/oh mahn"/, n.
1. Sultanate of. Formerly, Muscat and Oman. an independent sultanate in SE Arabia. 2,264,590; ab. 82,800 sq. mi. (212,380 sq. km). Cap.: Muscat.
2. Gulf of, a NW arm of the Arabian Sea, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf.

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Introduction Oman -
Background: In 1970, QABOOS bin Said Al Said ousted his father and has ruled as sultan ever since. His extensive modernization program has opened the country to the outside world and has preserved a long-standing political and military relationship with the UK. Oman's moderate, independent foreign policy has sought to maintain good relations with all Middle Eastern countries. Geography Oman
Location: Middle East, bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, and Persian Gulf, between Yemen and UAE
Geographic coordinates: 21 00 N, 57 00 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 212,460 sq km water: 0 sq km land: 212,460 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Kansas
Land boundaries: total: 1,374 km border countries: Saudi Arabia 676 km, UAE 410 km, Yemen 288 km
Coastline: 2,092 km
Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 24 NM exclusive economic zone: 200 NM territorial sea: 12 NM
Climate: dry desert; hot, humid along coast; hot, dry interior; strong southwest summer monsoon (May to September) in far south
Terrain: central desert plain, rugged mountains in north and south
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Arabian Sea 0 m highest point: Jabal Shams 2,980 m
Natural resources: petroleum, copper, asbestos, some marble, limestone, chromium, gypsum, natural gas
Land use: arable land: 0.08% permanent crops: 0.22% other: 99.7% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 620 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: summer winds often raise large sandstorms and dust storms in interior; periodic droughts Environment - current issues: rising soil salinity; beach pollution from oil spills; very limited natural fresh water resources Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Whaling signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: strategic location on Musandam Peninsula adjacent to Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil People Oman -
Population: 2,713,462 note: includes 527,078 non-nationals (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 41.9% (male 579,065; female 556,923) 15-64 years: 55.7% (male 914,494; female 597,948) 65 years and over: 2.4% (male 34,555; female 30,477) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.41% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 37.76 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 4.03 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.35 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.53 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 1.13 male(s)/ female total population: 1.29 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 21.77 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 72.31 years female: 74.57 years (2002 est.) male: 70.15 years
Total fertility rate: 5.99 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.11% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Omani(s) adjective: Omani
Ethnic groups: Arab, Baluchi, South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi), African
Religions: Ibadhi Muslim 75%, Sunni Muslim, Shi'a Muslim, Hindu
Languages: Arabic (official), English, Baluchi, Urdu, Indian dialects
Literacy: definition: NA total population: approaching 80% male: NA% female: NA% Government Oman -
Country name: conventional long form: Sultanate of Oman conventional short form: Oman local long form: Saltanat Uman former: Muscat and Oman local short form: Uman
Government type: monarchy
Capital: Muscat Administrative divisions: 6 regions (mintaqat, singular - mintaqah) and 2 governorates* (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah) Ad Dakhiliyah, Al Batinah, Al Wusta, Ash Sharqiyah, Az Zahirah, Masqat, Musandam*, Zufar*; note - the US Embassy in Oman reports that Masqat is a governorate, but this has not been confirmed by the US Board on Geographic Names (BGN)
Independence: 1650 (expulsion of the Portuguese)
National holiday: Birthday of Sultan QABOOS, 18 November (1940)
Constitution: none; note - on 6 November 1996, Sultan QABOOS issued a royal decree promulgating a new basic law which, among other things, clarifies the royal succession, provides for a prime minister, bars ministers from holding interests in companies doing business with the government, establishes a bicameral legislature, and guarantees basic civil liberties for Omani citizens
Legal system: based on English common law and Islamic law; ultimate appeal to the monarch; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: in Oman's most recent elections in 2000, limited to approximately 175,000 Omanis chosen by the government to vote in elections for the Majlis ash-Shura
Executive branch: chief of state: Sultan and Prime Minister QABOOS bin Said Al Said (since 23 July 1970); note - the monarch is both the chief of state and head of government head of government: Sultan and Prime Minister QABOOS bin Said Al Said (since 23 July 1970); note - the monarch is both the chief of state and head of government cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the monarch elections: none; the monarch is hereditary
Legislative branch: bicameral Majlis Oman consists of an upper chamber or Majlis al-Dawla (48 seats; members appointed by the monarch; has advisory powers only) and a lower chamber or Majlis al- Shura (83 seats; members elected by limited suffrage for three-year term, however, the monarch makes final selections and can negate election results; body has some limited power to propose legislation, but otherwise has only advisory powers) elections: last held NA September 2000 (next to be held NA September 2003) election results: NA; note - two women were elected for the first time to the Majlis al-Shura, about 100,000 people voted
Judicial branch: Supreme Court note: the nascent civil court system, administered by region, has non-Islamic judges as well as traditional Islamic judges Political parties and leaders: none Political pressure groups and none
leaders: International organization ABEDA, AFESD, AL, AMF, CCC, ESCWA,
participation: FAO, G-77, GCC, IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Mohamed Ali AL KHUSAIBY chancery: 2535 Belmont Road, NW, Washington, DC 20008 telephone: [1] (202) 387-1980 through 1981, 1988 FAX: [1] (202) 745-4933 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Charge d'Affaires
US: Robert W. DRY embassy: Jameat A'Duwal Al Arabiya Street, Al Khuwair area, Muscat mailing address: international: P. O. Box 202, P.C. 115, Madinat Al- Sultan Qaboos, Muscat telephone: [968] 698989 FAX: [968] 699189
Flag description: three horizontal bands of white, red, and green of equal width with a broad, vertical, red band on the hoist side; the national emblem (a khanjar dagger in its sheath superimposed on two crossed swords in scabbards) in white is centered at the top of the vertical band Economy Oman
Economy - overview: Oman's economic performance improved significantly in 2000 due largely to the upturn in oil prices. The government is moving ahead with privatization of its utilities, the development of a body of commercial law to facilitate foreign investment, and increased budgetary outlays. Oman continues to liberalize its markets and joined the World Trade Organization (WTrO) in November 2000. GDP growth improved in 2001 despite the global slowdown.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $21.5 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 7.4% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $8,200 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 3% industry: 40% services: 57% (1999 est.) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 920,000 (2002 est.) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture NA%, industry NA%, services NA%
Unemployment rate: NA%
Budget: revenues: $9.2 billion expenditures: $6.9 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
Industries: crude oil production and refining, natural gas production, construction, cement, copper Industrial production growth rate: 4% (2000 est.) Electricity - production: 8.1 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100% hydro: 0% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 7.533 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: dates, limes, bananas, alfalfa, vegetables; camels, cattle; fish
Exports: $10.9 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: petroleum, reexports, fish, metals, textiles
Exports - partners: Japan 21%, Thailand 18%, China 16%, South Korea 12%, UAE 12%, US 3% (2001)
Imports: $5.4 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, livestock, lubricants
Imports - partners: UAE 23% (largely reexports), Japan 16%, UK 13%, Italy 7%, Germany 5%, US 5% (2001)
Debt - external: $5.3 billion (2000 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $76.4 million (1995)
Currency: Omani rial (OMR)
Currency code: OMR
Exchange rates: Omani rials per US dollar - 0.3845 (fixed rate since 1986)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Oman - Telephones - main lines in use: 201,000 (1997) Telephones - mobile cellular: 59,822 (1997)
Telephone system: general assessment: modern system consisting of open wire, microwave, and radiotelephone communication stations; limited coaxial cable domestic: open wire, microwave, radiotelephone communications, and a domestic satellite system with 8 earth stations international: satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) and 1 Arabsat Radio broadcast stations: AM 3, FM 9, shortwave 2 (1999)
Radios: 1.4 million (1997) Television broadcast stations: 13 (plus 25 low-power repeaters) (1999)
Televisions: 1.6 million (1997)
Internet country code: .om Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 90,000 (2001) Transportation Oman -
Railways: 0 km
Highways: total: 32,800 km paved: 9,840 km (including 550 km of expressways) unpaved: 22,960 km (1996)
Waterways: none
Pipelines: crude oil 1,300 km; natural gas 1,030 km
Ports and harbors: Matrah, Mina' al Fahl, Mina' Raysut
Merchant marine: total: 3 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 17,291 GRT/9,457 DWT ships by type: cargo 1, passenger 1, passenger/cargo 1 note: includes a foreign-owned ship registered here as a flag of convenience: Singapore 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 143 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 6 over 3,047 m: 4 2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 137 914 to 1,523 m: 38 under 914 m: 36 (2001) 1,524 to 2,437 m: 54 over 3,047 m: 2 2,438 to 3,047 m: 7
Heliports: 1 (2001) Military Oman -
Military branches: Royal Omani Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force), Royal Omani Police Military manpower - military age: 14 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 780,292 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 434,026 (2002 est.)
service: Military manpower - reaching males: 26,470 (2002 est.)
military age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $2,424.4 million (FY01)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 12.2% (FY01)
GDP: Transnational Issues Oman - Disputes - international: Oman signed a boundary treaty with the UAE in 1999, but the completed boundary is not expected until the end of 2002; undefined segments of the Oman-UAE boundary remain with Ra's al-Khaymah and Ash Shariqah (Sharjah) emirates, including the Musandam Peninsula, where an administrative boundary substitutes for an international boundary

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officially Sultanate of Oman formerly Muscat and Oman

Country, southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula.

Area: 119,500 sq mi (309,500 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 2,522,00. Capital: Muscat. The Omanis are predominantly Arab and tribal in organization. There are also many migrant workers from South Asia and eastern Africa who reside there. Language: Arabic (official), Balochi. Religions: Islam (official), Hinduism. Currency: Omani rial. Oman is a hot, arid country with high humidity along the coasts. The Ḥajar Mountains parallel the coast of the Gulf of Oman, reaching an elevation of more than 10,000 ft (3,000 m). A broad expanse of gravel desert that covers three-fourths of the country extends to the southwest. Oman has a developing mixed economy, and the production and export of petroleum is its largest sector. It is a hereditary monarchy, with an advisory council; its head of state and government is the sultan. The land has been inhabited for at least 10,000 years. The Arab migration to Oman began in the 9th century BC. It was ruled by imams (Muslim religious leaders) of the Ibādī sect from the early Islamic period (с 7th century AD) until 1154, when a royal dynasty was established. The Portuguese controlled the coastal areas с 1507–1650, when they were expelled. The Āl Bū Saʽīd, a dynasty founded in the mid-18th century, still rules Oman. The kingdom expanded into eastern Africa in the 18th–19th centuries, where its capital was at Zanzibar. Oil was discovered in 1964. In 1970 the sultan was deposed by his son, who began a policy of modernization, and under him Oman joined the Arab League and the United Nations. In the Persian Gulf War, Oman cooperated with the forces allied against Iraq. It subsequently continued to expand its foreign relations.
(as used in expressions)
Sultanate of Oman
Oman Gulf of
Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman

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▪ 2009

309,500 sq km (119,500 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 2,651,000
Head of state and government:
Sultan and Prime Minister Qaboos bin Said (Qabus ibn Saʿid)

      In 2008 Oman retained its role as the global guardian of the Strait of Hormuz, a strategically vital route for much of the world's daily hydrocarbon exports. Simultaneously, Oman continued to view with concern repeated U.S. and Israeli threats to use whatever means necessary—including armed force—against Iran, the sultanate's most important maritime neighbour (located directly across the strait), in the event that Iran refused to cease its uranium-enrichment program. While realizing the necessity of cordial relations with both Tehran and Washington, D.C., the sultanate remained reliant upon the 1980 Facilities Access Agreement, which allowed the U.S. military provisional use of Oman's defense facilities in the event of an actual or imminent threat of attack by Iran or any other state. The challenges implicit in this situation were among other prominent issues and matters of policy that Oman had under consideration as it hosted the Gulf Cooperation Council's annual ministerial and heads of state summit, which was held in Muscat on December 27–29.

       Petroleum prices remained the key determinant of Oman's economy, which grew 6% during the year. Energy exports again produced ample funding for the ongoing expansion of the sultanate's burgeoning tourism and transportation sectors. Three new airports were opened to better accommodate the influx of tourists. Meanwhile, the ports of Sohar and Salalah continued to grow, with Salalah gaining the distinction of being the only port between Europe and Singapore that could handle the world's largest container vessels. Bolstering the country's appeal to foreign visitors was Vogue magazine's declaration of Oman as the top travel destination for 2008.

John Duke Anthony

▪ 2008

309,500 sq km (119,500 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 2,595,000
Head of state and government:
Sultan and Prime Minister Qaboos bin Said (Qabus ibn Saʿid)

      Record high oil prices continued to fuel Oman's robust economic growth in 2007. Highlights were the advancement of the country's hydrocarbons industry, including the addition of a third train of liquefied natural gas exports and the use of new technology to enhance recovery of oil from existing fields, and accelerated development of Oman's newest port and aluminum facility at Sohar, located outside the Hormuz Strait, the world's most vital waterway. In addition, the expansion of transportation and tourism facilities and services further diversified the economy and increased employment opportunities for the country's burgeoning population.

      Two other developments had significant impacts on Oman's economic situation. In June Cyclone Gonu hit the eastern part of the country, resulting in 78 casualties, estimates of more than $3 billion in damages, and the cancellation of Oman's plans to host the 28th annual Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ministerial and heads of state summit scheduled for the fall. Oman also opted out of the GCC countries' planned monetary union with a single currency, set to take effect by 2010, declaring that it would continue to peg its Omani riyal currency to the U.S. dollar and voicing its opposition to the stipulation that the member countries' ratio of debt to GDP could not exceed 60%. While Oman carried very little debt, the need to finance numerous massive infrastructure-development projects under consideration would likely require indeterminate levels of indebtedness in order to bring them to fruition. The sultanate explained that its decision need not prevent the other members from adopting a unified currency, noting that of the 27 European Union countries, only 13 used the euro.

John Duke Anthony

▪ 2007

309,500 sq km (119,500 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 2,516,000
Head of state and government:
Sultan and Prime Minister Qaboos bin Said (Qabus ibn Saʿid)

      Oman continued in 2006 to reconfigure its largely all-British-sourced defense system and equipment by purchasing American-manufactured antitank weapons. In addition, bilateral defense cooperation agreements were reached with India and Pakistan.

      Economically, Oman also attracted major investments from the neighbouring United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company took a 40% stake in a new aluminum smelter project, and the Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim Investments Group was a cofinancier of the Wave, Muscat's new beachfront resort. The sultanate's strategy remained oriented toward transitioning Oman from a crude-oil and liquefied- natural-gas (LNG)-producing country to one based increasingly on the manufacture of oil derivatives and other products as well as on tourism and trade. The five-year plan (2006–10) showed investment targets of $34 billion, with more than half the total in the energy sector. Analysts projected that Oman's GDP for 2006 would increase by 16% over the previous year, largely as a result of enhanced revenues from heightened oil and gas prices. Muscat announced the discovery of four new oil fields in which the reserves were estimated to be in the tens of millions of barrels, and it launched its third mega-gas plant at Qalhat. Coupled with the output of its two existing plants, this raised the country's annual LNG production to 10 million tons.

      In September, U.S. Pres. George W. Bush signed into law a free-trade agreement with Oman. In an effort to overcome U.S. complaints that Oman had been slow to permit the establishment of trade unions, the country granted workers that right in midyear.

John Duke Anthony

▪ 2006

309,500 sq km (119,500 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 2,409,000
Head of state and government:
Sultan and Prime Minister Qaboos bin Said (Qabus ibn Saʿid)

      The conclusion of a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the United States in October 2005 was an important breakthrough for Oman; it was to go into effect by the end of 2005. The FTA was emblematic of Oman's commitment to increased commercial liberalization en route to integrating its economy further with the global marketplace. The agreement would eliminate tariff and other barriers to trade between the two countries, and it was signed at a time when the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was its closest ever to concluding a free-trade agreement with the European Union. The trade accord followed a major Omani military strategic decision in 2004 to reconfigure the lead segments of its air force with advanced American-built F-16 fighter aircraft.

      Other highlights were the construction of massive coastal hotel and resort complexes at Barka, Yiti, Seeb, and Bandar Al-Jissah, together with eight similar but smaller-scale investment schemes elsewhere in the sultanate. Costing a total of $17.5 billion, the dozen projects were designed to attract vacationers and purchasers of second homes in top income brackets. The benefits of Oman's ever-widening economic engagement with the international tourist industry and increased levels of foreign direct investment in development sectors were mainly targeted at expanding employment opportunities for the country's burgeoning population of youth leaving school.

John Duke Anthony

▪ 2005

309,500 sq km (119,500 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 2,350,000
Head of state and government:
Sultan and Prime Minister Qaboos bin Said (Qabus ibn Saʿid)

      In 2004 Oman continued on its path of incrementally privatizing sectors of its economy, replacing increasing numbers of foreign workers with citizens, and taking additional steps to further liberalize the climate for encouraging international investment. Dramatically higher oil prices alleviated predictions of negative economic growth, and the accompanying spike in official revenues not only lessened earlier pressures to increase revenue by raising rates for water, electricity, and gasoline but also produced a surplus in the balance of trade by year's end. In addition, investors in neighbouring United Arab Emirates sought to provide much of the $800 million destined for a new 7.2-km (4.5-mi) beachfront-development scheme west of the capital.

      In a regional first, women were appointed to head the Ministries of Tourism, Social Development, and Higher Education. In addition, all 83 members of the national consultative assembly were elected directly for the first time. Previously, the government had selected the voters, and only 25% of the electorate could vote in a given election. The number of members in the country's appointed state council was expanded to 57, and the terms of both the elected and appointed councils were extended from three to four years.

      Oman remained apprehensive of U.S. and Israeli threats to neighbouring Iran regarding its nuclear program and expressed displeasure at stated U.S. intentions to pressure Arab and Islamic governments in general to conform to Western notions of governance. Oman declined to commit troops to Iraq and questioned the legitimacy of Baghdad's new leaders. Oman and Yemen agreed on the demarcation of their maritime boundary, completing the delineation of their borders on land and sea, and the two countries launched discussions to establish a free-trade zone.

John Duke Anthony

▪ 2004

309,500 sq km (119,500 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 2,621,000
Head of state and government:
Sultan and Prime Minister Qabus ibn Saʿid

      In 2003 Oman faced near-term uncertainties regarding its petroleum and liquefied natural gas (LNG) industries, income from which continued to constitute nearly three-quarters of the government's revenues and nearly half of the country's GNP. In addition, privatization of state-owned enterprises in the fields of power generation, transmission, and distribution, as well as waste-water management and telecommunications, remained stalled.

      On the other hand, Oman succeeded in securing a major international agreement intended to increase the levels of its LNG production and exports by as much as a third in the coming two years. Oman continued to benefit from having successfully outsourced to a British firm the management of and investment in the country's two largest airports, at Seeb and Salalah, with plans to more than double passenger throughput at the two airports by 2006.

      On the international front, Oman conducted its first-ever maneuvers with the navies of India, the U.S., and Russia off India's west coast. In addition, the sultanate explored further opportunities to link its economic infrastructure with that of the neighbouring United Arab Emirates.

      The Oman–United States bilateral relationship suffered. In March, following a series of official U.S. travel advisories that discouraged Americans from visiting various Arabian Peninsula countries, Oman issued an advisory to its citizens against travel to the United States. Oman also opposed the U.S. decision to use armed force against Iraq. It reasoned, together with many other governments, that an invasion would likely endanger peace and stability not only in Iraq but in the region as a whole.

      On October 4 a new 83-member consultative assembly was chosen in the first Omani election open to all adult citizens. In previous elections only a select 25% of the population voted.

John Duke Anthony

▪ 2003

309,500 sq km (119,500 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 2,522,000
Head of state and government:
Sultan and Prime Minister Qabus ibn Saʿid

      Throughout 2002 Oman—as chair of the Supreme Council of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council—carried an international burden greater than most of its neighbouring states. As American war drums favouring an invasion of Iraq mounted steadily, Oman remained at the forefront of Arab and Islamic countries cautioning that any and all international action relating to Iraq should take place solely within the framework of the United Nations.

      On the domestic front, Oman continued to suffer economically owing to the decline in international air transportation and tourism following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. Oman had invested heavily in tourism in hopes of diversifying the economy and attracting much-needed foreign investment. Offsetting these downturns were continued higher-than-expected oil revenues and ongoing strong demand for the country's liquefied natural gas exports.

      Oman continued to face the twofold challenge of mounting unemployment and limited job opportunities for its increasingly educated youth. To address these challenges, there was heightened emphasis placed on the acceleration of more market-centred education and training for the present and future generations, the reduction of the traditional significant reliance on imported labour, and the continuing implementation of the several previous bold moves to encourage foreign and domestic direct investment as well as private ownership. Among the more notable achievements in this regard were the further streamlining and regulation of the country's securities exchange as well as its banking and financial sectors and the ongoing promotion of Oman's extraordinary favourable geographic location as a regional hub for corporate headquarters and the transshipment of goods.

John Duke Anthony

▪ 2002

309,500 sq km (119,500 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 2,497,000
Head of state and government:
Sultan and Prime Minister Qabus ibn Saʿid

      In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, Oman, in fulfillment of preparations launched two and a half years earlier, hosted a joint military exercise with Great Britain. The presence of some 30,000 British troops in the sultanate facilitated the U.S.-led coalition's military campaign against the Taliban regime and al-Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan. Throughout the campaign Oman remained supportive of the coalition, allowing the deployment of American B-1 bombers to bases in the sultanate and agreeing to serve as a staging area for British and American special forces.

      Sultan Qabus ibn Saʿid was more visible in 2001 than in previous years. He was among the regional leaders who met personally with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during Rumsfeld's three-day swing through the Middle East in early October to garner international support for the war on terrorism. At the end of the year, the sultan was elected chairman of the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC's) Supreme Council for 2002. The GCC, established in 1981 and committed to enhancing economic, defense, and political cooperation between its six member states, had become one of the world's most prominent subregional organizations. The members—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—possessed nearly half the planet's proven petroleum reserves.

      Domestically, Oman continued along the path of its previous political reforms. In addition to the cabinet and government headed by the sultan, a 52-member State Council helped determine national development strategies. As part of a larger Oman Council, the State Council also rendered advice regarding the sultanate's economic and financial policies. The uncertain future of oil revenues continued to underpin the government's resolve to diversify the economy. This entailed further development of the country's liquefied natural gas industry, tourism, and the southernmost port of Salalah, one of the world's largest container terminals.

John Duke Anthony

▪ 2001

309,500 sq km (119,500 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 2,416,000
Head of state and government:
Sultan and Prime Minister Qabus ibn Saʿid

      Oman during 2000 held the first-ever direct elections for its parliament (Majlis ash-Shura), increased the number of district representatives from 82 to 83, and doubled the turnout of voters since the previous election. In a first among Oman's fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member nations—Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—two women were elected.

      Economically, Oman benefited immensely from the year's significantly higher international oil prices and the conclusion of lucrative contracts by which it would export substantial quantities of natural gas to India, Japan, South Korea, Spain, and the U.S. Construction also progressed on the multibillion-dollar seaport and industrial zone being built at Suhar on the Gulf of Oman. The latter development was designed to strengthen the sultanate's already vital strategic importance in terms of the Strait of Hormuz, whose maritime routes Oman controlled and through which the lion's share of the oil traded on international markets was shipped.

      By far the greatest breakthrough for Oman's future economic growth was its accession to the 138-member World Trade Organization. Achievement of this long-sought objective and possession of the requisite energy resources to enable it to further the country's industrialization combined to give the nation a much brighter prospect for the near future than it had experienced in quite some time.

John Duke Anthony

▪ 2000

309,500 sq km (119,500 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 2,447,000
Head of state and government:
Sultan and Prime Minister Qabus ibn Saʿid

      Oman began 1999 with greatly diminished revenues from its oil exports because the price of oil had fallen to below $10 a barrel in late 1999. Along with other oil-exporting nations, however, it benefited substantially from the doubling of oil prices that followed the production cutbacks in March led by Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico, and Iran. In addition, the natural gas sector of the nation's economy continued to flourish.

      Oman also neared finalization of the remaining economic reforms required for its admission into the World Trade Organization, which would help enhance its attractiveness to foreign investors. Simultaneously, Salalah port, in the southernmost province of Dhofar, was increasingly viewed by international shipping lines as the premier site for off-loading cargo bound for the Persian Gulf, East Africa, areas elsewhere in the Indian Ocean, and, soon to come, ports in Australia, China, Egypt, Lebanon, South Africa, and New Zealand.

      Politically Oman continued to increase the degree of popular participation in government. Sultan Qabus appointed 40 members to a new Council of State, which, in addition to the older Consultative Council, whose future members were to be popularly elected, advised the government on matters of public policy. The new deliberative body was composed of former ambassadors, judges, ministers, and military leaders as well as representatives from the business sector and academia. Six of the members were women.

John Duke Anthony

▪ 1999

      Area: 309,500 sq km (119,500 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 2,364,000

      Capital: Muscat

      Head of state and government: Sultan and Prime Minister Qabus ibn Sa!id

      Major domestic political events in Oman in late 1997 and early 1998 included the establishment of a new governmental body, the State Council, which was appointed by Sultan Qabus to prioritize the agenda of the government. At the same time, Qabus decreed that the Shura Council become an entirely elected body, removing his power to appoint one-third of its members. Qabus also reshuffled the Cabinet in January, appointing Yusuf ibn !Alawi ibn !Abdallah as foreign minister and Muhammad ar-Rumhi as oil minister.

      On the economic front Oman continued to experience diminished revenues caused by falling oil prices. Oil Minister Rumhi on several occasions called for oil-producing countries to agree to reduce production levels.

      In foreign affairs Oman continued its efforts to establish close economic, political, and military ties with Iran. Numerous high-level visits were exchanged between the two countries, and an Iranian firm won the competition to construct a power plant in Solaleh, Oman. Relations with Yemen were strained in March when Yemeni secessionist leader !Ali al-Bid, who was exiled in Oman, publicly renewed calls for an independent South Yemen. Oman also accused Yemen of supporting Islamist rebels who sought to overthrow the Omani regime.


▪ 1998

      Area: 309,5000 sq km (119,500 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 2,265,000

      Capital: Muscat

      Head of state and government: Sultan and Prime Minister Qabus ibn Saˋid

      Foreign affairs were a major focus of activity for Oman during 1997. The nation had taken the lead among Arab countries in establishing diplomatic and commercial relations with Israel following the signing of the Hebron accord in January, but in March Oman reversed this course after the Arab League's decision to halt normalization with Israel owing to the construction of new Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. Oman canceled its agreement to allow Israeli firms to participate in trade shows in Oman scheduled for March and April and rejected Israeli participation in Muscat's fourth international fair in October.

      Also in March, Oman signed an agreement with 13 other countries to form the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation. In May Oman and Yemen signed maps defining the border between the two countries. Numerous high-level exchanges occurred in 1997 between Omani and Iranian officials, and the two sides reached agreements to cooperate on the development of shared natural gas deposits and to establish closer commercial ties.

      Oman witnessed several significant developments in its petroleum and natural gas industries during 1997. In April Oman participated in talks with Indonesian officials on establishing an organization for gas-exporting countries modeled on OPEC. In May the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, of which Oman held a 7% share, signed a final agreement on financing the 1,500-km (930-mi) pipeline from Kazakstan to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.

      This article updates Oman, history of (Oman).

▪ 1997

      The sultanate of Oman occupies the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, facing the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Sea. A small part of the country lies to the north and is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. Area: 306,000 sq km (118,150 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 2,251,000. Cap.: Muscat. Monetary unit: rial Omani, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a par value of 0.38 rial to U.S. $1 (free rate of 0.61 rial = £1 sterling). Sultan and prime minister in 1996, Qabus ibn Sa'id.

      Oman's new minister of national economy, Ahmad Macki, announced in January 1996 a $26,200,000,000 five-year plan that would balance Oman's budget by the year 2000. The plan would shift the nation away from its dependence on oil, privatize the economy, and encourage foreign investment. Oil prices moved higher during the year, which allowed Oman to replenish its financial reserves. In October Oman shelved plans for a gas pipeline to India, but work continued on a major project to produce and ship 6.6 million tons of liquefied natural gas annually to Asian markets beginning in 2000.

      In November Sultan Qabus ibn Sa'id promulgated a "basic law" that prohibited the use of public office for private purposes and established a procedure for succession; the royal family must agree on a successor within three days of a sultan's death or accept the (late) sultan's recommended candidate. (DAVID J. DUNFORD)

      This article updates Oman, history of (Oman).

▪ 1996

      The sultanate of Oman occupies the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, facing the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Sea. A small part of the country lies to the north and is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. Area: 306,000 sq km (118,150 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 2,163,000. Cap.: Muscat. Monetary unit: rial Omani, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a par value of 0.38 rial to U.S. $1 (free rate of 0.61 rial = £1 sterling). Sultan and prime minister in 1995, Qabus ibn Sa'id.

      The Omani government enjoyed good relations with neighbouring countries and focused greater attention on internal economic concerns in 1995. Oman had recorded government deficits since 1981, and its oil output was expected to level off at about one million barrels a day by the end of the decade. A 1994 World Bank report warned that the government's current expenditure trends were "unsustainable."

      Reacting in part to the report, the government during 1995 announced a comprehensive program for reform, including cuts in government spending to reduce the budget deficit, privatization of state-owned infrastructure projects, and steps to encourage foreign investment. Meeting the most important of these targets, a reduction of government spending, had proved difficult, however. Government spending in 1995 was projected to reach $5.6 billion, a 6.2% increase over 1994, with a deficit of $811 million, a figure that even Omani officials acknowledged as much too high. Once again defense and security services spending was the main reason for the overrun.

      Oman continued plans to develop its natural gas resources, with exports projected to begin in the year 2000. In January Oman announced that it had taken a 50% share in the project to build a 102-cm (40-in)-diameter pipeline from oilfields in Kazakhstan to the Russian port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea. Engineering studies for a proposed 1,135-km (705-mi) undersea gas pipeline to India were completed in July.

      In foreign policy, Oman continued to take the lead among Gulf countries in support of the Arab-Israeli peace process. It served as host to a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in December 1994, and in October 1995 Oman and Israel announced a trade agreement that would result in the opening of trade offices in both countries.


      This updates the article Oman, history of (Oman).

▪ 1995

      The sultanate of Oman occupies the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, facing the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Sea. A small part of the country lies to the north and is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. Area: 306,000 sq km (118,150 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 2,048,000. Cap.: Muscat. Monetary unit: rial Omani, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a par value of 0.38 rial to U.S. $1 (free rate of 0.60 rial = £1 sterling). Sultan and prime minister in 1994, Qabus ibn Sa'id.

      Sultan Qabus ibn Sa'id faced the first significant political upheaval of his reign since the end of the Dhofar war in 1975 when up to 500 dissidents, including high-ranking Omani civil servants and a prominent businessman, were arrested in the summer. Government sources initially failed to confirm the arrests in Muscat, the Dhofar area, al-Buraymi, and other towns, but in some cases heavily armed police and army units publicly seized dissidents from their offices.

      A government statement in November referred to those arrested as "treacherous people intent on overthrowing the government while using Islam as a cover." Officials refused to confirm the number of people picked up but denied that there were as many as 500. On November 12 a separate statement announced that the sultan had commuted death sentences passed on "several people convicted by the state security court of conspiracy to foment sedition."

      On July 6 the head of the self-proclaimed Democratic Republic of Yemen, Ali Salim al-Baidh, fled into exile in Oman with 9,000 armed followers and other refugees. During the Yemeni civil war, from May 5 to July 7, Oman urged other Persian Gulf states to recognize the breakaway southern republic. In subsequent negotiations with the victorious Yemen government, Baidh was permitted to stay in Oman provided he "retired" from politics.

      Sultan Qabus announced in January that the Majlis ash-Shoura (consultative assembly) would be increased from 59 to 80 members in 1995. It was announced in June that women would be allowed to run for the assembly, and four were elected in the first round of voting in November. (JOHN WHELAN)

      This updates the article Oman, history of (Oman).

▪ 1994

      The sultanate of Oman occupies the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, facing the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Sea. A small part of the country lies to the north and is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. Area: 306,000 sq km (118,150 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 1,698,000. Cap.: Muscat. Monetary unit: rial Omani, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a par value of 0.38 rial to U.S. $1 (free rate of 0.58 rial = £1 sterling). Sultan and prime minister in 1993, Qabus ibn Sa'id.

       Oman and Yemen symbolically achieved even closer relations with the opening on June 1 of their first border post at Mazyouna in Oman province. During the event, presided over by Qais ibn 'Abd al-Munim az-Zawawi, Oman's deputy prime minister for financial and economic affairs, the two governments announced their intention to build a new town at the border post and to inaugurate a free-trade zone for use by businesses from both countries.

      Oman's decision to proceed with plans for a $9 billion liquefied natural gas project at Bimmah on the east coast north of Sur and some 200 km (124 mi) south of the capital was in anticipation of an expected economic boom in the period preceding Sultan Qabus ibn Sa'id's silver jubilee in November 1995. Sultan Qabus improved his popularity with tribesmen by making a monthlong tour of the interior beginning on January 26 and by gaining better recognition for Oman in the Arab world. Oman was the host nation of an April meeting attended by heads of Arab aid funds and development banks.

      The Indian prime minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, visited Muscat during June to discuss joint ventures, including hydrocarbons projects and fertilizer plants in Oman. On March 13 the two governments had signed a memorandum of understanding for a submarine oil pipeline. The South African foreign minister, Pik Botha, was received in mid-April.

      On January 28, British Prime Minister John Major concluded a military procurement contract with the sultanate, which purchased 18 Challenger II main battle tanks and ancillary equipment valued at $208 million. On June 22 the agreement was formally signed by both Oman's Defense Ministry secretary Saif ibn Muhammad al-Batashi and representatives of the British manufacturers, Vickers P.L.C. In February Oman announced plans to purchase French naval vessels. (JOHN WHELAN)

      This updates the article Oman, history of (Oman).

* * *

Oman, flag of  country occupying the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula at the confluence of the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea.

 Much of the country's interior falls within the sandy, treeless, and largely waterless region known as the Rubʿ al-Khali, still the domain of Bedouin nomads—one of whom once remarked of the desert in summer,The sun is hot. It is worse when the wind blows; then it is like a furnace. Even when we stop to rest there is not shade…on the sand. Only the Bedu [Bedouin] could endure this life.

      In contrast to the stark interior, the coastal regions are much more hospitable. Oman's lush northern coast lies between the sea and inland mountains. This verdant, fertile region is known for its grapes and other produce, as is the Dhofar region in the country's south. The capital, Muscat, lies along the northern coast. Blending modern and traditional architecture, the city commands a view of the Gulf of Oman (Oman, Gulf of) and serves as a port and commercial centre.

      Renowned in ancient times for its frankincense and metalworking, Oman occupies a strategically important location, for which it has long been a prize for empire builders. In the 16th century Muscat was seized by Portugal, which held the city until 1650. During the 18th century the Āl Bū Saʿīd dynasty expelled a Persian occupation and established Omani control over much of the Persian Gulf. The Āl Bū Saʿīd weathered much political turbulence but preserved its hold on power into the 21st century—largely by maintaining close relations with the United Kingdom—but the dynasty was slow to open the country to innovation. Significant modernization did not begin until after the coup in 1970 that brought Qaboos bin Said (Qābūs ibn Saʿīd) to power, at which point Oman rapidly began to develop an advanced economy. The once insular country now actively encourages tourism, and travelers come from afar to enjoy its hospitality and unspoiled landscapes.

      Slightly smaller in area than the country of Poland, Oman is bounded to the southwest by Yemen, to the south and east by the Arabian Sea, to the north by the Gulf of Oman, to the northwest by the United Arab Emirates, and to the west by Saudi Arabia. A small exclave, the Ruʾūs al-Jibāl (“the Mountaintops”), occupies the northern tip of the Musandam Peninsula at the Strait of Hormuz (Hormuz, Strait of); this territory gives Oman its only frontage on the Persian Gulf. Its offshore territories include Maṣīrah Island to the east and Al-Ḥallāniyyah Island (the largest of the five Khuriyyā Muriyyā (Khurīyā Murīyā) Islands) 25 miles (40 km) off the south coast.

 Northern Oman is dominated by three physiographic zones. The long, narrow coastal plain known as Al-Bāṭinah (Bāṭinah, Al-) stretches along the Gulf of Oman. The high, rugged Ḥajar Mountains (Ḥajar, al-) extend southeastward, parallel to the gulf coast, from the Musandam Peninsula to a point near Cape al-Ḥadd at the easternmost tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Much of the range reaches elevations above 4,800 feet (1,463 metres); Mount Al-Akhḍar (“Green Mountain”), at an elevation of 10,086 feet (3,074 metres), is the country's highest point. The great central divide of Wadi Samāʾil separates the Ḥajar into a western and an eastern range. An inland plateau falls away to the southwest of the Ḥajar Mountains into the great Rubʿ al-Khali (“Empty Quarter”) desert, which the sultanate shares with Saudi Arabia and Yemen. These zones can be further subdivided into several unofficial regions: Al-Bāṭinah; the mountains and associated valleys of the Eastern Ḥajar and Western Ḥajar ranges; the Oman interior area, or Al-Jaww (the central foothills and valleys on the inland side of the Ḥajar Mountains and the historic heartland of Oman); Al-Ẓāhirah (the semidesert plain west of the interior Oman area, next to the United Arab Emirates, including Al-Buraymī oasis); Al-Sharqiyyah (sandy plains lying east of interior Oman behind the Ḥajar Mountains); and Jaʿlān (fronting the Arabian Sea south of Cape al-Ḥadd).

      The southern region of Dhofar (Ẓufār) is separated from the rest of Oman by several hundred miles of open desert. Dhofar's coastal plain is fertile alluvial soil, well watered by the southwest monsoon. Wooded mountain ranges, rising to about 5,000 feet (1,500 metres), form a crescent there behind a long, narrow coastal plain, on which the provincial capital of Ṣalālah is located. Behind the mountains, gravel plains gradually merge northward into the Rubʿ al-Khali.

      There are no permanent bodies of fresh water in the country. Intermittent streams are a product of seasonal storms and generally abate quickly. Some effort has been made in recent years to construct dams in an effort to preserve runoff and control flooding.

      The climate is hot and dry in the interior and hot and humid along the coast. Summer temperatures in the capital of Muscat and other coastal locations often climb to 110 °F (43 °C), with high humidity; winters are mild, with lows averaging about 63 °F (17 °C). Temperatures are similar in the interior, although they are more moderate at higher elevations. Dhofar is dominated by the summer monsoon, making Ṣalālah's climate more temperate than that of northern Oman. Rainfall throughout the country is minimal, averaging only about 4 inches (100 mm) per year, although precipitation in the mountains is heavier.

Plant and animal life
      Because of the low precipitation, vegetation is sparse except where there is irrigation, which is provided by an ancient system of water channels known as aflāj (singular: falaj). The channels often run underground and originate in wells near mountain bases. The aflāj collectively were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006.

      Acacia trees form most of what little natural vegetation exists, and the soil is extremely rocky; plant species are protected in nature preserves. The government also protects rare animal species, such as the Arabian oryx, Arabian leopard, mountain goat, and loggerhead turtle. Oman's birdlife is extraordinarily diverse and includes such species as the glossy ibis, Egyptian vulture, Barbary falcon, and Socotra cormorant.


Ethnic groups
      More than half of Oman's population is Arab. However, large numbers of ethnic Baloch—who migrated to Oman from Iran and Pakistan over the past several centuries—live near the coast in Al-Bāṭinah. The Muscat-Maṭraḥ urban area has long been home to significant numbers of ethnic Persians and to merchants of South Asian ancestry, some of whom also live along Al-Bāṭinah. Notable among the latter are the Liwātiyyah, who originally came from Sindh (now in Pakistan) but have lived in Oman for centuries.

      Several large Arab groups predominate along Dhofar's coastal plain. The inhabitants of the Dhofar mountains are known as jibālīs, or “people of the mountains.” They are ethnically distinct from the coastal Arabs and are thought to be descendants of people from the Yemen highlands.

      Arabic (Arabic language) is the official language, and Modern Standard Arabic is taught in schools. In addition, a number of dialects of vernacular Arabic are spoken, some of which are similar to those spoken in other Persian Gulf states but many of which are not mutually intelligible with those of adjacent regions. The jibālīs, for example, speak older dialects of South Arabic (South Arabic language). These differ greatly from most other dialects, which are derived from North Arabic (as is Modern Standard Arabic). English, Persian, and Urdu are also spoken, and there are a number of Swahili-speaking Omanis born in Zanzibar and elsewhere in East Africa who returned to Oman after 1970. Various South Asian languages are also spoken.

      The overwhelming majority of Omanis are Muslims. The Ibāḍī branch of Islam (Islām), a moderate Khārijite group, claims the most adherents. In belief and ritual, Ibāḍism is close to Sunni Islam (the major branch of Islam), differing in its emphasis on an elected, rather than a hereditary, imam as the spiritual and temporal leader of the Ibāḍī community. Non-Ibāḍī Arabs and the Baloch are mostly Sunnis (Sunnite). Those in the South Asian communities are mainly Shīʿite, although a few are Hindus.

Settlement patterns
 The population of Oman is primarily urban but has a number of traditional rural settlements. These are typically located near the foothills of the Ḥajar Mountains, where the aflāj provide irrigation. In addition to small villages, a number of sizable towns, including Nizwā, Bahlāʾ, Izkī, and ʿIbrī, are found on the inland, or southwestern, side of the Western Ḥajar. Coastal Al-Bāṭinah (Bāṭinah, Al-) provides opportunities for fishing, as well as irrigated cultivation, and is therefore more densely populated, with such major towns as Shināṣ, Ṣuḥār, Al-Khābūrah, Al-Maṣnaʿah, and Barkāʾ. Approximately one-fourth of the population lives in Al-Bāṭinah. Al-Rustāq, ʿAwābī, and Nakhl are principal settlements on Al-Bāṭinah's side of the Western Ḥajar.

      The twin cities of Muscat and Maṭraḥ lie at the eastern end of Al-Bāṭinah; both are ancient ports, but they have merged to become an important metropolitan centre. Al-Bāṭinah is the country's most densely populated area. To the east the only major town is Ṣūr, a well-protected port that is still a notable centre for fishing and boatbuilding. The central region of interior Oman consists of irrigated valleys lying between the mountains and the desert and is also one of the more densely populated areas. Some of Dhofar's residents are concentrated in towns along the coast, while others are seminomadic cattle herders in the mountains. A small nomadic population inhabits the inland plateaus along the Rubʿ al-Khali. Khaṣab is the only significant town in the sparsely populated Musandam Peninsula.

Demographic trends
      Oman has one of the highest birth rates among the Persian Gulf states; this birth rate—combined with a relatively low death rate—has given the country a rate of natural increase that well exceeds the world average. Life expectancy averages about 75 years. The infant mortality rate is decreasing, and about one-third of the population is under age 15.

      Since 1970, increasing numbers of foreigners have come to reside in the country, particularly in the capital. These include Western businessmen, as well as government advisers, army officers, and labourers from the Indian subcontinent, the Philippines, and other Asian countries. Since the 1980s the government has followed a policy termed “Omanization,” to reduce the country's dependence on foreign labour and increase employment opportunities for Omani citizens.

      Oman is a rural, agricultural country, and fishing and overseas trading are important to the coastal populations. Oil (petroleum) in commercial quantities was discovered in Oman in 1964 and was first exported in 1967. Subsequently the production and export of petroleum rapidly came to dominate the country's economy. Oil revenues have grown to represent roughly two-fifths of gross domestic product (GDP) and almost three-fourths of the government's income.

      In anticipation of the eventual depletion of oil reserves, the government in 1996 initiated a plan for the post-oil era that focused on developing the country's natural gas resources to fuel domestic industry and for export in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Oman also sought to diversify and privatize its economy in addition to implementing its policy of Omanization. By the end of the 1990s, the privatization plan had advanced further than those in the other states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. Notable features of the program included expanding the country's stock market, selling several government-owned companies, and creating a more liberal investment environment. The country's development has been aided in part by the GCC.

Agriculture and fishing
 Agriculture is practiced mainly for subsistence and employs less than one-tenth of the population. The falaj irrigation system has long supported a three-tiered crop approach (i.e., three crops raised at different heights within the same plot), with date palms above; lime, banana, or mango trees in the middle level; and alfalfa (lucerne), wheat, and sorghum at ground level. Vegetables, melons, bananas, and dates are the country's most significant crops. Limes that are grown in the interior oases are traded for fish from coastal areas as well as exported abroad. Grapes, walnuts, peaches, and other fruits are cultivated on the high mountain plateaus; Dhofar also produces coconuts and papayas. Although agricultural production meets some local needs, most food must be imported. Many rural families keep goats, and Oman is well known for camel breeding. Cattle are raised throughout the mountainous areas of Dhofar.

      The emigration of a large portion of the workforce to neighbouring countries before 1970 allowed fields to lie fallow and the irrigation systems to decay. In an attempt to reduce the country's dependence on food imports, the government has sought to stimulate agricultural production by establishing research stations and model farms along Al-Bāṭinah's coast and in Dhofar, as well as date-processing plants at Al-Rustāq and Nizwā. The government has also encouraged the development of commercial fishing by providing boats and motors, cold-storage facilities, and transportation. In the 1990s the United States provided Oman with aid to help develop its potentially large fisheries in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.

Resources and power
      Crude oil production was high throughout the oil boom of the 1970s, and declining oil prices in the 1980s prompted the government to further increase production in an attempt to maintain revenue. This policy, however, was reversed in 1986 when Oman followed the lead of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries ( OPEC) and sought to sustain price levels through production cuts aimed at diminishing world oil supplies. Production again increased in the 1990s, and in the early 21st century the country's oil production was roughly three times the rates of the 1970s. Oman, however, still remains far behind the ranks of the world's largest oil exporters.

      Several copper mines and a smelter were opened in the early 1980s at an ancient mining site near Ṣuḥār, but production levels have diminished considerably. Chromite is also mined in small quantities. Coal deposits at Al-Kāmil have been explored for potential exploitation and use, especially to generate electricity. Exploration projects that began in the mid-1980s to uncover more unassociated natural gas have proved successful, and pipelines were constructed from the gas fields at Yibāl to Muscat and Ṣuḥār and to Izkī. By the late 1990s the known natural gas reserves were double those of less than a decade earlier. A facility for the liquefaction of natural gas was opened in Qalhāt, and in 2000 Oman began exporting LNG.

      Oman's non-petroleum manufactures include non-metallic mineral products, foods, and chemicals and chemical products. Industrial development, virtually nonexistent before 1970, began with a change of government that ended years of isolation in Oman. It has since been oriented toward projects that improve the country's infrastructure, such as electric generators, desalinization complexes, and cement plants outside Muscat and Ṣalālah. Successive government five-year plans have stressed private-sector development as well as joint ventures with the government. Meanwhile, the practice of traditional handicrafts (weaving, pottery, boatbuilding, and gold and silver work) has been declining.

      The Central Bank of Oman is the country's main monetary and banking regulatory body. Founded in 1974, it issues and regulates the national currency, the Omani rial, manages the government's accounts, and acts as lender of last resort. The country has commercial and development banks, and a number of foreign banks operate there. A stock exchange, the Muscat Securities Exchange, was opened in 1988.

      Crude oil, refined petroleum, and natural gas account for most exports, while imports consist mainly of machinery and transport equipment, basic manufactured goods, and foodstuffs. Some manufactured products are also exported. Among the country's major trading partners are China, Japan, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. In 2000 Oman became a member of the World Trade Organization.

      Services, including public administration and defense, account for roughly one-fifth of the value of GDP and employ some two-fifths of the workforce. Despite the country's frequent balance-of-payment deficits, defense spending consistently constitutes a significant portion of the total budget. The tourist trade contributes only a small fraction of Oman's GDP; however, the government has been promoting the sector more aggressively in an attempt to further diversify the economy.

Labour and taxation
      Before 1970 thousands of Omanis left the country to find work in nearby oil-producing states; later foreigners came to work in Oman as oil production increased. Non-Omanis still comprise about two-fifths of the labour force, and about one-fifth of the male population remains unemployed. Women constitute a small but growing portion of the workforce. There are no trade unions or associations in Oman, though the government has created consultative committees to mediate grievances. Strikes are forbidden. As in most countries of the region, the workweek is Saturday through Wednesday.

      Personal income and property are not taxed in Oman. Corporate tax rates are determined by the level of Omani ownership; the greater the percentage of Omani ownership, the lower the rate of taxation. In the late 1990s, however, the government lowered rates on foreign-owned firms to encourage investment. Oil companies are taxed separately by the Ministry of Petroleum and Minerals.

Transportation and telecommunication
      Oman has several ports, most notably Port Qābūs in Maṭraḥ, Ṣalālah (formerly known as Port Raysūt), and Al-Faḥl, all of which were built after 1970; in the late 1990s work was begun to upgrade and expand the industrial port at Ṣuḥār. Ṣalālah underwent major renovations and in 1998 opened as one of the world's largest container terminals; the port is considered by international shippers to be the preferred off-loading site in the Persian Gulf. Significant intercoastal trade is carried on by traditional wooden dhows. The two principal airports are located at Al-Sīb, about 19 miles (30 km) from Muscat, and at Ṣalālah. The government is a major stockholder in the international carrier Gulf Air and also operates Oman Air domestically and internationally. Since 1970 a modern network of asphalt and gravel roads has been built up from virtually nothing to link all the country's main settlements; about one-fourth of this network is paved. The country has no railroads.

      Government-owned Omantel (formerly known as General Telecommunications Organization) is Oman's primary telecommunications provider. During the 1990s it instituted plans that increased the number of phone lines, expanded the fibre-optic network, and introduced digital technology. The Internet became available in 1997, with Omantel as the official provider. The use of cell phones increased dramatically after Omantel lost its monopoly on the mobile phone market in 2004. Satellite links provide much of the country's international communications.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
      Oman is governed by a monarchy (sultanate). The sultan is the head of state, and, although he also acts as the prime minister, he may appoint one if he chooses. The sultan is assisted by a Council of Ministers (Majlis al-Wuzarāʾ), the members of which he typically appoints from among Muscat merchants, informal representatives of interior tribes, and Dhofaris.

      The Consultative Assembly, formed by the sultan in 1981, was replaced in 1991 by a Consultative Council (Majlis al-Shūrā), members of which were at first appointed and later elected from several dozen districts (wilāyāt); women from a few consitituencies were given the right to serve on the council. In 1996 the sultan announced the establishment of the Basic Law of the State, the country's first written constitution, which outlined a new system of government that included a bicameral legislature, the Council of Oman. In addition, it clarified the succession process and extended the right to serve to all Omani women. The Council of Oman consists of the Consultative Council as its lower chamber and, as the upper chamber, a new Council of State (Majlis al-Dawlah).

Local government
      The country is divided administratively into regions (minṭaqāt) and governorates (muḥāfaẓat), each of which contains a number of districts (wilāyāt). Local governance is carried out by a combination of traditional wālīs (representatives of the sultan) and by more recently established municipal councils.

      Oman has Islamic courts, based on the Ibāḍī interpretation of the Sharīʿah (Islamic law), which handle personal status cases. There are also civil, criminal, and commercial courts that are organized into courts of first instance, appeals courts, and a Supreme Court, which is chaired by the sultan. In addition, there are some specialized courts.

Political process
      There are no political parties. Elections to the Consultative Council have been held since 1994. At first, voting was limited to individuals chosen by the government; the pool of eligible voters was 50,000 in 1994 and 175,000 in 2000. Universal suffrage for citizens at least 21 years old was implemented in 2003. Members of the Council of State are appointed by the sultan.

      The Sultan's Armed Forces, formed in 1958 from several smaller regiments, has grown since 1970 to more than 40,000 personnel, spurred in part by a rebellion in Dhofar in 1964–75. Most personnel are in the army, but Oman also maintains a small air force and navy and fields some of the most sophisticated military equipment available. The sultan is the commander in chief of the armed forces. The military has traditionally relied heavily on foreign advisers and officers, mostly British, and the United States and the United Kingdom have occasionally maintained a small military presence in the country.

Health and welfare
      The post-1970 government improved health care throughout the country and instituted a free national health service. The new regime built hospitals, health centres, and dispensaries and equipped mobile medical teams to serve remote areas. Government spending has increased for health services, social security, and welfare.

      The move to towns and the return of Omanis abroad in the 1970s led to a severe housing shortage. In 1973 the government established a program that built homes for those on limited incomes. The Oman Housing Bank was established in 1998 to finance the purchase, construction, or renovation of residential property for those with lower incomes. Traditional housing in Al-Bāṭinah often consists of palm-frond huts, in contrast to the mud-brick structures of the interior. More recently, however, such homes have largely been replaced by more modern dwellings of concrete, though elements of traditional regional architecture have been retained.

      Education has expanded dramatically since 1970, when only three primary schools existed and few girls received any schooling. Some three-fourths of elementary-school-age and more than two-thirds of secondary-school-age children are now enrolled, and nearly half of all these are female. Education is provided free to all Omanis but is still not mandatory. About three-fourths of Oman's adult population is literate; there has been a substantial increase in the number of literate women (although female literacy lags behind that of men). The country's national university, Sultan Qaboos University, was opened in Muscat in 1986. Oman also has several private colleges.

Cultural life

Daily life and social customs
      Oman is a tribal society, although tribal influence is gradually declining. Its predominantly Ibāḍī Muslim population observes social customs that—though still conservative by Western standards—are markedly less strict than those of neighbouring Saudi Arabia. (The consumption of alcoholic beverages, for instance, is illegal for Omani citizens but is permissible for visitors in licensed dining establishments.) Women in particular have enjoyed relatively more freedom in Oman than elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula. Social interaction remains largely segregated by gender, however, and most Omani women—particularly those in rural areas—dress in a conservative, time-honoured fashion. Traditional attire for women, although varying slightly from region to region, is characterized by brightly coloured fabrics and jeweled adornments and consists of a dress (thawb) over loose-fitting slacks (sirwāl). A long, flowing scarf known as a liḥāf (or generically as ḥijāb) covers the head. Similarly, most Omani men wear the dishdashah, or thawb, a traditional woven cotton robe, and male headgear consists of a light turban of cotton or wool, known as a muzzar. Many men continue to carry a short, broad, curved, and often highly ornate dagger known as a khanjar (sometimes called a janbiyyah or jambiya), which is worn tucked in the front waistband.

      Mealtime serves as the centre of most social gatherings. The typical Omani meal consists of rice, spiced lamb or fish, dates, and coffee or tea. Incense—notably frankincense, which is native to Oman—is burned at the end of the meal.

      Omanis observe the standard Islamic holidays, including the two ʿīds (festivals), Īd al-Fiṭrʿ and Īd al-Aḍḥāʿ, as well as several secular holidays, such as National Day (celebrating the expulsion of the Portuguese in the 17th century) and the ruling sultan's birthday.

The arts
      Omani artisans are renowned for woodcarving, weaving, and silver- and goldsmithing and for the manufacture of daggers and swords. Their handiworks are among the many items that may be found at the souk, or market, of Muscat, a thriving centre of popular culture. The Ministry of National Heritage and Culture is charged with preserving historic buildings, excavating archaeological sites, and supporting such traditional crafts as weaving and the crafting of silver and gold jewelry. It also promotes Omani literature and has printed an encyclopaedia of Omani heritage. The annual Muscat International Book Fair promotes books from throughout the Arabic-speaking world.

      Just as attempts have been made to preserve much of traditional society in the midst of development, traditional elements of architecture have been incorporated into new buildings; the result is that Oman's cities feel at once contemporary and ancient. The country's restored forts and castles, the subject of several documentary films, are among the most important historic sites in Oman. Architecturally, particularly significant structures include a series of forts guarding Muscat's harbour and several strategic strongholds guarding the interior, most of which date to the 17th century. The most noteworthy of these is Bahlā Fort, a stone and mud-brick edifice that dates to the pre-Islamic era and was designated a World Heritage site in 1987. Other sites in Oman enjoying this distinction are the prehistoric settlements at Bāt, Al-Khutm, and Al-ʿAyn (1988); the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary (1994); and the Frankincense Trail (2000), which consists of a series of stops along the ancient trade route.

Cultural institutions
      Oman Museum (founded 1974), located outside Muscat, is the country's foremost cultural repository; it chronicles the country's history and includes exhibits on Islam. The history of the Omani army is the focus of the Armed Forces Museum (1988). Other institutions include the National Museum (1978), Natural History Museum (1983), Children's Museum (1990), and Bait Nadir, a converted 18th-century residence that now houses Omani art and traditional items, including jewelry, silverware, pottery, and woodcarvings. The Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra was formed in the late 1980s and has performed with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra; it is one of the few national orchestras in the Middle East.

Sports and recreation
      Dhow racing is a popular traditional sport, as is camel racing. Bedouin still train most of the camels used for the races, which take place on racetracks and on makeshift courses in the open desert. Arabian horses have long been bred in the country, and racing is a popular spectator sport. falconry is practiced by the wealthy elite. More-modern activities include sandsurfing and waterskiing; football (soccer) and rugby are also widely played. Oman made its first Olympic appearance at the 1984 Summer Games, but the country has not competed at the Winter Games. Omani athletes also participate in the quadrennial Asian Games.

Media and publishing
      In addition to state-run newspapers, several independent Arabic- and English-language newspapers are published on a daily and weekly basis. Although the government guarantees freedom of the press, it has the right to censor all domestic and imported publications that it considers politically or culturally offensive. The television station is state-run, and radio stations broadcast in both Arabic and English.

J.E. Peterson Jill Ann Crystal

      This discussion focuses on Oman since the 18th century. For a treatment of earlier periods and of the country in its regional context, see Arabia, history of.

The early period
      Three principal themes highlight the history of Oman: the tribal nature of its society, the traditional Ibāḍī imamate form of government, and its maritime tradition. Archaeological evidence of civilization in Oman dates to about the 3rd millennium BC, but Persian (Iran, ancient) colonization prior to the 1st century AD established the falaj irrigation system, which has since sustained Omani agriculture and civilization.

      The history of the Dhofar region followed a separate path. Ancient South Arabian kingdoms controlled the production of frankincense there from the 1st century AD. The province thus remained culturally and politically linked to South Arabia until it was absorbed into the Āl Bū Saʿīd (Āl Bū Saʿīd dynasty) state in the 19th century.

The Omani tribal system
      The origins of the Omani tribal system (tribe) can be traced to the immigration of Arab groups from South Arabia into the Jaʿlān region during the 2nd century AD. These groups subsequently moved northward into the Persian-controlled area of Māzūn in Oman, where they confronted other tribes from the northwest. Arab dominance over the country began with the introduction of Islam in the 7th century.

The Ibāḍī imamate
      The Ibāḍī imamate, which arrived in the mid-8th century, unified Oman politically. The country's mountains and geographic isolation provided a refuge for the Ibāḍīs (Ibāḍiyyah), who proceeded to convert the leading tribal clans to their sect. The new Ibāḍī state was headed by an elected imam who served as both temporal and religious leader of the community. The selection of a new imam was determined by an agreement made among the religious leaders and the heads of the major groups, particularly the leaders of the two major tribal confederations that came to be known as the Ghāfirīs and the Hināwīs.

      A recurring pattern began to develop during the decline of the First Imamate, which reached its heyday in the 9th century. Elected imams tended to give way to hereditary dynasties, which then collapsed as a result of family disputes and the resurgence of Ibāḍī ideals.

The maritime tradition
      Maritime trade also contributed to dynastic decline. Virtually cut off from the rest of the Arabian Peninsula by vast deserts, Omani sailors traveled the waters of the Indian Ocean and ranged as far as China by the 15th century. This maritime tendency was strongest when tribal dynasties moved their capitals from the Ibāḍī interior to the coast and focused their attention on acquiring territory elsewhere in the Gulf of Oman, along the Arabian Sea, and on the coast of East Africa.

Oman since c. 1500
Portuguese and Persian invasions
 En route to India, the Portuguese sacked Muscat in 1507 and soon controlled the entire coast. More than a century later the Yaʿrubid dynasty drove the Portuguese from the Omani coast, recapturing Muscat in 1650 and then occupying Portuguese settlements in the Persian Gulf and East African coastal regions. Their empire eventually crumbled in a civil war over the succession of the imam in the early 18th century, enabling the Persian ruler Nādir Shāh to invade the country in 1737.

Restoration of Omani rule
      Aḥmad ibn Saʿīd, the governor of Ṣuḥār, drove out the Persian invaders and was elected imam in 1749, thus establishing the Āl Bū Saʿīd dynasty that still rules Oman today. Under the rule of his grandson, Saʿīd ibn Sulṭān (1806/07–56), Oman reasserted control over Zanzibar, but upon his death the Āl Bū Saʿīd empire was split between two sons: one received Zanzibar, which remained under Āl Bū Saʿīd rule until 1964, and the other ruled Oman.

      The fortunes of the Āl Bū Saʿīd state in Oman declined throughout the second half of the 19th century. However, the dynasty remained in power with the help of the British, who supported the Āl Bū Saʿīd sultans in Muscat against periodic revivals of the Ibāḍī imamate in the interior.

Periodic civil unrest
      Tribal attacks in the name of the imam were made on Muscat and Maṭraḥ in 1895 and 1915. In 1920 the Agreement of Al-Sīb was negotiated by the British between the tribal leaders and Sultan Taymūr ibn Fayṣal, who reigned in 1913–32. By its terms, the sultan recognized the autonomy but not the sovereignty of the Omani interior.

      The interior remained autonomous until 1954, when Muḥammad al-Khalīlī, who had ruled as imam since 1920, died. His weak successor, Ghālib, was influenced by his brother Ṭālib and by a prominent tribal leader, Sulaymān ibn Ḥimyār; the three set out to create an independent state, enlisting Saudi Arabia's support against Sultan Saʿīd ibn Taymūr. Clashes between the sultan's forces and those of the imam continued throughout the 1950s. The authority of the sultan was subsequently restored after a regiment led by British officers moved into the Omani interior and suppressed an imamate rebellion. Remnants of the imamate's supporters, however, held strongholds in the Mount Al-Akhḍar massif of the Western Ḥajar until they were forced to surrender in early 1959.

      In the early 1960s another threat to the sultanate emerged in the Dhofar region. Sultan Saʿīd ibn Taymūr had moved to Ṣalālah permanently in 1958. The mountain jibālīs began to rebel openly against Sultan Saʿīd's oppressive practices. The Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arab Gulf (later called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman; PFLO) gained control of the growing rebellion by the late 1960s with the aid of the People's Republic of China, the Soviet Union, Marxist South Yemen (which had achieved independence from the British in late 1967), and Iraq.

Contemporary Oman
      The Dhofar rebellion led to a palace coup on July 23, 1970, when Sultan Saʿīd was overthrown by his son, Qaboos bin Said (Qābūs ibn Saʿīd). Qaboos, who had been trained in Britain at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, quickly reversed his father's policy of isolation and began to develop and modernize Oman. Sultan Qaboos appointed the country's first official cabinet and took steps toward building a modern government structure. Qaboos served as prime minister after his uncle, Ṭāriq ibn Taymūr, resigned the position, and he also held the post of minister of defense and foreign affairs. At the same time, the rebellion in Dhofar continued. With British personnel and equipment, Jordanian and Iranian troops, and financial assistance from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, the rebellion was finally crushed in December 1975.

      Oman joined the Arab League and the United Nations in 1971, but it did not become a member of OPEC or the smaller Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, Organization of). Oman was one of six founding members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, established in 1981 to promote economic, political, and security cooperation among its members. It has been closely linked to Britain since the early 19th century, and relations with the United States, established in 1833 by a treaty of friendship, have grown closer since the 1970s. After Oman joined the World Trade Organization in 2000, it made greater efforts to liberalize its markets and improve its standing in the global economy.

      Oman's location has made the country pivotal in maintaining the security of traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. Oman attempted to maintain neutrality in the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88), although the sultanate permitted Western military units to use its facilities after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and an Omani regiment participated in the Persian Gulf War (1990–91). Border agreements were signed with Saudi Arabia in 1990 and with Yemen in 1992; in addition, an agreement was reached on unsettled parts of the boundary with the United Arab Emirates in 1999.

J.E. Peterson Jill Ann Crystal

Additional Reading
Comparative coverage of the Persian Gulf countries is provided by Paul Dresch and James Piscatori (eds.), Monarchies and Nations: Globalisation and Identity in the Arab States of the Gulf (2005); Michael Herb, All in the Family: Absolutism, Revolution, and Democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies (1999); Helen Chapin Metz (ed.), Persian Gulf States: Country Studies, 3rd ed. (1994); F. Gregory Gause III, Oil Monarchies: Domestic and Security Challenges in the Arab Gulf States (1994); Anthony H. Cordesman, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE (1997); John Bulloch, The Persian Gulf Unveiled (also published as The Gulf, 1984); and Alvin J. Cottrell (ed.), The Persian Gulf States: A General Survey (1980). Discussions of early regional history include Juan R.I. Cole, “Rival Empires of Trade and Imami Shiʿism in Eastern Arabia, 1300–1800,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 19:177–203 (May 1987); and J.B. Kelly, Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1795–1880 (1968).Works on Oman include Carol J. Riphenburg, Oman: Political Development in a Changing World (1998); Miriam Joyce, The Sultanate of Oman: A Twentieth Century History (1995); Francis Owtram, A Modern History of Oman: Formation of the State Since 1920 (2004); Ian Skeet, Oman: Politics and Development (1992); Calvin H. Allen, Jr., Oman: The Modernization of the Sultanate (1987); Donald Hawley, Oman & Its Renaissance, jubilee ed., rev. and reconstructed (1995); B.R. Pridham (ed.), Oman: Economic, Social, and Strategic Developments (1987); Liesl Graz, The Omanis: Sentinels of the Gulf (1982; originally published in French, 1981); John Duke Anthony, John Peterson, and Donald Sean Abelson, Historical and Cultural Dictionary of the Sultanate of Oman and the Emirates of Eastern Arabia (1976); and S.B. Miles, The Countries and Tribes of the Persian Gulf, 2 vol. (1919, reprinted in 1 vol., 1994), which focuses on Oman.Anthropological studies include Jörg Janzen, Nomads in the Sultanate of Oman: Tradition and Development in Dhofar (1986; originally published in German, 1980); and Fredrik Barth, Sohar: Culture and Society in an Omani Town (1983). The role of women is the subject of Christine Eickelman, Women and Community in Oman (1984); and Unni Wikan, Behind the Veil in Arabia: Women in Oman (1982, reissued 1991). Patricia Risso, Oman & Muscat: An Early Modern History (1986); and Robert Geran Landen, Oman Since 1856: Disruptive Modernization in a Traditional Arab Society (1967), are scholarly treatments of the first and second halves of the 19th century, respectively. Oman's relationship with East Africa is covered in M. Reda Bhacker, Trade and Empire in Muscat and Zanzibar: Roots of British Domination (1992). J.E. Peterson, Oman in the Twentieth Century: Political Foundations of an Emerging State (1978), gives a political history of the sultanate; and John C. Wilkinson, The Imamate Tradition of Oman (1987), outlines the background of the events leading to the demise of the Ibāḍī imamate in the 1950s. The period before the 1970 coup d'état is described in Ian Skeet, Muscat and Oman: The End of an Era (1974; also published as Oman before 1970: The End of an Era, 1985); while John Townsend, Oman: The Making of a Modern State (1977), gives a general assessment of the challenges facing the state after the coup. Further information may be found in Frank A. Clements (compiler), Oman, rev. and expanded ed. (1994), an annotated bibliography.Jill Ann Crystal

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