Abstract Climatic data (for the three years 1988–1990) have been surveyed for various locations in Oman and hence the prospects there for the solar desalination of water have been assessed. In particular, the behaviour of a solar still on Masirah Island (located at 20·67° N) has been predicted. The use of average monthly insolation data, measured for 3 years from 1988 to 1990, enabled the calculation of how much of this radiation is incident on the still's inclined transparent cover. Assuming (pessimistically) that only 50% of this transmitted radiation stimulates the evaporation process, the rate of distillate is predicted to be approximately 2 litres day −1 m −2 of the inclined cover. A peculiar feature of the Masirah climatic conditions is the drop, in July, of the amount of insolation received at ground level per day. This phenomenon is associated with the monsoon season experienced in the south-eastern part of Oman: the monsoon results in a large amount of dust suspended in the atmosphere, which reduces the amount of direct solar radiation transmitted to the ground. Drizzle and mist are the causes of the analogous drop in the amount of solar radiation received per day at ground level at Salalah and surrounding mountains in the Dhofar region of Oman. Because of the shortage of potable water in a country with an abundance of solar energy, it is probable that solar desalination is likely to play a vital role in the ultimate energy and environmental strategy for achieving a sustainable and prosperous Oman.