Oman is a conservative Muslim country and though the local population is very friendly and accommodative, one must take all precautions to respect their religious sentiments. You can avoid hurting their cultural sensibilities by dressing inappropriately in public. The key question which most visitors from the West ask is: How to dress appropriately in Oman? And the answer is very simple: Men and women, avoid revealing clothes.
As you move around the city as well as the countryside, you would notice the common national attire of men and women which is considered a cultural asset that they take pride in. This is unlike many other countries where people have shed their national attire and taken to an internationally-popular Western style of dressing.
The Omanis, by and large, wear their national attire for all formal purposes (work, school/college, functions/celebrations) whether at home or out on a stroll to the beach. In fact, it is their dress which distinguishes them from the vast expatriate population which outnumbers them by leaps and bounds. They prefer to maintain their cultural identity everywhere.
Though a large number of the younger generation (men and women, boys and girls) love to don western outfits (for outings or to meet job requirements) as well as sports gear while out on the playground, they wear their national attire for all other purposes. The men wear a long white robe and a cap or a turban. The women wear a variety of traditional/western outfits which are covered up with a long black robe called an abaya. They also tightly wrap their hair with a black or coloured scarf. Designer variations of this attire for men and women, in different colours, can also be seen around town.
While there is no harm for expatriates/tourists to purchase and wear the traditional attire to click photographs, it is best not to be seen in the national attire in public. Some Omanis might take offence to ‘outsiders’ wearing their national dress. So, make sure not to wear these while on a sight-seeing tour or when visiting any official establishment, police station, even a supermarket. However, while this might be considered taboo for males, expatriate females do wear abayas or scarves to appear modest in public. And it is not considered offensive.
What to wear
For moving around the city, it is important to know how to dress right in Oman. Sleeved shirts/t-shirts and trousers are best for men, while shorts need to be knee length at some casual locations like beaches/parks or shopping at hypermarkets. Women should avoid wearing shorts or short skirts/dresses or sphagetti strapped tops/sleeveless tops. The shoulders need to be covered while revealing/low-neck dresses are considered immodest. Make sure to dress appropriately to avoid being pulled up or denied entry at some shopping arcades or commercial establishments.
It is not uncommon to be seen in bikinis or swimming trunks at swimming pools in hotels but one must avoid wearing such attire at public beaches or be seen walking around in swimwear in other facilities in a hotel/resort other than the poolside. Also, it is customary for all males to wear trousers that reach up to the ankles and women to cover their hair with scarves or stolls when visiting mosques or religious places for tourism purposes.
If you dress appropriately and respect the local culture, you will not have any problem moving around different parts of Oman, whether the city or the countryside.