensing fees are levied for either a drivers license or diplomatic plates.

Post policy on personal property disposal is in line with standard U.S. Government policy.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:18 AM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Abercrombie, Thomas J. "Oman: Guardian of the Gulf." National Geographic. September 1981, Vol. 160, Issue No. 3, pp. 344-377.

Allen, Calvin H., Jr. "Oman: A Separate Place." The Wilson Quarterly, New Year's 1987, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 49-63.

Fiennes, Ranulph. Where Soldiers Fear to Tread. Hodder Stoughton: Great Britain, 1975; New English Library, 1976, paperback.

Graz, Liesl. The Omanis: Sentinels of the Gulf. Longman: London and New York, 1982.

Graz, Liesl. The Turbulent Gulf, People, Politics and Power. St. Martin's Press: New York, 1990.

Hawley, Donald. Oman and Its Renaissance. Stacey International: London, 1977.

Janzen, Jorg. Nomads in the Sultanate of Oman. Westview Press/Boulder and London, 1986.

Katz, Mark N. "A New Dawn?" The Wilson Quarterly, New Year's 1987, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 64-79.

Kechichian, Joseph A. "Oman and the World" Rand: 1995.

Kelly, Robert C. Oman Country Review 1999/2000.

Landen, Robert G. Oman Since 1856. Princeton, 1967.

Ochs, Peter J. II Maverick Guide to Oman. Pelican Pub Co.: 1999.

"Oman: A MEED Special Report." Middle East Economic Digest, 1981.

Peterson, J.E. Oman in the Twentieth Century. Croom, Helm: London, 1978.

Range, Peter Ross "Oman." National Geographic: May 1995, Vol. 187, No. 5, pp. 112-138.

Skeet, Ian. Muscat and Oman: The End of an Era. Faber & Faber Ltd., London, 1974.

Skeet, Ian. Oman: Politics and Development. Macmillan Press: London, 1992.

Thesiger, Wilfred. Arabian Sands. Penguin Books: New York, 1976.

Townsend, John. Oman: The Making of a Modern State. Croom, Helm: London, 1977.

Twinam, Joseph W. The Gulf, Cooperation and the Council. Middle East Policy Council, Washington, D.C: 1992.

Wilkenson, John. The Imammate Tradition of Oman. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1992.

Recommended Web sites (Intranet)

Local Holidays Last Updated: 7/10/2003 10:18 AM

The following holidays are observed.

Ascension Day Eid Al-Fitr Eid Al-Adha Islamic New Year Birth of Prophet Oman National Day Mid November

Note: Islamic holidays vary in time according to the lunar calendar.

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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