II’s classic expat financial services industry pubs: Muscat, Oman

It has been observed that when financial services expats are far from home in a foreign land, they not infrequently congregate in places where they can, for a brief time at least, be among their own kind, in relatively familiar surroundings.

By which we mean an expat pub.

As some of these expats pub-goers would tell you if you were to ask them, there are times when even teetotal financial services executives who are weary of the non-stop foreign-ness of their current posting can find comfort and companionship in their locality’s unofficial, but de facto, favourite expat boozer.

Below is a story we ran last year on one such place – as part of our occasional series on the Best Classic Expat Financial Industry Pubs around the world – which is located in Muscat, the capital city of Oman, one of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries. This month, it is marking its 40th anniversary of looking after expatriates.

 

Establishment: Al Ghazal Pub (Inside the InterContinental Muscat)
Address: Shatti al-Qurm
114 Muscat, Oman
Tel: ++968 24 680 000
Hours: Sat-Thurs, noon-3am; Fridays, 2pm-2am
(Live sports on Saturdays and Sundays)

The Lonelyplanet.com  travel website calls the Al Ghazal “more of a pub than a bar”, adding that it’s “a popular expat meeting place, with live music, a quiz night, televised sport and excellent Western-style bar food.” A posting dated some years ago, on an Omani expat blog, adds that “when you enter the place, you cannot avoid [saying] to yourself, ‘Welcome to England’ ”.

These observations are echoed by expatriates interviewed by International Investment, who note that the Al Ghazal continues to be a regular expat haunt, some 40 years after it first opened its doors.

As with some of the other expat boozers we’ve written about recently, the popularity of the Al Ghazal pub, inside the InterContinental Muscat, is partly due to its location. The five-star InterCon, which opened in 1977 and thus is one of Muscat’s older hotels, is located in Muscat’s upscale Shatti al-Qurm district, a residential area favoured by expats that is also near Oman’s government ministries and the embassies of foreign governments.

Madinat Al Sultan Qaboos, another upscale residential area and shopping district that’s also popular among expatriates, is just to the south.

It’s also not far from the beach, plus it “has the only 25-metre lap pool in Muscat, [and] a good gym”, making it well-placed to tempt a dehydrated business executive after his or her workout, one Bahrain-based financial services executive, who has been going there over the years and seen it evolve, says.

“The Al Ghazal remains popular with expats, but it has changed in tone quite a lot” since the early days, he adds.

He recall how, back in the day, Muscat’s “expat insurance ‘mafia’” used to meet up there for Al Ghazal’s weekly quiz nights every Monday.

“They had a team called the Dead Budgies – something to do with lying on their backs with their legs in the air – and they took none of it very seriously, except the music round,” this expat executive adds.
“The size of the team varied, depending on who had partners or visitors staying; in the summer months [when temperatures in Gulf states like Oman can approach 40°C, and many locals take off if they can], there were sometimes only three members.”

There are other ways to bring in the expats these days, though, besides quiz nights, and one that Al Ghazal has introduced in recent years, as have many other expat-focused pubs around the world, is large-screened televisions, which it uses to show major sporting events as they’re happening.

The live bands of an earlier era have given way to a DJ, but the pool tables and dart boards remain, an InterCon spokesperson noted.

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared on this website last March.

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