As a tourist in Oman, your journeys lead you across gorgeous desert landscapes and bustling city streets, meeting friendly locals along the way. The traditional attire of the country is both intriguing and functional, and Oman has a unique culture that has blended many regional influences into its fold. The Sultanate of Oman is an Arab country located on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Oman is a conservative Middle Eastern Muslim country.
Omani traditions and values are reflected in the dress code of the Omani people. Tradition largely contributes to the way Omani nationals dress. The dress code for both genders is conservative, and the vast majority of Omanis, particularly those living in rural areas, dress modestly.
For men, the national dress is an ankle-length, collarless gown with long sleeves, called a dishdasha. Most of the time, the clothing is white, although a few other colors such as brown, lilac, and black are sometimes worn. There are many accessories men can wear, for example, the muzzar (a type of turban), the assa (a cane or stick used mainly for formal occasions), and the khanjar. The khanjar is a ceremonial curved dagger worn during formal occasions, often described as “an important symbol of male elegance”.
The national dress for Omani women includes a dress worn over trousers (sirwal) and a headdress (lihaf). Usually, the materials used are of very colorful, vibrant colors. The cut of the clothing differs in various regions, as do color, embroidery, and materials. Women complete their outfit with gold jewelry and cosmetics, opting for either brand-name or traditionally-made items. When in public, most women in cities wear the abaya, a modest black dress or cloak worn over the clothes, and the hijab, the typical Muslim hair covering.
The Omani people are amicable and accepting. They will generally not speak up against foreigners or comment on the way they dress. However, it is always important to show respect to local culture in complying with local habits and traditions to the extent possible. This applies to any country and especially those with such strong traditions as Oman.
As a general rule, avoid wearing revealing clothing in public places. Wearing low-cut tops and short skirts will attract the wrong sort of attention, and you may quickly feel uncomfortable.
For sure, when visitors first arrive in Oman, they may have the impression that the Omani clothing is separating them from the locals. However, it is more of a cultural asset than anything else in the country.
Western countries have a very lax approach to dressing. Oman, on the other hand, has a fairly conservative dress code. Men and women are recommended to wear T-shirts that will cover their shoulders and long pants, avoid wearing ripped jeans, and shirts with offensive messages and do not reveal one’s piercings.
A common rule for both men and women is to avoid wearing exposed clothing that could either draw unwanted attention from others or cause them to feel awkward when speaking to visitors.
Locals and even foreigners should avoid wearing shorts, sleeveless shirts, and other provocative attire when visiting the mall. This is due to a recent change in the law requiring all genders to wear modestly when going out in public. In fact, public decency violations are punishable by a fine in the Omani penal code, according to Article 294 of their law. So it is a must to avoid any legal trouble!
Expectations are somewhat different when it comes to men and women. Dress codes are less strict for men, although Omani will usually not appreciate it if men wear shorts or singlets. It is, therefore, advisable to always wear long-sleeved tops and pants when visiting Oman. Swimsuits should be reserved for the beach. Oman’s shopping centers usually display signs showing the expected dress code. In rural areas, dressing conservatively is a must.
Women visiting Oman should preferably wear loose clothing. It is essential to have arms and shoulders covered at all times. Strapless shirts and dresses are not acceptable. In addition, skirts should reach at least beneath the knee. Long skirts and dresses comply perfectly with the local dress code. In a mosque, women must wear shirts with long sleeves covering wrists and long pants or skirts that cover the ankles. In addition, women must have their hair covered with a scarf in a mosque. The official swim attire for women varies enormously from place to place. However, it is best to be prepared to swim in a T-shirt and shorts reaching the knees.