Oman Podcast Sultanate

Sultanate Ep 003: What to Wear as a Visitor to Oman and Cultural Respect

April 5, 2016

what to wear as a visitor to oman

What to wear as a visitor to Oman?

This is probably the number one question I am asked about Oman. Well actually, the question is probably more like, “are women all fully covered in Oman?” I love this question because it lets me speak about the great things that go on here, and how Oman doesn’t fit the western stereotype of the Middle East. It also opens door for me to relate Oman back to the curious traveler who asked the question with advice on what to wear as a visitor to Oman. And in case your were wondering; women are not required to cover themselves by law. However, culturally, Omani women do typically cover their heads by choice with a beautiful piece of cloth called a shayla.

In this episode of the Sultanate I chat with two of the most adventurous people I know, Goos and Agnes, about cultural respect as visitors to Oman, as well as clothing choices you need to make when planning a trip to the Sultanate. Goos and Agnes are a Dutch couple I met here in Muscat shortly after I arrived in 2011, and they bring to the table a wealth of knowledge from a lifetime of travel, including living and raising children abroad in some very exotic countries. Goos works in the oil industry which has taken him and his family to live in places like Pakistan, Scotland, Nigeria, Australia, and Oman. Currently Goos and Agnes are on their second posting in Muscat and can tell you some great stories about what it was like here on their first posting in the 1980s.

We discuss the topics of: what to wear and what not to wear from both the men’s and women’s perspective, how to respect the Omani culture, how to project your marital status as an unmarried couple, how to stay cool when it is hot, handshaking, and I throw in a few stories for good measure.

D’s Recomendations on What to Wear as a Visitor to Oman (as a minimum)

Public BeachSwim ShortsAvoid if possible, best to find a quiet secluded beach and wear conservative swim suit and cover up outside of the water
Hotel Beach/PoolBudgie smugglersBikini
SportShorts that extend to the knee and t-shirtPants to the ankle and shirt that covers cleavage, shoulders, and mid drift
Public PlacePants and short sleeve shirt with close toed shoes shoesPants to the ankle and shirt that covers cleavage, shoulders, and mid drift
MosquePants and short sleeve shirt with close toed shoes shoesPants to the ankle and shirt that covers your neck, mid drift, and arms. Also, you'll be required to cover your head and all of your hair with a shayla
Hiking/CampingShorts and t-shirtPants to the ankle and shirt that covers cleavage, shoulders, and mid drift
Royal Opera HouseDress shirt, tie, and trousers. Suit recommendedTrousers/blouse or dress that covers your legs, mid drift, and shoulders

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  • Reply Skyler April 12, 2016 at 0505

    Very nice man! Dress to impress

    • Reply D. Michael April 12, 2016 at 2111

      I’ve got a great feature on Omani traditional dress in pre-production. Inshallah, it will get in the episode queue this year. Shway, shway.

  • Reply Stella January 2, 2017 at 1008

    Beautiful blog! I had a question for you – my boyfriend and I will be traveling to Dubai and driving to Muscat and back in the next few weeks. I understand that it is illegal for unmarried couples to be alone in an enclosed space ( e.g. hotel rooms, cars) – I’m not so much worried about hotels, but we will need to stop at various points for exit and entry visas with the authorities. We also happen to be a white / East Asian couple with different passports, and I am aware that this may attract some attention as well. Do you think it’s likely that we will be asked for a marriage certificate during these interaction points with the authorities? Im curious and slightly nervous about this. Any thoughts would be much appreciated!

    • Reply D. Michael January 6, 2017 at 1246

      As long as your visa status is good, you will have no problems. Nobody will ask for your marriage certificate in Oman.

  • Reply Latifah Woswasi November 12, 2017 at 1423

    Stumbled across your blog and find it really cool and interesting and a lot of good info ! But I got a couple of very controversial thoughts regarding how to dress :
    Guests are guests – they come from a different culture, the behave differently, they dress differently, they use a different language and and have different preferences of food – but if you welcome guests why wouldn’t you accept that they are different ? So from my Zanzibar point of view, guests are welcome to dress as they want as long as it is not totally offensive – like bikini or speedos in our local village shop ( I don’t think anybody would do this at home, too).
    From my experience in Austria right now – take Zell am See as an example : very popular with arab tourists during summer time and I got a couple of friends there and thats how they see it :
    The women are wrapped up which is culturally not normal there ( its about the same as dragging your wife on a dog leash….), men wear kanzus which are seen as drag or nightwear and so on…. but nonetheless they are welcome because they are guests ! Would you advise you omani friends if they go to Europe to dress in shorts, t-shirt and mini skirt to respect the locals ?

    • Reply D. Michael November 12, 2017 at 2053

      Hi Fatifah,
      Thanks for your comment. I encourage all my friends (Omani and otherwise) to blend into the place they are visiting and to dress in clothing that is appropriate as well as according to the dress code of the places they are visiting. That shows the most respect, and that you understand different points of views. It also might be more convenient for an Arab to dress in western clothing when visiting western countries. H.M Sultan Qaboos does exactly this when he visits Europe. However, you bring up the point of cultural respect not being a two way street with the Muslim world. That point of view I can see, however Oman is the most understanding of them all, in my opinion.

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