19/07/2024

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What to Know When You Visit Oman

6 min read
What to Know When You Visit Oman

Visiting Oman offers enchanting surprises and warm hospitality. Here are tips for what to know when you visit Oman, including etiquette and customs.

A visit to Oman, a sultanate (territory or country ruled by a sultan), is full of surprises. Many come here to see the desert, go snorkeling and diving, visit beaches, and even go hiking. Oman, located in the Middle East in the Persian Gulf near Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, is a place to see ancient villages and turtles. It is known for its hospitality. People will always greet you and offer help, no matter what. They will go above and beyond to ensure you enjoy your time. Here are some of the things you must know when you visit Oman.

My Experience in Oman

Having lived in Oman for almost four years, people always ask me if it is a safe country. I laugh and say it’s one of the safest countries. For example, I can leave my purse at a shop or restaurant, and at the end of the day it will still be on the table. Oman is an oasis, and if you are up for exploring, are flexible, and don’t mind if plans change while you are here, this is the place to come. Below is a list of things to remember while planning your trip to Oman. The list includes how to get there, etiquette, customs, and hospitality.

Visit Oman - camel show

Men dancing at a camel show. Photo by Erin Coyle

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Getting to Oman

When traveling from the US to Oman, some airlines fly to Dubai or Abu Dhabi and then to Muscat International Airport, while others go through Qatar. There are no direct flights, so expect to have at least one or two layovers. I have flown on Qatar Airways and KLM. For those coming from Europe, airlines typically go through Amsterdam.

It is easy to rent a car at the airport, but I recommend Dollar Car Rental because they have the most reasonable prices. A four-wheel drive is necessary if you plan to go hiking in the mountains or camping in the desert. Fixed taxis are also available outside the airport, and tour companies can make arrangements. The most accessible place to check with tour companies is on Instagram. I recommend checking out @sightstour and @thesuwgra for more information.

Visit Oman and the desert sand.

Bidiya desert. Photo by Erin Coyle

Etiquette to Remember When You Visit Oman

It is imperative to dress appropriately during your visit to Oman. In some villages, women should have their shoulders covered, while men should not wear shorts above the knee. My friend was not allowed to enter one of the villages once because his shorts did not cover his knees. Women should avoid wearing shorts.

It is essential to sport appropriate swimwear and to respect the local culture when going to the wadis (streams). I suggest trying to cover your knees by putting yoga pants or capris over your swimsuit. I have asked local friends how they feel about the dress, and some have expressed that it bothers them when they see women wearing bikinis in the wadis. Yes, you will be swimming in the Middle East, and it is respectful to dress according to local customs when visiting Oman; otherwise, it is considered impolite.

Some larger supermarkets will not allow citizens or residents inside if they wear shorts above the knee. Privately owned hotels are laxer and allow swimsuits and shorts. Secluded beaches are another place where you can don regular swimsuits.

Mosque Etiquette

Visiting a mosque in Oman is an incredible experience and a wonderful way to explore the local culture. However, you must adhere to attire guidelines here, as in other mosques and cathedrals worldwide.

Some mosques, like the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, ask women to cover their hair. Keep a scarf with you, wear appropriate clothing, such as a long skirt or pants, and have your arms covered when walking inside. Before entering the mosque, everyone should take off their shoes. When taking pictures, always ask for permission, especially in the villages. Women typically dislike being photographed.

Visit Oman and the Wajmah village.

Wajmah Village requires visitors to dress modestly. Photo by Erin Coyle

Food Customs to Know When You Visit Oman

Eating food with your right hand is common when you visit Oman. Restaurants will provide silverware but try eating with your hands. People will greet you by saying salim alikum. You should respond by saying alikum salim, which means peace to be upon you.

Visit Oman

It is customary to eat with your hands in Oman. Photo by Juan Alberto Casado via iStock by Getty Images

If you are going to someone’s home, the women will greet other women by kissing on each side of the face. If you know someone well, they may give you three kisses on the same cheek. Men will greet foreigners with a handshake, and sometimes locals will greet each other with a gentle hug and noses touching each other.

Coffee and Dates are an Oman Tradition

While exploring, there will always be an opportunity to have coffee and dates.

Visit Oman

Dates and coffee are served throughout Oman. Photo by Erin Coyle

When drinking coffee, you offer your cup if you want more. If you do not want to drink more, shake the cup and give it to your host. A friend told me once that it’s better to eat at least three dates, and if you want more, you should eat in odd numbers. Some people do this because the prophet Mohammed ate an odd number of dates.

Visit Oman

A bowl of dates and a dallah pot with Arabic coffee – known as gahwa in Arabic – are a tradition in Oman. Photo by Glen_Pearson via iStock by Getty Images

Taking Meals in a Private Home

If you are visiting someone’s home, you will be seated in a majlis, a type of sitting area near the house’s main entrance. There are two majlises, one for men and one for women. A majlis is where guests will eat. After the meal, the host sometimes offers bahour—similar to incense—to eliminate smells. They may also provide hand cream.

Visit Oman, a majlis.

A majlis. Photo by Erin Coyle

Hospitality During Your Visit to Oman

There will always be friendly faces and people who go out of their way to make you feel at home when you visit Oman. Do not be surprised; a local will offer tea, coffee, and snacks while hiking or wandering around. They will ask you to sit down and have a rest. Once we were with a friend of ours near the desert taking pictures. He ran into two tourists and told them to come with us to lunch at his mother’s house. They accepted the offer and enjoyed their visit with us. This example is one more reason to visit Oman.

During your time in Oman, you will notice how many people greet you when you are out exploring. Some may also invite you to have tea or coffee at a nearby shop. Always accept the offer because it’s a chance to meet people and learn more about Oman.

Visit Oman and try the hiking food.

Locals offer food while hiking. Photo by Erin Coyle

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Visit Oman—It’s a Special Place

I can’t say enough wonderful things about Oman. The people in this country will make you feel at home. There are many things to learn about the culture while visiting, and you will quickly realize that Oman is a special place. Relax, recharge and be open-minded when you visit Oman. When planning your trip to Oman, the Middle East, or another international destination, let Wander with Wonder be your guide.

Visiting Oman offers enchanting surprises and warm hospitality. Here are tips for what to know when you visit Oman, including etiquette and customs. The people in this country will make you feel at home. There are many things to learn about the culture while visiting, and you will quickly realize that Oman is a special place. Relax, recharge and be open-minded when you visit Oman.

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What to Know When You Visit Oman

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