Moving to Muscat
Climate 4 out of 5
Sitting opposite Iran on the Gulf of Oman, Muscat has been an important trading port since ancient times and was included on Ptolemy’s Map of Arabia. It’s strategic location between east and west has caused many great empires to fight for control of the city over the millennia: from the Sassanids of the 3rd century to the Portuguese of the 16th and the British of the 20th. Muscat became the capital of a consolidated Oman in 1970.
Trade and the concerns of empire brought peoples of diverse ethnicities and cultures. Hindus and Christians have lived alongside the native Arabs for centuries. More recently, large influxes of foreign workers attracted by large oil revenues, have further diversified the population of nearly 750,000.
With its natural harbour separated from the endless desert of the Arabian peninsular by the rugged Al Hajar mountain range, Muscat’s natural charms are some of the most picturesque in the middle east. The cityscape of low-level white buildings, frequently punctuated by minarets, stands in marked contrast to the glass, steel and concrete of western metropolises. A large number of museums and restaurants, a thriving cafe culture and long stretches of sandy beach make Muscat a tranquil and enjoyable place to spend any length of time.
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Moving to Muscat from the UK
Those moving from Britain to Muscat will normally be doing so with a solid offer of employment (it is inadvisable to attempt to move to Oman without a job lined up unless you are buying property – see below) and so learning Arabic might not be necessary for work. Nevertheless, learning at least some Arabic will definitely ease the transition and make everyday life that much easier. If you’re in for the long haul i.e. looking for citizenship after 10 years, then speaking Arabic is a requisite.
The single biggest problem encountered by Brits moving to Muscat is the heat. Or rather, the heat combined with fierce humidity in the summer months, which can make spending any time outside of an air conditioned building or vehicle, or away from a body of water, unbearable. Give yourself some time to acclimatise.
Since the discovery of oil reserves and their subsequent exploitation infrastructure, education and healthcare have all improved dramatically in Oman. Nevertheless waterborne diseases like typhoid and hepatitis A are still extant so bottled or boiled water is recommended.
The city of Muscat is actually several towns that have merged together, making the city rather spread out. Owning a car might therefore be a necessity depending on your choice of where to live.
Property prices in Oman are significantly lower than their peak in 2008 but are recovering. The property market was opened up to foreigners in 2002. Buyers automatically become eligible for residency in Oman – a privilege which also extends to their immediate family.
Comparing Muscat vs London
Muscat’s hot, arid climate is very different to that experienced by Londoners. Temperatures in the Governorate have been known to hit 49 °C in July though a more typical average high temperature in summer is around 40 °C, which, when combined with humidity of 60%, can be oppressive. As you’d expect Muscat’s annual precipitation is a mere fraction of that seen in London while average annual sunshine hours are more than double those of the UK capital.
Living costs in Muscat are considerably lower than those in London. Everything from rent and property to utility and restaurant bills are cheaper. You’ll pay a premium on alcohol though which is only available from licensed bars (normally attached to hotels) or special shops with an ROP liquor permit.
On average inhabitants of Muscat report themselves as feeling safer than London, as having far greater purchasing power and as spending much less time commuting.