Oman is a fairly liberal place, however as an Arabic country with Islam as the official religion, you do need to be considerate of the local customs. This post covers what to wear as a woman in Oman for different occasions, as well as some insight into the traditional dress!
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What to wear as a woman in Oman:
General tourist advice
In general you are advised to cover your shoulders and to wear knee length trousers or skirts. A top tip is not to show underwear (eg bra straps or pants sticking out of trousers), as this is seen as very disrespectful.
It’s advisable to dress cool. The weather is very hot in Oman, even in the winter (it was over 30 degrees most days I was there in early November). So loose light layers are better than thick tight clothing. Also light coloured clothing is better than dark or black, which will definitely absorb the sun and make you feel twice as hot!
It’s also a good idea to have a hat or something to cover your head under the intense sun. I didn’t do this and definitely caught the sun on my forehead!
What to wear to be respectful of local traditions
To be respectful of the country you can go further and cover more. I’ve seen local women muttering about tourists wearing sleeveless tops for example. So covering the upper arms and shoulders and legs down to the knees is the minimum.
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Some places need no touch ups! . Here I am at Wadi Bani Khalid – a popular place to visit and swim for both locals and tourists alike. . Usually the water is clearer than this but there was a flood a few says prior so all the mud got stirred up – it made it strange not to see what was nibbling you under the water ? . Given the high number of local families you have to swim covered up (shoulders to knees covered) – so I swam in a skirt and T-shirt! . You can see how covered I am for my daily dress here too – long sleeves and long trousers. For me this is about being respectful to the local culture and trying not to get sunburnt… . You can wear t-shirts and knee length shorts or skirts instead of full length clothing in Oman (except the Grand Mosque) . #whatskatiedoingblog #oman #wadibanikhaled #swimmingtime #jumpin? #passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #femaletravelbloggers #darlingescapes #traveldreamseekers #oasis
I packed a lot of light cotton shirts and longer trousers. Both Capri chinos and the loose linen trousers that you can see in the above photos. (GAP girlfriend chinos were popular in the group!) I also brought a longer wrap cotton skirt.
I brought a long flowing kaftan that I used in the dessert. Our guide liked this and thought it was very respectful, even if it was a bit of fun for me! (It was very comfortable and light though!)
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Of course no trip to the Middle East is complete without the obligatory sunset dune photo shoot ? . We weren’t taking ourselves too seriously at sunset – here is me modelling my Mum’s 70’s kaftan – the local guides were very impressed by it and it was light enough to layer over my other clothes . Taken at Wahiba (or golden) Sands desert 150 miles south of Muscat in Oman. . Ps check out my stories for outtakes!! ? . #wahibasands #middleeast #whatskatiedoingblog #wahibasandsdesert #wahibasandsoman #oman #desert #sunset? #desertsunset #visitoman #passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #femaletravelbloggers #darlingescapes #traveldreamseekers #intrepidtravel #smallgrouptours
A few men in our dessert camp also dressed traditionally in Dish dash and the Omani hats, you can buy these and traditional women’s wear at the souq and markets.
Respecting the traditions can easily be done by using a light scarf as an additional cover up too.
What to wear when visiting the Grand Mosque
At the Grand Mosque the rules are enforced quite strictly. Everyone must wear long trousers or skirts that cover the ankle. In addition women must wear long sleeves and cover their head with a scarf or similar.
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Guess where I am?! . To everyone who guessed Oman – yes! This was taken at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat! . #whatskatiedoingblog #intrepidtravel #smallgrouptravel #middleeast #passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #femaletravelbloggers #oman #muscat #grandmosque #sultanqaboosgrandmosque #darlingescapes #traveldreamseekers #islamicart
I had an abaya from my time in Saudi, so it was easy for me to wear this on top of my ordinary clothes (long skirt, but it wouldn’t have been long enough on it’s own, with light floating short sleeved top) and a head scarf. Apparently I cut quite the elegant figure!
What to wear at a private beach or swimming area
Basically anything goes (except topless women or nudity!) This might be in a hotel or at a private beach or wadi area. You can wear a bikini or swimsuit and normal pool cover ups.
What to wear when swimming in public
In public you have to be more cautious. This could be at the public beach, or at a wadi. When we visited Wadi Bani Khalid there were tourist police making sure people were covered up when swimming.
For women this means covering your shoulders and wearing clothing down to your knees. So a T-shirt and leggings (sports fabric a great idea here!) is ideal. I swam in a gym T-shirt and a long cotton skirt, that thankfully didn’t billow out or impede my swimming too much. Note that men can wear what they want pretty much – but speedos in public are too much!! (aren’t they anywhere in the world outside of a swimming competition?!)
If you are exercising outside then the same standards hold – cover your shoulders and legs to the knee. I saw lots of people running along the sea front first thing in the morning, including women running on their own. They were all covered wearing gym gear that included T-shirt’s and longer leggings (no sports bras as tops!).
Like all women, Omani women like nice sandals, so you definitely need to bring a pair. I pretty much lived in my flip flops (which looked like sandals), and I brought a nice sparkly pair for evenings. Be warned that a lot of the tiled floors are very slippery and polished, so you may want to wear something with traction.
I wore the Havaianas flip flops in the style with a back, so they look more like sandals. These I find quite comfortable and easy to take on and off [affiliate link]
It’s also useful to bring a pair of trainers or walking sandals. These are useful both for walks, for example along the Balcony of the Grand Canyon and for places where it’s cooler at night (e.g. when at altitude). Trainers are not needed elsewhere. The local men wear slip on sandals for everything and it’s worth noting that you’ll need to take shoes off when entering the Grand Mosque or when sitting on traditional carpets.
What the locals wear in Oman:
In general when you see a local women they will be wearing an abaya and a head scarf. However underneath the abaya they could be wearing anything! (Just like I was at the mosque)
I’ve previously written about traditional Islamic dress in Saudi Arabia and Oman is similar in respect of the abaya and hijab.
There are a few things that are a bit different in my experience in Oman. In Ibra we visited the the women’s market and saw ladies embroidering cuffs for trousers. There were also more colours on show than just black.
These ladies let us take photos of their traditional attire (albeit a couple still hid their faces).
In general our guide said that the Bedouin ladies wore more colours than those based in urban areas. They also have different styles of face covering or burka. We didn’t see any women wearing the yellow masks as below, but we did see some Bedouin ladies at Ibra women’s market wearing similar in black.
Omani head dress is also decorative and can be colourful too:
Omani men’s dress
The traditional dress is similar to other Arabic countries – with the dish dash being the primary item. The Omani cap is a distinctive item that most men wear also. This marks them out as different to their Saudi and other gulf neighbours.
Instead of the cap, men may wear a turban. This is a scarf worn a different way to the other gulf regions, so another differentiating item for Omanis.
The ceremonial dagger or khanjar, is also key to the Omani identity and their swords are distinctive in being long and rectangular in shape.
Underneath this Omani men wear a wizarah (a kind of sarong) and white T-shirt (not trousers, another thing that can differentiate between the countries of the gulf region)
I hope you found this post interesting and useful! I have been travelling in Oman with Intrepid Travel, more posts on the trip to come soon.
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