Oman’s festival calendar is somewhat undernourished, barring the large-scale annual Muscat festival and its smaller cousin in Salalah. Alternatively, for a more traditional insight into the country’s religious culture, visiting Oman during one of the annual Islamic festivals is especially rewarding – Ramadan is a particularly interesting time to visit, assuming you’re prepared to put up with a certain level of practical inconvenience.

Muscat Festival Late Jan to late Feb wwww.muscat-festival.com. The highlight of the festival calendar, with a wide-ranging programme of events offering a mix of traditional arts, culture and heritage (including a special Oman Heritage and Culture Village in Qurum Park) along with fun events like the Muscat Fashion Show, Oman Food Festival and concerts at the Qurum Park Amphitheatre.

Salalah Tourism Festival (also known as the Khareef Festival) June 21 to Sept 21 wwww.salalahfestival.com. Held during the three months of the khareef, featuring assorted cultural attractions, sporting events, concerts and shopping promotions.

Ramadan Scheduled to run from approximately July 20 to Aug 18, 2012; July 9 to Aug 7, 2013; June 28 to July 27, 2014; precise dates vary according to local astronomical sightings of the moon. The Islamic holy month of Ramadan represents a period in which to purify mind and body and to reaffirm one’s relationship with God. Muslims are required to fast from dawn to dusk, and as a tourist you will be expected to publicly observe these strictures, although you are free to eat and drink in the privacy of your own hotel room, or in any of the carefully screened-off dining areas which are set up in hotels throughout the city (while alcohol is also served discreetly in some places after dark, but not during the day). Eating, drinking, smoking or chewing gum in public, however, are definite no-no’s, and will cause considerable offence to local Muslims; singing, dancing and swearing in public are similarly frowned upon. In addition, live music is also completely forbidden during the holy month (though recorded music is allowed), while many shops scale back their opening hours.Fasting ends at dusk, at which point the previously comatose country springs to life in a celebratory round of eating, drinking and socializing known as Iftar (“The Breaking of the Fast”). The atmosphere is particularly exuberant during Eid Al Fitr, the day marking the end of Ramadan, when everyone lets loose in an explosion of celebratory festivity.

Renaissance Day July 23 Celebrating the 1970 coup which brought Sultan Qaboos to power and signalled the start of the Oman Renaissance.

Eid al Adha Estimated dates: Oct 26, 2012; Oct 15, 2013; Oct 4, 2014. Falling approximately 70 days after the end of Ramadan, on the tenth day of the Islamic lunar month of Dhul Hijja, the “Festival of the Sacrifice” celebrates the willingness of Abraham (or Ibrahim, as he is known to Muslims) to sacrifice his son Ismail at the command of God (although having proved his obedience, he was permitted to sacrifice a ram instead). The festival also marks the end of the traditional pilgrimage season to Mecca. Large numbers of animals are slaughtered during the festival. No alcohol is served on the day of the festival or on the day before.

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