Street food stalls provide opportunity for Oman’s job seekers

End of street vending ban creates opportunity for young entrepreneurs

A street vendor in Azaiba, Muscat. Photo: Saleh Al-Shaibany
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Young Omanis are turning to street vending and setting up their own open-air food stalls to make ends meet as they continue to search for jobs.

After years of enforcing a ban on street trade, the government this year allowed vendors to sell food and drinks beside roads across the country.

With jobs scarce and thousands of young people searching for employment, such businesses, staffed by young Omanis, have become a common sight along major roads in the capital, Muscat, and in cities such as Salalah, Sohar and Buraimi.

With smoke billowing from his barbecue stand in Al Hail, in Muscat, Hilal Al Shidhani, 27, said he had no way to make an income other than selling food on the roadside.

“There are not many jobs going around these days,” he told The National, and said he was seeking any kind of permanent job.

Shidhani in his barbecue stall. Photo: Saleh Al-Shaibany

“Street vending, for me, is a financial lifeline. I make ends meet to look after myself and my family. I do all right now because I am making enough money to meet my expenses.”

In January, Oman’s Minister of Labour, Dr Mahad bin Said Baowain, announced the creation of 32,000 new work opportunities for Omanis. He said there were more than 65,000 job seekers in the country.

Hamed Al Asmi, 21, set up a burger stall, having been seeking work since leaving secondary school in 2019.

He said he had been selling food on the street since before the ban was lifted, but in May this year he decided to apply for a business permit in Sohar.

“When I was cooking burgers on the street last year I was chased away by the municipality many times. But when they allowed it this year, I was among the first ones to get a licence,” he said.

A street vendor on the street in Sohar. Photo: Saleh Al-Shaibany

“I make about 1,000 rials a month ($2,600) after expenses, and that is not bad at all for a man of my age.”

Like other street vendors selling food, both Mr Al Shidhani and Mr Al Asmi had to invest some money in equipment before they could begin trading. Their stalls both have shelters made from canvas and wooden poles to protect them and their customers from the elements.

But street vending also provides a lifeline for other job seekers who lack the capital to start their own businesses.

Abdulrahman Al Suwaidi, 23, a computer science graduate from Muscat, said his cousin pays him 325 rials ($845) a month to help run a food stall in the capital.

“He pays me a minimum salary and I work from 6 in the evening to 11 at night. For me, it is something to get me going until I get a day job,” he told The National.

Updated: November 16, 2021, 10:51 AM