|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.