Have You Ever Thought About Teaching in Oman?

If you have an eye for natural beauty (beaches, mountains, palm-lined oases, and desert) and an interest in exploring Arabic tradition (400-year-old forts, ancient ruins, and traditional bazaars), then Oman might be the country for you to pursue your teaching career in any number of international or public schools.

Oman is one of the oldest states on the Arabian Peninsula. It only recently (since the 1960s) opened its doors to foreigners and tourists. The capital of Oman, Masqat, was chosen as the Capital of Arab Tourism in 2012 and named the second best city to visit in the world by Lonely Planet.

Introduction

Today the people of Oman reflect a mixture of African, Indian, Arabian, and British influence (the British were dominant in the area during the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries). With a high standard of living, you will find suitable roads, electricity, water, health clinics, and schools even in the most remote villages.

The population is over 4 million with 2.23 million Omani nationals and 1.75 million expatriates. The population is quite young with about 43% of the total less than age 15. Over half of the population lives in Masqat and the coastal plain northwest of this city.

Location

The country lies along the southeastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula with a land mass roughly equal to the state of Kansas. The east side is bordered by the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. This coastline is dotted with many of Oman’s key towns and cities along its 1,000 mi.+/1,610 km+ shoreline. Yemen is to the Southwest and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are to the west. Mountains, in the northern and southern ends of the country, soar over the desert landscape of small, isolated villages and palm-lined oases.

Daily Temperatures and Weather

The months of November through May have milder temperatures and cooler nights. The shermal, a cooling wind, blows during this time and makes the temperatures and weather more tolerable.

Mountain areas are less extreme, but in the winter months, primarily in January, there can be storms. April to October are extremely hot and humid, especially near the coast. Inland it is equally hot but less humid. The monsoon season in the south is during the summer months.

What’s there to see?

Tropical seaside resorts with scuba diving and fishing, and dolphin- and whale-watching are on top of the list. Salalah, a southern coastal city, has cooler temperatures and is a popular city to visit when you need to get “cooled off”. There are also fun activities: wadi-bashing (off-road driving in SUVs through riverbeds), cave explorations, trekking, sand-skiing, and camel excursions. Or you can even tour a banana or coconut plantation.

A trip to the interior of the country away from larger cities will give you a look at more native culture and charm. If visiting a historical, archaeological, or ecological site, permits are needed; your tour guide can assist with the paperwork. Dereaze, located in Ibri, is the oldest known human settlement in the area. Archaeological remains have been discovered dating back to 8,000 years ago (the Late Stone Age).

The Omani Heritage Gallery in Masqat is worth a visit. Among the treasures will be assorted handiwork and metalwork reflecting the Omani culture.

The arts are abundant. The Royal Opera House in Masqat is a huge complex with a theater, auditorium, formal gardens, retail stores, luxury restaurants, and an art center for various productions. There are many traditional festivals throughout the year that showcase artistic and cultural shows.

The choice of night spots is somewhat limited, with Masqat offering the most opportunities. You will find nightclubs in hotels that cater to a range of musical and cultural tastes.

Shopping

Imported items from India and Pakistan, and Omani weavings, frankincense, old weapons, antiques, copper and brass items, silver jewelry, and pottery are popular items. Be wary of mass-produced items that may be passed off as antiques. Bargaining is acceptable.

Typical shopping hours are Saturday through Thursday from 8:00-1:00 p.m. and 4:00-8:00 p.m. The smaller shops may close earlier than 1:00 p.m. for the midday break.

Foods and Restaurants

Omani food is rather spicy and often served with rice. Fresh fish, especially kingfish, is popular as well as the fast food shwarma, a spicy kebab on pita bread. Mashuai is a delicious meal with kingfish served with lemon rice. You might want to try jeera laban, buttermilk laced with cumin, or khawa, a heavy coffee flavored with cardamom. Fresh dates, honey, halwa (a dessert made from cooked raw sugar and nuts), and vegetable soups are also worth trying. Rukhal is a thin, round bread baked over a fire made from palm leaves. It is often dipped in honey or crumbled over curry dishes. In addition to fish, chicken and lamb are typical meals.

There are a variety of international cuisines mostly in the larger cities, mainly Chinese, Thai, French, Lebanese, Mexican, Italian, Turkish, and British. Check out some of the hotels and more upscale restaurants. In the smaller towns, you will be more limited to restaurant choices: mostly Asian or Turkish. There are also a good share of western franchises such as McDonald’s, Subway, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen, and KFC, primarily in larger cities, but they are increasing in popularity in smaller cities as well.

Alcohol is only available to non-Muslims; it is sold in many hotels and a few restaurants and clubs.

When eating in public or if invited to someone’s home, use your right hand to eat and also to pass something to another person. Interestingly, it is customary to be invited into the home of strangers.

Take your shoes off before entering a personal home. Never show your soles of your feet or shoes as this is viewed as an insult.

10-15% tipping is customary at restaurants.

Safety and Health

The country is generally safe and anti-Western sentiment is not widespread. There is no reported street crime or violent crime.

Private clinics and hospitals have good medical and dental facilities. You might need malaria suppressants if you plan to travel to the northern region; check with your doctor before traveling to Oman. Vaccinations for typhoid and hepatitis may be recommended as well.

Most people drink bottled water, although tap water is safe to drink.

It’s important to protect yourself from the sun by wearing glasses, a hat, and sunscreen.

Be wary of dusty conditions if you have asthma or other breathing ailments.

Dress

Omani women wear leather or cloth masks (burkas) and colorful garments from head to toe. Only their face and hands are visible.

Foreigners should dress modestly. Women need to cover their arms and knees. Men should not wear sleeveless shirts or shorts.

Passports, Visas, and Sponsors

If you are from the U.S., U.K., Canada, or Australia, you will need a passport and a visa. You can get the visa from any Omani Embassy.

Transportation

It is important to reconfirm travel requirements before leaving for any trips into and out of the country. International flights operate out of the Seeb International Airport (MCT), about 25 mi./40km east of Masqat. There are limited flights connecting to Masirah Island, Khasab, Sur, and Salalah.

There are two types of taxis: normal taxis with higher rates and service taxis which follow set routes, take up to five passengers, and are less expensive. Negotiate the rate ahead of time for either type of taxi. You can negotiate fares for tours throughout the city and also book sightseeing excursions at most hotels.

Buses routinely run between cities, but women should avoid them.

You can also rent a car and hire drivers from most hotels. When driving a private vehicle, don’t be surprised if you are pulled over by the local police; they may ask you to wash your car if you were driving off-road and your car is dirty. The country prides itself on cleanliness. There are many roundabouts; stay in the inside lane if not taking the first exit.

A paved highway connects Oman and Yemen. There are two car ferries used for travel between Masqat and Khasab, located in Musandam on the southern tip of the Strait of Hormuz.

Additional Facts to Know

The standard of living is much higher than in other Arab countries.

The workweek is Saturday through Wednesday.

The country is one of the main producer’s of frankincense, traditionally burned in new homes to ward off evil spirits.

Money can be changed at high-end hotels or at the airport upon arrival. There are several major banks in Masqat that offer multilingual services and money changing. ATMs are accessible 24 hours a day with most accepting international cards. Open bank hours are typically 8:00-12:00 p.m. and 2:30-6:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and in the morning hours on Friday.

The main meal of the day is lunch.

Don’t take photographs of people without asking permission.

Homosexual acts are illegal.

Most mosques are not open to non-Muslims. Find out policies before visiting and take off your shoes upon entering any holy place.

There are two English papers: The Oman Daily Observer and The Times of Oman (published daily).

The government is an absolute monarchy.

In greeting, men will shake hands and sometimes kiss on the cheek. Don’t shake a women’s hand unless she extends her hand first.

For More Information

Tourist Office: Oman P.O. Box 550, 113 Masqat. Phone 799-500. Fax 794-213.

Oman Embassies:

  • S. Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, 2535 Belmont Road, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008. Phone 202-387-1980. Fax 202-745-4933.
  • K. Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, 167 Queen’s Gate, London SW7 5HE. Phone 20-7225-001. Fax 20-7589-2505.

There is no diplomatic representation in Australia or Canada.

  • Australia is represented by its embassy in Saudi Arabia. Address P.O. Box 94400, Riyadh 11693. Phone 966-1-488-7788. Fax 966-1-488-7973.
  • Canadians can contact: Canadian Consulate, Moosa Abdul Rahman Hassan Building, al-Noor Street, Masqat. Address P.O. Box 1275, 114 Masqat. Phone 791-738. Fax 791-740.

There is a U.S. Embassy and a British Embassy in Oman.

  • The U.S. Embassy is located at Jameat a’Duwai al-Arabiya Street, Masqat. Address: P.O. Box 202, 115 Masqat. Phone 698-989. Fax 699-189.
  • The British Embassy is located at Jameat a’Duwal al-Arabiya Street, Masqat. Address: P.O. Box 300, 113 Masqat. Phone 693-077. Fax 966-1-488-7973.