Oman Cultural Overview
Oman is the easternmost of the Arab countries. The majority of its people are Arabs with sizable minorities of Baloch and Swahili communities, besides foreign workers. The culture of Oman is deeply rooted in Islam. In the seventh century AD, Abdullah ibn Ibadh founded a unique form of Islam called Ibadhism. This has a large following in Oman apart from a good number of Shia and Sunni Muslims. Omanis are highly tolerant towards all forms of Islam as well as other religions. Omanis strictly observe Islam especially during Ramadan. According to the tenets of Islam, religious endowments and taxes like awqaf and zakat are collected from the public and used for charity and religious purposes.
Arabic is the official language of the land, predominantly used for communication. However, one can also see many people speaking Bathari, Baloochi or Swahili because of their tribal and historical links with other regions. The government has adopted English as the second language. Almost all signs in the country are written both in Arabic and English.
Islamic Clothing of Oman
The national dress of Omani men is called dishdasha, a simple collarless gown to the length of the ankle with long sleeves. Mostly, the color of this costume is white, though one might see other variations too. Furakha is a tassel sewn into the neckline of this dress and dipped in perfume. A plain piece of cloth is worn from waist below the dishdasha covering the body. Omanis also wear different types of headdresses like muzzar. Omanis take great pride in wearing a special form of dagger called Khanjar, which is supported on waistbands or belts. Once worn for self-defense, khanjar has now become a symbol of fashion and prestige. Some men carry an ornamental stick called assa. Most Omani men wear sandals on their feet.
The costume of Omani women is colorful and ornate and reflects regional variations. The main component of a woman’s costume is an outfit worn over the trousers called sirwal and the headdress called lihaf. The elaborate embroidery on women costumes can take up to two months to complete. Omani women wear elaborate gold and silver jewelry around the head, neck, wrists, ankles, fingers and toes. Most women wear sandals or western type fashion shoes. Many women paint their hands and feet with henna, especially before weddings, holidays and festivals.
Cuisines of Oman represent a great variety. They are highly delicious and unique from other Arab countries. Kahwa is a bitter drink like coffee flavored with cardamom. This is often served with Lokhemat, a deep-fried ball of flour and yeast spiced with dry fruits and nuts. Cooked rice, meat, fish and bread are the main ingredients of most Omani dishes like maqbous and aursia. Other Omani specials are buttermilk drinks, salads and soups. Shuva is a popular festive meal requiring an elaborate preparation, often by the whole village community. To make this, a whole cow is roasted up for two days in a special oven placed in a pit dug in the ground. The meat becomes extremely tender and is then spiced elaborately.
Omani Social Life
With a great amount of oil revenue, Oman has modernized itself with a sound infra structure, roads, communication systems, hospitals and places of tourist attraction. Women are increasingly participating in national activities. However, western influences are quite restricted in the nation as an attempt to safeguard the interests of religion and tradition.