Wear it right: Expats in Oman urged to respect local customs

Energy Tuesday 22/October/2019 02:08 AM
By: Times News Service

Muscat: Shura and municipal council members in Oman are calling for stronger enforcement of the dress codes laid out for expatriates in the country, after many were found to be flouting these regulations.
The news came after a meeting led by the Municipal Affairs Committee in Muttrah discussed what they considered the ‘negative phenomena’ of both men and women not adhering to the dress codes that they were expected to follow in public places, particularly in malls.
The committee, which was chaired by the Wali of Muttrah, and the chairman of the committee, Ahmed bin Hilal Al Busaidi, in the presence of committee members, suggested issuing legislation or a decision that applies to all in terms of determining the dress code in public places.
Officials have called for foreign nationals in the country to respect the cultures, traditions and codes of the Sultanate of Oman, to avoid hurting local sentiments and to ensure that they follow the law in this regard.
“Citizens, residents, and visitors to Oman must abide by the rules by wearing modest dress in public places and respecting the rules of the community,” according to Salim Al Ghamari, a member at the Muscat Municipal Council. “At the entrance of most shopping malls, you find regulations calling for the need to adhere to modest clothing in respect of the traditions of Omani society. You find signs that say, ‘please wear respectful clothing’, and in this context, we advise covering one’s shoulders and knees.”
Al Ghamari’s comments were directed at those customers who did not follow the dress code, after shopkeepers and other patrons complained about rules being broken.
He added: “Wearing indecent dress in public places is not an expression of personal freedom because it offends others and does not reflect our culture and identity.
Everyone should respect society and its laws, and the Municipal Council shall submit a claim to the concerned authorities such as the Ministry of Commerce as it is concerned with following up on these rules in the commercial markets and applying the controls therein.”
According to the Omani Penal Code which was made law by Royal Decree 7/2018, the enforcement of wearing proper clothing in public is governed by Article 294a, which lays down a prison sentence of between one and three months and a fine of between OMR 100 and 300 for those who break it. This applies to “anyone who appears in public roads or places in a manner that is prejudicial to public decency or contrary to the traditions and customs of society.”
Shedding more light on the laws surrounding observing the correct dress codes in Oman and the societal norms surrounding them, Tawfiq Al Lawati, a member of the Shura Council of Wilayat Muttrah said: “The originality, values, customs, and traditions of society must be preserved, but some exploit this in their desire to stimulate tourism and facilitate the entry of foreigners by waiving social controls. This should not be at the expense of Oman’s community culture.”
“As long as Omani law stipulates confidentiality regulations, we are asking for tourist observers to be placed in areas they visit, as is the case in many countries,” added Al Lawati.“Their aim is to protect tourists from exploitation and reduce tourists’ violations of the laws, because sometimes, they take advantage of the tolerant nature of Omani society.”
He explained: “As a member of the Shura Council, we receive many comments from the public in this regard. We do not demand that tourists abide by our style of Omani clothing, we only ask that visitors respect public tastes by wearing respectful and moderate dress, which is accepted by people and does not bother them and takes into account the privacy and traditions of our society.”