Wednesday, May 16, 2012
31
Apologies for the tarnished example, my book gets a work-out!


Another installment in the irregular series of posts: MM Guide to Oman, here's the low down on booze in the Sultanate.

There are bars all over the country that are licensed to sell liquor to anyone of age (including Omani's - the of-age here in Oman is 21). These licenses are almost exclusively held by hotels, but there are a few exceptions dotted around the place, albeit lately these seem to be dying out. Alcohol, like Pork products, are available here, but there is a 100% tax levy in place on these products, making the cost quite high, but still what I'd call reasonable. I won't go into a list of all the bars in Muscat here because I'll still be typing it days from now, and well basically, I can't be bothered to do it at the moment.

In addition to the hotels / bars scene, there are also a number of licensed retail outlets that sell alcohol products in the country. I'm only going to focus on the Muscat area because thats what I know, so if you live somewhere else in the country and have something to share, please do so.

In order to purchase alcohol at these retail outlets, you must have a valid ROP Liquor Permit. These permits can be obtained from the ROP, and in Muscat, you have to go to the special office at the Ruwi Police Station. In order to get the permit, you need the following:

Copy of passport & labor card
2 passport sized photos
No objection letter from your employer
Labor card application in original - copy returned after issuing labor card. This is to confirm basic salary as registered with the Ministry of Manpower
Employment contract attested by the Ministry of Manpower to confirm employment and eligibility to apply for a permit
Completed permit application (Which you can get there)
If you are renewing your permit, bring your old permit with you.

This is my 3rd permit, I've found RO 100 is a good amount

Now, you are technically allowed to purchase a license up to a value of 10% of your basic salary. So essentially, if you have a basic salary of 1000 rials a month, you can purchase a liquor license of up to RO 100 a month in retail purchases. The permit lasts for 24 months, and the cost of it is calculated on 0.4% of the value of the license on a monthly basis, payable in full at the time of application, so a RO 100 monthly permit will cost you RO 96 (100x0.04x24) and it will last you for 2 years.

The typical cost for a case of 24 bottles of Heineken is around RO 13, with most cases of beer coming in at around that price point - RO 10 - 15 a case. Bottles of spirits and wine are also in abundant supply, with even bottles of Verve Cliquot bubbly available for RO 30 a pop. Bottles of wine (and boxes for that matter) start in price around RO 3 and range upwards, with some special bottles going for upwards of RO 20 a bottle. A bottle of branded Vodka for example, will run you around RO 7. So that should give you an idea of roughly how much of a permit value you will want to purchase.

So now that you have your permit, it's time to go shopping! There are essentially 5 major retailers here in the Sultanate:

African & Eastern (A&E)
Oman United Agencies (OUA)
Desert Trading Company (DTC)
Marketing & Services Company (MASE)
Gulf Supply Services (GSS)

Now there are little branches of these 5 chains dotted around all over the city - and I'm sure I've missed a few out, but here's my quick list of where to find them, I've just put the localities where they are, it's a game for you to find them :) :

A&E - MQ, Al Khuwair, Sohar
OUA - MQ, Ruwi
DTC - MQ, Al Khuwair, Wadi Kabir
MASE - Qurum, Ruwi, Rusayl, Salalah
GSS - Wadi Kabir, MQ, Gala, Seeb, Sohar

The opening times are approximately 09:00-13:00 and 16:00-20:00 Saturday to Thursday. During Ramadan the shops remain closed, so stock up before.

Also, you can bring alcohol into the country with you when you fly. You are allowed to carry either 24 cans, or 2 bottles (2 liters max) of wine / spirits - and of course you must be at least 21 years old to do so. One final thing to mention is that it is illegal to transport alcohol in Oman unless you are bringing it home from the store, or the airport - and even then make sure you have the receipt and the permit with you. That said, in 5 years of living here, I've never been stopped by the ROP when driving around town, although once I was stopped at a check point in the interior of the country, and the only question they asked me was: Do you have any whiskey for us?

Regardless, you've been warned. There is also a thriving black market here for booze, but I advise to steer clear of it, not worth the trouble it can cause, and the market is more geared towards laborers who want a RO 3 bottle of brandy to shut-out their problems for a night.

le fin.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good post. Though I think the labourers in your part of town must be fancier than those in mine- ours but bzs500 plastic bottles of whisky from the young Omanis that drive around selling it from the back of their vans.
What are the opening hours of the retail shops?

Phyphor said...

There is also another really good shop in Azaiba just past Shamfri / Prestige Cars by the foot bridge on the service road towards Seeb.

Anonymous said...

How about for those who are in Oman only for a week and intend to buy alcohol?

Anonymous said...

If you in Oman for a week, you have no other option of buying a couple of bottles from duty free or hitting the bars, although I am sure 2 litres would be more than enough booze to last for a month.

That said, I have to disagree with MM, the booze in bars is extortiante, at about 6 pounds a pint.

Sythe said...

Anon 1 - wow didn't know that!

Phyphor - any idea which franchise it is?

Anon 2 - you can buy duty free on arrival in the airport - there is a little place just before the baggage claim to buy wine, spirits and some beer (along with the rest of usual fare in duty free). If you run out... well it's the bars I'm afraid.

Anon 3 - A pint of Marstons Pedigree at the Habana bar (MRFC's preferred pub at the Hyatt) is RO 2.3, which is £3.75 for a pint, in a Muslim country which charges 100% duty, and bars must make a profit to stay in business. So it's not 6 quid a pint, if you know the right places to go.

Passage to India (currently closed for renovations) has pints of Heineken for RO 1.8.

Alternatively, you could go to a night club and pay more - but that's your choice.

Anonymous said...

MM I did not know that. I will have to make a trip there this weekend. Cheers for the tip.

Anon 3

Anonymous said...

Am surprised about this 100% duty levy. Is this applied to the bulk stores too ? We have a license that allows sales of bulk and over the counter, but there are no additional taxes collected, aside from the OMR1080- annual license fee. So is this levy on teh bulk prices already (price of Heinekin the same as in the article) ?

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention that you can only pay the licence fee by card, not cash.

Anonymous said...

I really do not understand the purpose of this post! Who needs to know what are the steps that are to be taken to get a liquor permit in Oman? Or where to find them?! I personally wish that the government bans liquor, cigarettes and shisha from Oman. Those things haven’t done us any good except destroy homes and families. Please don’t judge me and think I am a bitter person. I come from a family that consumes neither of the above (Alhamdulillah) but it’s sad to hear about the harm those things caused to others.

Anonymous said...

Ah the great progressive mind of Oman. Alcohol is legal and expats are vital. Get used to it.

Anonymous said...

To the last two anonymous posters- alcohol is not supported by the expats in this country. If the Omanis did not drink, there would be no booze here. By volume it is that sector that consumes the most. Don't ask me how I know, I do.
Last year there were very strong undercurrents during the Omani wingding about banning booze to the extent that the ROP backed it. The only caveat was that although all retail outlets, bars etc should close, alcohol sales should still be permitted through the ROP clubs. It was not an expat lobby that kept alcohol in the country. If this was not the case, alcohol would not, and should not, be banned during ramadan.
If you want to point a finger at what is destroying homes and families, take a drive on the roads and look at how many kids are wearing seatbelts, how many kids are sitting on laps in front seats, how recklessly drivers are trying to get in front of the car doing the speed limit in the fast lane.
That is, of course, not saying that alcohol, cigarettes, shisha do not contribute, they undoubtedly do.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

If you are a non Muslim teen/Westerner driving in a car with legally aged Omani guys around Ras Al Hamra/PDO housing expect the ROP to pull you over, check the whole car for alcohol [exepting any of the ladies purses which is ironic---I mean, that's where you'd keep it then right?], and everyone's ages. Just thought I SHOULD point that out. People do get pulled over and everyone is responsible if there is alcohol without a permit IN the car and one is underaged ect. .

-Proudly sober six years;) now.

I just wish a special ID for those who are not Muslims had to be used to purchase alcohol to show that they are NOT Muslims even from the hotels and nightclubs and that's it. It doesn't bother me at all if someone else wants to drink if they do so responsibily, but if you want to claim the benefits of being Muslim in a Muslim majority country, then stop boozing.

And to the anon, ACTUALLY, believe it or not, less Omanis drink than they used to say 20 years ago, excepting of course maybe the military. Oman has always made wine. Even though people knew it was forbidden. So if Muslims are practicing, ie they will not sell, buy, or sit with someone who IS drinking while they are drinking, then all the hotels and bars in the world wouldn't make a difference at all to the Omani-Muslim population.

Which is not saying I support any liquor establishment at all, it is just, at least in the Interior ect... people just being educated and practicing their religion despite there being MORE places to obtain alcohol has made the numbers of those who previously drank dwindle. Food for thought.

Anonymous said...

There is an OUA outlet the Markaz side of the service road heading towards Seeb - in the first retail block you reach on the right hand side traveling up the slip road, so that means there are three outlets spread along that service road.

My employer PRO refuses to assist with the paperwork but luckily the employer is supportive and provided all documents. There is only the one place you an apply at in Ruwi and that is open sat-wed mornings only from 7.30am. Best advice is to arrive there as close to 7.30 as you can, you can be in and out in 5 mins as they are very efficient.

And well said that person who pointed out the casual lack of regard for life by those families who allow their beautiful children to travel in a car unrestrained. Rather than get worked up about expats being allowed permits maybe the poster who objected so strongly should put their energy into promoting road safety awareness for Omanis. At the end of the day though it is about choice... choice of an expat to get the legal permit etc, choice of the family to risk their children's lives doing something illegal but largely un-policed.

Anonymous said...

To readers who pointed out that I should focus on our children road safety rather than commenting on alcoholism and who consumes it in Oman, I wish to pin-point that my comment was not just meant for expats I am addressing the Omanis too! And yes I 100% agree with you all, we are lacking child safety measures (a short ride is sufficient to make you realize that!)…. So my advice is “People (Omanis and Expats) 1. stop drinking and stay sober. 2. ensure that you and your kids are wearing seat belts while driving”.
Oh one more thing, please, please, please don’t drive, open the windows and let your little ones with half of their bodies sticking out of the windows! Last but not least DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE!
Stay safe!

Anonymous said...

Drink Driving is not one the major cause of accidents. It's speeding and tailgating from bored youths, as well as irresponsible idiotic driving maneuvers, most during in rush hour.

Phyphor said...

It is an SCS in Azaiba.... and it is by Zubair (not Shamfri, dont know why I wrote that!!).

BigManInOman said...

^^^
SCS = Sohar Catering Services I think. They are the same as OUA in the same way that ONAS is the same is A&E.

What's a Shamfri??!

Phyphor said...

^^ - I just quickly checked my licence and SCS is whats on it, so I assume you are correct that they are OUA....... as for Shamfri- I dont know where that came from, must have been talking to the Mrs about something else?!?!?! Ás said above, should be Zubair.

Anonymous said...

by entering the licnce number can we find out when and how much purchased

Anonymous said...

How about instead of commenting on the evils of alcohol or judging people for activities they may wish to partake in, we appreciate the post for the helpful information it offered.

Anonymous said...

hi i m a Muslim n can i bring in a bottle of scotish whisky in oman( which someone asked me to get it for him )as i am flying to oman before going to india

Sythe said...

To the last commenter - you know I'm actually not sure - I'd bring it in your luggage and if asked say it's a gift for someone. Have a safe trip!

Anonymous said...

What about expat owners of ITC developments that are not employed in Oman but are on a residency visa. Is there any way they can get a license?

Anonymous said...

FYI, just my opinion but the prices in Oman sound pretty good. I work in Kuwait have been to Bahrain a few times which I enjoy and Dubai. Oman sounds like a nice place to visit and enjoy a few since I can't get store bought stuff here.

Anonymous said...

how about in my situation, my wife is working in a gov't. hospital and she brought me here in Oman, and I still don't have a job still looking. How can i apply for a liquor card? If I don't have an employer yet? and one more, ROP in Ruwi is the only ROP office that issues an alcohol card, or there are still other ROP offices in some other places that can issue alcohol card? Thanks
and God Bless!

Sythe said...

To the last Anon commenter... basically the main Visa holder in your family (your wife)has to apply for the license. You can't have one unless you have your own labour permit - and then your employer has to sign off for you, otherwise your wife's employer has to sign off for your liquor permit.

Anonymous said...

what if you are a muslim on your passport and visiting Muscat for a week. how can you get alcohol then?

mukshed ali said...

I am muslim I can take this permit for perchase alcohol. i have residence visa in oman. i liveing in oman 3 years.

Gilbert Pajimna said...

I Have Accidentally wash my new liquor permit just I get it last month and Accidentally I dont know that it is in my pocket and throw to washing machine and powderized the pages only the cover with picture and number left what shall I do. Do I need to pay again and renew it or just ask the police to change my book and give some amount for (FINE) because it was mistake

Sythe said...

Gilbert.... expect to pay for a new license.

Anonymous said...

Hai guys, Please help me since i have misplaced my permit book, Kindly advice how can I get the same as per the procedure?

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