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Middle East >> Oman >> Oman People and Society

People and Society of Oman

Oman’s population is about 2 million. Though most Omanis are Arabs, the long trading history of Oman has led to an intermingling and intermarriages of Omani Arabs with other ethnic groups. There is an Indian merchant community in Muscat since 200 years. There about 300,000 expatriate workers from the Indian sub continent who comprise 50% of the total work force in Oman. There is a sizeable Indian and Pakistani population in the north coastal areas. In the north, Omani people with Persian and Baluchi ancestry are common.

Society Dos and Don’ts - Most of Oman adhere to strict Islamic principles and are conservative and traditional. Omanis are very hospitable and friendly but are very sensitive about many issues. Taking photographs anywhere in Oman is resented while taking pictures of women is completely out of bounds. It is suggested that you dress conservatively and modestly in rural areas. Don’t drink alcohol in public places to avoid problems with the police. During the month of Ramadan, eating, drinking or smoking in public is banned.

While women can drive and walk around unescorted in Oman, women travelers, especially single women, may feel uncomfortable in cheaper urban lodgings. They should avoid opening their room door if anyone knocks at night, and ignore stares and catcalls on the street. All restaurants have family rooms and it is suggested women tourists eat in the family room. Women can avoid unwanted attention by dressing conservatively, covering up as much of the arms and legs as possible and not wearing bikinis on the beach. Though it is not necessary for foreign women to wear scarves, in rural areas you will be respected if you do so. Single foreign women are an unusual sight throughout Oman, so do be careful about dressing conservatively.

Oman has a very orderly society, and so as long as you dress properly and avoid doing anything that the police may misconstrue as spying, you are safe.

Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the mosques in Oman.

The official language is Arabic but English is widely spoken in large cities and business circles. You will find street signs, and restaurant menus in both Arabic and English. Expatriate workers speak in Urdu, Hindi and Farsi. Though Arabic is used for education, official purposes and the media, there are several regional dialects. The ethnic Baluchi population in Mutrah (Muscat) speaks Baluchi, derived from ancient Indo Iranian language. Many locals in Salalah and other southern coastal towns in Oman speak a Dhofari dialect; some residents of the isolated peninsula of Musandem speak Kumzari, a Creole mixture of Hindi, Farsi and Portuguese.

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