Oman’s distinctive culture is mainly influenced by Islamic traditions and regional heritage. More than a religion Islam is a way of life that governs every-day events. Due to Oman’s position on many historical trade routes, the local citizens have been exposed to different cultures for centuries. Foreigners are free to practice their own religion. Alcohol is served in hotels and the dress code is relatively liberal. Visitors are able to roam freely in the villages and are sure to be charmed by the genuine warmth and friendliness of the people. As you travel deeper into the interior the people become more conservative but not less hospitable. The official language of the country is Arabic, but English is widely spoken. Other commonly heard languages are Urudu, Baluchi, Swahili, Hindi, and other Indian dialects. Most road signs and menus are in both Arabic and English.
Islam is the official religion of Oman. The basis of Islam is the belief that there is only one God and that the Prophet Mohammed is his messenger. Some Omanis are Sunni Muslims and live primarily in Sur and the surrounding areas and in Dhofar. The Shi’a minority lives in the Muscat – Mutrah area. All Muslims must follow the five pillars of faith- the Profession of Faith, Prayer, Charity, Fasting, and Pilgrimage. Most Omanis wear traditional dress during work and social hours. Men wear an ankle length, collarless gown with long sleeves. The neckline has a tassel called a furakha, which is sometimes scented with perfume. A plain cloth is worn under the dishdasha from the waist down. On their heads men usually wear a brimless embroidered hat. On formal occasions, men may wear a black or beige cloak edged in silver or gold thread. Traditional women’s costumes are very colourful and vary from region to region. In public, women cover their normal clothes with a full-length, black cloak-dress. There is a huge choice of international cuisines. The Cuisine of Oman is fairly simple and often utilizes marinades and the impregnating of meats with spices. Chicken, fish, and mutton are regularly used in dishes. A favorite drink is laban, a salty, buttermilk yogurt drink, flavored with cardamon, Dates, dry fruits and pistachio nuts are also very popular.
The history of Oman has always been a struggle for economic and political power. Archaeological evidence suggests that an early form of civilization existed in Oman at least 5,000 years ago. The name Oman is said to come from the Arab tribes that migrated to the area from a place in Yemen called Uman. From the 6th century BC to the arrival of Islam in the 7th century AD, Oman was controlled and/or influenced by three Persian dynasties, the Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanids.The Omani empire reached the height of its power in the mid- 19th century under Sayyid Said bin Sultan. Oman. By about 250 B.C. the Parthian dynasty brought the Persian Gulf under their control and extended their influence as far as Oman. Because they needed to control the Persian Gulf trade route, the Parthians established garrisons in Oman. In the third century A.D. the Sasanids succeeded the Parthians and held the area until the rise of Islam four centuries later.
The arrival of Islam
Islam reached Oman during the life time of Prophet Muhammad. The conversion of Omanis is usually ascribed to Amr ibn al-As, who visited the region by the middle of the eighth century AD. Oman was ruled by Umayyads between 661-750, Abbasids between 750-931, 932-933 and 934-967, Qarmatians between 931-932 and between 933-934, Buyids between 967-1053, Seljuks of Kirman between 1053-1154.