PA Top 10 facts about living conditions in Oman
Oman is a country known for its restored forts and castles. In 2010, the country, which is twice the size of Georgia, was ranked as the most improved nation over the last 40 years. However, none of this explains what it’s like to live among the Omani culture and people. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Oman.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Oman

  1. Education: In Oman, education is free from primary school to high school; however, attendance is not mandatory, nor is it enforced. The first six years of education are very similar to that of primary schools in most western countries. The next three years are dependent on whether or not a student decides to continue their education or start working. If they have stayed in school and their grades are exemplary, they may decide to go on to secondary school, which is another three years similar to high school in western countries. Here, students can specialize in either sciences or arts. There is also a variety of vocational centers for students to choose from, lasting anywhere from one to three years.
  2. Water: The Central Intelligence Agency found that 95.5 percent of the urban population and 86.1 percent of the rural population have access to an improved drinking water source. Both urban and rural populations also have access to improved sanitation facilities: 97.3 percent for the urban population and 94.7 percent for the rural.
  3. Energy: The World Factbook also reports that there are 100,000 citizens without electricity in Oman, however, 98 percent of the total population has access to electricity. The country receives electricity from fossil fuels, nuclear fuels, hydroelectric plants and other renewable sources.
  4. Legislation: Legislation is based on Sharia law with the authority of the longest-serving ruler in the Middle East, the Sultan of Oman–Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, being an absolute monarchy. The monarchy restricts all political rights and civil liberties. The current leader was not elected through fair and free elections, and the country is not considered a free country.
  5. Internet Use: Only 69.8 percent of the population use the internet in Oman, compared to 89 percent of Americans using the Internet, according to the Pew Research study. However, there are more than 6.9 million total subscriptions to mobile cell phone companies. One state-run TV broadcaster with stations transmitting from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran and Yemen via satellite TV, provides access to all television programs.
  6. Transportation: There were 132 total airports in Oman in 2013, but by 2017, only 13 of them had paved runways. There are more unpaved roadways (30,545 km) than paved (29,685 km) in the country. Generally, road conditions in cities and major highways are good; however, the condition of rural roads varies from good to poor. Traveling at night could be dangerous due to poor lighting, wandering livestock and other common factors such as pedestrians, weather conditions or driving speed.
  7. Crime: The U.S. Department of State reports that violent crime is uncommon in Oman; however, non-violent crime rates are higher in Oman than in other major cities within the United States. Crimes of opportunity and petty theft are the main types of illegal activity. There has been an increase in cybercrime due to money lending scams requiring high down payments, credit card fraud and prepayments that are solicited with the intention of future services never rendered.
  8. Labor Force: Average unemployment rate for Oman from 1991 to 2017 was 3.94 percent, with youth unemployment during that time averaging 9.51 percent. The average value of the labor force, which includes anyone older than the age of 15, rose from 0.56 million people in 1990 up to 2.68 million people in 2018.
  9. Healthcare: Oman’s universal health care system offers free primary health care to its citizens and even subsidized care for the foreign population of the country. The last 40 years has yielded an increase to the lifespan of the country’s population by about 30 years due to improved access to medical facilities and doctors, according to Oxford Business Group. This puts the current life expectancy rate for the country at 76 years.
  10. Tourism: The capital, Muscat, boasts beautiful suburbs with “golden sand,” mountains and “magnificent views over the Gulf’s turquoise waters.” In Muttrah, one can experience true Omani culture through the city’s traditional souq (marketplace) and corniche (a road on the side of a mountain). The city also houses the annual Muscat Festival, which is one of the most famous festivals in the country, attracting people internationally to witness a cultural celebration that includes folklore dances, special costumes and other performances.

Oman has been known for its castles and wonderful exhibitions of culture through the famous Muscat Festival. It is a country offering much for its population as these top 10 facts about living conditions in Oman show. Although there are still key improvements to be made, the country is continuing to progress.

Simone Edwards
Photo: Flickr

Education in Oman

Beginning with a push in the 1970s, the Omani education system has flourished, as nearly all school-aged children are attending school. However, the government of Oman has declared that not only do they intend to maintain the achievements made thus far, but they also fully expect to further enhance and improve the quality and efficiency of education in Oman.

Statistically, the concentration Oman has put on its peoples’ education is illustrated clearly through the literacy rates in the country. From 2008 to 2012, UNICEF reported the literacy rate amongst youths (15 to 24 years) to be over 97 percent. Surprisingly, females showed a stronger literacy rate than males. Unsurprisingly, the literacy rates were nearly identical to UNCIEF’s reported net primary school enrollment ratio.

Primary school is the first step in the Omani education system. It constitutes a six-year, basic level of education. Following this, students may attend a middle level of schooling. Upon completion of this second step, students have either completed their education and go on to work or they have academically qualified to continue into secondary schooling. At this point, students are given the option to specialize in either the sciences or arts – this requires the school to confirm the students’ proficiencies. Both programs result in a school certificate and, dependent on each student’s secondary school performance, provides a key into one of Oman’s nine colleges or the sole state university. The best part about public education in Oman is that it is given free of charge.

Higher education in Oman has seen growth, too. In 2016, Munawar Hameed, Head of Marketing and Public Relations at the Oman College of Management and Technology, reported that college registrations are going up and that more women have enrolled in higher education institutes than men. Further, the government even funds some students to matriculate at overseas universities, including some in the U.S. and UK.

Despite the success in the public education system, the government of Oman has pressed the private sector to make increased efforts in the education system, too. As private schools are held to the same curriculum standards as government schools and administer the same tests, there is little room for innovation. However, there is a market space for those who have achieved a higher education and are of Omani nationality to enter the business of schooling. In essence, the government is creating job opportunities, while focusing on promoting a greater education system.

Overall, Oman is successfully navigating the typically troubled waters of education in a poorer nation. However, despite the odds, the push for a more educated citizenry is paying off. The Ministry of Higher Education has done more than its due diligence in improving education in Oman. At the current rate of growth, Omani citizens should soon show nationwide literacy and education, which will place them far ahead of citizens in many surrounding countries.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Google

Job Security in OmanOman is the oldest independent state in the Arab world, which has existed since the mid-17th century after the expulsion of the Portuguese. It is an absolute monarchy, ruled over by the Al Said dynasty for centuries. It is a nation that is rich in natural resources (especially oil) but, unfortunately, almost one-fourth of the people of Oman are unemployed.

Oman relies heavily on its oil production for economic growth and high oil prices until the recent past were what boosted its economy. However, the problem with an oil-based economy is that it is unsustainable because of the inevitable decline in oil production and fall in its prices. Oman, like other oil-rich countries in the Middle East and Africa, has been experiencing the negative effects of this decline in prices and oil production.

It is feared that due to “the global economic slowdown, the recession in Europe and the economic slowdown in China and elsewhere, oil prices are not going to increase.” Consequently, there has been an increase in job insecurities and frustration among the people of Oman. In 2012, the unemployment rate was 25 percent. It is expected to increase if the government does not create employment opportunities in the public and private sectors.

In 2011, the people of Oman, with changes underway in the region due to the Arab Spring, protested against the government, demanding economic and political reforms. The government responded with a police crackdown on protestors as well as taking measures to placate people by creating public sector jobs and raising wages.

Analysts believe that the result of raising wages in the public sector is not encouraging, for two reasons: One is that it has brought pressure on the budget, which is already strained by the decline in oil prices and production. The second is that the increase in wages in the public sector has also proved to be a hindrance to private sector growth. In order for economic diversification to take place, which the country needs, Oman needs to create more jobs in the private sector.

The positive news, according to the 2016 Word Bank Economic Outlook report on Oman, is that the country’s overall real GDP growth is expected to slightly recover “as a gradual recovery of oil prices improves confidence and encourages private sector investment.” Further, trade and investment opportunities with Iran are also expected to increase as sanctions are lifted. There is hope that these and other measures will bring help to the people of Oman in terms of job security.

Aslam Kakar

Photo: Flickr

Yemeni Refugees in Oman
Oman is a coastal nation that sits on the Arabian Peninsula, south of Saudi Arabia and east of Yemen. In light of the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis, as well as the ongoing conflict in Yemen, Oman hasn’t been as prominent in the news. However, Yemeni Refugees in Oman are faced with a stark reality.

Oman has taken in many refugees from its neighbor Yemen, which is currently experiencing a civil war sparked by a rough transition of power from longtime authoritarian leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in 2011.

The Houthi rebels, representing Yemen’s Shi’a minority, took advantage of the chaos and seized large swathes of territory, including the capital of Sana’a, while Hadi fled to the coastal city of Aden. Al Qaeda, which has long had a foothold in the region, has also been involved in the conflict. As of May 2017, the U.N. estimated about 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen, mainly civilians.

In response to the increasing instability in Yemen, an eight-nation coalition of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, launched Operation Storm of Resolve against the Houthis. Oman, while a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council alongside the Saudis, is one of the few nations in the region in the region and the only one in the council not to intervene militarily. Instead, it has opted to support Yemen through humanitarian aid and taking in Yemeni refugees.


Difficult Conditions Facing Yemeni Refugees in Oman


Officially, the Omani government refuses to give the exact numbers of refugees it takes in, but its officials estimate about 2,500 Yemenis live in the country, many illegally. Many of the refugees have lost their families, or come to Oman in search of adequate medical care. According to the U.N., only 45 percent of Yemeni hospitals are fully equipped. By March 2017, about 1,200 Yemeni refugees in Oman have received medical treatment at Omani hospitals, according to Oman’s health ministry.

Oman forbids refugees from working in the country, but many do to send money back home to families who desperately need it, with Omani authorities often turning a blind eye. However, the strain the intake of Yemeni refugees puts on the country has not gone unnoticed. “It is definitely going to be a burden to Oman if the war situation escalates in Yemen,” political analyst Khalfan al Maqbali saisd.

Still, as of now, there are no plans for Yemeni refugees in Oman to be turned away or removed. For the near future, Yemeni refugees in Oman are here to stay.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

Oman Poverty RateThe dichotomy of the Middle East region in terms of wealth and quality of life is one that truly boggles the mind. One need not search very far to learn of the tragedies that have befallen countries like Iraq, Syria, and Libya in the 21st century. The war-torn images of these countries are sketched into the collective Western mind. Simultaneously, countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar are home to some of the world’s greatest cities, fabulous wealth and futuristic-looking technologies.

What often goes unnoticed are the countries that fall somewhere in the middle; ones that are not ravaged by war nor blessed with a plethora of natural resources such as oil. The Sultanate of Oman is one such example.

Poverty is a fact of life for many Middle Eastern countries, but Oman is one of the bright spots in the region in terms of poverty reduction and efforts to elevate the quality of life of its citizens. The Oman poverty rate has been on the decline in the last decade and shows signs that it will continue to do so.

Oman created a national strategy in 1970 to spur development in all aspects of life in the country. At that time, Oman had almost no formal education system; by 1999, over 70 percent of children were in primary school. Moreover, in 1970, the life expectancy at birth was near 51 years; that has increased to 78 in 2014, an almost 53 percent increase, which outpaced the world average in the same time frame by 30 percent. Oman’s poverty rate has been reduced significantly because of these improvements.

Since 2000, Oman has reached eight of its Millennium Development Goals, most notably in providing education for all, including women and children, as well as reducing the number of people suffering from extreme hunger.

Entrepreneurial activity is also on the rise in Oman, sponsored mainly by Startup Oman, a Muscat-based fund that facilitates and promotes young Omani entrepreneurs. This fund aims to reduce poverty while simultaneously encouraging creativity in the economy.

The fishing town of Duqm is being radically transformed, thanks in large part to Chinese investments, into one of the country’s central economic hubs. This has boosted employment and spurred economic activity, providing economic opportunities for Omanis.

Even amid a geopolitical spat between other Gulf countries, Omani ports are benefiting from an unusual uptick in traffic, which has resulted in increased economic activity for Omani businesses and workers. While Oman may not want to be seen as profiting from the current row, it will likely solidify its position as a neutral arbiter in regional disputes, as it has for decades. This trend, in tandem with a reduction in Oman’s poverty rate, will allow it to establish itself as a peaceful and prosperous nation in the region.

The combination of government initiatives, foreign investment and an educated population has allowed Oman to improve the lives of its citizens, which is worthy of high praise considering the situation facing other countries in the Middle East.

As long as the government continues to focus on reducing the Oman poverty rate, the Sultanate will surely establish itself as a bright spot in the Middle East.

Daniel Cavins

Photo: Flickr

Noncommunicable Diseases in OmanOman, a country on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, is working to decreases the incidence of noncommunicable diseases on the national and local level. Noncommunicable diseases are a rising problem in Oman. More that 50 percent of the population is overweight, 40 percent of the population are hypertensive and 12 percent of the population is diabetic. One of the most effective ways to combat noncommunicable disease is by regulating and encouraging healthy behaviors. The national government, regional agencies and small businesses are working together to combat noncommunicable diseases in Oman.

The Ministry of Health in Oman has rolled out many regulations to create healthier lifestyles for the population. The most cost effective ways to combat noncommunicable diseases are population-based. The majority of national health policies are related to tobacco control in indoor spaces. The Ministry of Health has also created some guides to encourage healthy eating in Oman. Health education is a mandatory part of school curriculums in Oman. The government found that youth populations can be key in spreading information and inspiring people to make changes.

The Ministry of Health hopes to create a national monitoring system to follow the progress of health indicators like urine sodium content and blood sugar levels. Researchers found that while Oman has several health regulations, the policies are not always implemented well.

Regional agencies are also involved in Oman’s response. The Nizwa Health Lifestyle Project was founded in 1999 to work with the city government and local businesses to reduce noncommunicable diseases. One program, the tobacco-free souk, is looking to prevent tobacco use in outdoor public spaces. The souk is an outdoor marketplace at which residents of Oman spend a lot of time. Nizwa successfully implemented an indoor smoking ban in 2010 and is hoping to expand this success to outdoor areas. Residents of Nizwa supported a tobacco ban nearly unanimously in a survey.

Local restaurants and bakeries are preparing healthier food and breads to prevent noncommunicable diseases in Oman. The Healthy Restaurants Initiative is a pilot program in which restaurants create menus with reduced sodium, fat and sugar. The initiative has been successful so far, but will need time to scale up and expand through the country.

Bakers in Oman are also baking bread with reduced sodium content. The average person in Oman eats 10 grams of salt a day, which is double the World Health Organization’s recommended amount. As bakeries provide 90 percent of the bread products in the country, local bakers can have a large impact on people’s health. In 2015, bakeries successfully reduced the sodium content of their bread by 10 percent. Small changes like these are adding up to help decrease the rate of noncommunicable diseases in Oman.

Sarah Denning

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Oman
Despite Oman’s vast oil reserves, large segments of the population still suffer from poverty. The main causes of poverty in Oman are unemployment, underpayment and lack of economic diversification.

In recent months, the sultanate has received attention for reaching a number of its Millennium Development Goals. Between 1990 and 2015, Oman more than halved extreme poverty and child mortality rates, achieved universal primary school enrollment and promoted gender equality in education.

Nevertheless, thousands of migrant workers still live in poverty, and 40 percent of Oman’s own citizens remain unemployed.

Due to lax labor laws, companies in Oman are not required to pay migrant workers minimum wage. This inequality, coupled with the fact that foreigners are excluded from the 100-rial ($263) monthly allowance distributed by the Omani government, has pushed many migrants into slums. As a result, an estimated 100,000 workers in Oman live like second-class citizens.

Because migrant workers can work for less than minimum wage, many of Omani’s own citizens have a hard time finding work. Despite the sultanate’s recent achievements in primary school enrollment, many Omanis lack the higher-education skills necessary to compete with low-cost foreign labor. For these reasons, almost 40 percent of Omani nationals are unemployed.

Historically, the high unemployment rate has not weighed on Oman’s economy because oil revenues have enabled the government to distribute allowances to its citizens. Since 2014, however, global oil prices have fallen by 50 percent. With oil accounting for 46 percent of Oman’s GDP and 84 percent of government revenues, the price decrease has forced the government to tighten its budget and start taxing citizens—instead of distributing allowances.

Unless the oil market turns around or Oman begins taking serious efforts to diversify its economy, the causes of poverty in Oman may multiply and its progress toward the Millennium Development Goals may reverse. Poverty in Oman will only continue to get worse if changes are not made at a national level.

Nathaniel Sher

Common Diseases in Oman
Most recently, Oman has become a hotspot for international cuisine and tourism alike. According to an article published in Your Middle East, the tourism and food business boom in Oman is one of the fastest-growing in the world. However, that growth has introduced fatty foods into the diets of citizens living in Oman. This fatty food has led to an increase in diseases related to poor dietary habits. Common diseases in Oman include those related to circulatory and heart problems, according to a report by the National Center for Statistics and Information (NCSI).

The extent of these problems was exposed by NCSI in their report conducted in 2016. The report noted that 25 percent of all hospital deaths were caused by unhealthy lifestyles choices and stress.

Another of the most common diseases in Oman is cancer. Although lower than most other Gulf States, it is responsible for around 13 percent of hospital deaths in the country. Stomach, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia are the highest-occurring in males while breast, cervical and thyroid are the highest-occurring in females.

Amro Hassan, an Interventional Consultant Cardiologist at Muscat Private Hospital, speculated on the cause of these increases in an article by the Times of Oman: “Because stress can release hormones in the body, this may cause effects on coronary arteries. The heart may also cause high blood pressure and this is a reason why controlling stress levels is very important.”

Sathish Veluswamy, Surgeon at Burjeel Hospital, believes this stress is due to competition. “We all want to get ahead of everybody else and this takes a toll on our bodies,” he stated. “Life is a lot more stressful now than it previously was, because there are a lot more demands on us these days.”

These demands include those that come with the increase in interconnectedness that comes with technology. This interconnectedness creates a work-life imbalance. On top of this, smoking and poor eating habits can lead to further problems.

Although fatty foods and American cuisine still seem to be popular in Oman, there has been a shift in the food industry toward healthier choices. This shift is called “multi-cuisine” which is becoming increasingly popular. With the introduction of these options, citizens are starting to take steps in the right direction to combat the common diseases in Oman.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Flickr

Genetic Diseases in OmanGenetic diseases are most prevalent among Arabs and have been mainly attributed to consanguinity. In Oman, a Middle Eastern country located on the Arabian Peninsula, the average rate of genetic diseases is between 5.4 to 7 percent in new live births, exceeding the global average of 4.5 percent.

Consanguinity, advanced maternal age and high rates of inherited blood disorders are substantial contributors to genetic disease in Oman. In fact, 3.5 to 7 per 1,000 Omani live births have a genetic blood disorder, and 60 percent of the population has genes for genetic blood disorders. The most common blood disorder in Oman is a G6PD deficiency, with 12 percent of women and 28 percent of men having the G6PD deficiency gene.

More than 300 different genetic diseases in Oman have been identified. The most common are autosomal recessive disorders, which result from inheriting two mutated genes. Examples of autosomal recessive disorders include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, Tay-Sachs disease and alpha- and beta-thalassemia. Autosomal recessive conditions are a significant cause of handicap, morbidity, and mortality among Omani children.

Though the birth prevalences of most genetic disorders in Oman are unknown, it has been estimated that Down Syndrome (one in 350 live births) and hemoglobin disorders (3.5 to 4.7 in 1,000 live births) are reaching epidemic levels with more than 100 cases per 100,000 live births.

The apparent rise in rates of genetic diseases in Oman is likely more about previously unidentified cases of genetic diseases being diagnosed than about more Omanis being born with genetic disorders. As diagnosis capacity and expertize have improved, the number of diagnosed conditions has grown.

The development of community-based genetic services and the routinization of early detection and diagnosis in Oman have been followed by the gradual reduction in infant and prenatal mortality. Information-based health education has also been implemented in Oman to improve genetic literacy.

Better services for diagnosing and treating disabling conditions will continue to increase the number of people who need assistance with handicapping genetic diseases. Rising disability rates and a higher number of diagnosed conditions are the necessary precursors of progress toward the prevention and reduction of genetic diseases in Oman.

The government has been working to address the need for more accessible, long-term treatment options in Oman. Their current response is primarily focused on the integration of genetic services into the primary health care system. Involvement of the primary health care system will be the basis for more accessible genetic services for the entire Omani population.

Gabrielle Doran

Photo: Pixabay

Water Oman
Oman is an Arab country located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf with a population of 4.5 million. Due to its booming oil industry, Oman is growing rapidly and both standards of living and water quality are improving. According to World Bank data from the last 20 years, the percentage of people with access to an improved water source has increased from 81 percent to 93.5 percent. While water quality in Oman has improved, questions remain surrounding future water supply, especially in rural areas.

The Public Authority for Electricity and Water (PAEW) has been responsible for much of Oman’s improving water quality and access to potable water in the last decade. Founded in 2007, the PAEW has put emphasis on renewable energy solutions and has made a concentrated effort to expand water piping throughout the country, especially in rural areas. One of the PAEW’s main goals for this decade is increasing its water assets and service coverage, aiming to supply piped water to more than 90 percent of the Omani population.

In response to recent growth, particularly in urban areas such as Muscat, the PAEW and the Omani government launched a $3.4 billion program in 2016 to massively expand its potable water network. With projects such as these, PAEW looks to increase the supply of potable water to 98 percent of the population by 2040.

With an economic growth rate averaging four percent per year between 2000 and 2016, Oman is one of the fastest growing countries in the Middle East. This growth, combined with a 9.5 percent annual increase in consumption, has had a profound effect on Oman’s demand for water in both urban and rural areas. This growth has increased agricultural demand and thus a demand for renewable water resources and infrastructure such as stormwater facilities.

Problems with supply and water quality in Oman in recent years have centered around drought and other environmental issues. Oman faces a serious environmental hazard in coastal pollution caused by oil tanker traffic in the Gulf of Oman. While the Omani government has made strides in promoting renewable water sources and energy, they still lag behind in regulating other environmental issues such as pollution.

One of the biggest threats to water quality in Oman in the future will be extreme weather conditions such as drought and limited rainfall. Though the PAEW is primed to deliver clean potable water to the country’s rapidly growing population, the Omani government must be ready to face other challenges to ensure the health of its citizens.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Flickr