Oman Culture and Customs: A Guide for the Curious
The Sultanate of Oman is an exotic country that has preserved many of its traditional values and practices. The people of Oman live in a rigid social stratification system, where class determines one’s identity, opportunities, and lifestyle. Omani culture is a fascinating mix of diverse traditions. Even though the country has become more modernized over time, some aspects of its old ways remain firmly entrenched in everyday life. Even if you’re only planning to visit Oman for a short period, it’s important to understand their culture and their way of life. This guide will help you learn about the various aspects of Omani culture so you can plan your trip accordingly.
Etiquette and Customs
Before we go into the details of Omani culture, let’s start with some general etiquette and customs that you should keep in mind while traveling in Oman. While Omanis are generally welcoming and friendly people, it’s important to remember that cultural sensitivity is essential when you’re traveling in a foreign country.
- It’s considered impolite to point with your index finger. Instead, use a fully open hand with your palm facing upward. - Always greet people with a smile and Salamalekum (Hello).
- Omanis are very modest people, so it’s best to wear clothing that covers the arms, legs, and cleavage. You should also avoid wearing shorts, or any other clothing that exposes the legs or knees.
- You should always remove your shoes when you enter someone’s home. You should also remove your hat indoors.
- When dining at restaurants, waiters will come around at the end of the meal to collect your plates. Don’t put your dirty plates on the table, as this is considered impolite.
- If you’re invited to a home, it’s a good idea to bring a small gift for your host.
The Basics: Shaking Hands and hugging
When you’re greeting people in Oman, it’s best to stick to the traditional greeting methods. Shaking hands is acceptable in business settings, but hugging is considered more appropriate when greeting women and children. When shaking hands with men, be sure to move your hand from the lower to the upper position. This is a sign of trust among Omanis and is a custom that is essential for building strong business relationships. When greeting women, it’s best to give a slight nod and smile, followed by a handshake. You should always wait for the woman to extend her hand first. With children, wait for the child to extend his/her hand first, and then shake it gently.
Traveling in Oman: by foot, car, bus, or camel
If you’re traveling through Oman, you’ll find that walking is the best way to explore the country’s breathtaking landscapes. As you walk, you’ll encounter friendly locals and get to experience the rhythm of everyday Omani life. When traveling in and around cities, it’s best to use a taxi. It’s also a good idea to hire a driver for the day so you can travel to the most interesting destinations. When traveling through the mountains and deserts, taxis and rental cars are not recommended. Instead, you should hire a driver, or take a tour in an SUV with a driver. If you’re planning to visit the desert, it’s best to hire an experienced guide. You can hire guides in Muscat and other major cities in Oman.
Food and Dining Practices
When you’re eating in Oman, it’s important to be aware of some basic dining practices. Be sure to eat with your right hand, as it’s considered impolite to eat with your left hand. When dining at restaurants, waiters may come around with hot towels that you can use to clean your hands before the meal. It’s best to use a towel, especially if you’re dining with locals, as it’s considered impolite to eat with dirty hands. When you’re at the table, don’t stack your dishes up. Wait for the waiters to come and collect your dishes. Most restaurants in Oman offer halal food, meaning that meat and other products are permissible under Islamic law. If you’re visiting areas where many locals speak Hindi, you should ask if a certain dish is halal. Most restaurants will have Arabic food and Western food options. Arabic food is made mostly with lamb, seafood, and chicken. Western food options include fish and chicken.
Although Omani women enjoy relatively good rights in comparison to other Muslim countries, women are often expected to be modest and submissive. When traveling in Oman, you should keep in mind that the country has a strict public decency code. It’s forbidden to wear clothing that reveals the cleavage, legs, or knees. In public places, you should make sure that your dress covers your shoulders and your knees. It’s also best to wear a headscarf when visiting mosques. If you’re a woman traveling alone, it’s best to be extra careful. Avoid visiting remote areas and try to always travel in taxis or with a group of people.
Shopping in Oman
When you’re planning to shop in Oman, it’s best to visit the city of Muscat. You can visit one of the many traditional souks, or marketplaces, to browse through a large selection of traditional handicrafts, rugs, spices, and fabrics. You can also visit modern shopping malls in Muscat, such as City Center, Al Alam, Al-Bawshar, Al-Jawwad, and Qurm Park. You can also visit the local bazaar in the city of Nizwa. You’ll find more traditional goods there, such as spices, rugs, fabrics, and carpets.
Oman is a fascinating country that has preserved many of its traditional values and practices. The people of Oman live in a rigid social stratification system, where class determines one’s identity, opportunities, and lifestyle. This guide will help you learn about the various aspects of Omani culture so you can plan your trip accordingly. Remember, cultural sensitivity and respect are the keys to successful travel.