Category Archives: Oman

What to wear in Oman : Lady Travel

Having been unable to find the information before we went on holiday to Oman last year, and having friends who live there who weren’t overly specific in the way that I was looking for (TELL ME EXACTLY WHAT I SHOULD BE WEARING GUYS. FEED MY NEUROSES.), it seemed like a good idea to write the post I would have liked to read before hopping on a plane to the Middle East. So how should you dress if you’re a lady heading to the Middle East- specifically, Oman- on holiday and you want to be a) respectful, b) comfortable, and c) cute? Allow me to do what I can to shed some light on the situation.

A lot of it will come down to fabrics. When we were in Oman, the average daily temperature was around 100F/40C and cotton or denim aren’t really the go-to fabrics for such climes. Linen or loose knit cotton would have been ideal. Everywhere in Oman has very strong air conditioning, so do keep in mind that a lot of the time will be spent braving the heat just to get in a car with air conditioning, to drive to a place with air conditioning. This is how one gets away with wearing skinny jeans and a tank top with cardigan for a night out – but if you’re planning on wandering around markets or heading to the desert, I wouldn’t make that your go-to outfit.

While our trip was just a little over a week, this is my takeaway on what I’m glad I took, what I wish I’d taken, and what I’d recommend for anyone going on a little Omani holiday.

Things I’m glad I took

Floaty wide leg trousers. I had two pair, one in a cotton/linen blend with a fun print, and the other in a black satin. The satin ones got a bit sticky and wrinkly, but were still good – especially nice for evenings out. So floaty! They were, in fact, so lovely that I left them with my friend in Oman because she could get far more use out of them in day to day life. Highly recommend.

woman how to dress in the middle east oman

Lightweight scarf. For mosque visits, mostly. You’ll need to cover every bit of your hair, and it’ll be hot, so the lighter the scarf, the better (go for silk if you can, cotton is too heavy)! You can pick these up for very cheap anywhere in the Middle East anyway – and they make beautiful gifts for people back home, or a souvenir for yourself. Prepare to haggle in the markets to buy a few of your own in bulk.

what to wear when visiting oman

This was a gorgeous scarf that I picked up in Istanbul. It was fine for mosque visits there, but probably not big enough for its needs in Oman. You can see the difference between the two scarves – the one above is big enough and opaque enough for head, neck and shoulders, and that’s what you need.

what to wear when visiting oman headscarf women

blond headscarf woman middle east turkey

Not-too-tight jeans: Mostly good for going out for meals or a night out in the crazy air conditioning of a “western” or more relaxed restaurant or night club. The nightlife in Muscat is very open and forgiving, particularly if you are at a place that serves alcohol. Definitely wouldn’t be great for heading to the markets or being out in the day time though – much too uncomfortable. Much like I was in the picture below (despite how happy I look to be in the middle of a resort in the Omani desert).

how to dress in oman woman desert

Below the knee dresses. Another picture from Istanbul, but the dress still stands! Long sleeves, and even the slit is still below the knee. The darker color wasn’t great – go lighter whenever you can to beat the heat.
what to wear in oman what to pack in oman

Loose t-shirts: You can get by with short sleeved shirts in a fair few places, but not with truly short sleeves – no cap sleeves or anything like that. Just to the top of the elbow is good, although mid upper arm is usually fine. Make sure they don’t hang too close to the armpit to avoid pitstains, and make sure they’re long enough that nothing shows if you bend over. In the t-shirt I’m wearing in the picture below, I still had to cover up when going in and out of the restaurant, but it was fine inside.

shisha in oman

Bikini: Private hotels are just like their less-conservative counterparts around the world, and you can wear whatever you want, so don’t leave yours at home thinking it won’t be of use. You’ll be sorely disappointed when you get to the very chill hotel with an actual pool!

 

Losers of the trip

-Literally every cotton cardigan I brought. I wish I’d had a loose-knit cardigan that a) didn’t touch my armpits b) went to at least elbow-length (but no need to cover up to the wrist unless you’re at the mosque), and c) wasn’t in a dark color. (See the black and white cardigan in the mosque picture above – it covered everything but I was absolutely melting. I ripped it off the second we got back in the car with the air conditioning, panting like a dog.

-White. Cotton. Maxi dress. Too heavy, too hot, too see through. The worst of all worlds really. Would not bother with again.

 

Things I wish I’d brought

As mentioned, a 3/4 sleeve, loose-knit cardigan in a light color would have been ideal.

Long shorts. Especially if you plan on going out in the desert. I’m talking all the way to the knee here!

Capri pants. I hate them in my day to day life, but they would have suited so well!

Peasant tops – again, loose, floaty, 3/4 sleeved.


Have I missed anything? I know that the rules for dressing as a female in the Middle East and other conservative countires can vary dramatically depending on exactly where you find yourself (for more on that, read my post on what to pack for visiting Marrakech), but hopefully this serves as useful for any of you heading to Oman any time soon.

 

Omani desert panorama

Camping in the deserts of Oman

it was more like glamping, let’s just start with that. Definitely lacking in pitched tents and campfires and s’mores. Through some very serendipitous happenings, we were invited to check out a resort in the desert called the Dunes by Al Nahda. It’s not officially open to the public yet, and won’t be for another few weeks, but what we saw when we stayed was absolutely amazing – I’m sure the place is going to become incredibly popular for people looking for a desert holiday.

reception desk dunes by al nahda

dunes by al nahda resort oman

oman desert views

We drove about 75 minutes out of Muscat (well…it took two hours to get there, but that’s because we got lost). Leaving the dusty scrub land and highways behind, we eventually found actual desert – the sandy red brown undulating dunes that come to mind when you think of the Middle East. We even saw some wild camels and goats as we got closer (!!! said my heart). Eventually we found our way to the resort and were greeted with cold wet towels and a tasty lemonade before being shown to our rooms.

dunes at al nahda oman

And the rooms were amazing! Glamping is serious business, and is probably the most decadent way I can imagine spending the night in the desert. There was a fancy bath and everything (very useful after a day getting dirty and sweaty and finding sand in every crevice). Again, just like everywhere else in Oman, there was lots of air conditioning.

dunes by al nahda oman desert glamping

dunes by al nahda oman glamping

We only stayed overnight, but during our stay we had massages, went out dune bashing (a little video of which can be found here) with an Omani driver who delighted in scaring the living crap out of us, ate some really yummy food, and Jon and Kal got to feel very manly and bad ass by going out on the dunes on some quad bikes. I declined, as did Amy.

quad bikes oman desert al nahda glamping holiday

(see those tiny bumps? that’s kal and jon!)

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Holiday in the Middle East: Oman Edition

London–> Istanbul –> Oman.

london istanbul oman

Now that that’s out of the way, you’ll know just where I’m talking about! And no pressure-I don’t think the majority of people outside of the region hear “Oman” and know just where it is. I certainly didn’t.

It’s hard to know where to start really – before we left, when people at work asked what Oman was like in comparison to the rest of the Middle East, my go to response was that it was “still conservative, but less oppressive”. Now, having seen it for just over a week, and asking our friends a million and one questions on the history and economics of the country, I feel like I have a very vague idea of what it’s like, but obviously it’s impossible to know much about a country just by visiting it for a short period of time. But really – not many people go to Oman, and maybe people out there on the internet want to read about my observations, you know?

camels oman

Here’s the nitty gritty: Oman has historically been a trading port for the Persian Gulf, it’s an absolute monarchy – the sultan has been sultan since 1970 (during which time he has worked to modernize the country), gas/petrol was something crazy like 17 pence per litre during our visit – (lots of oil there), the country was temporarily colonized by Portugal back in the 15th-16th centuries, and Sultan Qaboos is the longest serving ruler in the Middle East but people don’t know what will happen when he passes away.

omani souq muscat

Some friends of ours have been living in Oman for the past three years, so it was about time that Jon and I made our way to the Middle East to check out the scene. It was much much hotter than our time in Istanbul had been, averaging out at 104F/40C every day. Luckily literally everywhere had air conditioning. And I mean everywhere. Think of when you’re sitting outside of a bar or pub in the winter and you cozy up to those heat lamps, then imagine that instead of a heat lamp it’s a massive air conditioner pumping cold air outdoors. Wildly, wildly inefficient and yet, totally normal in Oman.

sunset in oman grand hyatt

We ran into that again and again-or at least, I did. Trying to be okay with, or at least not dwell on, things that would upset me in my normal day to day life. For example, all the driving, even just half a mile down the road! Heat-related, obviously, but it is a hugely car-driven culture, excluding the low paid workers who don’t have cars. There’s no recycling in all of Oman, but no one drinks water from taps, so we went through at least a dozen litres of bottled water while there, all of which were just hoofed into the trash, and every time I drank water I felt guilty. While driving out to the desert for a night of camping, we drove by a work camp where many Indian workers live, their metal rectangular shacks placed end to end like dozens of tin cans in the sun.

sultan palace oman

We saw men, mostly Omani and Indian, everywhere, but very few women and even fewer children, leading to a strange feeling of something being slightly off – something that you can’t put your finger on until it’s pointed out, and then you realize “ah! that’s what it was all along”. And here’s a fun one – it’s illegal to have a dirty car. Oh, and lots of foreign tv is shown in Oman, but anything deemed offensive is edited out, which can be a bit trippy when you know what really happened in that episode or that film, or it’s a big plot point, but it’s not showing! In a similar vein, nothing about homosexuality can be referenced on tv either, including the word “gay”. Leaves some holes, really. Our friends mentioned that live music was banned recently, but some places have started surreptitiously using bands again. The weekend was changed a few years ago – just moved to Friday/Saturday rather than Saturday/Sunday. It’s illegal to make rude hand gestures (which is difficult to remember with all the crazy driving). And the law recently changed to say that female expats couldn’t get work visas, putting a lot of women in a tough spot. Lots of things like that.

Oh! And incredibly important for the reasons of this here internet space- it’s illegal to take pictures of Omanis, according to our friend, so I was very hesitant to pull out my DSLR or even my phone in public spaces. You’ll notice! Apologies.

snake coffee oman muscat

It is a place of multitudes, and of varied experiences, and there’s just not much to be done about the negatives, particularly when you’re just a dumb tourist in town for ten days. All there is to do is soak it up and try to understand a completely alien part of the world while not getting so bogged down in social justice brain that you can’t see how other people live and just observe.

omani desert resort

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Some panoramas from Istanbul and Oman

 

Freshly back from the Middle East and still feeling the jet lag. Sorting the many many pictures we took-but in the mean time, here are a few panorama shots from our phones. The stunning Blue Mosque of Istanbul. The deserts of Oman, where we spent the night in a crazy yurt/tent contraption (and ventured out into the sands to track down wild camels), and a sunset from the balcony of the Grand Hyatt Muscat, a lovely place to catch the view if ever there was one. Stories to come. blue mosque istanbul panorama

Omani desert panorama

Omani desert

sunset in Oman Grand Hyatt Muscat