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Housing in Oman


There’s a wide range of apartments and villas available in Oman, both within and outside enclosed compounds, but it should be noted from the outset that expatriates cannot own land or property in Oman and therefore you will have no choice but to rent.

Most accommodation is in urban or suburban areas; the desert is for camels and the Bedouin. Most visitors are pleasantly surprised when they see the cities of Oman for the first time, their modern architecture co-existing with traditional houses and ancient wind-towers. New buildings are often spectacular, as oil has provided the money for the best architects, builders and materials. Indeed, there’s competition between developers, who tend to be wealthy merchant families, to build the most impressive structure.

Many construction projects are under way and, when you’re choosing accommodation, you should check whether further construction is planned on surrounding land, as the resulting noise, dust and general inconvenience can be intrusive, sometimes for 24 hours per day. Although programmes are continuing, however, fewer lower priced properties are being constructed, as the demand for unskilled workers in the region is declining.

Villas, Compounds & Apartments

Expatriates tend to live in either compounds or apartments. The rapid development of the economy and the sudden influx of foreign workers meant that accommodation had to be constructed quickly, which meant that apartment blocks rather than individual houses were built. The term ‘compound’ refers to a group of houses or small, usually low-level, apartment blocks within a walled enclosure, rather like a private estate.

Depending on the size of the compound, the facilities may include a communal swimming pool, a restaurant and shop, tennis and squash courts and a gymnasium. Children might be catered for with a play area and there might be a form of community hall known as a majlis – the traditional Arab meeting area for visitors. Many compound houses are built in majlis style, with an area opening immediately from the front door where the men meet visitors and sit with them. The rest of the accommodation is to the sides or rear. (In Arab houses, women aren’t seen unless the visitors are close relatives.)

Separate apartment blocks, which tend to be higher than those within compounds, usually contain a high proportion of expatriates. A disadvantage of these is that they generally lack the extensive facilities found in most compounds and there may be fewer English-speaking people to ‘show you the ropes’ than in a compound. On the other hand, compounds can be rather ghetto-like, with a claustrophobic ‘clubbiness’, isolation from the local community and a lack of privacy.

The exterior and interior quality of buildings is high throughout the region, and improving as prospective landlords vie with each other to have the most attractive buildings. The average property is also more spacious than its equivalent in Europe or the USA. Rooms are generally large in all types of accommodation. Villas normally have generous patios and/or gardens, while apartment blocks have a swimming pool and gymnasium. Homes normally also have a better level and quality of maintenance than in western countries, due to the wide availability of low-paid labour.

A garage or covered carport for your vehicle is vital. With temperatures rising to 50oC (122oF) in the summer, a car left outside quickly becomes unbearably hot and the bodywork deteriorates if exposed to the sun for too long. Most new apartment blocks have underground car parking facilities and allocated spaces. Villas tend to have an attached or separate garage, or at least a carport.

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