Asia Middle East

Oman Culture and Traditions

As a country beginning with letter O listed on, Oman is a state of Southwest Asia (309,500 km²). Capital: Muscat (Masqaţ). Administrative division: regions (5), governorates (3). Population: 2,909,000 residents (2008 estimate). Language: Arabic (official), English. Religion: Muslims (Ibadi) 73.6%, Sunni Muslims 14.1%, Hindus 7.4%, Christians 3.7%, others 1.2%. Monetary unit: Omani rial (1,000 baiza). Human Development Index: 0.839 (53rd place). Borders: Gulf of Oman (NE), Arabian Sea (E and S), Yemen (SW), Saudi Arabia (W), United Arab Emirates (NW). Member of: GCC, Arab League, OCI, UN and WTO.


Oman is, like its neighbors on the Arabian Peninsula, a deeply Islamic country. However, although this involves, for example, the application of many social limitations that discriminate against women, the interpretation of the Koranic precepts is less oppressive here than in neighboring Saudi Arabia. If, on the one hand, in many villages people still live according to traditional, if not tribal, customs, on the other hand, in the cities, development and modernity have found, more than elsewhere, a high degree of integration with the historical heritage. In architecture, first of all, which used solutions in which many classical elements have been kept and inserted in modern buildings, avoiding the contrast and ostentation present in other Middle Eastern urban centers. Precisely the aesthetic balance between history and innovation makes Muscat, the capital, a pleasant place where you can get in touch with the different souls of the country. The most important cultural institutions are located here, gathered under the supervision of the Ministry of National Heritage and Culture: there is the Oman Museum, founded in 1974, which houses many objects of Islamic art, the National Museum (1978), the Natural History Museum (1983). In the capital there are also three forts of the sixteenth century, Mutrah, Jalali and Mirani (in all of Oman there are several hundred of them, from different eras, as well as there are many castles in the desert) and the suggestive residence of the sultan. The Omani cultural sites declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO are the Bahla Fort (1987); the archaeological areas of Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn (1988); the Way of Incense (2000); i Aflaj irrigation systems (2006). Prominent cultural events include the Muscat International Book Fair, an important annual event for Arab publishing, and the performances of the Royal Symphony Orchestra.


In Oman, and especially in the inland regions, many of the local traditions are still alive. Indigenous customs and practices find privileged expression in clothing, in the great variety of dances and songs that accompany religious or civil celebrations and in typical handicraft products. Men often wear the traditional dishdashah, a kind of shirt, accompanied by a turban, the muzzar; women wear wide trousers (sirwal), a long garment in bright colors (thawb), and a sort of scarf on the head (hijab). Dancing and singing are real arts, practiced by men and women all over the country but with some differences from area to area. In the Ash Sharqīyah region, for example, the songs are divided into three categories, with different purposes: there are songs of the sea, the desert and the city. The razha, instead widespread in almost all of the sultanate, is a type of dance in which the protagonists recite verses and use the traditional and beautiful swords, whose workmanship is among the most precious and appreciated in the Middle East. In the Musandam peninsula, on the other hand, dances and choreographies are very often accompanied by the pressing rhythms of percussion. In craftsmanship, the excellences of Oman are, in addition to the aforementioned swords, the equally famous curved daggers, the khanjar from the decorated silver sheaths, the wood carvings, the fabrics embellished with stones and jewels. Halfway between artisanal and industrial production is the construction of boats (the best known are the elders or dhows), a local activity of ancient origin linked to the close relationship between this people and the sea. The national cuisine does not reserve any particularities that differ from the typical Arab foods. Rice, meat (cooked in many ways and with different spices, such as shuwa, whose preparation takes from 24 to 48 hours) and fish are the basis of Omani cuisine, usually not spicy and surrounded by sweets and milk-based drinks or yogurt. The main holidays are those foreseen by Islam, to which civil recurrences are added such as National Day, which celebrates the expulsion of the Portuguese in the seventeenth century, or the birthday of the sultan. Traditional sports activities include camel and horse racing; Western sports such as football or rugby have also been popular for many years.

Oman Culture