Oman—the Jewel of the Arabian Peninsula
A dazzling mix of rugged mountains, plush oases, pristine beaches and dramatic desert landscapes, Oman is renowned for its natural beauty. Its coastline extends 1,700 kilometers, from the Strait of Hormuz in the north to Yemen in the south. Oman’s capital city, Muscat, provides a mix of urbanity and rich cultural tradition. Other cities, such as Salalah and Sohar, offer a wealth of historical sites.
Oman's financial and trade centre, Muscat has emerged as a thriving city incorporating traditional culture and modern facilities. Its hospitals and schools are among the best in the region, while its airport, Seeb International, is seeing constant improvements. Muscat has many beautiful beaches and parks, along with areas of archaeological interest.
A Sultanate, Oman is divided into eight administrative regions. There are three Governorates—Muscat, Dhofar, Musandam—and five regions: Al-Batinah, Al-Dhahirah, Al-Dakhliyah, Al-Sharqiyah and Al-Wusta.
While in many ways a modern society, Oman proudly maintains its cultural traditions, which are firmly rooted in Islam. Unparalleled architectural marvels, including some of the loveliest mosques in the region, can be found throughout the sultanate. While tolerant of other cultures and beliefs, Oman is devoutly Muslim and visitors are encouraged to respect local traditions and sensibilities.
Oman’s geographical variety is matched by its varying climates. The hottest months are June through August, with an average temperature of 40 degrees. October through March sees the mildest weather, with daytime temperatures falling into the mid-20s. In the south, most of the annual rainfall occurs May through September. In the north, the rainy season comes during the months of January through March.
Oman has invested heavily in its roads system in recent years, particularly in and around the capital, Muscat. The sultanate’s main airport is Seeb International, in Muscat, which is planning to boost its passenger capacity from the current three million to 12 million in 2010. There is a wide network of ATMs throughout the country.
The mobile phone market in Oman has steadily expanded in recent years, with almost two million subscribers in 2006, a penetration rate of 70 percent. Internet usage in Oman is relatively low, with around 250,000 users at the end of 2005, or 10 percent of the population. The sultanate has a broad array of English- and Arabic-language media, including television and print.
The official currency of Oman is the Omani Rial (OMR). In April 2007, the exchange rate was 1 US Dollar = 0.38630 Omani Rial; or 1 Omani Rial = 2.58866 US Dollar
Businesses are open from 8.30am to 5.30pm, or 8am to 1pm, 4pm to 7pm, every day except Friday. Shopping centers are usually open 9am to 1pm, 4.30 to 9.30pm. Government offices are open Saturday to Wednesday, 7am to 2.30pm.
Options range from serviced flats to five-star hotels. There are few hotels outside of the cities, but many more are planned or under construction. Booking in advance is recommended. All rates are subject to a 10 percent service charge.
Oman has a widespread, modern healthcare system, including the new Welcare Diagnostics Center in Muscat. Schools are high standard and include private and public institutions.