For everyone who visits Oman, one of the first things that catch the eye is the way Omani men and women dress. The sultanate is comprised of a wide variety of traditional costumes that not only differs in colours and shapes but also showcase different functions for their affairs.
Dressing up in these traditional costumes is one of the ways the Omanis manifest their pride in their heritage.
While the national costume for men shares a few features with the surrounding countries, the specific details create the distinction of what makes it Omani. It is consists of several basic pieces, such as the dishdasha, the Kumma, and the Omani dagger or khanjar.
The dishdasha is a long cloth that covers a man’s body from the neck to his ankle. It has a round neck that is usually embroidered with eye-captivating colours and a long sleeve that covers up to the base of the palm. It also has threads hanging from the chest, locally called the Farrahka or the Karkosha. The threads range in length from 20 cm to 30cm and usually is sprayed with perfume. The edges/ends of the dishdasha’s sleeves are embroidered with thread. They may be embroidered with light patterns that usually have an Arab and Islamic character.
Men often wear a white dishdasha on special occasions, weddings and as the national dress for men in Oman, even going to work. It is mandatory for students and those working especially in government establishments to wear formal dishdasha to the office.
The dishdasha comes in a variety of colours, although white is considered more formal. The colourful dishdasha is worn by men on some informal occasions.
As a symbol of patriotism and national pride, the government has imposed strict mandates into the distortion of the national costume.
The Minister of Commerce and Industry issued a decision in February 2017 to adopt standard specifications for Omani dishdasha. The specifications include its definition and the parts it contains. The resolution also specified the features of each type of dishdasha and the quality of the fabric used in addition to the main or complementary parts.
The decision classified 5 main types of Omani dishdasha that are used among the governorates and cities of Oman. The difference in dishdasha between regions of the Sultanate is mostly limited to the form of embroidery. The dishdasha is embroidered according to age; where the embroidery is more in children’s dishdasha than those found in adults.
The outfit is completed by wearing the “bisht” (overcoat) in its different beautiful colours, the most important of which are black, white and brown, and is worn above the dishdasha. It is a men’s cloak with embroidered sleeves and sides.
Completing the look for Omani mean is the headdress called Massar, made with fabrics in multiple colours. Underneath this headdress or sometimes worn separately is the “kumma”, a circular cap consisting of two pieces embroidered by hand (women sew them in different geometric shapes and different colours) or by machine.
Both the kumma and massar, when worn properly, are the most distinctive part of an Omani man’s costume. If you line up GCC men, it is easy to identify an Omani from just the headpiece alone.
Another important element that complements the whole look is the Omani khanjar or dagger that is made with pure silver. These daggers, usually handcrafted meticulously, can be very delicate and takes time to make but once worn on special occasions, speak of nobility, masculinity and elegance.
The Omani dagger is placed in a belt so that men can wear it. Sometimes, especially in wedding ceremonies, the “Shal” is wrapped around the belt of the dagger. As an added detail, these belts are usually the same colour as the massar.
In the past, the dagger is worn for self-defence. As of today, it is mostly ceremonial and for adornment purposes and usually is a requirement especially during official ceremonies, national and even private occasions including weddings.
On some occasions, men also carry a stick or sword with the costume. There are some Omanis who replace this with traditional firearms, especially during Eid.
As a protected heritage, wearing the full Omani men ensemble is a source of pride for many Omanis and the country and its citizens continue to strive to preserve its lasting legacy.
Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Subhi is the first Omani to collect and document Omani men’s fashion and re-design a number of them and develop them by adding a modern, civilized touch in line with the spirit and beauty of modern life while preserving its ancient Omani identity without compromising its integrity.
Mohammed established a shop dedicated to displaying and sewing Omani men’s fashion, where he receives visitors from various states of the Sultanate and other countries to learn about Omani men’s fashion. Muhammad promotes his shop and his activity in preserving this heritage through his account on Instagram @bait_al_dunia.