Being a Tourist in Oman, How to Respect their Local Culture

Oman, the picturesque Middle Eastern country, looks exactly like a page out of The Arabian Nights. Ranging from the vast swathes of beaches to the uptown bustling city life, Oman has it all to lure its visitors. For the first timers in Oman, there will be a cultural shock which is likely to obliterate many advantages of the city, but as one adapts to it, Oman ticks all the right boxes for the tourists.

In this exotic travel destination, you can expect to spend an Arabian styled life in the sand dunes while putting your worldly worries to rest. Camels loitering around a makeshift corral look too pure to be in this real world. Oman has an array of things to offer to the tourists that are adventure enthusiasts. Oman is a widely celebrated country in the Middle East that wears a natural charm of its own. You can have an eyeful of the uniquely symmetrical architecture which is the tell-tale sign of their majestic ancient past. The architecture comprises of houses, forts, castles, mosques and museums. If you have more than seven days to spare in Oman, there are many attractions you can see that are self-explanatory.

But before we begin, there are a lot of intricate details that you need to know about Oman’s culture.  Although it looks alien to you in the first meeting, you can respect it by following the tips given here.

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Knowing Oman’s Local Culture

Oman is an Islamic country, but contrary to its counterparts, it is way more liberal in many aspects. In fact, Oman takes contemptuous pride in being one of the most liberal Muslim countries around the Gulf. However, Oman has a stickler for their traditional clothing and you will see many shopkeepers and passers-by wearing them extensively. Of course, they uphold Islamic principles in the manner they dress, but they also embrace bits of Western culture. In the blissful amalgam of Middle Eastern and Western cultures, we are somehow reminded of what we as civilized humans were always meant to be. You can hear about many European and American restaurants being opened in the capital city of Muscat nowadays. However, it is still important for the visitors to familiarize themselves with the nuances of Muslim culture therein. Acting appropriately and respecting the local lifestyle is very crucial in Oman. As a new tourist, you will find that the Omanis are very laid-back and open-minded. But one thing is for certain, they are very respectful about their culture. One needs to be very cautious about their dressing and conduct while visiting Oman.

How to Dress in Oman?

As of right now, you may have been thinking that you will see a lot of Burkha-clad women with head scarfs hither and thither. But let us break your bubble; Muslim women in Oman don’t usually cover their heads unless they visit Mosques. In normal life, they like to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants or an ankle-length skirt. To avoid unwanted stares from men and to avoid disrespecting their culture, it is advisable to avoid clothes that are too tight or too revealing. Try to keep your arms and legs covered with clothes at all times. You may wear swimsuit at a beach, but keep yourself covered otherwise. Even if it’s too hot, try to wear light cotton clothes instead of going for shorts and crop tops.

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How to Respect the Local Culture in Public?

People of Oman are kind of conservative, and they do not like too much exposure to the western world. Apart from keeping yourself covered with clothes, couples should avoid kissing, hugging or other acts of affection in public. However, holding hands is fine. Drinking alcohol in public is also seen as a disrespectful act in Oman. Try to be polite while speaking to someone, even if you are asking for a way. You can keep your memories cherished by clicking a few photographs in Oman, but make sure that you do not include any local people in your pictures without their permission, especially women. Apart from that, you should follow some general etiquettes in the place, such as not spitting here and there, keeping surroundings clean, not littering around, not fighting with anyone, not smoking in public places, etc.

How to Respect the Local Culture during Ramadan?

If you happen to visit Oman during Ramadan, you are in the luck. You will feel an entirely different atmosphere at this time. However, you will need to be solicitous towards their lifestyle during notable holidays like the Ramadan. If you look around, you will see both women and men in decent clothing. So, be very picky about your sartorial choices while there is Ramadan going on. Things that are strictly not allowed during Ramadan is eating, drinking or chewing gums in public view throughout this period. Most restaurants are closed during this period, but they open as soon as dusk settles. During Ramadan, many restaurants also cover their windows as a symbol to restrain. Irrespective of Ramadan, the purchase and consumption of alcohol is restricted for the tourists and expats alike. Oman remains relatively quiet during days and it is illegal to play loud music, drink or eat during this time. So, if you feel these rules a little tough to follow, it’s better to avoid visiting the place during this period.

How to Respect the Local Culture while Visiting a Local

People of Oman are very friendly and hospitable. If they like you, they would be happy to invite you to their home. If you happen to get this experience, don’t forget to bring a gift for them. Before entering their house, make sure to take your shoes off. Men are addressed as ‘Sayed’ and women are addressed as ‘Sayeeda’. Although it’s not mandatory, local people would respond well to you if you greet them the right way. Typically, when you visit the house of a local Omani, you will be served Omani coffee and dates. Since they respect punctuality, try to be on time. Be polite and begin the conversation by inquiring about their health, family and business. However, limit your questions about women in the house, do not pass any sarcastic comments on their Sultan, their government or their religion. Handshake is the most appropriate way of greeting them, and when you visit their house, shake hand with the eldest person in the house before anyone else.

See also: First time in Oman? Here are our top 5 tips for your trip

Although Omani customs are changing gradually, it is best to respect their local culture. Modern people may not mind much, but you may be frowned upon by conservative Omanis if you do not follow these tips.

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