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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
The post Web site is www.muscatsntse.muscat.state.gov
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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:
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:
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:
Thesiger, Wilfred. Arabian Sands. Penguin Books: New York, 1976.
Townsend, John. Oman: The Making of a Modern State. Croom, Helm:
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
http://muscatsntse.muscat.state.gov/ (Intranet) www.converger.com/eiacab/oman.htm
www.oman.org www.usia.gov/posts/muscat www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook
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