Marvellous ancient structures, its own grand canyon and even a 3100km coastline – Oman is surely one of the world’s most underrated destinations. But other than breathtaking landscapes, how much do we really know about the society’s traditions and values?
When visiting the Middle East, knowing about the dress code is an important part of travel planning. Having travelled to Oman, I think it’s necessary to be educated about the norms of the country.
The world is such a diverse place – it’s important to acknowledge and be respectful of other cultures and traditions. When travelling to Oman you need to pack outfits that will not only be suitable for the harsh desert climate, but which will also be respectful of the local culture.
Before visiting Oman I kept finding contradicting information online regarding the dress code in Oman, which is why I decided to put together a thorough answer to the question; what should I wear in Oman?
Here’s a guide on what to pack for a trip to Oman, and some basic dress code guidelines.
- 1 Oman climate & geography
- 2 Omani culture and traditions
- 3 Oman dress code & Omani clothing
- 4 What to wear in Oman: Packing list
- 4.1 Ladies
- 4.2 Men
- 4.3 Accessories for both
Oman climate & geography
Oman has a subtropical, dry desert climate. Temperatures in Oman can get ridiculously high (up to 40°C in summer!). There’s little rainfall and even in the winters, it’s still really hot (27°C).
Fortunately, you can find relief from the heat in the turquoise-water, white-sand beaches! Personally, I would suggest you try the Jebel Sifah beaches as they are some of the more unique places to visit in Oman.
Besides being a beach haven, the majority of the country has harsh desert conditions. In fact, 82% of the landscape is covered in desert scenery. So, traditional desert clothing is worn by both genders.
This means that thin, loose-fitting and flowy garments are worn to protect you from the mosquitoes and harsh sun. And trust me, you wouldn’t want to wear anything else in this kind of heat.
Omani culture and traditions
Oman is a conservative Middle Eastern country and one important fact to bear in mind here is that it is the oldest Arabic state in the Peninsula.
Omani traditions and customs have been passed down through the centuries, and are still maintained today. When in this territory, it’s really important to comply with the Islamic code of conduct.
Islam is the most prominent religion in the country, with almost 86% of the population calling themselves Muslim. It’s a very religious and traditional country, strongly rooted in its faith.
Oman dress code & Omani clothing
And the Islamic code of conduct applies to clothing too. You’ll notice the locals wearing garments that expose no skin and are quite conservative in nature.
But, tourists aren’t always expected to replicate the exact same outfit as the locals wear. For instance, you could choose to not cover your face, but you should still cover your shoulders and knees.
Oman Men’s Attire
The local men traditionally wear a Dishdasha (a thawb), which is a flowy, unfitted robe that almost reaches the ankle. An essential feature of the male outfit is the embroidered hat that is typically made from white cloth.
Oman Women’s Attire
The females in Oman wear a Sirwal long dress over pants and a headdress called a Lihaf which either shows only the eyes or the face.
What to wear in Oman: Packing list
So you’re planning for a trip to Oman – but what do you pack? Here’s a basic guide to a few essential items you should be taking with you.
Women’s clothing in Oman is more modest and ensures that the upper body is entirely covered (arms and shoulders). Most Omani ladies wear loose-fitting garments. To dress respectfully while visiting here’s what you should pack.
Oman has a long-stretching coastline and natural emerald rock pools. You’ll surely want to retreat to these on especially hot days. You will be able to wear a western swim costume, but some places will require more coverage.
Generally speaking a onepiece swimsuit is better than a bikini, and your bottoms shouldn’t be too “cheeky” cut. In some of the wadis or beaches that are regularly visited by locals you might even find signs showing how you should be dressing. These usually show people swimming in t-shirts and knee-length shorts.
You could also consider wearing a swimsuit that covers half of the body. We visited Oman during Ramadan which meant there were no locals around when we visited Wadi Shab and Wadi Bani Khalid, which allowed us a bit more freedom. Normally you would have to dress more conservatively.
Something to cover your hair
You won’t always need to cover your hair, but it’s mandatory if you visit a mosque and in some situations you might feel more comfortable wearing one (eg. if you’re the only woman walking around a souq or in a small town like Misfat Al Abriyeen). There are many different colours and designs for head scarfs.
It’s commonly acceptable for women to wear skirts or also dresses that extend below the knee (at least). But garments that go below the ankle are more acceptable in some of the stricter areas.
Long-Sleeved Top Piece
You may wake up one day wanting to rock some long pants, which would then require a long-sleeved shirt. Make sure the shirts cover your arms, shoulders and chest.
Your feet are the one body part that you won’t be shamed for showing in Oman. You should bring a pair comfortable trainers if you plan to hike, but also a pair of sandals for walking around on a day to day basis. Birkenstock are my favourite sandals.
The rule of thumb for men is to never wear shorts in public. Always be sure to cover your shoulders too, so no sleeveless shirts either. Here are a few staples to pack.
You’ll be just fine wearing your typical swimming trunks here, but not too short. Most places are okay with this, and if others aren’t, they’ll specify. To be safe, always pack a swimming shirt as well.
Long Flowy Pants
You’re going to need light materials that are breathable, but also long. Linen cotton pants are preferred to combat the high daily temperatures because they’re light on the skin.
Casual Long Shirts
Men should cover their arms too and wear long stretching garments. That’s why you should pack some lightweight cotton long-sleeve shirts too.
The scorching heat can sometimes be too harsh on the face, which is why you’ll need a sun hat.
Accessories for both
Regardless of whether you’re male or female, there are some accessories or gadgets that you will find useful.
When we visited Oman there had just been some heavy rainfall and flooding. When we visited the wadis we often found ourselves having to walk through knee deep water to continue our hikes. That meant we either had to get our shoes wet or hike in flip flops, which isn’t particularly safe.
I recommend bringing water shoes with you so that you can avoid these problems. Even if the weather conditions are normal and the rivers aren’t flooded you will still be more at ease.
If you plan to visit the wadis it’s better to have a waterproof bag with you. That way you can bring your phone or camera with you without ever risking to get it wet.
Whether you’re doing a self drive road trip or a group tour make sure to bring a power bank with you! You never when you might be out and about and need your phone.
The sun is very strong in Oman, make sure to pack sunscreen! Even if you’re wearing loose clothes that cover most of your skin, you’ll still want to wear sunscreen in the sun exposed parts.
Final thoughts on what to pack for a trip to Oman
I really fell in love with Oman’s breathtaking scenery and atmosphere. I would hate for visitors to second-guess going there by fear of having to dress too conservatively.
This is part of the experience and we as tourists need to respect their culture. Their clothing protects you from the ravaging heat as well as insects, so it’s for a good cause.
Oman is opening up to tourism and while it’s usually fine for tourists to not be dressed like the locals, there are often signs in public areas that will help tourists understand what the dress code expectations are.
So, add Oman to your bucket list and get ready to have the most culturally-thrilling, eye-pleasing trip of your life!
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