Christmas in Oman

Life is hard Photo: Peninsularity Ensues

It may not shock to hear that life in the Middle east is a touch different to that in the west. We all know the place is an apocalyptic Mad Max-esque war zone, overrun with crazed, hyper-violent religious extremists. We’ve all seen the news. The Arab world is a dangerously volatile, geopolitical mess.

Arabs... fanatical and scary. Photo: Peninsularity Ensues
Arabs… fanatical and scary.
Photo: Peninsularity Ensues

Well… that’s what I’ve heard.

Fortunately though I live in one of the safest, friendliest and most peaceful countries on Earth. It’s just north of Yemen, east of Saudi Arabia and south of Iran.

The calculatedly understated Sultanate of Oman invariably surprises, not only because of the country’s stunning natural beauty but also the diverse, tolerant and harmonious nature of the population. This is of course an Islamic country, but here in Oman almost half the population are expatriates like myself, and the disarmingly relaxed and friendly Omanis comprise the world’s only predominantly Ibadi nation. The upshot of this? Well, here the Sunni and Shia pray peacefully, side by side. Christians go to church. Buddhists visit the temple during the full moon. Friends meet up in the sports bars and nightclubs, and dress as they choose on the public beaches.

This isn't Saudi Arabia... that's next door. Photo: Peninsularity Ensues
This isn’t Saudi Arabia… that’s next door.
Photo: Peninsularity Ensues

A couple of years ago I took a visiting friend to the local market to grab some things for dinner. Being his first night in the exotic middle east, he grabbed his camera and we set off by camel Kia to the local souq local supermarket.

“Man… it’s just like home,” he said… somewhat surprised.

Of course, it’s not exactly like the west. There are more spices.

I've never heard of some of these... Photo: Peninsularity Ensues
I’ve never heard of some of these…
Photo: Peninsularity Ensues

For the most part though, shopping in Oman isn’t quite the chaotic, donkey-infested, snake-charmer infused labyrinthine assault on the senses that some westerners imagine the Arab world to be. Of course, those kinds of places are indeed scattered about the Middle East and North Africa… they’re for tourists.

This isn't real life. Photo: Peninsularity Ensues.
This isn’t real life.
Photo: Peninsularity Ensues.

Omanis prefer the mall. They like air-conditioning. They like coffee shops and food courts. They like sitting and chatting. Omanis like going to the movies. They like upgrading their phones.

And then of course, in December… there’s this.

Christmas in Oman, City Center Mall, Muscat Photo: Peninsularity ensues
Omanis checking out the Christmas decorations… Muscat, Oman.
Photo: Peninsularity ensues

Yes, it’s Christmas time in the Middle east… well some of it anyway.

Christmas Day isn’t a public holiday here. This isn’t a Christian country. It also isn’t anything like the Arab/Middle-eastern stereotypes perpetuated by western media. And so, from some poolside Christmas drinks with colleagues and friends…

Life is hard Photo: Peninsularity Ensues
Life is hard
Photo: Peninsularity Ensues

Merry Christmas from beautiful Oman.



  1. Even Hindus have their place of worship in Oman … There are two temples and we are allowed to celebrate our festivals in a similar way as its been celebrated in our home country. Here’s wishing you all and your loved ones Merry Christmas and a blessed year ahead.

  2. This year the Christmas did meet the Day that the profit Mohamad 3alayhe salat wa Salam. So we have 2 holiday to celibate.
    Oman is a beautiful county and the Omanis ar nice peaceful people.
    The only way to find out is the visit.

  3. Merry christmas happy birthday prophet mohammad oman is is nice and peacefull country nice people thanks u ur majesty Sultan Q god bless u long long life and good healht im 21 years living in this beautiful country,

  4. I enjoyed your article and I also think Oman is a wonderful country. However, you must realize that Muscat is a cosmopolitan area and cannot be compared to the rural, conservative and narrow minded areas that comprizes most of Oman. We teach in a rural town 3 hours from Muscat. My flatmate is a young British woman and she has been subjected to numerous cases of sexual harassment and disrespectful behavior. There is a dark side to Oman as well.

  5. Let me say this am a kenyan work in oman at salalah i love this country becoze is peaceful end i than my boss salim Ahamed. He is very kind man with her family they are very wounderful en lovely i love the family soo much God bless oman en H.M sultan Qaboos he is very good man i love OMAN

  6. That was really funny to see you guys all sittin’ there where I’ve sat so many times with you myself. It’s one thing I do really miss…

  7. Do you teach English in Oman? Did you teach English in Korea before moving to Oman? If so, I’d love to get your advice on teaching in Oman — can you email me, or can you give me your email ad? I’d really appreciate it — I am a ‘Korea-vet’ — I have been teaching here (at a good uni) for far too long, and am interested in Oman. From what you have written here, it looks like a good place to teach.


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