Words: Joe Gill
They are the faces of modern Oman, a snapshot of the country’s diversity, and remarkable proof of how the Sultanate has opened up to the world.
The flag-wavers come from all walks of life – young and old, Omanis alongside expats from several continents, united in celebration.
To mark National Day on November 18, on the following pages Y surveys the views of residents, the milestones of Oman’s development and the historic vision of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.
As the comments on Y’s Facebook page in the run-up to National Day illustrate, whether you are Omani, Indian, Bangladeshi or Filipino, it’s still the place that our readers are proud to call home.
“I was born and brought up in Oman. I’ve been in Muscat for 32 years,” says Rashmi D’Souza. “Everything here makes you fall in love with the country. Beautiful mosques, clean beaches, lovely parks, friendly people. You name it and it’s here.”
Vedette de Niese, originally from Sri Lanka, says: “I came from a war zone and so for me this is Heaven. God Bless His Majesty and his country. I am proud to live in Oman.”
As our graphic shows, the number of expats living in Oman has grown dramatically in recent years as the demand for skilled and unskilled labour has been met with workers from Asia, Africa and Europe. Expats today make up 44 percent of the population – a big increase from a few years ago.
The latest figures from Oman’s National Centre of Statistics and Information (NCSI) show the number of expats working in the private and government sectors was more than 1.293 million in September, with 221,581 family dependents living here also.
Of these, Indians (599,887), Bangladeshis (488,349) and Pakistanis (223,270) were the largest groups, followed by Ethiopians (44,846), Indonesians (28,241) Filipinos (28,187) and Egyptians (24,843). Other nationalities, including Europeans, make up 52,739.
By comparison, less than 200,000 Omanis were working in private sector jobs, according to the NCSI. Omanisation, the policy of gradually replacing expats with Omani workers, has a very long way to go.
That issue aside, the fact that Omanis and foreign workers can work and live alongside each other in harmony, together creating a prosperous, forward-looking society is surely something worth celebrating.
Happy National Day!