Islam is the official religion of Oman. In coastal areas, the people have been exposed to outside cultures and influences for centuries due to maritime trading. Therefore, unlike in some of its neighboring countries, other religions and ways of life are tolerated. Alcohol is available to non-Muslims in hotels, Western tourists may wear shorts, and it is not uncommon to see Western women in bikinis on the beaches. However, visitors should keep in mind that what may be acceptable on a beach or in a hotel may not necessarily be acceptable on the streets. In public, female visitors should wear clothing that covers their shoulders and upper arms, and skirts that do not go above the knees.
Inland areas are much more conservative, and activities and styles of dress that are acceptable in the coastal areas are not appropriate.
Despite the openness toward other beliefs, Islam is nevertheless an important aspect in the lives of the citizens of Oman. Mosques are to be seen everywhere, from the largest cities to the smallest towns, and the call to prayer is heard throughout the country five times per day. Most Muslim women still wear the abaya, a full-length black covering. However, the hard-line fanatacism that is present in many Muslim countries is so far not present in Oman, and it is a safe country to visit in what can be a volatile part of the world.
The Shihuh tribe is the main tribe to be found on the Musandam Peninsula. They are cousins of the Sharqiyyin tribe of nearby Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, and trace their origins back to Yemen. Until about the early 1970s, the tribe was isolated from the outside world. They did not trust outsiders, and it was common for visitors at that time to have stones thrown at them by tribesmen.
Although some of the Shihuh live along the coasts, most live in the rugged mountains of the peninsula's interior. The land in which they live is rocky and arid, with very little vegetation. However, the Shihuh are able to use the small amount of rain that falls, mainly in the winter, to grow limited amounts of barley, wheat, and date palms. They also herd goats, whose meat and milk are staples. Most of the cultivated areas are high on the plateau of the peninsula, but the people live a couple of thousand feet below in the wadis.
Visitors to the wadis of the Musandam Peninsula will see the typical stone hovels that the Shihuh and their goats live in (pictured here). They are called bayt al qufl, which means "cave house," since they are partly underground. The houses are constructed by putting a roof made of timber or stone over a stone-lined rectangular pit dug into the ground. The entryway is usually a small window-like opening less than three feet (one meter) square with a wooden door.
Nowadays, the Shihu are no longer hostile to outsiders, but neither are they particularly friendly.
Oman is an extremely religious and conservative society. They follow a conservative branch of Islam called Ibadi Islam thus making them dedicated followers of their religion. The dress code should be at all times shorts below the knee and t shirts at best for men with women wearing baggy pants and quarter length shirts. Outside Sohar, Muscat and Sur men shouldnt wear shorts and women shouldnt wear t shirts or shorts despite what the ignorant British expat Oil workers say or do. I have lived in this country in a very very conservative town and I have tried my best to respect the culture the best I could and I have been rewarded with countless friendships. My biggest pain is going to Muscat etc and seeing people dressed in shorts and tank tops.It irritates me sooo much because Omanis are too damn friendly to be rude. Point? You are in an Islamic country with a conservative branch of Islam = cover up please.
Many tourists think that they can safely interact with women in the Gulf because they base it on their experiences in more liberal societies such as in Lebanon or some areas of Egypt or Jordan. Make no mistake, Oman is one of the most conservative countries on earth and the only way you will interact whatsoever is when you speak with cashiers etc in the service industry. You should never speak or confront women in public as this is a major taboo. Women can speak with local women but women only interact in public with their family members. Just take the lead from your surroundings and you will do fine.
Be careful when you walk into a restaurant in small towns. The culture of Arabs is that they dont want offend you, they will never tell you that you are in the wrong. Make sure if you are in smaller towns that you go to the correct area of the restaurant. There are family sections and if you dont know you may cause major problems with the owners(they will feel uncomfortable and local customers may feel out of place with a foreigner sitting there or near them).
Omanis are gentle people therefore you must behave in a certain way in public. If you think that an Omani is doing you wrong either in a souq or taxi dont worry. Calmly tell the man that you believe you deserve better service and they will kindly help you. Overall, smile and be friendly.
Because of the long coast which Oman has, and the surrounding seas of the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea are rich in marine life, people living along the coast of Oman tend to be fishermen. You will see many fishing boats, fish markets along the beach and small huts for storing fishing equipment along the beautiful coast of Oman.
Sultan Al Qaboos has jurisduction ultimately, over everything. He convened an elected Majlis ashshura (consulting council) in 1992 as the first step towards democracy.
Sultan Al Qaboos is separated, and has no children. The Oman constitution says that the heir to the throne must be chosen by the royal family within 3 days of it 'falling vacant'.
Omani traditional dress is legally required to be worn by all government emplyees
I think a lot of other people also wear it on a daily basis also.
The main item that Omani men wear is the dishdasha (long dress shirt) , which is collarless unlike that worn in the rest of the Gulf.
A knotted tassel hanging called a farakha/kashkusa hangs from the top of the dishdasha. Rosewater or sandalwood perfume is sprayed on it.
The wizar (tunic) is worn underneath the dishdasha.
A massar (turban), or kumma (embroidered cap), is worn on the head. The massar may be worn on its own, or over the kumma.
The white dishdasha is the official colour for government workers and is most common overall. In the winter, darker clothes are preferred, especially among the Bedouins.
Darker dishdashas are also worn by Baluchi men. .
For formal wear, a khanjar (silver dagger), is worn around the waist on a silver belt.
Womens' traditional clothing is made up of 3 main parts. The dishdasha (below the knee dress), the sirwal (baggy trousers), and the lihaff (embroidered headdress). All are worn in any colour.
When going outside, Omani women usually wear an abaia, a long and thin black cover worn over the lihaff. Although it is unusual to see a woman wearing the khima’r (veil), a burkha (face mask), is often worn in more conservative areas, especially among the Bedouin women. Omani women may wear as many as ten rings on their fingers, as well as bangles, heavy earrings and necklaces. Most Omani women dye their hands and feet with henna, like other Middle Eastern women
Due to religion, you will notice that most of the buildings and houses in Oman are of white colour. In fact, certain areas of Muscat (e.g. the luxurious Al Khuwair suburb) only allows houses of white colour to be built. Also, the buildings and houses are not tall because Oman has lots of land, and the highest building in Oman is apparently the Sheraton Hotel which is probably about 20 storeys high !
Contrary to believe, Oman is a very safe and modern country with some of the most friendly people you will ever find. Despite modernisation, Oman is still a very traditional country where people wear traditional costumes and islamic way of life is very dominant. Oman is more liberal towards women than some other countries in Arabia, and women in Oman can work, drive vehicles, go shopping and even become a Minister (the Minister for Tourism is a woman).
Unlike many other cultures, Islam believes in simple burial for the dead and therefore the tombs in Oman are very simple. Normally, only a pile of rocks is used to mark the location of the burial. In the older era, tombs such as the one shown in the photo is common, but now many of them are being removed. There are 1-2 remaining near to the coastal ruins of Qalhat and some remaining in Bat located in the Western Hajar Mountains.
The camel is the most important animal in Oman. This is because life in the desert depends largely on the camel for food, transportation, camel milk etc. Some children in the desert have been drinking camel milk all their life and have never even tasted water before ! The camel is man's best friend in this part of the world :)
When you visit the mountain villages and towns of Oman, you will be able to see the Falaj (water channels). The Falaj is extremely important because it brings fresh water from the mountains to the town and villages. The water near the source is used for drinking, cooking etc and those flowing downstream is used for farming, washing etc.
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