Despite sharing many cultural characteristics of its Arab neighbours, Oman is unique in the Middle East due to it’s geography and history. Oman’s cultural diversity is greater than that of its Arab neighbours, given its historical expansion to the Swahili Coast and the Indian Ocean. Oman has a long tradition of shipbuilding, as maritime travel played a major role in the Omanis’ ability to stay in contact with the civilisations of the ancient world.
The male national dress in Oman consists of the ‘Dishdasha‘, a simple, ankle-length, collarless gown with long sleeves. Most frequently white in colour, the Dishdasha may also appear in a variety of other colours. The most noted regional differences in Dishdasha designs are the style with which they are embroidered, which varies according to age group. Omani men wear two types of headdress:
- the ghutra, also called “Musar” a square piece of woven wool or cotton fabric of a single colour, decorated with various embroidered patterns
- the Kummah, a cap that is the head dress worn during leisure hours.
The khanjar (dagger) forms part of the national dress and men wear the khanjar on all formal public occasions and festivals. It is traditionally worn at the waist. It is a symbol of a man’s origin, his manhood and courage. A depiction of a khanjar appears on the national flag.
Omani women wear eye-catching national costumes, with distinctive regional variations. All costumes incorporate vivid colours and vibrant embroidery and decorations. In the past, the choice of colours reflected a tribe’s tradition.