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Oman - Culture

Oman Culture

Arabic is the official language of Oman, though English is widely spoken in business circles. In the northern coastal areas you can find traders and sailors and a large number of expatriates from the Indian subcontinent who also speak Farsi and Urdu. Most Omanis are Ibadi Muslims, belonging to one of Islam's earliest fundamentalist movements. The Ibadi are distinguished by their conservative doctrine and their system of hereditary rule.

Despite the modern appearance of much of Oman, the country remains intensely traditional. In the countryside hamlets and coastal villages, day-to-day life has changed little in centuries. Men can frequently be seen sporting bright blue, loose-fitting, floor-length shirt-dresses called dishdashas, often with a curved khanjar knife dangling from the waist. Women's dress is far more colourful than the simple black cloaks common in much of the rest of the Gulf region. Bright printed dresses are wrapped with even more colourful shawls and veils.

Oman has devoted a great deal of effort to preserving its traditional arts, dance and music, though you're more likely to see traditional dancing staged in a museum than spontaneously breaking out in a village street. Oman is particularly known for its curved, silver-sheathed khanjar knives and silver jewellery.

There is little in the way of traditional Omani cuisine; Indian-style curry is pretty much the national dish. The typical menu is little more than whatever curry the cook decided to make that day, but it is usually pretty good, especially in the myriad small restaurants of Muscat and Salalah. Alcohol is only available in larger hotels and expensive restaurants.

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