Oman’s culture is based on the fundamental principles of Islam. Muslims are required to pray five times each day after the call to prayer by the Imam. Beautiful, ornate mosques are found throughout the Sultanate, but they are not open to non-Muslim visitors. The holy month of Ramadhan is a time of fasting . Muslims are not allowed to smoke, eat or drink during daylight hours. Out of respect, non-Muslims staying in Oman observe the same principles in public. At sunset, the fast is broken with the Ifta feast, traditionally a light meal of dates and rice, which the whole family attends.
The dress code is fairly liberal in Muscat, although decency is still expected. Women should wear, for example, tops with sleeves, and long skirts or trousers. Men are required to wear trousers and shirts with sleeves. Swimwear should be restricted to the beach or pools. Outside the capital area and into the Interior villages, dress should become more conservative.
Regarding other religions, Oman is very tolerant and there are a number of churches and temples for worshippers of other faiths. Friday is the holy day of rest.
The Omani culture has its roots firmly in the Islamic religion. Oman developed its own particular form of Islam, called Ibadhism, after its founder, Abdullah ibn Ibadh who lived during the 7 th century AD. Not all Omanis are Ibadhis, however there are also Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims. Omanis are not only tolerant of the beliefs of different Muslim divisions, they are also tolerant towards believers of other faiths, who are allowed to practise their religion in churches and temples. Islam is based on the fulfillment of the ‘Five Pillars of Islam’ or the hadiths . By fulfilling these duties one is assured of a place in heaven.
The awqaf are religious endowments which can take the form of property or revenue and are administered by the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs for the maintenance of mosques and for the benefit of the community. The zakat is a charity tax which is paid to the needy. Every Muslim must pay this, according to his means.
All Muslims are obliged to fast during Ramadhan, one of the Pillars of Islam . For around 29 to 30 days, each Islamic year, Muslims refrain from smoking, eating and drinking during the hours of fasting (from sunrise to sunset). Ramadhan advances 10 to 11 days each year as it is governed by the lunar calendar.
The Haj or pilgrimage is another Pillar of Islam. The pilgrims travel to al-Medina in Saudi Arabia to visit the Prophet’s tomb before travelling to the holy sites in Mecca. In 1999, there were approximately 19,000 Muslims travelling from Oman to Saudi Arabia. The pilgrimage is organised and coordinated by the Ministry, which ensures the pilgrims’ health and safety during the course of their stay.