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Expats, tourists called on to respect dress code in Oman
October 5, 2015 | 9:37 PM
by ELHAM POURMOHAMMADI
Expats and tourists have been urge to respect country’s dress code.
 
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Muscat: A debate over the way expats dress in Oman, and whether their should be stricter regulation for both tourists and residents, has reopened after the issue was highlighted on social media.

Male and female visitors to public places in the Sultanate should respect the cultural values of the country, people from different walks of life say unanimously, while expressing differing opinions on the need for a dress code.

Some also believe that more awareness should be created among visitors through distributing information materials at various locations.

The discussion on dress code was prompted once again after a man was stopped at City Centre Muscat for wearing shorts. The person had complained that he was singled out while there were many other people wearing shorts in the mall.



In a statement, a spokesperson for Majid Al Futtaim, which owns and operates the mall, said, “City Centre Muscat highly values its visitors’ feedback, and we are sorry that the customer in this instance was dissatisfied with the handling of a recent visit to the mall by a member of our security staff.”

Courtesy Policy

“All of Majid Al Futtaim’s shopping malls have a courtesy policy in place, which is in line with the government policy on dress codes, to guide our visitors in wearing clothing that is culturally appropriate, and ensuring the comfort of all guests,” the statement read.

The spokesperson added, “We do continually review City Centre Muscat’s policies in line with customer feedback and will consider these comments carefully to ensure that we are in line with our visitors’ expectations and government policy.”

Ligi George from the public relations section of the Women’s Guild in Oman (WGO) said people should respect the local customs and traditions, adding that there are various ways to create more awareness.

“The dress code policy in the Sultanate is by and large mentioned clearly in many malls and other public places. While some places may not have specified a dress code, a majority of expatriates and visitors in the country dress themselves moderately in accordance with the local customs,” George told the Times of Oman (TOO).

She added that while most of the visitors had tried to familiarise themselves with the local customs of the country, which mostly include a dress code policy, among other social behaviour, many are still oblivious to it.

“This can create uncomfortable situations in public places for the local community and may lead to unpleasant interactions in general,” George noted.

Raising awareness

She said a small handbook on the culture, customs, traditions, dos and dont’s at the airport arrivals gate and similar information on hotel and tourism websites could help create more awareness about the local dress code policy.

Asked if different centres or the police should go to greater lengths to be clear in advising the public on what the consequences are if they break the dress code, the WGO official said, “The caretakers of law should advise the public on a regular basis on the expected dress code in public places. This will create more consciousness and awareness among the residents in the country, as well as the visitors.”

Advising those, who are visiting Oman for the first time, George said, “Omanis are very warm-hearted people, tolerant by nature and, at the same time, uphold their traditional customs strongly. As a traveller to Oman, it is in your best interest to respect the local customs and traditions.”

“Information on what is acceptable and not especially the dress code is easily available through online sources and will help you prepare accordingly before your travel,” she added.

Differing Views

In comments made to TOO, a number of people living in Oman expressed their opinions about the country’s dress code. While some believe that having a dress code in public places is necessary, others said that a more flexible approach should be taken.

Disgusting

“I am for a dress code rule. Sometimes, you find guys wearing very small and tight shorts. I am not against shorts, but wearing such a short and tight pair of shorts is disgusting,” Ghada Al Hosni said, adding that women should not be exempted either.

Vijayaraghavan, who has been living in Oman for over 20 years, also said that implementing a dress code in shopping malls is a “good idea.”

However, Aamina Al Riyami said she does not believe there should be a dress code in malls and people should wear whatever they are comfortable with, as long as it does not disrespect the culture.

“The society accepts women not wearing hijab. I do not see the harm in wearing shorts right above or below the knee. But showing (too much skin) or wearing shorts (with the thigh exposed) is obviously not accepted,” she added.

More flexible

Maneesh Nair was also of the opinion that the dress code should be more flexible, given the fact that people of many nationalities visit Oman.

“It is not just about tourists not following the dress code. Many times, the scuffles and disputes are reported between expatriate residents and not between tourists,” he said.

Benoie Mathew said people should dress decently in public places and should follow the country’s guidelines and added, “No flip-flops and home dresses should be allowed in the shopping malls.”

In addition, a frequent visitor to malls in Oman said, “We have dress codes at office. We visit malls during the weekend for relaxation and shopping. If there is a dress code in the malls too, it would become intolerable.”

Pradeep Kumar said almost all the people, who visited malls, dressed modestly, but there were some who wore ‘odd’ clothes. However, he saw no need for a dress code in the malls.

Jamshir said that having a dress code in shopping malls is ‘good’ but should not restrict the freedom of the visitors.

Some of the concerns have been caused by the large numbers of tourists arriving by cruise ships in neighbourhoods around Muscat’s scenic harbour and were the subject of a presentation by a Muscat-based tourism researcher at an international forum held in Moscow recently.

Manuela Gutberlet, a PhD candidate at the Department of Geography at the RWTH Aachen University in Germany and public relations manager of the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech), had delivered her presentation at the Annual International Geography Conference of the International Geography Union (IGU).

Gutberlet’s presentation, entitled “Feeling at home? The cruise tourists’ dress, behaviour and community reactions,” offered insights into the social and cultural impact that the multitudes of international tourists have on Muscat’s traditional Muttrah Souq.

Negative reactions

“My research also showed that local shop vendors and shop owners in Muttrah, who are in direct contact with the cruise tourists, are reacting negatively to the dress sense of some visitors, especially female cruise tourists,” Gutberlet stated.

To create more awareness about a dress code for cruise tourists, who usually spend some 10 hours during their Oman stopover, the researcher suggested improvements in the information material distributed prior to joining the cruise, as well as on board the cruise liner, and to provide clear guidelines through pictures on sign boards.

Moreover, she said, “It would be great to launch an abaya or dishdasha rental service on board the cruise liners. I think this would be an interesting experience for many tourists.

“In addition, cultural awareness workshops for tourism employees, such as cruise staff, on-board tour guides, as well as local tour agencies, shipping agents and the local tour guides could be introduced,” she added. -With inputs from Tariq and Mobin

To get in touch with the reporter [email protected]

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