Saturday, June 28, 2014

Booze Market in Oman

So, I thought to talk about the liquor market in Oman. Oman is not a 'dry' country like Saudi and Kuwait; these are the legal ways to buy alcohol:
  • 1) Non-Muslims can bring a specified quantity of intoxicants through Duty-Free ( two bottles or 24 beers).
  • 2) Drinks can be purchased at licensed hotels, in some restaurants, and in certain social and military clubs by everyone (including Omanis), but the alcohol must be consumed on the premises (no take-out). Ironically, in the Omani military clubs, the price of alcohol is subsidized. Public intoxication is not allowed.
  • 3) Alcohol can be purchased in special shops if you have a liquor permit. Liquor permits can be obtained by non-Muslim, expats if the employer provides a non-objection letter. Those who hold permits can spend up to 10% of their salaries per month at the liquor shop. ROP issues the liquor license; African + Eastern retailers can help obtain the permit. 
  • 4) Room Service. You can order spirits through room service in certain luxury hotels even during Ramadan or during bar closing times.
But, sometimes it isn't enough...

The Blackmarket:

1) Bootleggers.  A) Generally, they are expats who smuggle the booze in from the UAE or sometimes have a corrupt 'connection' working in a liquor shop that supplies it. They generally charge three times the cost of the shop's prices, i.e.,  a case of Bud Light at the shop costs 8-10 OMR but through a bootlegger costs 25-30 OMR. It is a risky business for the bootlegger; if caught, for sure, they will be serving a prison term or be fined before being deported. But, the pay-off for selling the contraband is very tempting for them. 

They may be in Oman illegally or under a different pretense on their labour card. They operate by having a 'delivery' service or meeting their clients in inconspicuous places. The typical client is an Omani male (99.9% would not be an Omani female) or another expat. Some pitfalls are some of their stuff can be real crap, expensive and sometimes they sell counterfeit liquors such as whiskey; there is no telling what chemicals are in the bottle. They build their client base through word-of-mouth.

B) Some bootleggers in the network are Omanis. They also smuggle in the liquor; a lot from the UAE. They generally sell the booze from their house to other Omanis or expats.

C) Villagers in Jebel Akhdar are said to produce their own vintage of red wine.

Bust by ROP

2) Other means of acquiring but not legal  - a) The liquor shop clerk purposely doesn't record the allowance correctly on the expats liquor permit which in essence increases his budget for more purchases or the Omani sponsor indicates a higher salary on the letter to apply for the permit (one can buy up 10% of salary in liquor per month.)   b) The hotel or bar lets you 'slip' a few out. c) People with licenses buy alcohol and sell/give it to their Omani/expat friends. d) Homemade brew.

*You could get in criminal trouble for engaging in these activities even if it seems innocuous at the time.

3) Local words/expressions relating to alcohol:
  • khamor  standard word for alcohol   خمور
  •  ‫   for alcohol used in the interior..local slang      شمبريشه‬ shambresha
  • saudi word for alcohol   sadeeqee   صديقي‬
  • Let's get some drinks.  ‫Yalla narooh nushrab. يالللهة نروح نشرب
  • Ali got drunk (drunk a lot)  ‫علي كان شار ب واجد‬ Ali kan sharap wajid 
  • 'Drunk / sloshed' sakran, teeqah, tayais, aabeer, tafeee  ie ana tafeee (I'm smashed, literally, the 'power cut')
    ‫   سسكران, ‫طافي. ‫عابر طيخه

Unfortunately, some Omanis and expats are suffering from alcohol dependence. I have heard stories of expat teachers showing up smelling like they chugged a few before their class, and many more Omanis are suffering from addiction than generally thought. Normally, they are 'functioning alcoholics' and their drinking issues are deeply hidden away from society and family.

Being a 'drinker' is considered something shameful here by society, in general, and most consider it forbidden in the religion to partake in intoxicating substances. For example, when someone wants to get married here, people will inquire about them to others and if known to be the guy at 'Copacabana' every Thursday, it would not be good.  There is not really a good support network here for Omanis with drinking problems nor for their close ones who are affected by the drinking. Oman is not equipped to deal with drinking and drug indulgences on top of their other challenges.

Recently, the Majlis Shura is calling for further restrictions in alcohol sales or even a total ban. Although this is well-intentioned, if alcohol is banned, the government would be in effect giving up its control over the sales of alcohol and turning it over to the bootleggers.  People who used to not use a bootlegger and drink in a 'controlled' environment with security such as at a hotel may then turn to one to fulfill their needs.

Also, that decision may hamper business opportunities in tourist areas or investment in the integrated tourism complexes. And, local expats and Omanis may flee Oman to places such as Dubai on weekends/holidays instead of frequenting the local tourist hangouts. Some expats may not wish to take a post in a 'dry' country, but these days Oman is trying to cut back on expat numbers in the work force.  But, depending on what society values, the governing bodies will have to weigh the pros and cons of what type of restrictions to enforce or not.

Ultimately, people are responsible for themselves and their choices. At best, people can be guided and addicts need help. Prohibitions rarely work as planned if you look at them historically.  Although it would be unpopular, I would be in favour of taxing the liquor sold in the shops to expats with permits more heavily to recoup some of the costs drinking has on society.


  1. Do you wanna get delivered alcohol ? Now very easy way to get delivered alcohol from different types of company who provide alcohol, there have many way like this Booze Delivery

  2. 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

    1. Hi I lost my license so wat's the procedure,did u get ur license by paying fine

  3. you can get it cheap from most small landry shops

    1. Really?? Any of them do you know near azaiba???

    2. hello dear any one can delivery to my home plese

  4. can i get in delivered to my house ? please advise?

  5. Guys anyone who can deliver???