The Omanis are a tolerant people. But as open-minded as they are towards you, you should be respectful towards them. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you familiarize yourself with the typical customs and traditions of Oman before your trip to the Sultanate on the Arabian Sea. This etiquette guide informs you about customs such as shaking hands, but also what it is about the foot surfaces.
Furthermore, with this overview you fill up on pure knowledge with regard to the consumption of alcohol, smoking and dealing with homosexuality. Travel well-informed to a traditional country that offers many positive qualities, but also a few pitfalls if you are uninformed.
Warm welcome from locals
Respect is one of the important virtues that Omanis show to their counterparts. They show restraint towards a woman and also her companion by refraining from shaking hands with her. Rather, they place their right palm on the heart region, which is accompanied by a sympathetic nod.
When greeting a man, be careful not to squeeze his hand tightly in a European way. On the other hand, your handshake should not resemble that of a dead fish. The usual greeting is the abbreviation Salam, which is derived from“Salam alaikum” – in German “Peace be with you”. Salam is pronounced as “shalam”.
You will already recognize their sincere interest in your person by the dark beady eyes of the Omanis. Maintain eye contact without staring (women consider this to be insinuating), refrain from nervous blinking and return the interest charmingly.
When asked how you are, keep your answer shorter with unknown locals. More in-depth conversations develop over time as trust is built with each other.
By the way: Hectic greetings are inappropriate. Omanis are relaxed and appreciate you by taking their time. Thanks to the helpfulness and hospitality, you will later remember wonderful encounters and conversations deeply rooted in your memory.
Etiquette for hands and feet and behavior at a dinner invitation
Throughout the Arab world , the right hand is considered pure. Therefore, objects may only be handed over with the right hand and food is eaten exclusively with the right hand. Since the left hand is used in toilet hygiene, it is considered unclean. You are left-handed? Discreetly inform a trusted person so that you can “legally” put your foot in your mouth and act differently than usual.
If you sneeze, react quickly and tilt your head to the left for the final expulsion.
Shoe soles are considered soiled in Oman. Never point them at your counterpart. Not even if you sit at a table set with locals and cross your legs under the table. This faux pas is tantamount to a gross insult and will be resented.
If you have been invited to dinner by an Omani, you can bring a small hostess gift. Traditional souvenirs from your home country, home accessories and chocolates are welcome. However, take into account that for religious reasons there should be no alcohol in your host gift.
Wash your hands before eating and afterwards – an important part of ritual purity. Move away from the scene quite soon after the meal. Even if you are repeatedly asked to stay, be aware that this is merely a gesture of hospitality.
Consumption of alcoholic beverages and smoking in Oman
According to Islamic beliefs, the consumption of alcohol is not permitted. Therefore, the zero alcohol limit also applies to the road trip with the rental car. Alcohol is served in the internationally positioned hotel chains, but the hotels need a special license for this, which must be applied for.
Smoking is also completely prohibited in all public places. Look for specially designated smoking areas as you will find in most hotels.
Behavior in public
Because the Omanis are a highly civilized people, it is imperative to show them respect and to keep a low profile in public. This includes refraining from obvious displays of affection. Most of the time, holding hands is accepted. Public kissing or more is considered extremely frowned upon.
If you want to photograph locals, it should never be unwelcome. Ask the people in question politely, but expect to receive rejection, especially from women. In general, however, asking should also be a matter of course for photographing third parties in the home country.
Homosexuality in Oman
As open and progressive as the Sultanate is on the one hand, homosexual travelers should inform themselves precisely about the legal situation. Homosexual acts are forbidden in Oman and are subject to severe punishment. According to the Foreign Office notice, the worst case scenario is the death penalty. Theoretically, as a homosexual, you can book in international hotels for same-sex couples. However, the behavior should be absolutely discreet due to legal regulations. Also, refrain from displaying LGBTIQ symbols and the rainbow flag.
With open eyes, an open heart and the etiquette 101, you will enjoy a wonderful, safe stay in Oman.