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LIVING IN SOHAR

Sohar was the capital of Oman many centuries ago and legend has it that it was named after the great grandson of Noah (of the Biblical flood). Originally known as Majan (Persian-Mazoun), the city's name alludes from early ship building activity. The word "ma-gan" means ship's skeleton or chassis stemmed from its copper deposits in the mountains of Majan. Magan is the name of the settlement where the copper mining families settled and still exists today. Sinbad the sailor is said to have spent a considerable amount of time in Sohar. Sohar, a city by the sea, belongs to the fertile Batinah coast region, and is arguably the most verdant city in Oman and the drive to Sohar from Muscat along the coastal highway passes through thick plantations of dates, mangoes, limes, bananas, vegetables and fodder crops. The Sohar Fort was built around the 1st century AD and is one of the major landmarks of this city. Built on a hilltop, this fort has five impressive towers and is the only Omani fort that is whitewashed. It is presently closed whilst undergoing renovation which is taking a few years. See http://www.webtourist.net/oman/sohar/tourist-information.phtml Sohar is located on the north east coast of Oman and is about a 2-hour drive to the Omani capital Muscat and 2 1/2 to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). While it is Omans third biggest city, Sohar is a rapidly growing town, and is peaceful and quiet by most standards. The majority of people are Omani but there are also a substantial number of Indians (plus some Bangladeshis and Pakistanis) who run shops and businesses and, therefore, you do not need to speak/understand Arabic for day-to-day living. The people are very friendly and helpful and you will feel welcomed. There is a rapidly increasing number of Westerners in Sohar due to the activities in the quickly expanding port area. Compounds and enclosed communities are sprouting up in and around Sohar for the port employees and their families as well as other expats. University staff is spread out around Sohar and - as a new member of staff - you get to look for and choose your own accommodation. In the last few years Sohar has become a happening place for expatriates coming to Oman and is a very much more appealing place to live than Muscat now. It is quieter and the traffic jams, although they exist during rush hour, are nothing in comparison to the capital.

EMERGENCY
Emergencies Sohar Police Sohar Hospital

NUMBERS 9999
26840099 26840399 23211151

Embassies

Canada (Consulate) South Africa United Kingdom

24791738 24694791 24609000 also for Australians and

Sultan Qaboos Hospital

Canadians Electricity (hot line) 26840318 USA 26840211 24698989

Muscat Pharmacy (Sohar)

For a full list of useful phone numbers (e.g. hotels, embassies, car hire, tour operators) in the Muscat area see: http://www.apexstuff.com/common/omanessentials.asp EMBASSY REGISTRATION Do remember to register at your embassy or consular section on your arrival, so they have a record of your presence in Oman. The telephone numbers can be found in the website above. PHOTOGRAPHS You need to get a big stock of passport size photos of yourself against a blue background (20 is enough to start with). You can get these done inexpensively in Sohar at any of the numerous photography shops. They are required for many official procedures. VISA Your work visa may take time to process. Good advice is to be patient. You will be guided through all the formalities e.g. blood test at the extended hospital, finger printing at immigration etc. by Human Resources or your mentor. FIGURES ABOUT OMAN : http://www.travelpost.com/ME/Oman/Al_Batinah/As_Sohar/7577505

DRESS
Sohar is a somewhat traditional town meaning that appropriate standards of dress should be observed. In reality this means that women should also avoid form fitting attire, and wear clothes that cover their upper arms and legs to below the knee. Men should wear trousers and tops that cover their upper arms as well. One is able, however, to dress how one wishes at the hotels while lounging around the pool, at the gym, or playing tennis. You may in theory dress as you please on the hotels beach, but women may feel rather uncomfortable in too scant clothing. Even Omani men wear T-shirts when they swim. You will find that Muscat has a laxer attitude towards clothing. The local Omani men typically wear dishdashas (full length robes) and kumas (small round caps) on their heads. The musa (turban) is the formal headwear for Omani men. More and more, we are seeing young Omani men walking around in sports clothes. The local women wear a colourful array of clothes, which are covered in public by an abaya: a full-length black robe. Their hair is covered - 4 -

by a shaila: a black or colourful scarf. Some women wear face veils, burkas, but this practice is not allowed in classrooms (for sound pedagogical reasons!).

DRESS CODE AT WORK


Male teachers are required to wear the standard trousers, long-sleeved shirt and tie at work and women should be similarly professional looking. Elbow length short sleeves and calf or ankle length clothes are appropriate. Clothing should be loose fitting and cut high so as not to reveal any cleavage. Wearing sandals is quite acceptable for both male and female teachers. During Ramadan, female teachers should wear long sleeves. Sleeveless dresses can be covered by a jacket/blouse.

ARRIVE WITH MONEY


It is well worth making sure you come with some money to help you settle in. You will need a ready amount for car rental, a deposit on your accommodation, initial furniture needs, Air Conditioner/s and enough to keep you going until your first salary goes into your account. The university can provide a loan of 1000 OMR to be repaid over the first three months of service. Apply for the loan on arrival as it takes a couple of days to process.

SHOPPING
All of your day-to-day shopping needs can now be met in Sohar. In about October 2005 the first hypermarket, Safeer Centre, now taken over by Al Meera, opened near Sallen roundabout. In December 2007, Centre-point mall opened and houses the popular Home Centre, Splash (clothing), Life Style, Baby Shop and Shoe Mart. Safeer Mall opened in December 2008 and filled gaps in the market: luxury, accessories and footwear, large fun-filled amusement centre for the family, multinational brands in the food court and for the first time in Sohar, western coffee shops. In March 2011, Carrefour opened there and offering extensive foreign products. Between all of the above and the plethora of local shops we can find all the necessary everyday items of food, electronics, stationery, sporting goods, shoes etc. Specialty foods can be found in Carrefour or bought in Muscat (City Centres Carrefour & Marks &Spencer, Al Massa Malls Organic food shop, Al Fair in CCC, Madinat Sultan Qaboos a nd Al Bahja Mall). Alternatively, you can go to Dubai or Al Ain where there is an overabundance of hypermarkets and malls (you may however need to wait for several weeks after coming to Oman before you can get immigration clearance, your passport back and be able to travel Dubai). Specialty clothing can be found in the Malls in Muscat (e.g. Sabco Centre, Qurm City Centre, Al Arami, Muscat Grand Mall (MGM City Centre, Bahja Al Markaz), as well as Dubai and Al Ain, but take a look in Splash and Maxx in Centre Point, Sohar before you make that journey. - 5 -

Electronic Items: There are lots of electrical/computer shops all around Sohar and a number of big gift shops e.g. Sohar Gift Market. If you really wish to get bargains on electronic items, then Ruwi High Street in Muscat could be your answer. Alternatively, you could wait for the next Comex exhibition held annually in April/May in the National Exhibition Centre, near Seeb Airport. Secondhand items can be found on www.omanbay.com, or the second hand shop in the new souq or you can ask around at work. You might also find some second hand items being sold by expats who are leaving. This information is usually sent out over internal email. New books are hard to come by in Sohar, but you will find a collection of second hand books, donated by staff for borrowing, in the LRC and in a book swap bookshelf in the UNIR office floor P in E Block. Pennys Coffee Shop also has a selection. To get new books, try the Family Bookshop or W H Smith in various locations in Muscat and there is an excellent second-hand bookshop, House of Prose, in Al Wadi Centre. Al Qurtoba bookshop next to the university is good for stationery and craft supplies. If you order books on Amazon.co.uk, they can be delivered for 1 OMR per item to Al Manahil Bookshop in Muscat (www.almanahil-books.com/). Souks the old souk is down by the corniche (seafront road) the new souk, is near where the Globe roundabout was and where all the construction is building an overpass.

BUSINESS HOURS
Shops: Usually 9am-1pm, 4.30-9.30pm/5-10pm Sat-Thu and 4.30-9.30 on Friday Carrefour: 9am-10pm everyday Private sector businesses: 8:30-5:30 or 8am-1pm, 4-7pm, except Friday Government offices: Saturday to Wednesday, 7am-2.30pm Banking hours: 8am-2pm Sunday to Wednesday, closed on Friday and Saturday Money changers: 8am-1pm and 4pm to 7pm except Thursday evening and Friday Chinese: The Mandarin (Sohar Plaza) Turkish: Mohammeds Turkish restaurant op. Fish Market, Home is Yours Turkish Restaurant Fish: The Dhow Marine by the Fish Market has tasty fish buffets on Mondays and Thursdays. Western: Pizza Hut, KFC, a new Food Court behind Shell on the highway (Penguin, ChicKing, Pizza Palace), Sohar Beach Hotel, Al Wadi Hotel, and further out of town Pizza Palace near Falaj Al Khabail roundabout and the Crowne Plaza, which is a bit further out from there on the Al Buraimi Road.

MEETING PLACES
Coffee shops: Costa Coffee in Safeer Mall, a new continental coffee shop in Safeer Mall, the Coffee Shop in Butterfly Hotel, and the Crowne Plazas Coffee Shop. Pennys Caf is a bright, colourful and comfortable meeting place with an all day menu - serving sandwiches, salads, pastas, jacket potatoes, crepes, smoothies and fresh juices. There is also outside seating, al fresco. - 6 -

BANKING
After 3 months of banking with HSBC, you can ask for a cheque book. It is worth double checking with other banks how long you have to wait before you can get a cheque if you need one, say, for buying a car by installment. Other banks include: Muscat Bank, Oman Arab Bank, National Bank of Oman, Ahlibank, Dhofar, Oman International Bank (see map for location), Bank of Sohar

OPENING AN ACCOUNT
Here are 2 examples of what is required to open a Personal Account, sometimes called a Salary Account: Sohar Bank (The bank the University banks with and therefore no delay for transfers) Your original passport (no copies) Your entry visa A copy of your residence card when your receive it Please note, the university usually begins processing salaries mid month, so you will need to give your account details to them before the 15th of the month. HSBC (the only International Bank in Sohar) Your original passport Residence ID card / entry visa Proof of Salary HSBC has the Advance Account Package for all staff of Sohar University on a salary over 700 OR. One of the benefits is a free Telegraphic Transfer to any bank or destination every month, in the form of a standing instruction (unchangeable amount). Another is free Internet banking. There are more benefits, so do remember to ask for more information.

Muscat-Dubai) 24702191; Oman National Transport Company (Oman & UAE) Tel 24590046 (http://www.ontcoman.com/). Buses go from the Shell station on the highway between Palm Tree and Globe roundabouts. If you are on Facebook, taxi numbers have recently been added to a group called Sohar Oman, started by an X-colleague, Joanne, and which you can ask to join. HIRING A CAR You can get a long-term hire (a month or more) for about 140-160 RO or US$360-450/month. Having a car will allow you to move about much more easily and to see more of this beautiful country. With a few days notice, insurance for the UAE can be bought by the day or it can be set up at the beginning and paid per month. Ask if there is a discount for Sohar University teachers. You can hire a car if you have a license from your home country or an international drivers license. See FAQs for more info. - 7 Budget: 26840392
budgetom@omantel.net.om

Europcar: 26840753 Thrifty: 92881498

Hertz: 92810039

Fixed line numbers starting with 26 can be phoned from the University phones. Just prefix it with a 9 to get an outside line. Have one of your colleagues drive you to pick up your car. They are always keen to help newcomers. It is well worth having one, even just for the first few weeks while you look for accommodation and settle in. You should try bargaining to get the best deal.

BUYING A CAR
Most teachers buy cars after first hiring a car for a few months or getting taxis for a few months. Along the highway through Sohar there are numerous car showrooms. There a plenty of brands to choose from (Toyota, Hyundai, Suzuki, Kia, Daihatsu, Mazda, Peugeot, Mitsubishi, even a Hummer). (They also have second hand cars for sale.) During Ramadan is the best time to buy as there are always excellent deals to be had. Check if it is possible to place your order before you have your work visa stamped etc and an Omani or GCC license, but you have to wait for all your paperwork to be in order in order to buy. You need to provide a 20% down payment when you buy a car. A small car costs as little as 4,000 OMR and the prices just go up from there, and are much cheaper than in the west. A western license is easy to convert to an Omani one (see FAQs for how), but you can also take the test here and get one that way. Several teachers have learned to drive here. As Sohar is still not very congested compared to Muscat, its a good place to learn.. BUYING A NEW CAR If you are buying a new car, the sales people will arrange everything, including insurance. If you are intending to go to the UAE, remember to get insurance for both Oman and the UAE. WHAT YOU NEED TO PROVIDE

rt copy

-signed cheques for the full duration of the loan (the last step of the deal)

GETTING A CAR LOAN Rules governing car purchases and loans are subject to change. GETTING A LOAN ON A SECOND HAND CAR Here are 2 examples of options you can get on a 2nd hand car loan: HSBC (If you have a Status Account there only no cheque book needed) 8% reducing or a flat rate of 4.4%, taken over 5 years Tageer Finance Company (a few doors up from HSBC) n payment Ford, Daihatsu)

GETTING AN OMANI DRIVING LICENSE Ask Rashid in HR for all the documentation you need from the university, an application form and updated info on charges to apply for an Omani Driving License. See FAQs. TRAVELLING OUTSIDE OMAN You can now travel across to the UAE, provided you show your passport at border crossings. (Your Resident Card may also be required). You will also need car insurance for the UAE. If you are planning to fly out of the UAE at any time and you are travelling to the UAE airport

overland, make sure you have an exit stamp for Oman and an entry one for the UAE, so you are able to fly! Always check that you are stamped out of the UAE when you return to Oman to avoid incurring fines on returning at a later date!!! When leaving from Muscat airport, you need to show your resident card at passport control or check in.

ACCOMMODATION
Your housing allowance should cover your rent and may likely cover some of your utility bills as well, but this will probably be unfurnished accommodation. Almost all accommodation is unfurnished and you are not given a furniture allowance. You will initially need to buy some furniture and air-conditioners. Rent for a good two bed flat start from 150 OMR per month up to double that for something really big. There are basically 2 kinds available: flats/apartments and villas. Villas are typically 2-3 bedroom bungalows with a walled in garden/yard. Please note that Sohar University provides 1 week paid accommodation only. Then you are on your own, so you need to get cracking on finding an agent to help you on day one. A good one is Dawood Al Balushi, tel 95156550 (dalbalushe@yahoo.com). He is tri-lingual in English, Arabic and Hindi.. He is punctual and good company to boot Im told. (This is where a car rental will really help and maybe save money in the long run.) After your first week of paid accommodation you will get the housing allowance stipulated in your contract when you receive your salary at the end of the month. For this reason, you are well advised to bring plenty of cash. There are a lot of properties for rent, so chances are when you are exploring you will come across Flats for rent. Ask a colleague for a guided tour round Sohar and show possible areas to live. You may be given a list of flats for rent and phone numbers in a separate document. If you do not receive one, please ask your Dean/Dept Head or mentor if you have one.

CHILDREN / SCHOOLING
There are two International (English medium) Schools in the area at present. The Sohar International School, owned by the owners of Sohar University, and the Al Batinah International School (ABIS), owned by Sohar Aluminium. If you work at Sohar University, you will get a good discount on schooling for your children at their school. There is also an English medium Indian School where there is also an English medium nursery/kindergarten for children under 5. There is a Pakistani school with a similar curriculum to the Indian one. If you want to find out more about opportunities or if youre not sure what steps to take for your children making a transition, then a useful resource is an RGN International Educational Consultant. Rebecca Grappo is one such consultant - www.rebeccagrappo.com. She may be able to refer you to someone now that she has left Oman.

Sohar International School PO Box 783 Sohar 311

26846434 26847323

sischool@omantel.net.om

Al Batinah 99442625 International School Sohar 311 The Indian School PO Box 846 Sohar 311 The Pakistani School PO Box 644, Sohar 311 26841885 26844504 Fax

www.albatinahis.com

info@albatinahis.com

inscohar@omantel.net.om

TELECOMMUNICATIONS
RESIDENTIAL PHONE AND INTERNET

You can pick up application forms from Omantel, which is between City Cinema and HSBC on Al Tareef Road and in Safeer Mall. You may need to take it/them to Rashid in personnel in order to get all the official university documents. Omantel provides several broadband/ADSL packages of different speeds and provide a modem: Dial-up is still available from Omantel and Internet pre-paid cards are available from petrol stations. An alternative is a USB modem/dongle available from Omantel or Nawras, pay-as-you-go or on a plan.
SIM CARDS AND MOBILE PHONES

Mobile phones can be bought without a package from 10 OMR upwards. If you want a regular bill, then Oman Mobile is the way to go, obtainable from Omantel. An alternative is the Pay As You Go Hayak SIM card, also available from Omantel. Nawras and Friendi are the other two PAYG options. You can get a Nawras SIM card package from the airport on arrival or any Nawras shop. Topping up cards are widely available. Our office cleaners often sell them to help get by. SATELLITE TV Space Star Trading (Tel: 2684076) have two shops in and near the new souk and provides an excellent service. There is a selection of different packages to choose from at reasonable prices. SKYPE

If you want to access Skype you will need to download a VPN (Virtual Personal Network). If you want BBC iplayer, Netflix or Spotify do a search for Express VPN. Check any VPN can be used in Oman. Witopia is one recommendation. Apps for a smart phone that are used here for free Internet calls/texting: Viber, WhatsApp (texting only).
INTERNATIONAL CALLING CARDS

These are sold by individuals rather than in shops, so ask around if you are interested and someone who has been here a while is bound to be able to point you in the right direction. These accept coins and phone cards. Cards are available from supermarkets, petrol station shops and some smaller shops in units up to RO5. They are in short supply these days.
PUBLIC TELEPHONES

SOCIAL LIFE
You could not say Sohar has an over abundance of nightlife! Real nightlife requires going to Muscat or Dubai. Expats get together on a casual basis at each others homes for parties, at the Sohar Beach Hotel, the Crown Plaza and Al Wadi hotels, coffee shops or restaurants. As a Muslim country, drinking alcohol has restrictions. The above hotels serve alcohol. Non Muslims are able to get a liquor permit and purchases can be made from four well-stocked shops outside town.

CLIMATE
Summers are very hot (usually around 40-45oC and even hotter on occasion), and often very humid but autumn and spring are pleasant. In the winter you may sometimes want to wear a fleece jacket or something similar in the evenings. Rain is rare, and clouds are almost as rare. If you like the sun, this is the place, although the heat can be oppressive, especially May-August. Houses, offices, and classrooms are all air-conditioned. (Usually, you will need to supply your own ACs for rented accommodation.)

USEFUL WEBSITES:
http://www.justlanded.com/english/Oman http://isurf.co.om/isurf2/index.jsp (Oman information portal cinema, events, restaurant guides) www.omantourism.gov.om www.rop.gov.om (Royal Oman Police general information, ROP rules, contacts, fees, access to driving offences) http://www.ontcoman.com/ (Oman National Tourism Company) http://www.lonelyplanet.com/worldguide/oman/muscat/getting-there-and-around

www.omanbay.com (Omans ebay) http://www.travelpost.com/ME/Oman/Al_Batinah/As_Sohar/7577505 http://www.webtourist.net/oman/sohar/tourist-information.phtml http://www.omanet.om/english/home.asp This is an excellent site for current information and you will also find the labor law here. www.almanahil-books.com/ (for ordering books on Amazon.co.uk) http://www.soharmusicfestival.com/ http://www.dubaitourism.ae/travel/default.asp?SubCatID=43 concerning visas into the UAE) (for information further

www.islamway.com (for information about Islam - you may also get information from the Grand Mosque in Muscat)