(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||The inhabitants of the area of Oman have long prospered on Indian Ocean trade. In the late 18th century, a newly established sultanate in Muscat signed the first in a series of friendship treaties with Britain. Over time, Oman’s dependence on British political and military advisors increased, but it never became a British colony. In 1970, QABOOS bin Said al-Said overthrew the restrictive rule of his father; he has ruled as sultan ever since. His extensive modernization program has opened the country to the outside world while preserving the longstanding close ties with the UK. Oman’s moderate, independent foreign policy has sought to maintain good relations with all Middle Eastern countries.|
|History||From the 6th century B.C. to arrival of Islam in the 7th century A.D., Oman was controlled and/or influenced by three Iranian dynasties of Achaemenid, Parthians, and Sassanids . Achaemenid (6th-4th century B.C.) controlled and/or influenced over the Oman peninsula. This was most likely exerted from a coastal center such as Sohar . By about 250 B.C., Parthian dynasty brought the Persian Gulf under their control and extended their influence as far as Oman. Because they needed to control the Persian Gulf trade route, the Parthians established garrisons in Oman. In the third century A.D., the Sasanids succeeded the Parthians and held area until the rise of Islam four centuries later .
On the advent of Islam, the faith reached Oman within Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime. The conversion of Omanis is usually ascribed to Amr ibn al-As, who visited the region between 627-32. By the middle of the eighth century AD, Omanis were practicing a unique sect of the faith, Ibadhism, which remains a majority sect only in Oman. Ibadhism has been characterized as “moderate conservatism,” with tenets that are a mixture of both austerity and peace.
The Portuguese occupied Muscat for a 140-year period (1508–1648), arriving a decade after Vasco da Gama discovered the seaway to India. In need of an outpost to protect their sea lanes, the Europeans built up and fortified the city, where remnants of their colonial architectural style still remain.
Revolting tribes drove out the Portuguese, but were pushed out themselves about a century later (1741) by the leader of a Yemeni tribe leading a massive army from varying other tribes, who began the current line of ruling sultans. A brief Persian invasion a few years later was the final time Oman would be ruled by a foreign power. Oman has been self governing ever since.
The British slowly brought about a collapse of Muscat and Oman’s “empire” by the end of the nineteenth century without use of force. Through gradual encroachment on its overseas holdings economically and politically, they caused Oman to retreat to its homeland. In time Britain held such sway in Muscat and Oman itself that it became in effect, and later in fact, a British protectorate.
Having control of the country’s military, the British helped subdue rebel tribesmen in the 1950s, driving most into Yemen. But the sultan ran a repressive regime, with laws forbidding numerous activities, including the building and even repair of his subjects’ own homes without permission. In 1970, almost certainly with British backing, he was overthrown by his son, the present ruler, Qaboos bin Said Al Said, and the country declared independence the following year as the Sultanate of Oman.
Qaboos is generally regarded as a benevolent absolute ruler, who has improved the country economically and socially. Oman has maintained peaceful ties on the Arabian Peninsula ever since ending another tribal rebellion in the southwest in 1982 by forging a treaty with Yemen. Oman’s oil revenue has been consistently invested in the national infrastructure, particularly roads, schools, hospitals, and utilities. More than ever, the country is poised to take advantage of its strategic trade location on the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf to further its economic growth and role in the world.
Except for those who travel to remote Middle East locales, the country has seldom been in the public eye other than for the use of its military bases by U.S. forces in recent years. American and British bombing raids were launched in 1991 from Oman against Iraq in the Gulf War. A decade later, U.S. forces stationed there were involved in raids against Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden.
|Geography||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
land: 212,460 sq km
water: 0 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: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 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: 0.12%
permanent crops: 0.14%
other: 99.74% (2005)
Irrigated land: 720 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 1 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.36 cu km/yr (7%/2%/90%)
per capita: 529 cu m/yr (2000)
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; limited natural fresh water resources
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, 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
|Politics||Chief of state and government is the hereditary sultān, Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said who appoints a cabinet called the “Diwans” to assist him. In the early 1990s, the sultan instituted an elected advisory council, the Majlis ash-Shura, though few Omanis were eligible to vote. Universal suffrage for those over 21 was instituted on 4 October 2003. Over 190,000 people (74% of those registered) voted to elect the 84 seats. Two women were elected to seats. The country today has three women ministers. H.E. Dr. Rawiyah bint Saud al Busaidiyah – Minister of Higher Education, H.E. Dr. Sharifa bint Khalfan al Yahya’eyah – Minister of Social Development and H.E. Dr. Rajiha bint Abdulamir bin Ali – Minister of Tourism.
The sultan functions as an absolute ruler.
note: includes 577,293 non-nationals (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 42.7% (male 721,796/female 692,699)
15-64 years: 54.5% (male 1,053,040/female 752,962)
65 years and over: 2.8% (male 51,290/female 39,853) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 18.9 years
male: 21.3 years
female: 16.6 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.19% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 35.26 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 3.68 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.33 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.4 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.29 male(s)/female
total population: 1.23 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 17.45 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 19.95 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 14.83 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.91 years
male: 71.64 years
female: 76.29 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.62 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 1,300 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Omani(s)
Ethnic groups: Arab, Baluchi, South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi), African
Religions: Ibadhi Muslim 75%, other (includes Sunni Muslim, Shi’a Muslim, Hindu) 25%
Languages: Arabic (official), English, Baluchi, Urdu, Indian dialects
Literacy: definition: NA
total population: 81.4%
female: 73.5% (2003 est.)