Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dress Guide for Expats Interested in Visiting or Living in Oman

Beautiful and stylish, Omani fashion blogger, Shurooq Al Haremi demonstrating that to be modest is not always boring and certainly not unattractive. She is wearing an outfit here, that my own in-laws would probably be okay with allowing a guest to wear into their homes (albeit they'd prefer some semblance of a scarf on the head however little it covers). Her blog:
I have noticed a new trend here in Oman that diverges from when I was a non-Muslim teen growing up here in Muscat----more and more expats seem to be seemingly totally void of common sense in terms of what the majority of the population will or will not take offense to in terms of dress. Now I, as a Western and a Muslim woman, don't care if anyone decides to go around even in a bikini or a burka [though that chic who decided just to wear a pashmina for a swim at Qantab and flashed me her every secret crevice was not my fondest memory]. But I have to say, not every Omani will respect you if you don't respect them. Same goes likewise, of course. That doesn't mean you have to wear an abaya or cover every inch, but make sure you are wearing moderately loose covering clothing if mixing with the local population in more conservative areas. There IS moderately loose covering clothing in Western brands.
I swear, this is how I remember all the expat "grownups" who knew better dressing for a trip to the grocery store or mall in Muscat when I was a kid. Either that or knee length skirts and sundresses with cardigans from Marks and Spencers.
I mean, how it is okay to dress at Qantab is not okay to wear at a grocery store or City Center mall. How it is okay to dress even by modest standards in Muscat is not going to get you invited into Omani households in the interior of Oman. The same thing can be said about life in the West. Where I am from, dressing like a day of surfing at the mall WILL get you the evil eye or called a 'ho by some less well mannered girls than I. Or dressing as stylishly as in the city will make you stand out in some where more country. All the world is the same when you've seen enough of it. Respect is just shown in different ways in different places.

I will give you an example of my own "more country" Omani inlaws. In a house that has more than one family living together, women in the house wear floor length long sleeved loose floral printed gowns with matching shawls on head (not necessarily but almost always covering every single strand of hair and the neck). Most men see only their closest inlaws like this. Outside the home black abayas are worn on top of these dresses and ankles aren't seen as women wear tight pants underneath their skirts and dresses. So yeah, men who are from here and haven't travelled will invariably find ankles sexy and tight fitting clothes.

When I became a Muslim in the West I adapted many Muslim peices of clothing to my culture. I usually didn't wear the black veil. I wore coloured ones with big pretty flower broaches/pins attached to it so that Westerners wouldn't find my ultra conservative mode of dress as scary. Usually the colour of the veil started a conversation. "Muslim women are allowed to wear colours?" Yes, of course we are. We often choose not to, or culture insists we don't but the religion totally promotes colours. I also wore abayas, but more stylishly cut and embellished ones than you are likely to find in a remote interior Omani village.

Zubaida Jacobs, a Dubai-based fashion blogger, wearing an outfit totally cute and modest enough for Muscat even with a fitted waist and more fitted t-shirt top. Not what my inlaws prefer but nothing out of the ordinary for the capital. Her blog:
But anyways, when I first became a Muslim I made the number one mistake culturally concsious (those expats who care what Omanis think of them) person(s) seem to  make. I thought skin totally covered WAS modest. But I forgot the loose and see-through factors. So I do see alot of expats in tight pants and long sleeve fitted t-shirts which just doesn't cut it for my Omani inlaws. Or skirts that are loose and flowy but see-through and blow up to show ankles and even thighs ect....

1.) The difference is absolutley huge in what impact one can get from the culture. For example, a famous Lebanese TV host visited our village in a mini skirt and tank top to interview the head of the village. He out and out walked away and ignored her. Which might make Omanis come across as rude.

2.) A pair of South African girls in attempts at modest dress {skirt blowing up, pants and t-shirt too tight} came to our village and none of the women from the village offered to give them a tour and everyone even the men hid from their camera lenses. Which might make it seem that Omani women and men are secretive unsocial creatures.
3.) Two women, both Swedish journalists, came to do a story on our village for the Eid. They wore loose trousers with loose knee length tunics on top and fitted long sleeve pajama t-shirts poking out. Very "the English Patient" chic still. They draped scarves loosely (not tied) over their hair. We could still se emost of their hair but my own mother-in-law took it as a sign of respect and the women of the family invited them to join in on the festivities in our house. A limited number of photos were permitted to be taken of the women (albeit only detail shots not of faces).

4.) A Japanese non-Muslim tourist dressed head-to-toe in black abaya and black head scarf came to tour the village. Every single woman came to greet her, invite her to their homes for food and visiting, and alot fo women allowed her to take their full-body face-shot included photographs.

As you might note, the experiences people had of the Interior of Oman where my in-laws are from can totally change depending on how they dressed and where they go (off the road from more tourist-ridden cities like Nizwa ect;)). I want to end this post by adding, I don't really care how other people dress but add that alot of Omanis do;). So if you want to truly experience Oman you have to understand that. Peace!


The Duncan Adventures said...

That is really interesting and good to know, I will certainly be changing the way I think when getting dressed in the mornings. Thank you!

Heather :)

Nailah D'arcy said...

I love your taste. I didn't know much about the Muslim culture, until I stumble upon your blog. I love that your teaching, at the same time staying true to yourself. Which is very admirable.
Nailah D'arcy

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

The DuncanAdventures: I don't mean you or anyone else is doing anything wrong! You live in Muscat so OManis here we are used to everything and anything. but NIzwa, ect... really beyond the souq they are not.

Nailah D'arcy: Thank you. We girls (the blog is shared) aim for that.

Signature said...

Great recommendations on ultra chic and modest styling. Fabulous skirts and colour choices.