Welcome to Oman: A glimpse into Omani hospitality
Oman may not be the Middle East’s most sparkly or decadent nation, but what it doesn’t offer in flashy malls and lavish skyscrapers it makes up for in warm hospitality. The Omani people are proud of their rich cultural heritage and boast a strong sense of identity.
A trip to Oman offers visitors a rare glimpse into the Arab world, especially as it’s common to be invited into an Omani home. Here’s what you need to know about the customs and traditions of this seductive Arabian land before you visit.
History and Traditions
Up until 1970, Oman was a conservative, developing nation with very little in the way of roads, schools, and hospitals. Since Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said took power – after replacing his father as leader – the country has undergone massive change.
Oman today is an advanced, modern nation with all the trappings of a civilised nation: healthcare, education, and infrastructure. Tourism is a growing industry. The capital, Muscat – home to Millennium Executive Apartments Muscat – is a stylish first port of call for most visitors. Crucially, development has been sensitive to preserving the Omani people’s cultural identity and because of this, locals hold a deep respect for their leader.
The National Psyche
Oman has developed quickly, but has been careful about integrating outside influences. The result is tolerance and acceptance of customs from abroad combined with pride in the country’s long history and a commitment to maintaining its traditions.
The cities are modern, but if you venture into rural areas you’re likely to see Bedouin farmers herding goats in the mountains. Villagers still use the sun and stars to time their allocation of water from the local irrigation systems so they can water their date palm plantations.
In the Home
Omani people are warm and welcoming. It’s not unusual to be invited into a local’s home after a day touring the mountains or walking through the local souk. It’s considered polite to take a small gift for your host.
When entering an Omani home, you’ll likely be greeted with scents of frankincense and cardamom, and treated to Omani coffee, dates, and halwa – a local dessert made with saffron, dates, and rosewater. Coffee is served in small cups, which are refilled until the guest gives them a gentle shake to signal they’ve had enough.
Culture and Respect
A smile goes a long way in Oman. Locals are fascinated by visitors, so don’t be put off by any stares you may receive – a smile or wave will be returned with an equally warm gesture. Try to avoid getting upset in public – especially on the road – and avoid criticising any aspect of the country, especially the much-loved Sultan.
As in most Arab nations, dressing appropriately is an important way of showing respect. Women should cover shoulders and arms, and skirts should reach beneath the knee. For men, long pants and long-sleeved shirts are best.
For travellers seeking a unique insight into the Arabian world, and warm, welcoming hospitality – not to mention the chance to experience sandy deserts, lush mountains, traditional Bedouin culture, and modern cities – Oman is the ideal destination.