The Sultanate of Oman is a developed and well-respected country. Ranked by the World Economic Forum in 2017 as the 4th safest country in the world for visitors, it has all the elements that can guarantee a splendid conference: excellent international relations, good law and order, high standard of living, no religious or political fundamentalism, strict compliance with international safety standards, a disciplined government service, and modern technology and practices.
Oman is considered a hidden jewel at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It borders 3 countries on one side – the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and 3 seas on the other – the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Sea. Its 309,500 square kilometres include varied terrain from steep mountain peaks to pristine beaches, from vast deserts to fertile croplands.
From a relatively impoverished country, since 1970 under the reign of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Oman has made great progress and transformed itself into a modern, stable and progressive nation, well-respected by the general populace, by other GCC countries, and by countries worldwide.
Today, Oman compares with highly developed and advanced countries in terms of its infrastructure, and is blessed with a superior standard of living, political stability, excellent law and order, high-quality education, first-rate roads, up-to-date communication technology, and good health care.
Oman is a wonderful combination of ageless heritage and modern life. A place where one can explore a traditional souq in the morning, and attend a world-class show at the renowned Royal Opera House Muscat in the evening.
A large part of the Sultanate’s unique charm is the hospitality of the Omani people. It is common for visitors to be invited for Omani coffee and dates by locals when travelling through the country, an offer that should never be refused.
Visitors and adventurers looking for a unique holiday experience will find that Oman has a lot to offer. Hiking, scuba diving, fishing, kitesurfing and caving to name just a few. From several world heritage sites, ancient forts and castles, to tall mountains, deep gorges, water-filled wadis, endless beaches and some of the world’s most stunning desert landscapes, the diverse beauty of Oman is apparent in every part of the country.
Even when summer temperatures soar in the rest of the region, the Sultanate enjoys cooler temperatures in Dhofar and the mountain tops of the Al Hajar range, making it a one-of-a-kind holiday destination for visitors from around the world.
Oman is proud of its modern health care system. The World Health Organization, in a study covering 191 countries in the year 2000, ranked it as first in the world for its highly efficient health system, and for effective and competent utilization of the available financial resources in health services. Oman was also rated eighth for providing the most comprehensive health care at the world level. The United Nations 2010 Human Development Report listed it at the top of the world’s 10 leading countries that have made the greatest progress in recent decades in public health.
Oman has an exemplary referral network of primary, secondary and tertiary health care institutions, including 70 modern hospitals with about 6,500 beds, and over 1,300 health centres and clinics. The main healthcare provider is the Ministry of Health. Additionally, there are 16 private hospitals and health centres, with a total of 448 beds in contrast to 49 Ministry-run government hospitals with 4,659 beds, 3 Royal Armed Forces hospitals with 323 beds, 1 Royal Oman Police Hospital with 74 beds, and the prestigious Sultan Qaboos University Hospital with 675 beds.
The Ministry of Health has effective programs for communicable and non-communicable diseases, a sound referral network of primary, secondary and tertiary care institutions, state-of-art health care infrastructure, modern equipment, and electronic medical records linked to all healthcare facilities. There is a relatively low waiting time for elective procedures, and health care is totally free for all citizens. The Ministry of Health has plans to build 30 hospitals and health centres around the country, including a medicity in the outskirts of the capital.
Oman can be considered a leader in terms of health care delivery, and its Health Vision 2050 document sets out national health priorities and the strategic plan for health care for the decades ahead.
It is an active member of the World Health Organization’s Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO), and Oman’s Ministry of Health considers itself as one of the most active participants of EMRO programs. It has been collaborating with EMRO with respect to development of health policies and strategies, health programs and plans, essential medicines, and human resources for health.
The WHO Office in Oman is quite involved in strengthening health services, addressing public health issues and promoting research for health at the central and local level. EMRO and Oman’s Ministry of Health have collaborated on a number of areas such as inter-sectoral action on leadership in health promotion, health-promoting schools initiative, national food-based dietary guidelines, integrated management of vector control, and biosafety and biosecurity.
Oman’s Ministry of Health is also a prominent member of the Gulf Health Council for Cooperation Council States, which include United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Yemen. The Council of the GCC Health Ministers’ has been quite active since 1991 and Oman is a major contributor in terms of formulation of health care policies and international health regulations peculiar to Arab Gulf States, control of infectious and non-communicable diseases, health care programs specific to primary health care, school health, organ transplantation, and hospital care.
THE CAPITAL CITY OF MUSCAT
Muscat, the capital of Oman, has a character quite different from neighbouring capitals. There are few high-rise blocks and even the most functional building is required to reflect tradition with a dome or an arabesque window. The result of these building policies is an attractive, spotlessly clean and uniform city.
Muscat means ‘safe anchorage’, and the sea continues to constitute a major part of the city: it brings people on cruise ships and goods in containers to the historic ports of Old Muscat and Muttrah. It contributes to the city’s economy through the onshore refinery near Qurum, and provides a livelihood for fishermen along the beaches of Shatti al-Qurm and Athaiba.
Muscat has an enviable proven track record and established infrastructure to host prestigious meetings, national exhibitions and corporate events such as the World Hospital Congress.
The ideal time to visit Oman is from September to March, when the climate is refreshing 25 to 30 degrees Celsius.
During the Summer months (April to September), the climate remains moderate in the Al Hajar Mountain range and Dhofar region, a rarity on the Arabian Peninsula where Summer temperatures frequently exceed 40 degrees Celsius.
Dhofar is especially worth a visit during Khareef, the monsoon season from June to September, when daily rains and a magical mist transform the landscape into a lush green.
Oman’s culture is deeply rooted in the Sultanate’s proud heritage and history of seafaring, trading and exploration. Today, long-standing traditions blend seamlessly with modern day living, with the latest fashion and electronics brands sold alongside traditional hand-made crafts, jewellery, and even goats and cattle at souqs around the country.
Despite Oman’s relatively rapid transformation to a modern society since His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said ascended the throne in 1970, the country has never lost sight of its roots. Traditional Omani culture is embedded in nearly every aspect of daily life, from clothing and food, arts and crafts, to the way Omanis welcome visitors. The uniquely Omani culture and heritage continues today in many of the same ways it has been for hundreds of years.
Oman is a wonderland for travellers with a keen interest in geology. Geological stories can be found just about anywhere, from Oman’s highest mountain, Jebel Shams, to the mega-dunes of the Empty Quarter (Rub Al Khali) and the Rock Garden at Duqm.
The Sultanate of Oman is the only country in the world composed mostly of oceanic crust and rocks that originate from the Earth’s mantle. Evidence of continental drift can be witnessed in many of the unusual rock formations and topography around Oman, including the coastline around Muscat.
One of the most outstanding geological features of the country is the Al Hajar Mountain range, which forms an arc from the north-west to the south-east of the country.
Jebel Shams, at just over 3000 metres, is Oman’s highest mountain and truly a geological outdoor museum with fossils embedded in rocks hundreds of metres above sea level.
PLACES TO EXPLORE
Oman is a country of contrasts, from the fjords and rugged mountains in the north to the sandy deserts heading south. To discover possible places you can explore and activities you can experience near Muscat and around Oman, visit https://experienceoman.om
The official language is Arabic, but English is widely spoken and understood. All street signs and directions are in both Arabic and English with multi-lingual tour guides available.
GMT +4 Hours.
The Sultanate of Oman welcomes visitors from around the globe with tourist visas issued on arrival at Muscat International Airport to passport holders of more than 60 countries for up to 30 days. Residents of GCC countries do not need a visa and all other countries may apply online for tourist visas directly with the Royal Oman Police www.rop.gov.om or your preferred travel agent. More information on visa requirements here.
Omani people are known for their generous hospitality and warm nature, and the country’s nationals live in perfect harmony with other cultures and nationalities from all around the world. However, as in any country, visitors are kindly requested to adhere to a number of rules to ensure this mutual respect remains:
- Please observe social customs and dress in an appropriate manner at all times
- Artefacts, flora and fauna and heritage sites can be admired, but never touched or removed – this includes fruit and vegetables from private properties
- Noise or loud music should be avoided when passing residential areas
- People or private property should not be photographed without obtaining permission first
- Garbage should be disposed of in designated bins at all times
- Activities such as hiking, or off-roading are at every visitor’s own risk, so please make sure to carry enough water, food, fuel and spare parts at all times
- Do not camp in wadi beds; flash floods can occur occasionally
- To ensure safety, do check that any tour guide or specialised tour operator used holds a valid license from the Ministry of Tourism.
While dress codes are fairly liberal, consideration should be given not to offend the sensibilities of others. Swimwear should be worn only on beaches or at swimming pools. When visiting shopping malls and other attractions, tourists should wear clothing that is not too tight or revealing. Certain attractions such as mosques or religious sites usually have stricter dress codes, requiring both men and women to cover up bare shoulders, arms and legs, and women to wear head-scarves.
Like most countries in the Gulf region, Oman’s official business week is Sunday-Thursday, with the weekend being Friday and Saturday. Banks, Embassies and Consulates are generally open from 8am-12 noon.
Oman’s national currency is the Omani Rial (OMR), with the lower denominations known as ‘Baisa’. Rial notes range from OMR 1 to OMR 50, while Baisas are available in note form in denominations of 100 and 500 with 1,000 Baisa equating to One Rial. Coins are also available in 5, 10, 25 and 50 Baisa denominations but may not be accepted at all stores and outlets.
The Omani Rial is the third highest-value currency in the world and the pegged at 1 OMR=2.68 USD.
Major cards such as Visa, MasterCard and Amex are widely accepted.
Money can be exchanged at Muscat International Airport, money exchanges and banks. Always make sure to have your passport or ID when exchanging money.
There is very little taxation that will be applicable other than a 9% Government tax and 8% Service Charge on hotel accommodation and food and beverage.
220/240 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. Standard British-type 13-amp square three-pin plugs are used throughout the country. European or US-made appliances may need a plug adapter.
An international driver’s licence is required when driving in Oman and driving is on the left with speed limits in kilometres.
Normal tourist photography is allowed, however it is considered offensive to photograph Muslim women. It is also courteous to request permission before photographing men.