Oman’s capital, a port city on the north-east coast, provides expats with a low cost of living along with natural and cultural attractions.
Oman, like other Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states, depends on oil and gas sales, which account for about 70 per cent of government revenue. However, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said’s government is attempting to diversify the economy. Under the Tanfeedh initiative, 160 private and public organisations are investing in various sectors, including OR10m ($26m) in manufacturing, nearly OR2m in tourism and OR1.5m in logistics.
Tourism alone is expected to have generated 45,000 new jobs by 2020, up 80 per cent compared with 2016, when the project launched.
Muscat itself is the site of the Mall of Oman, a 145,000 sq m shopping centre due to open in 2021 and seen as a milestone in Oman 2040, another modernising initiative.
Cost and safety benefits
Some two-thirds (950,000) of Muscat’s 1.5m population come from overseas and benefit from living in one of the least expensive Middle Eastern cities for expats. Muscat was 103rd out of 209 global cities in Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living survey, which calculates living costs for foreign workers. Abu Dhabi and Dubai both ranked in the top 35.
Mercer also named Muscat the third-best city among GCC states for personal safety, after Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of expats in Oman who responded to a survey by expat network InterNations gave its political stability the best possible rating in 2018, while 94 per cent attested to the country’s peacefulness.
Muscat’s already rich cultural offerings were bolstered by the opening in 2016 of the National Museum, which showcases two millennia of heritage and history through a permanent exhibition of more than 5,000 objects.
Meanwhile, the Royal Opera House Muscat stages jazz, ballet and classical music as well as opera. The London Symphony Orchestra and the Bolshoi Ballet are among a prestigious international line-up on the 2019-20 programme.
Oman’s landscape, dominated by desert, mountains and coastline, offers Muscat residents plenty of weekend escapes. Five hours’ drive south are the beginnings of the vast Rub’ al Khali desert, some 650,000 sq km of sand where dunes reach up to 300 metres high and activities include camel rides and camping.
The Al Hajar mountains, with caves, canyons and 400-year-old mud houses, are 200km to the south-west. Closer to home, the Daymaniyat Islands are a marine reserve about 20km off Muscat’s Batinah coast; divers and snorkellers can swim among the coral, rays and turtles.
Improved air travel
The $1.8bn Muscat International Airport, which opened last year with capacity for 20m passengers annually, was named best airport in the Middle East at the 2019 World Travel Awards. Destinations include London, Zurich, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai.
Photographs: David Jallaud; Jason Row Photography; Getty Images/iStockphoto; Dreamstime