Monthly Archives: September 2007

Some co-workers

                                                          Nigel from Britain

Greg Croft from Nova Scotia, Canada with the main mosque of Ibri in the background

Marios from Cyprus who drove the rental car to and from Muscat that 5 of us rented together 2 weekends ago

Patrick Sweeney from Ireland who is one of my 2 office-mates


                                 Sultan; the receptionist at CfBT main office, Muscat and Talib; the PRO-Public Relations Officer
                                                                    Some Ibri College colleagues out for dinner at the Ibri Oasis Hotel: Nurida, Barbara, Patrick and Andy.
                                                                          Our driver,Eid, who picks us up to take us to the college at 7:20am each morning.
                         Trish McDermott, the CfBT Project Coordinator, has been in Oman for 16 years!!! She was kind enough to drive me and a colleague to Muscat from Ibri this past Wednesday (which is like Friday back home because the Omani weekend is Thursday and Friday).

Ibri Fort

                                                             The Fort in Ibri
                                                      Sunset in Ibri behind the Ibri Fort



Welcome to Oman
When you arrive, you will probably still be in a bit of a daze and suffering from jetlag and culture shock. If you haven’t been to this part of the world before, the scenery and the heat will be different from anything you imagined. We have all been through this, so don’t worry. Please ask again if you didn’t understand the first time. There is always too much information to take in at the beginning.

The Golden Rule really is: if you’re not sure, ask! Ask anyone who has been here for a while, and they will be pleased to help you and show you around. If you get ten different answers, ask the Head of Department!

This document is intended to answer some of those initial questions.

CfBT Education Trust is a leading independent education and training consultancy, delivering to a diverse range of clients worldwide

CfBT Education Trust, an international not-for-profit education resource management organisation, was founded in 1965 as the Centre for British Teachers. We work across a wide variety of learning and skills settings, managing projects and developing products and services to client specifications. CfBT employs around 2,000 people worldwide and our annual turnover of over £100 million is secured by undertaking operations in the education sector, on a commercial basis, for both public and private sector clients.

CfBT is a registered charity, and surpluses made on operational activities are placed in trust to fund educational research and development work. Each year the CfBT Trustees distribute over £1 million in this way. CfBT’s ‘Evidence for Education’ research programme is investing in a coherent body of research that can be shown over time to have a positive impact on educational practice in the UK and overseas.

CfBT was founded as a provider of English Language Teaching expertise to a range of governments, from Germany to Morocco, Oman, Malaysia and Brunei, and English Language Teaching remains an important part of our skill set. CfBT has long practical experience of assisting with education development worldwide, providing us with a unique perspective on the full range of issues in the education and training sector. CfBT is able to demonstrate a clear understanding of the needs of education systems, at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, in countries at all stages of economic and social development, including transition and post-conflict.

CfBT is at the leading edge in the implementation of many important educational reforms in the UK and worldwide. CfBT owns several subsidiary companies including Worldwide Education Services and International Book Development Ltd (IBD), leaders in school accreditation and textbook advice and policy making respectively.

CfBT’s Head Office is in England and we have offices in Abu Dhabi, Brunei, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Malaysia and Oman. CfBT opened its Oman office in 1984 and is registered here as the Centre for British Teachers Education Services and Partners LLC. In Oman we manage several large training contracts for the government and provide English language training to the private sector through our centre, the British Training Institute.

See the CfBT website ( for more information about CfBT’s activities.

The Sultanate of Oman – Some Facts and Figures
Area 309,500 sq km
Capital City Muscat
Population around 2,331,300 people
Official language Arabic
Religion Islam
Currency Omani Rial = 2.61 U.S
Other main cities Nizwa, Sohar, Salalah, Sur, Rustaq and Ibri
Climate Summer months of May – October: temperatures of 30 – 50 degrees Celsius .
Cooler months of November – April: pleasant mid-20’s to mid-30’s with cool nights
Monsoon weather in Salalah in the summer months

Muscat – the Capital City
Muscat is the hub of Oman and is situated on the Gulf of Oman in the north–east. It is a city of contrasts, and it is quite large and quite cosmopolitan.

While Oman is decidedly Islamic, there are many forms of entertainment to cater to different tastes. Restaurants are varied; there are English films in the cinemas, and there is a Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra. Western hotels also offer a variety of entertainment.

Location of 3 Colleges of Applied Sciences
Nizwa College of Applied Sciences has a magnificent mountain backdrop and is about two hours from Muscat. Nizwa is well known for its fort and for its “souk” or market place. Here you will find everything from live animals to fine gold. It is also near Bahla, which is the home of a fort currently being restored as a World Heritage Site. Just past Bahla is another restored fort – Jabreen – which is furnished to give a clear idea of living conditions in past life. There are also Western-style hotels with pools and health clubs, and several restaurants.
Ibri College of Applied Sciences is a three-hour drive from both Muscat and Dubai in the UAE. Ibri is a small city with sufficient retail outlets to provide you with all you need. It is close to Bat, which is the site of ancient burial tombs. There are also wadis (dry river beds) near by, and a wilderness for exploring. There is a hotel with a licensed restaurant, and Nizwa is an hour away, where Western- style hotels with pools, health clubs and licensed restaurants are available.
Salalah College of Applied Science is located at the far south end of the country about 1000km from Muscat in the famed Dohfar region, home of the frankincense tree. From June to late August the climate in Salalah is unique as it is the only place in Oman have monsoon rains. As a result, Salalah is a place where many Gulf citizens go to escape the summer heat. It is also the only place in Oman to grow coconuts and is lush with banana trees. The city is located on a large flat delta, backed by rolling hills. It is the place of Job’s tomb. It is a cosmopolitan city with restaurants, a good range of consumer goods and Western style hotels.

The Omani People
You will find Omanis friendly, cheerful and helpful. So if you want to get to know the customs and the language you will find many who are willing help you with some of the standard Arabic greetings.

You may find it difficult from time to time to understand each other because of the language barrier, but a good sense of humour and patience will go a long way towards helping you settle in to your new environment.

Both men and women take an active role in working life in Oman.

Public modesty is a way of life in Oman, particularly in matters of dress. For Omani citizens, this means covering all parts of the body, including head, arms and legs. Men wear dishdashas, usually white; however, you will see other colours worn too. This unifies men, both rich and poor. Omani women wear the Hijab on their heads and the Abayya, a black cloak worn over Western or traditional clothes. For women the Abayya and Hijab are something of a fashion item and some are quite stylish, in silk and other striking fabrics and designs.

Expatriates are not required to cover their heads, but are encouraged to dress modestly out of respect to their host culture. Shorts should be restricted to the beach/camping/home. Women should cover shoulders/upper arms and wear trousers or skirts below the knee in public areas. As a rule clothing for work tends towards the formal and casual clothing is not acceptable. Men should wear shoes, rather than sandals to work. It’s appreciated if men wear a tie, but it’s not obligatory.

What to Bring
Almost anything can be bought in Muscat. If you use prescription drugs, it’s best to check beforehand that they can be bought here (Trish can do this for you) though the likelihood is that they will be available in the capital. The most obvious things to bring are clothes and shoes suitable for the climate and customs of the country. Clothing can be made at a very reasonable price, as tailors abound. You may need to bring a light jacket for winter evenings. If you plan to stay up in the mountains occasionally something thicker, such as a fleece, will be needed. Hats and sunglasses are de rigueur. Opticians have a range of prescription spectacles, sunglasses and contact lenses. Lens cleaning solutions are available at opticians and pharmacies.

You will need to bring at least 20 passport photographs (with blue, not white background) for various government agencies and for the College records. If you have already emailed them to us, this of course will not be necessary, though it’s always useful to have some spare ones with you.

The Climate
Due to the hot climate, all classrooms, offices and shops are air-conditioned. The souks are not, apart from some individual shops. The air-conditioning can be fierce and so you may like to carry a light covering, particularly when you go to hotels.

The Omani Rial (RO) is divided into 1000 baisas and is tied to the US dollar. Each RO was worth US 2.61 at the time of writing, but changes little.

Your salary, in Omani Rials, is paid directly into your bank account by the last working day of each month. Until you get your working papers, it will be transferred to your overseas account at CfBT’s cost. You will need to open an account with a local bank within a month of receiving your working papers, as CfBT will no longer cover the cost of salary transfers after this time. Some banks, such as Bank Muscat, will allow you to open an account immediately. HSBC is the best for internet banking and, if you have a standing order, funds are transferred abroad free of charge. If you have an account with HSBC salaries are transferred immediately from CfBT’s account. To other Omani banks, it takes a working day and, to overseas accounts, it takes 3 working days.

ATMs are plentiful in all cities and traveller’s cheques can be cashed at banks. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, especially in hotels and supermarkets. On opening a bank account, you will be given an ATM card. Credit cards are also available but they attract an annual fee.

The cost of living in college cities is quite low compared to living in Muscat and, as a local, you can sometimes barter to negotiate a price for some items in some stores. A general grocery bill for one person can be as low as RO 12 for one week.

The standard of healthcare in both the public and private sectors is generally good. You will receive a private medical card and a list of hospitals and clinics where it is accepted. In the hospitals / clinics on the list you will not have to pay but you will normally be charged a RO.2 excess for each visit, which is not refundable. Out of the hospitals on the list, there are 2, Muscat Private and Al Shatti, where you will be charged 20% of the cost, unless you are specifically referred there by a doctor. This 20% is not refundable and the hospital may require you to pay it on the spot.

If you go to other medical centres, such as government hospitals, you will need to pay in cash. The costs will be refunded by CfBT against receipts. You will need to submit a claim form supported by receipts (see Annex 5 for forms). This should be sent for the attention of Zarooj, our financial manager, and will be repaid with your monthly salary. For a claim to be included in the current month’s salary we need to receive all the paperwork by the 15th of the month. Claims must be put in within 3 months of the date on the receipt.

Dentistry: normal dental care, such as fillings, is covered up to RO.200 per year, with the patient paying 20% of the cost. This 20% is not refundable. There are many dentists, Omani and expatriate, in Muscat, as well as dental technician laboratories. Good to ask for recommendations from those with experience of them in your town.

Maternity care is not covered under this scheme.

Emergency services
The ambulance service in Oman is fairly new and the fleet of vehicles with trained staff is relatively small. This means that response times may be less speedy than hoped. The key rule is not to attempt to move an injured person, but in places where the response time is slow you may need to weigh up the risks of moving and decide if it would be better to transport the person to a hospital in your own car.

Death Certificate and Registration
In the unhappy event of the death of a friend or relative contact CfBT Muscat immediately. The police must be informed without delay and CfBT, as your sponsor, is responsible for registering the death with the authorities.

Dehydration is a risk in such a hot climate in the summer months so you do need to make sure you keep drinking sufficient liquids, particularly if you are taking part in any sporting activities.

Muscat Pharmacy is a chain throughout Oman and is very obliging. They will order medicine from Muscat and phone you when it’s ready for collection.

Shopping is varied. There are a number of shopping centres and malls that provide a variety of clothing, furniture, etc. There is no “town centre” as such in Muscat; shopping is spread over a number of centres. The Al Fair chain, Carrefour and Lulu are supermarket centres in Muscat where you can find all types of western and Asian food to suit all tastes. For books, the “Family Bookstore” has a wide up-to-date selection and the “House of Prose” has an excellent system for exchanging second-hand books.

The Mutrah Souk in Muscat is a must, where you can bargain over Omani silver and artefacts, spices, incense, clothing, shoes and Omani wooden chests, not to mention the gold in the numerous gold shops.

Nizwa is also famous for its souk and its animal market on Fridays, both of which are popular with tourists. There is a good variety of shops in the town centre and Khimji’s supermarket has most of what you would want for your everyday needs. For things that you cannot obtain there, the Carrefour centre in Muscat is not much more than an hour’s drive from Nizwa.

Ibri is smaller than Nizwa but you can still get most of what you need at its super-markets and fresh fruit and vegetables can also be bought at the souk. About 90 minutes away is Al Ain, just over the border in Abu Dhabi, where there are shopping malls and a good selection of restaurants and cinemas.
Salalah is a tourist city and so there is a reasonable variety of shops and restaurants as well as a good souk. The most popular supermarket is Lulu’s, near the Haffa House Hotel. Though not as large as the ones in Muscat, you can get most of what you need there.

Opening Hours
Apart from supermarkets, most places shut down after 1.00 p.m. and re-open after 4.30/5.00p.m. On Fridays, some places don’t open at all, while others shut at 11.00 a.m. and re-open in the evening.

The weekend in Oman is Thursday and Friday. However, some government offices and banks stay open on Thursday morning.

During Ramadhan, opening hours will change, sometimes drastically.

All accommodation is fully furnished, with everything you need to move straight in, such as bed linen and kitchen equipment. All accommodation has at least:
• Living-room: a sofa and 2 armchairs, 2 sidetables, TV unit, dining table with 4 chairs, desk with chair.
• Bedroom: double bed with 2 bedside tables, chest of drawers, wardrobe, dressing table.
For pictures of accommodation, visit Bjorn’s Blog (link shown in annex 2). For a complete list of household items provieded, see annex 4. You will receive an inventory, which you need to check as soon as you arrive. This will be checked again when you leave the accommodation. A RO.50 retainer will be held back from your final salary, in case the accommodation has to be professionally cleaned. You may also be charged for missing items or articles damaged beyond normal wear and tear.

• Power is 240 volts with both English and European plugs. Adaptors are widely available.
• Water is generally treated and is drinkable, although it can taste heavily chlorinated. Bottled water is available at local supermarkets.
• Gas comes from a gas cylinder, which is provided with your flat. Replacements cost RO.2.50. Refills are readily available from trucks that drive around residential areas. Once you have found a supplier you can take his phone number and arrange for delivery as needed.
• Rubbish is collected weekly or more often – you have to place your rubbish (ideally in plastic bags) in one of the metal rubbish bins you will see along your street. Re-cycling is not yet practised in Oman.

Paying Bills
Bills are sent on a monthly basis. Electricity and water bills come to the flat/house direct and telephone/internet bills are sent to your postal address, which will probably be the college. If 2 months go by without your receiving a bill, check with your landlord, either directly or through CfBT.

Bills for any service can be paid at the designated offices for all services, or at the bank, or by mobile phone or online.

Telephone/Mobile phone
Connecting to a telephone line is quite easy as long as there is a line connection already in place. You will need to complete some forms, get a letter from CfBT, pay a fee of about RO. 7, and in a few weeks you will have a line. You can also get a connection to the Internet through this system. Connecting the telephone and Internet takes about 2-4 weeks. You may decide just to use the email facilities at your college, rather than have a landline. It is also now possible to get a card that allows you to access the internet on your laptop anywhere in the country.

Even if you were previously not a mobile phone user, you will be converted as soon as you arrive in Oman. For your mobile phone, getting set up is also easy. A passport or ID copy is required to apply for prepaid mobile service. Prepaid cards are provided by two companies, Oman Mobile and Nawras. You can set this up on arrival at the airport. Cheap mobile phones are readily available and the prepaid phone cards can be bought almost anywhere.

Receiving Mail
There is no house-to-house postal delivery system in Oman. Most teachers use the college address or the CfBT Muscat address. If your post is delivered to CfBT Muscat you will need to arrange to collect it; if someone from the Muscat office is visiting your College they will bring your post with them. It is possible to have your own PO box, which can be obtained at the Post Office, but there is sometimes a waiting list.

Places of Worship
There are two church compounds in Muscat, one at Ruwi and one at Ghala. Each has church buildings for various denominations, meeting at different times throughout the week. Places of worship in the capital and Salalah are listed below:
o The Protestant Church in Oman (PCO) – Ruwi
o The Catholic Church of Sts Peter and Paul- Ruwi
o Devi Kalaka Temple (Hindu) – Muscat
o Shiva and Bajrangbali Temple (Hindu) – Ruwi, Muscat
o Shree Ganesh Temple (Hindu) – Ruwi
o Shree Govindryji Temple (Hindu) – Muscat
o Tamil Full Gospel Church (Protestant) – Ruwi
o Salalah Christian Centre – Salalah
o Holy Spirit Catholic Church – Ghala

There are plenty of taxis in Muscat and in the towns, but public transport is limited. There is no regular bus service within the towns, just minibus drivers who take children to school, but with whom you can arrange to be taken to work and back. There are also “baisa buses” – minibuses, usually very crowded, which ply the roads and stop when waved down. Western women do not usually feel at ease using these. Sharing taxis is also common, but again many women prefer not to share. Single women are advised to occupy the back seat of a taxi, unless it would mean sharing it with a male passenger.

Taxis are not metered, so you should ask the fare before you begin your journey. Ask friends/colleagues for advice on typical fares; westerners are usually expected to pay more, but often come to a very reasonable monthly arrangement for daily transport to work and back.

Buying or hiring a car
There are a number of car-hire firms in Muscat and several in the smaller towns; hotels can also arrange this for you. CfBT can arrange car rental for you at a very reasonable monthly rate. You need a valid licence.

Second-hand cars can be bought through dealers, supermarket notice-boards, newspapers and word-of-mouth. New cars can be bought on hire-purchase and there are often good buy-back deals so that you can be sure of how much you will get back for your car when you leave.

Driving in Oman
Although the standards of driving in Oman are reasonable you need to drive defensively as there are some reckless drivers on the road who show little regard for the safety of other drivers or pedestrians.
Using your phone whilst driving is prohibited unless you are using a hands free device and if you are caught you will face a fine.
You must carry your driving licence at all times and failure to present your licence if requested will result in a fine.
Drinking and driving is illegal in Oman and if you are unfortunate enough to have an accident and there is alcohol in your bloodstream your insurance will be invalidated and you could face a large fine or even a jail term.
The use of seat belts is compulsory in the front seats of cars.
Traffic accidents
If you have an accident you must not move your car until the police arrive, even if you are blocking the road. The police will arrive quite quickly. The police will decide on the spot who is responsible for the accident and all those involved will be required to go to the police station.
If there is a fine to be paid the police will hold your licence until it is paid.
In the cases of a slight bump, most people find they can deal with it on their own. However, if the accident is more serious and you need support telephone Talib, our PRO or any of the emergency numbers in the annex.

To go to the UAE by car
People occasionally drive across to places in the UAE, notably Dubai, where for example shopping is cheaper and more diverse (e.g. there is an IKEA store for flat-pack furniture in Dubai). For a car, you will need special insurance costing RO.10 for each trip plus RO.2 at the border. Alternatively, you can take insurance that covers both Oman and UAE from the beginning, at an extra cost of about RO.40. There is a small exit fee when leaving the country from certain border posts, which must be paid in UAE dirhams. You MUST pass through the same border control on leaving UAE as the one you entered by.
Once you have got your residence card, you will also need a road pass. Please request this from Trish by email giving at least a week’s notice. A year’s pass will cost you RO.16 (less for shorter periods).

Regular health checks are carried out on food and drinks outlets so you can be reasonably confident that the food is safe to eat and drink.

Eating out can be as cheap as shopping, preparing and cooking for yourself. There are many coffee shops, local restaurants (ask around for those recommended) plus hotel restaurants.

There is also a college cafeteria, which serves breakfast from about 9.30 to 11.30 and lunch from 12.30 to about 3.00p.m. The food is cheap and suits most tastes. Rice features predominantly in most dishes.

Once your documents have been processed by immigration (usually about a month after arrival), Talib, our PRO (public relations officer) or his assistant will come to the college to take you through the next steps. These involve:
1. Going to the local hospital for a blood test and brief medical check.
2. Going to the immigration department for fingerprinting.
3. Getting your resident’s card issued.
This process is usually carried out on 2 separate mornings and is arranged to involve as little disruption to your teaching schedule as possible.
If your resident’s visa is not processed within the month, please notify the CfBT office, as your visitor’s visa will have to be renewed for a further month. Please make sure you inform CfBT in good time. If, as very occasionally happens, your visa takes more than 2 months to process, you will need to fly out of the country, probably to Dubai, for the day. This is arranged at weekends to involve as little disruption to your work as possible. CfBT will cover the cost of return flights and the cost of the journey to and from the airport. It will also cover the cost of bed and breakfast in a hotel, the cost of an evening meal (up to RO.15) and transport to and from the hotel, only if an overnight stay is unavoidable. All these arrangements are made for you by CfBT. From Ibri, it is generally easier to go to the border by car. Petrol is refunded at RO.0.030 a kilometre. In all these cases the normal procedures for making claims will apply.

Driving Licences
You are permitted to drive hired cars on your current licence until you’ve got your working papers. After that, you should get a local licence within 1 month. You will need to request an official signed paper from CfBT and we will help you through the process, which is quite straightforward. It involves going to the local police station and having an eye test. They will also ask you your blood group. Driving licenses cost around RO.20. You will need to produce your valid licence from neighbouring Gulf countries, Jordan, USA, Canada, the EU, Australia or New Zealand.

Liquor Licences
You can only buy alcohol at designated shops with a licence and, again, you need your resident’s card before you can get one. This has to be done in Muscat or Salalah. Trish, or another CfBT representative, will help you through the process. It has to be done on a working day and it’s best to be ready early in the morning. Thus it needs to be planned well in advance as, once again, there mustn’t be any disruption to lessons at the college. Until you get your own permit, there are usually plenty of colleagues who have been here longer, who will be happy to buy liquor for you. Note that it is illegal to buy for, or give alcohol, to a Muslim.

Omani weekend, Religious and Public Holidays
The weekend in Oman is Thursday and Friday. Some government offices and banks stay open on Thursday morning.
The main Muslim holidays are lunar, so they are not fixed as accurately as Western holy days. They are:
o Eid Al-Fittr, which comes after four weeks of Ramadhan and will start on about 13th October 2007. It normally involves a week’s break.
o Eid Al-Addha on about 20th December 2007. Another week’s break, which will probably take in Christmas.
o Islamic New Year on about 10thJanuary 2008.
o Mawlid Al-Nabi –The Prophet’s Birthday on about 20th March 2008
o The Ascension of the Prophet on about 30th July 2008
18th November is National Day and birthday of HM Sultan Qaboos but 1 or 2 days off could be given at another time of the month.
Christmas is a working day, unless it falls on a Thursday or Friday, and is not celebrated officially.
Easter Sunday is a normal working day.

Rules for Ramadhan
Muslims are forbidden to eat or drink during the hours of daylight during Ramadhan. The college cafeterias will be closed, as will all restaurants, except in international hotels. If you wish to eat or drink in the college, it is best to be considerate and do so in your office with the door closed. No alcohol can be bought even in international hotels. Women should dress more modestly during this time in garments with long sleeves (with a high neckline), trousers or longish skirts.

Leave is calendar, not working days, i.e. it includes weekend days. This is often a surprise to expatriate staff who are used to “working day” leave arrangements.
In planning your leave it is a good idea to start it on a Saturday and finish it on a Wednesday. This means that you can actually fly out on the previous Wednesday and return the following Saturday, gaining four days which are not counted as leave.
Longer leave, unpaid, can be arranged. Most staff take their leave in Summer, between mid-June and mid-August, as this is the hottest period. However, if there is no teaching, staff may take days off, for example between semesters, but after the exams. Any leave taken early will be deducted from the 60 days. All leave is subject to the prior written approval of your Head of Department. Copies of the approval should be sent to Trish.
When staff are not on leave, they are expected to be at college during the designated times, even if not teaching.

Your working day:
Working Hours: 40 per week

During teaching time 8 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.
Working hours will vary during exams and in summer.

Leaving College during the Day
Staff are expected to be in college when they are teaching and usually up to 4 p.m. However, they may leave to run errands which can’t be done at any other time, provided they have permission from the Head of Department,

The Teaching Timetable
Most teachers will teach up to 20 hours, which will largely be made up of double periods. Some will be asked to combine teaching and academic administration, as coordinators.

Each lesson lasts 50 minutes, so a double lesson lasts 1 hour and 40 minutes. To teach less on a regular basis will quickly be noticed by students, and some of them will complain to your supervisor. Lessons start at 8.00a.m. and go through to 4.00p.m.

On the timetable, times are given as 8-10 or 11-13 etc. This simply means it’s a double lesson, so you finish at twenty minutes to the hour. Single lessons, e.g. 9-10, finish at ten minutes to the hour. Bear in mind that the students may have another double lesson after yours, and will need a break, so try not to over-run.

Ramadhan Times (about 13th September – 13th October 2007)
Lessons are shorter during Ramadhan. Single lessons last 40 minutes and double lessons last 1 hour 20 minutes. Thus the whole working day will be shorter.
After Ramadhan, there will be the Eid holiday after which lessons revert to the original timetable.

Behaviour of staff
Working at an Islamic institution means expatriate teachers must be careful about how they dress and what they say. Being over “liberal” can be very offensive. Basically, teachers are requested to respect the culture and traditions of an Islamic country and refrain from discussing certain topics like religion, politics or sex with the students. You should not touch students of the opposite sex or approach them too closely. Be aware of this particularly in class when monitoring a student’s work. A man may shake hands with a woman only if she offers her hand first.

Eating and Drinking
Omanis don’t eat or drink while moving around. Eating or drinking should be done in offices at college, but not in the corridors. Similarly, it should not be done on the streets of the towns/cities.

Some Background Information about the Colleges
The colleges were first built as teacher training colleges, hence the old name “College of Education”. English was taught to non-specialist B.Ed students for three years of their four-year courses (except for Rustaq, which is still a College of Education, training teachers of English). They would go on to teach their subject in Arabic, however.

In September 2003, the Ministry of Higher Education introduced a specialist B.Ed course in English and made the colleges co-ed.

In October 2005, the English B.Ed course was left in Rustaq College only, leaving the other five colleges of education to start teaching a new foundation course. These five colleges still continue with the remaining education cohorts until they graduate; this situation will continue until 2009.

The colleges that had remained single sex all became mixed and the medium of teaching was changed to English.

New teachers were recruited and the students started their courses. At that time, there was only one level; however, remedial teaching was introduced in January after the mid-year tests.

From the beginning of the 2006 academic year, students have been streamed, initially into two levels, but with the possibility of a small group of high achievers taking an accelerated course.

The Foundation English course is intended as preparation for further vocational specialisations to be taught in English. The Foundation curriculum was compiled by staff from the five colleges working together as a team to produce this comprehensive document detailing learning objectives, skills, strategies and learning outcomes.

From being a fringe department, the English departments have been catapulted into the forefront of the colleges’ raison d’être, and are now one of the most important departments in each college.

English Language Support
First-year degree students and those in subsequent years working towards their vocational degrees will continue to take English courses to support their degree studies.

Teaching Omani students
On the whole, the students are very easy to handle. They are friendly, relaxed and good-natured. Omani students are a delight to teach. They are responsive, creative, assertive, polite, well-meaning and welcoming to foreigners, despite political problems in other Arab countries.

The girls are much shyer generally than the boys and will make it obvious if they want a teacher to get to know them or not. Sitting at the back of the classroom gives them the ability to see everything, but only take part in lessons as much as they feel they want to. In some ways, teaching the classes is like teaching two separate groups inside one classroom, and this puts limitations on teaching methods.

Some Guidelines on Discipline
Omani students respond positively to teachers who like them and very soon sense how a teacher feels about them. They are like students the world over. Most of the time, you just need to be fair and do the job. If they feel you are not teaching the syllabus or short-changing them, they will complain, sometimes to you, often straight to the Head of Department.

If they misbehave, a sharp word is usually enough to bring the student back into line. The usual reaction from the student is then to apologise and after the lesson to offer to carry your things, clean the board etc etc. They like to have good relationships with everybody, and like to stay friends.

If the atmosphere is not right, a word to the Head of Department might be worthwhile before things get really bad. It could be that they can’t understand your accent, and that you need to slow down, or that there has been some misunderstanding on the first day that needs sorting out.

As with all teaching situations, start by being a bit strict, and then you can ease up later. Try to learn their names as soon as possible, including surnames, and they will be impressed.

Attendance and Absence Procedures
Your Head of Department will advise you on these.

College Examinations
You will be given details by your Dean / HOD

Registering at Your Embassy
One of the first things you should do when you arrive in Oman is to register with your embassy or consulate. You will find the nearest embassy on your country website and in most cases, there is an online form that can be completed and forwarded to your embassy. Some embassies/consulates are in Oman, but others are in either Dubai or Saudi Arabia. Check out your country’s website.

Annex 1 Indicative costs of groceries
Apples (per kg) 0.800
Bananas (per kg) 1.300
Bottle of house wine (restaurant) 7.000
Burger (takeaway) 0.500
Can of cat food 0.400
Can of soft drink 0.100
Cappuccino 1.500
Car rental (daily) 11.000
Carrots (per kg) 0.500
CD album 5.000
Cigarettes (per 20 pack) 0.600
Cinema ticket 2.500
Dozen eggs 0.400
Fresh beef (per kg) 3.000
Fresh chicken (per kg) 1.300
Fresh fish (per kg) 0.500
Large takeaway pizza 5.000
Loaf of bread 0.500
Local postage stamp 0.050
Milk (1 litre) 0.500
Newspaper (international) 0.800
Newspaper (local) 0.200
Orange juice (1 litre) 0.600
Pack of 24 aspirin/paracetamol 0.560
Petrol (gallon) 0.540
Potatoes (per kg) 0.300
Rice (per kg) 0.200
Salon haircut (female) 15.000
Salon haircut (male) 5.000
Sugar (2 kg) 0.400
Tube of toothpaste 0.800
Water 1.5 litres (restaurant) 1.500
Water 1.5 litres (supermarket) 0.200
Watermelon (per kg) 0.150

Annex 2 Recommended reading list and websites

Oman Explorer The Complete Residents’ Guide ISBN10 976-8182-83-0
Oman (Bradt guide) ISBN10 978-1841-621-685
United Arab Emirates and Oman (Lonely Planet) ISBN10 978-1864-501-308

Websites Oman today – the essential leisure guide All about Oman and getting there Travelling in Oman News and comments about Oman Oman studies centre: links to other sites

Blog: For a personal view, look at Bjorn’s Blog, a CfBT teacher in Nizwa: