MUSCAT: The bustling downtowns of the capital are giving way to new urban hotspots, according to those associated with the real estate and retail sectors.
The Central Business District in Ruwi was a sort of a financial hub of the country but its status has been changing since the shifting of Bank Muscat headquarters to Airport Heights followed by the National Bank of Oman (NBO) to Athaiba over the last 15 years.
Ruwi High Street, once a popular shopping district for expatriates, is facing challenges to retain customers as the emergence of one-stop malls in various parts of the city with better facilities such as restrooms and parking spaces.
With most private and government offices shifting their bases to around Bausher, Ghala, Ghubra, and Madinat Al Irfan, their employees also shift homes to avoid long travel hours and save fuel costs, which is no more fully subsidised as it was before.
Speaking to the Observer, an executive with a real estate marketing firm said, “The changes are taking place in line with the demographic shift in the country for some obvious reasons. CBD and Wadi Kabir were getting saturated with limited scope for further development. New plots were made available in the Bausher and Ghala, extending to the Airport Heights (now Madinat Al Irfan), as the accessibility to these places improved with the completion of the Muscat and Batinah Expressway projects.”
With the improvement of road connectivity, Amerat emerged as a favourite destination, evident with the opening of several new retail outlets there.
He added, “These apartments have been built in line with changing requirements for safety (restricted access), multi-story parking, free Wi-Fi, centralised cooling systems, and big glass windows.”
Young Omanis coming to Muscat for work prefer to stay in Maabella, Amerat, or even Bausher as it is easy to get out of the city during the weekend to their family homes.
Since 2016 as the government deregulated fuel prices, motorists have started considering that in daily travel costs.
“My office was shifted to Rusayl from Wadi Kabir a year ago, which means I must travel nearly 100 km a day in 1.5 hours during peak time. By moving to Ghala, I can cut the travel costs and time by almost half,” Linson Joseph, a resident of Darsait.
With the opening of an Indian school in Bausher and admissions easily available, he said concerns over shifting schools have been taken care of too.
Several restaurant chains have shifted branches from Ruwi, CBD, and even Al Khuwair to Maabella, Al Khoudh and Ghubra in line with the demographic shift.
According to a source in Muscat Municipality, “A number of buildings in Ruwi, Wadi Kabir and Muttrah areas are nearly 30 to 40 years old, they need to be demolished, redeveloped or totally refurbished, which will take a couple of years.”
The redevelopment of these areas will be done as per the master plan for the Sustainable Greater Muscat, which also covers Barka. “Muttrah will be developed as a primary tourism district with several projects in the pipeline.”