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Oman: men face hefty fines for wearing rogue robes

Men in the Sultanate of Oman face being fined thousands of dollars if they wear the wrong type of traditional robe

Men in the Sultanate of Oman face being fined thousands of dollars if they wear the wrong type of traditional robe, AFP has reported. The move has apparently been prompted by "a wave of foreign imitations and alternative styles" of the robe which have entered the country. Hemlines and elaborate embroidery, and even multi-coloured designs, are a contrast to the mostly white Omani variety of what is known locally as the "dishdasha".

The Omani-style robe is tied strongly to the country's national identity and differs slightly from the ankle-length thobe common in other Gulf Arab states, which often has a collar and button or press stud fastenings. The dishdasha normally has a decorative tassel at the neckline known as a tarbousha which is traditionally dipped in perfume. Unlike most other Gulf countries where men wear a white or chequered keffiyeh headdress, the Omani robe is accompanied by an embroidered brimless cap called a kumma, usually with a turban known as the massar.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry in Muscat said that the dishdasha's design must adhere to "certain criteria", among which are that it should be made mostly of cotton and embroidered only on the neckline, front slits and cuffs.

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"The fabric must be a single colour," a ministry official was quoted by AFP as saying. White or neutral colours are preferred.

Any individual or manufacturer caught in violation of the dress code will be fined $2,597.55 (1.000 Omani rials). This will be doubled following a second violation.

The wearing of national dress is compulsory for all employees across the public sector in Oman. However, for some in Muscat, at least, the announcement may be seen as an infringement of personal freedom of choice. Nevertheless, the need to preserve the sultanate's unique national identity is accepted widely.

According to one shopkeeper who sells dishdashas, Nabegh Al-Qarni, modifications to the traditional dress have become noticeable. The 35-year-old told AFP that Omani society, especially the older generation, is averse such changes.

The effort to preserve Omani culture comes amid social and economic change in the sultanate, which is attempting to attract foreign investment and develop alternative markets as it looks to move away from reliance on falling oil revenues.

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