Oman (officially the "Sultanate of Oman") has been working hard in recent years to become one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Arabian Peninsula. The reason for this is that Oman is diversifying its economy so as not to depend solely on oil exports. In the 1970s, the Omani economy changed from an agricultural to an oil-exporting economy, with almost all the exporting work being done by guest workers. Now this economy is changing again, with the Omani people doing export work and developing industry, craft production and tourism. The success of the United Arab Emirates (Dubai) is an example of Omani investment in tourism. Oman is known for its particularly friendly treatment of travellers in the Arab world.
Facts and figures
Nearly 5 million people live in Oman, the vast majority of whom live in the cities. Oman is an absolute monarchy and the ministers and parliaments, appointed by the sultan, only have an advisory function. 95% of the inhabitants are Muslim, most of whom are Sunnis and Ibadis. In other countries of the Muslim world (except Zanzibar) the religious movement of Ibadism only occurs in minority groups, but in Oman it is the dominant form of Islam (Ibadis make up about 45% of the population). Oman's official language is Arabic. Iranian (Farsi and Beluchy) and Indo-European languages, such as Urdu, are also spoken. The trade language in Oman is English. Travelling to Oman requires a visa that can be easily applied for online. The Oman visa can be applied for and obtained online much more easily and quickly than a paper visa applied directly to the passport.
|Population||Almost 5 million|
|Religion||Islam (86%), Christianity (6.5%), Hinduism (5.5%)|
|Currency||Rial Omani (OMR)|
|Time difference||3 hours (summer) or 4 hours (winter)|
|Flight duration||Roughly 6 hours (depending on the airline)|
|Plugs||Type G (travel plug/adapter required)|
|Tap water||Not fit to drink|
Map and topography
Oman is located in the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula. It borders the United Arab Emirates to the north-west, Saudi Arabia to the west and Yemen to the south-west. Oman also has a long coastline along the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman, and a short coastline along the Persian Gulf.
The national territory also includes the Rus al-Djibal Peninsula at Cape Musandam to the north of the territory of the United Arab Emirates on the Strait of Hormus, the enclave of Madha which is completely surrounded by the United Arab Emirates, and the Kuria-Muria Islands and the island of Masira off the east coast of Oman.
Al-Batina ("low land"), the 250 km long narrow coastal strip on the Gulf of Oman between the cities of Masqat and Sohar, is a fertile, multi-irrigated plain whose groundwater is fed by the Omange Mountains' ravine-like wadis only at certain times of the year. However, the central, largest part of Oman is occupied by the inner desert (Jeddat al-Harasis). Between the coastal strip and the inner desert lies the Omange Mountains, of which the Djabal Sjams at 3017 m is the highest peak.
The area of present-day Oman was already inhabited in the Stone Age. In the pre-Islamic period, the province of Dhofar belonged to the realm of Saba. Oman was already known as "Magan" to the Sumerians around 3000 BC.
After the conquest of the entire Arabian Peninsula by the Muslims around 630 AD, Oman became part of the Omajiade and the Abbasid caliphate. The religious community of the Ibadites grew around 700 A.D., especially in the hinterlands. They founded an independent Imamate in the 9th century. Part of the Omani population emigrated to East Africa, laying the foundations for the domination of Arab traders in the western Indian Ocean. At this time, the port city of Sohar became the most important trading centre of the Islamic world and maintained contacts and trade relations reaching as far as the Chinese empire. After the destruction of Sohar by the Buryds (965), the country was occupied several times by Persian conquerors before the Portuguese gained control of the areas around the Strait of Hormus around 1500.
After internal reunification, Oman succeeded in expelling the Portuguese and became a major naval force in the Indian Ocean in the 17th century. Around 1730, Saif ibn Sultan II conquered Zanzibar and large parts of the East African coast. From 1798, however, Britain gained increasing influence in Oman. Yet Oman experienced the height of its power in the first half of the 19th century. After the loss of Zanzibar in 1856, the country's economic decline began. Although Oman was always formally independent, it became de facto dependent on Britain at the end of the 19th century.
Despite the withdrawal of British troops from the area "east of Suez", i.e. de facto decolonisation in 1968, the country maintained its conservative policies and isolation from foreign countries: slavery remained, high internal customs tariffs were imposed and the school system was confined to Koranic schools. It was only with the start of oil production and the implementation of the government of Qabus ibn Said, who had deposed his father in 1970, that the first reforms took place: the abolition of slavery, the lifting of nightlife and travel restrictions and the improvement of infrastructure, made possible by income from oil production.
Passage winds and influences from the Indian monsoon determine Oman's almost tropical climate. Inland (in the desert) it is hot and dry, and in the lowlands on the coast in the north and in the southern goverment Dhofar it is hot and humid. In the more central coastal areas around Masqat, average temperatures of 22 °C in January and around 34.5 °C in June are recorded. The Gharbi, a hot downwind wind from the Omange Mountains, sometimes makes temperatures unbearable during the summer months. The high humidity (especially in summer) leads to fog and the occasional drizzle. Annual rainfall is around 100 mm in coastal areas and 500 mm in the Omange Mountains.
Best travel time
The best time to travel to Oman is therefore from November to March. When it is cold in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Oman welcomes you with summer weather. From November to March, maximum temperatures rarely break 30°C and are therefore tolerable. November is the warmest month within this period, with daily temperatures of 29 °C. At night the temperature is around 23 °C. For comparison: in February the maximum temperature is 24 °C. This makes the month slightly cooler than November and December, but it is still wonderfully warm. At night, temperatures around 19 °C should be taken into account. After February the temperature rises again and in March it is 27 °C during the day. Temperatures also rise above 20 °C at night. In Oman the sun always shines, no matter what month.
The water temperature in the European winter months is between 24 °C and 26 °C, perfect for taking a dip in the sea!
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People and culture
Oman is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Most of its inhabitants live on the coast, mainly in the north of the country and in the southern region around the city of Salalah. The rest of the country is largely uninhabited. In 2020, more than 86% of the population lived in cities and about 5% live as nomadic livestock farmers. The population is growing very rapidly and has roughly doubled in ten years. The influx of foreign workers, which has increased sharply since 2010, has contributed significantly to the population growth. For example, 46% of the population, or around 2.3 million people, are now made up of immigrants, including around 1.3 million Indians. Many inhabitants of the northeastern areas originate from the former Omani colonies in East Africa (e.g. Zanzibar).
By 2020, 97% of the male population and 92.7% of the female population could read and write, which is one of the highest literacy rates in the Arab world. 30 years ago, almost the entire population was illiterate. Although there is no mandatory education, more than 90% of children attend school. School attendance is free.
An ordinance of the Ministry of Religion requires that children always wear non-revealing clothing in public, covering shoulders and knees. However, in holiday hotels swimming and lying on the beach in bikinis is allowed, but naturism is forbidden in all hotels and going topless is out of the question. During the fasting month of Ramadan, you must take into account restrictions in everyday life (e.g. closure of restaurants outside hotels during the day, shorter working hours for government institutions) and greater sensitivity to religious matters and issues of respect for Islamic traditions. Eating, drinking and smoking in public are forbidden for non-Muslims.
Money and currency
The currency in Oman is the Omani Rial (in Oman itself usually abbreviated as R. O., international OMR), where 1 Rial corresponds to 1,000 Baisa. The Rial is linked to the US dollar, which is bought and sold by banks without commission. 1 Rial corresponds to 2,2 £ (10 november 2020). Inflation is virtually non-existent and in the ten-year average from 1985 to 1995 there was a deflation of 0.2%. You can pay everywhere in R. O. (OMR), but rarely in US dollars and even less so in £.
Withdrawing cash from ATMs and paying with credit cards is possible in many places. Bear in mind, however, that many banks have blocked the use of debit cards outside the Eurozone as a security measure by default. Make sure that your debit card is unblocked for use in Oman. Credit cards are widely accepted in Oman. Be aware that credit card companies usually charge higher transaction costs for withdrawing money abroad.
British and Irish travellers need a visa to travel to Oman. Starting 21 March 2018, the visa-on-arrival is no longer available and the standard Oman visa has to be obtained before departure. In most cases, the Oman visa can easily be applied for online and there is no need to visit the embassy. To acquire the e-visa, the digital application form has to be filled in and the costs have to be paid. You will then need to upload a scan or photo of the passport and a passport photo or clear selfie.
You can choose between a single-entry visa with a validity of 10 days, a single-entry visa with a validity of 30 days, or a multiple-entry visa for a stay of up to 30 days per trip, whereby multiple trips to Oman are possible within 1 year from granting.
Visa applications for Oman are generally approved within one week. Travellers who are leaving at short notice and do not yet have a visa can submit an urgent application, for which a surcharge of £17.50 applies. The visa is then usually granted within 4 days.
Apply for an Oman visa now
Safety and health
The crime rate and the risk of violent crime are very low, since Oman is a relatively wealthy country. However, robberies and thefts do occur, especially in places frequented by tourists. Keep the doors and windows of vehicles closed and do not leave them unattended. Keep money, cards, driving licences, plane tickets and other important documents in a safe place (e.g. in a hotel safe).
Homosexual acts are punishable in Oman. Convicts can even receive the death penalty. Same-sex marriages are not recognised.
Off the coast of Oman, there is still a risk of pirate attacks and hijackings. Attacks and hijackings can even occur deep into the Arab Sea. Despite international efforts to curb piracy, the number of attacks by pirates remains high and effective protection cannot be guaranteed. It is advised not taking a boat off the coast of Oman as long as pirates are active in that area.
In the border region of Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Oman, the current conflict situation in Yemen may lead to attacks and travel restrictions. Avoid the direct border area with Yemen as long as the internal conflict in Yemen persists.
Vaccinations and medication
No vaccinations are required if you arrive from the United Kingdom or Ireland. If you arrive from a country where yellow fever occurs or if you have been in such a country for more than 12 hours, e.g. for a transfer, you must be able to prove that you have been vaccinated against yellow fever. Oman itself is not a risk area for yellow fever. Upon arrival from a country where the risk of contracting polio is high, a polio vaccination is mandatory.
However, a DPT (also known as DTP) and Hepatitis A vaccination are generally recommended for a trip to Oman. Depending on the length of stay and activities in Oman, vaccinations against Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Rabies and Measles may also be advisable. Also note that there is a risk of schistosomiasis in case of contact with fresh surface water in Oman. Take the necessary precautions (i.e. do not swim, dive or water ski in fresh water).
Apart from a minimal residual risk, Oman is malaria free. No prophylactic malaria medication is recommended under normal travel conditions (stay no longer than 4 weeks, stay in air-conditioned hotels, exercise caution). However, it is recommended using an anti-mosquito spray such as DEET or Icaridin - especially to protect against dengue fever - against mosquito bites.