Muscat is a sprawling city. In fact, it is still in the process of being built, especially in the periphery of the city, where you will clearly see evidence of development both with housing and infrastructure such as highways. It is exciting for me to watch so many projects of this developing city expand before my eyes. Some of these are very sizable undertakings, like the total reconstruction the Al Amerat water system in the wilayat (district) where I live. Being here is witnessing thoughtful government sponsored change, including complete environmental redesign.
Local building follows traditional Omani design patterns and must be in compliance with the Law on the Conservation of the Environment and Prevention of Pollution. In Oman, with much of the population moving from the interior of the country to Muscat in search of work, and with tight building codes focusing on small one family homes, housing is in short supply. Available housing is just not consistent with a major population dense metropolis.
Out of consideration for its people, Oman supplies young adults, both men and women, with a free 600 square meter plot and access to government subsidized housing loans. However, increasingly with land more expensive and in short supply in the center and with plots only available in more remote areas, there is increasing interest in building apartments. I am curious how these will turn out, though I suspect they will have height restrictions and be in keeping with surrounding homes to preserve Omani architectural heritage and beauty. This effort creates a much different urban landscape than is seen in the rest of the Gulf.
For those already in a home, purchasing a new one is expensive, but home renovations are quite common. As people obtain more economic freedom, they look to spend their money on outlets pertaining to their family centric life style, a major one being renovations to their houses. Renovations range from bringing in a new oven (yes most houses here do not really have reliable ovens as the cuisine is largely dependent on open fire or stovetop techniques) to expansions. Large-scale expansions are actually quite common and this just might be the only urban population center where there is still some space to do it.
Throughout the countryside, streets are lined with giant gravel pits from the brittle shards of whatever rock face demolition has just happened to make space for new construction. It is not very clear where all these rock shavings go, so for now they mark the latest construction investment. In fact, I feel construction and development have become as much a part of the landscape as they are the culture.