Oman is marketed as being a very liberal country, compared with some of its neighbours. And Oman does have a very cosmopolitan vibe, leading visitors into a false sense of the culture being much more western, as there are a lot of expats around. Especially in Muscat although, in general, expats know how to behave, and how to respect local traditions. However, in the interior of the country, in particular, people do have very strict codes of conduct, and some tourists still remain blind to this. Women dressing inappropriately is the biggest faux pas. If you cover up properly, including shoulders, neckline, the whole arm and your legs, and also make sure nothing is too tight or transparent, you will be treated very differently by local people too. Also women need a scarf to cover the head in mosques. Scarves aren’t provided, but at the Grand Mosque there are lovely women who will show you how to wrap it properly. Having said all that, it is worth noting that women’s rights are stronger in Oman than in neighbouring countries. There are a few women at senior levels of government, there is a high employment rate of women, since 2010 married women can have passports without the consent of their husbands and marry without the consent of their parents. Although these may seem basic, it is put into perspective by pointing out that women have only had the right to vote in Oman since 1994, and this was pioneering, as it was the first Arab country to grant this right. For more information on women’s rights in Oman, see the UN website
The Omanis are extremely friendly and never criticise or judge. In fact, an Omani can be taken to court for insulting someone. It just isn’t done, and with teasing or wind ups being part of many European cultures, you will understand why that ‘only joking, mate’ slap on the back attitude doesn’t work here. And rude hand gestures are also illegal by the way, so don’t let road rage get you into trouble. Omanis are very laid back, however, and the last thing they
want to do is offend. The most respected person is, of course, the Sultan, who has done nothing but good for the country, especially when it comes to healthcare and education. So, criticising the Sultan is never done.
Showing intimacy in public is not done either, in particular, outside Muscat and Salalah. People like to shake hands as a greeting, but never shake hands with someone of the opposite sex unless they offer first. What Omanis do
often offer, is an invitation into their home, as they love welcoming people in and bringing a small gift such as dates or honey is a tradition when you are invited. Use only the right hand for accepting and eating food. Always take your shoes off, but avoid showing the soles of your feet, which implies that you think the other person is ‘dirt’.