Oman

Oman, officially called the Sultanate of Oman, is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula.

Content imported from Wikipedia, The CIA World Factbook and Freebase under their respective licenses.



Oman (i/oʊˈmɑːn/ oh-MAAN; Arabic: عمان‎ ʻUmān), officially called the Sultanate of Oman (Arabic: سلطنة عُمان‎ Salṭanat ʻUmān), is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the southeast and the Gulf of Oman on the northeast. The Madha and Musandam enclaves are surrounded by the UAE on their land borders, with the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman forming Musandam's coastal boundaries.

For a period,[when?] Oman was a moderate regional power, formerly having a sultanate extending across the Strait of Hormuz to Iran, and modern day Pakistan, and far south to Zanzibar [6] on the coast of south-east Africa. Over time,[when?] as its power declined, the sultanate came under heavy influence from the United Kingdom, though Oman was never formally part of the British Empire, or a British protectorate. Oman has long-standing military and political ties with the United Kingdom and the United States, although it maintains an independent foreign policy.[7]

Oman is an absolute monarchy in which the Sultan of Oman exercises ultimate authority but its parliament has some legislative and oversight powers.[8] In November 2010, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) listed Oman, from among 135 countries worldwide, as the nation most-improved during the preceding 40 years.[9] According to international indices, Oman is one of the most developed and stable countries in the Arab world.[10]

History

Stone Age



World Heritage Graves in Al Ayn, Oman

Dereaze, located in the city of Ibri, is the oldest known human settlement in the area, dating back as many as 8,000 years to the late Stone Age.[citation needed] Archaeological remains have been discovered here from the Stone Age and the Bronze Age; findings have included stone implements, animal bones, shells and fire hearths, with the later dating back to 7615 BC as the oldest signs of human settlement in the area. Other discoveries include hand-molded pottery bearing distinguishing pre-Bronze Age marks, heavy flint implements, pointed tools and scrapers.

On a mountain rock-face in the same district, animal drawings have been discovered. Similar drawings have also been found in the Wadi Sahtan and Wadi Bani Kharus areas of Rustaq, consisting of human figures carrying weapons and being confronted by wild animals. Siwan in Haima is another Stone Age location and some of the archaeologists have found arrowheads, knives, chisels and circular stones which may have been used to hunt animals.



Wadi Shab, Oman, 2004

Sumerian tablets refer to a country called Magan or Makan, a name believed to refer to Oman's ancient copper mines. Mazoon, another name used for the region, is derived from the word muzn, which means heavy clouds which carry abundant water. The present-day name of the country, Oman, is believed to originate from the Arab tribes who migrated to its territory from the Uman region of Yemen; many such tribes settled in Oman, making a living by fishing, herding or stock breeding, and many present day Omani families are able to trace their ancestral roots to other parts of Arabia.

From the 6th century BC to the arrival of Islam in the 7th century AD, Oman was controlled and/or influenced by three Persian dynasties, the Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanids. In the 6th century BC, the Achaemenids exerted a strong degree of control over the Omani peninsula, most likely ruling from a coastal center such as Sohar. By about 250 BC, the Parthian dynasty had brought the Persian Gulf under their control and extended their influence as far as Oman, establishing garrisons in Oman to help control the trade routes in the Persian Gulf. In the 3rd century AD, the Sassanids succeeded the Parthians and held the area until the rise of Islam four centuries later.[11]

Arrival of Islam



The Bahla Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site

Omanis were among the first people to come in contact with and accept Islam.[12] The conversion of the Omanis is usually ascribed to Amr ibn al-As, who was sent by Muhammad around 630 AD to invite Jayfar and 'Abd, the joint rulers of Oman at that time, to accept the faith. In submitting to Islam, Oman became an Ibadhi state, ruled by an elected leader, the Imam. During the early years of the Islamic mission, Oman played a major role in the Wars of Apostasy that occurred after the death of Muhammad, and also took part in the great Islamic conquests by land and sea in Iraq, Persia and beyond. Oman's most prominent role in this respect was through its extensive trading and seafaring activities in East Africa and the Far East, particularly during the 19th century, when it propagated Islam to many of East Africa's coastal regions, certain areas of Central Africa, India, Southeast Asia and China. After its submission to Islam, Oman was ruled by Umayyads between 661–750, Abbasids between 750–931, 932–933 and 934–967, Qarmatians between 931–932 and 933–934, Buyids between 967–1053, and the Seljuks of Kirman between 1053–1154.

Portuguese colonization

A decade following Vasco de Gama's successful voyage around the Cape of Good Hope and to India in 1497-98, the Portuguese explorers arrived in Oman and occupied Muscat for a 140-year period, between 1508 and 1648, where their fortress still remains. In need of an outpost to protect their sea lanes, the Portuguese built up and fortified the city, where remnants of their colonial architectural style still remain.

Rebellious tribes eventually drove out the Portuguese, but were pushed out themselves about a century later, in 1741, by the leader of a Yemeni tribe leading a massive army from various allied tribes, beginning the current line of ruling sultans. Excepting a brief Persian invasion in the late 1740s, Oman has been self-governing ever since.

No foreign power controlled the entirety of what is now Oman. The majority of the territory was always ruled by tribes, with colonial control contained to a few strategic port cities. Oman, as it exists now was never under the total sway of European colonization, unlike true "colonies" such as the British in India.

Oman, East Africa and the Indian Ocean



The Sultan's Palace in Zanzibar, which was once Oman's capital and residence of its Sultans.

In the 1690s, Saif bin Sultan, the Imam of Oman, pressed down the East African coast. A major obstacle to his progress was Fort Jesus, housing the garrison of a Portuguese settlement at Mombasa. After a two-year siege, the fort fell to bin Sultan in 1698. Thereafter the Omanis easily ejected the Portuguese from Zanzibar and from all other coastal regions north of Mozambique, with the aid of the Somali Ajuuraan State. Zanzibar was a valuable property as the main slave market of the East African coast, and became an increasingly important part of the Omani empire, a fact reflected by the decision of the 19th century Sultan of Oman, Sa'id ibn Sultan, to make it his main place of residence in 1837. Sa'id built impressive palaces and gardens in Zanzibar. Rivalry between his two sons was resolved, with the help of forceful British diplomacy, when one of them, Majid, succeeded to Zanzibar and to the many regions claimed by the family on the East African coast. The other son, Thuwaini, inherited Muscat and Oman.

A History of Omani presence is also known in Comoros archipelago in the Indian ocean, which led to influences in Comorian culture from the clothing, to the wedding ceremonies.

Oman and Gwadar



The Empire of Oman around the middle of the 19th century

In 1783, Oman's Saiad Sultan, defeated ruler of Muscat, was granted sovereignty over Gwadar, a coastal city located in the Makran region of what is now the far southwestern corner of Pakistan, near the present-day border of Iran and at the mouth of the Gulf of Oman.[note 1][13] He was to continue this sovereignty, via an appointed wali (or "governor"), after regaining control of Muscat, and he maintained close relations with the Emirs of Sindh. The Sultans of Muscat retained sovereignty over Gwadar until 1958.

In 1955, Makran acceded to Pakistan and was made a district – although Gwadar, at the time, was not included in Makran. On 8 September 1958, Pakistan purchased the Gwadar enclave from Oman for $3 million. [note 2][14] Gwadar then became a tehsil in the Makran district.

Jebel Akhdar War

The Hajar Mountains, of which the Jebel Akhdar, or Green Mountain, is a part, separated the country into two distinct regions: the interior, known as Oman, and the coastal area dominated by the capital, Muscat.[15] Imam Ghalib bin Ali Al Hinai (1912 – 29 November 2009) was the elected Imam of The Imamate of Oman.[citation needed] Relations between the Sultan of Muscat, Said bin Taimur, and Imam Ghalib were ruptured over a dispute concerning the right to grant oil concessions. A subsidiary of the Iraq Petroleum Company was intensely interested in some promising geological formations near Fahud.[15] Under the terms of a 1920 treaty, the Sultan of Muscat was responsible for the external affairs of Oman.[16] The Sultan claimed all dealings with the oil company as his prerogative. The Imam, on the other hand, claimed that since the oil was in his territory, anything dealing with it was an internal matter.[15] In December 1955, Sultan Said bin Taimur sent troops of the Muscat and Oman Field Force to occupy the main centres in Oman, including Nizwa, the capital of the Imamate of Oman, and Ibri.[16] Imam Ghalib bin Ali along with his younger brother Talib bin Ali Al Hinai, led the Imamate of Oman in the Jebel Akhdar War against Sultan Said bin Taimur's attack on his lands. In July 1957, the Sultan's forces were withdrawing but were repeatedly ambushed, sustaining heavy casualties.[16] Sultan Said bin Taimur, however, with the intervention of infantry (two companies of the Cameronians) and armoured car detachments from the British Army and aircraft of the RAF was able to suppress the rebellion.[citation needed] Talib's forces retreated to the inaccessible Jebel Akhdar.[citation needed] The war lasted 5 years until the Sultan of Muscat's Armed Forces, aided by colonial British soldiers from the Special Air Service, had put down the Jebel Akhdar revolt in 1959, and Imam Ghalib went into exile in Saudi Arabia.[citation needed] He continued for a short time to lead a temporary government-in-exile from Dammam, Saudi Arabia while the fighting continued in Oman. The Treaty of Seeb was terminated and the autonomous Imamate of Oman abolished giving way to the present day Sultanate.[citation needed] Imam Ghalib continued to receive many visitors from Oman up until his death and was deeply respected by the people of Oman. He was known for his faithful adherence to his religion, and his generosity. He died on 29 November 2009 at the age of 96 in Dammam.[citation needed]

Dhofar rebellion

The Dhofar Rebellion was launched in the province of Dhofar against the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman and Britain from 1962 to 1975. As the rebellion threatened to overthrow the Sultan's rule in Dhofar, Sultan Said bin Taimur was deposed by his son Qaboos bin Said, who introduced major social reforms and modernised the state's administration. The rebellion was ended by the intervention of Iranian Imperial forces, Pakistani Baluchistan Imperial ground forces, British Royal Air Force air power and major offensives by the expanded Sultan of Oman's Armed Forces.

2011 Omani protests

Politics

Legal system



The Sultan's Al Alam Palace in Old Muscat

The Basic Statute of the State[17] is the cornerstone of the Omani legal system and it operates as a constitution for the country. The Basic Statute was issued in the year 1996 and was only amended once in the year 2011[18] as a response to the 2011 protests in Oman.

The Basic Statute of the State stipulates that the system of governance is Sultani hereditary in the male descendants of Sayyid Turki bin Said bin Sultan, that the Sultan is the Head of the State and the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces, that he is to preside over the Council of Ministers, and that he is responsible for promulgating laws and appointing judges.

The Basic Statute of the State also stipulates that the Council of Ministers is the body responsible for implementing the general policies of the state, that Council of Oman, which is made up of the State Council, an appointed body, and the Shura Council, an elected body, is responsible for reviewing legislation and submitting it to the Sultan for Royal Assent, and that the judiciary is guaranteed independence.

Foreign policy

Since 1970, Oman has pursued a moderate foreign policy and expanded its diplomatic relations dramatically. Oman is among the very few Arab countries that have maintained friendly ties with Iran.[19][20] Wikileaks disclosed US diplomatic cables which have shown that cordial relations between Oman and Iran have borne fruit for the United Kingdom (in helping release British sailors imprisoned by Iran).[21] The same cables also portray the Omani government as wishing to maintain cordial relations with Iran and as having continuously turned down US diplomats requesting Oman to take a sterner stance against Iran.[22][23][24][25]

Military

Oman's armed forces, the Sultan's Armed Forces (SAF), including Royal Household troops, numbered 120,000 in 2010, consisting of: 105,000 personnel in the Royal Army of Oman (RAO), equipped with over 120 main battle tanks and 37 Scorpion tanks; 8,100 personnel in the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) operating 180–200 combat aircraft, trainers, transports and helicopters; and 6,200 personnel in the Royal Navy of Oman (RNO) sailing 64 patrol and coastal vessels. Paramilitary units include the Tribal Home Guard (Firqats) of 8,000 personnel organized in small tribal teams, a Royal Oman Police (ROP) coast guard of 400, and a small ROP air wing. Funded directly by the Sultan, the elite Royal Household brigade, naval unit, and air unit number 6,400, including two special forces regiments. Oman holds one of the world's largest stocks of Scud missiles, ranging at an estimate of over 30,000 ballistic missiles. In 2008 Oman spent 7.7% of GDP on military expenditures.[26] According to Times Online, Oman is home to the world's only camel-backed bagpipe military band.

Geography



Coast of Sur, Oman

Oman lies between latitudes 16° and 28° N, and longitudes 52° and 60° E.

A vast gravel desert plain covers most of central Oman, with mountain ranges along the north (Al Hajar Mountains) and southeast coast, where the country's main cities are also located: the capital city Muscat, Sohar and Sur in the north, and Salalah in the south. Oman's climate is hot and dry in the interior and humid along the coast. During past epochs Oman was covered by ocean, witnessed by the large numbers of fossilized shells existing in areas of the desert away from the modern coastline.



Desert landscape in Oman

The peninsula of Musandam (Musandem) exclave, which has a strategic location on the Strait of Hormuz, is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates.[27] The series of small towns known collectively as Dibba are the gateway to the Musandam peninsula on land and the fishing villages of Musandam by sea, with boats available for hire at Khasab for trips into the Musandam peninsula by sea.

Oman's other exclave, inside UAE territory, known as Madha, located halfway between the Musandam Peninsula and the main body of Oman,[27] is part of the Musandam governorate, covering approximately 75 km2 (29 sq mi). Madha's boundary was settled in 1969, with the north-east corner of Madha barely 10 m (32.8 ft) from the Fujairah road. Within the Madha exclave is a UAE enclave called Nahwa, belonging to the Emirate of Sharjah, situated about 8 km (5 mi) along a dirt track west of the town of New Madha, consisting of about forty houses with a clinic and telephone exchange.[28]

Climate

Oman has a hot climate and very little rainfall. Annual rainfall in Muscat averages 100 mm (3.9 in), falling mostly in January. Dhofar is subject to the southwest monsoon, and rainfall up to 640 mm (25.2 in) has been recorded in the rainy season from late June to October.[citation needed] While the mountain areas receive more plentiful rainfall, some parts of the coast, particularly near the island of Masirah, sometimes receive no rain at all within the course of a year. The climate generally is very hot, with temperatures reaching around 50 °C (122.0 °F) (peak) in the hot season, from May to September.

Climate data for Oman
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 81
(27)
79
(26)
84
(29)
93
(34)
102
(39)
104
(40)
100
(38)
97
(36)
97
(36)
95
(35)
86
(30)
81
(27)
91.5
(33.1)
Average low °F (°C) 63
(17)
63
(17)
70
(21)
75
(24)
84
(29)
88
(31)
86
(30)
82
(28)
81
(27)
75
(24)
70
(21)
64
(18)
75.1
(23.9)
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.5
(12.7)
1
(25.4)
0.598
(15.2)
0.701
(17.8)
0.299
(7.6)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0.299
(7.6)
0.5
(12.7)
3.9
(99)
Source: weather.com[29]

Flora and fauna



Nakhal palm tree farms in the Batina Region, Sultanate of Oman

Desert shrub and desert grass, common to southern Arabia, are found, but vegetation is sparse in the interior plateau, which is largely gravel desert.

The greater monsoon rainfall in Dhofar and the mountains makes the growth there more luxuriant during summer; coconut palms grow plentifully in the coastal plains of Dhofar and frankincense is produced in the hills, with abundant oleander and varieties of acacia.

The Al Hajar Mountains are a distinct ecoregion, the highest points in eastern Arabia with wildlife including the Arabian tahr.

Indigenous mammals include the leopard, hyena, fox, wolf, hare, oryx, and ibex. Birds include the vulture, eagle, stork, bustard, Arabian partridge, bee eater, falcon, and sunbird. In 2001, Oman had nine endangered species of mammals and five endangered types of birds[citation needed] and nineteen threatened plant species. Decrees have been passed to protect endangered species, including the Arabian leopard, Arabian Oryx, Mountain gazelle, Goitered Gazelle, Arabian tahr, Green sea turtle, Hawksbill Turtle and Olive ridley turtle, but UNESCO have de-listed the Oman Arabian Oryx sanctuary from the World Heritage list due to the government's decision to reduce the site to 10% of its former size.[30]

Administrative divisions

Since 28 October 2011, Oman is divided into eleven governorates (muhafazah):[31][32][33]

  • Ad Dakhiliyah
  • Ad Dhahirah North
  • Al Batinah North
  • Al Batinah South
  • Al Buraimi
  • Al Wusta
  • Ash Sharqiyah North
  • Ash Sharqiyah South
  • Dhofar
  • Masqat
  • Musandam

Below the governorates, Oman is divided into provinces (wilayat).

Environment

Drought and limited rainfall contribute to shortages in the nation's water supply, so maintaining an adequate supply of water for agricultural and domestic use is one of Oman's most pressing environmental problems, with limited renewable water resources; 94% of available water is used in farming and 2% for industrial activity, with the majority sourced from fossil water in the desert areas and spring water in hills and mountains. Drinking water is available throughout the country, either piped or delivered.

The soil in coastal plains, such as Salalah, have shown increased levels of salinity, due to over exploitation of ground water and encroachment by seawater in the water table. Pollution of beaches and other coastal areas by oil tanker traffic through the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman is also a persistent risk.

Demographics

According to the 2010 census, the total population was 2.773 million and of those, 1.96 million were Omanis. The population has grown from 2.340 million in the 2003 census. In Oman, about 50% of the population lives in Muscat and the Batinah coastal plain northwest of the capital; about 200,000 live in the Dhofar (southern) region, and about 30,000 live in the remote Musandam Peninsula on the Strait of Hormuz.

Some 600,000 foreigners live in Oman, most of whom are guest workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, India and the Philippines.

Largest cities

Religion



The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the largest Mosque in Oman and one of the largest in the world.

Around 75% of the population consists of Ibadhi, a form of Islam distinct from the Sunni and Shia denominations, 24% Sunni Muslims and the Zaydi Shi'ite sect (Distinct from the Twelver Shi'ites) forming the remaining 1% of the Omani population. The Oman government does not keep statistics on religious affiliation, but most citizens are Muslims.[34] Non-Muslim religious communities individually constitute less than 5% of the population and include various groups of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Sikhs, Baha'is, and Christians. Christian communities are centered in the major urban areas of Muscat, Sohar, and Salalah and include Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and various Protestant congregations, organizing along linguistic and ethnic lines. More than 50 different Christian groups, fellowships, and assemblies are active in the Muscat metropolitan area, formed by migrant workers from Southeast Asia, there are also small communities of ethnic Indian Hindus and Christians. Citizenship is not granted to immigrants in Oman and many are present on work visas for a specific duration.

Economy



Graphical depiction of Oman 's product exports in 28 color coded categories.

Oman's Basic Statute of the State expresses in Article 11 that, "The National Economy is based on justice and the principles of a free economy."

Omani citizens enjoy good living standards, but the future is uncertain with Oman's limited oil reserves.[34] Other sources of income, agriculture and industry, are small in comparison and count for less than 1% of the country's exports, but diversification is seen as a priority in the government of Oman. Agriculture, often subsistence in its character, produces dates, limes, grains and vegetables, but with less than 1% of the country under cultivation Oman is likely to remain a net importer of food.

Since the slump in oil prices in 1998, Oman has made active plans to diversify its economy and is placing a greater emphasis on other areas of industry, such as tourism.

Oil and gas



Petrochemical tanks in Sohar

Oman's proved reserves of petroleum total about 5.5 billion barrels, 24th largest in the world.[35] Oil is extracted and processed by Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), with proven oil reserves holding approximately steady, although oil production has been declining.[36][37] In 2009, production was estimated at 816,000 barrels per day.[38]

Commercial export of oil began in 1967 and since Sultan Qaboos' accession to the throne in 1970, many more oil fields have been found and developed. In June 1999, PDO discovered a new oil field in southern Oman after drilling and testing three wells which demonstrated the commercial viability of the reservoir.

Work is continuing on the RO 503.876 million (US$1.3 billion) oil refinery project in Sohar, which was due to go into operation in 2006 with a 116,400 barrels per day (18,510 m3/d) refining capacity, with the short to mid-term future of Oman resting on the project. In 2004 the Oman Oil Refinery was supplied with about 78,200 barrels per day (12,430 m3/d) for refining, while PDO began using steam injection technology in several wells to increase their productivity.

Natural gas has increased greatly in importance due to the exploitation of gas fields and the opening of a processing plant at Sur, on the coast south of Muscat. Oman's natural gas reserves are estimated at 849.5 billion cubic meters, ranking 28th in the world, and production in 2008 was about 24 billion cubic meters per year.[39]

Mineral resources

Oman's mineral resources include chromite, dolomite, zinc, limestone, gypsum, silicon, copper, gold, cobalt, and iron. Several industries have grown up around them as part of the national development process which, in turn, have boosted the minerals sector's contribution to the nation’s GDP as well as providing jobs for Omanis. The mineral sector's operations include mining and quarrying, with several projects recently completed, including: an economic feasibility study on silica ore in Wadi Buwa and Abutan in the Wusta Region, which confirmed that there were exploitable reserves of around 28 million tonnes at the two sites; a feasibility study on the production of magnesium metal from dolomite ore; a draft study on processing limestone derivatives; a project to produce geological maps of the Sharqiyah Region; economic feasibility studies on the exploitation of gold and copper ores in the Ghaizeen area; a study on raw materials in the wilayats of Duqm and Sur for use in the Sultanate's cement industry; and a study on the construction of a new minerals laboratory at Ghala in the Governorate of Muscat. Metkore Alloys will build a world-class 1,65,000 tonnes per annum capacity ferro chrome smelter project in Oman with an envisaged investment of $80 million.[40]

Industry

The industrial sector is a cornerstone of the Sultanate’s long-term (1996–2020) development strategy for diversifying the sources of national income and reducing dependence on oil; it is also capable of helping to meet Oman's social development needs and generate greater added value for national resources by processing them into manufactured products.

The Seventh Five-Year Development Plan creates the conditions for an attractive investment climate, providing a strategy for the industrial sector aiming to develop the information technology and telecommunications industries. The Knowledge Oasis Muscat complex has been set up and expanded, and Omani companies are developing their technological potential through collaboration with various Japanese and German institutions.

There are industrial estates in Sohar, Sur, Salalah, Nizwa and Buraimi providing industries with the resources for expansion. Provision of Natural gas to the industrial estates in Sohar and Salalah, help to promote expansion of those industries reliant on large quantities of energy; tax exemptions are given as an incentive to encourage their expansion and development, with the industrial sector expected to contribute 15% to the country's GDP by 2020.[citation needed]

Development plans



Sohar port is expected to transform Oman's economy

The Omani economy has been radically transformed over a series of development plans beginning with the First Five-year Plan (1976–1980). At Sultan Qaboos's instruction, "Vision 2020", a plan for Oman's economic future up to the year 2020, was set out at the end of the first phase of the country's development, from 1970–1995, outlining the country's economic and social goals over the 25 years of the second phase of the development process (1996–2020).

Oman 2020, held in June 1995, has developed the following aims with regard to securing Oman's future prosperity and growth:

  • To have economic and financial stability
  • To reshape the role of the Government in the economy and to broaden private sector participation
  • To diversify the economic base and sources of national income
  • To globalize the Omani economy
  • To upgrade the skills of the Omani workforce and develop human resources

A free-trade agreement with the United States took effect 1 January 2009, eliminating tariff barriers on all consumer and industrial products, also providing strong protections for foreign businesses investing in Oman.[41]

Tourism



Al-Bustan Palace Hotel

Oman is known for its popular tourist attractions.[42] Wadis, deserts, beaches, and mountains are areas which make Oman unique among its neighboring Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) nations (wadis in particular). With a coastline of 1700 km, Oman offers clean beaches popular with visitors. Few beaches are private, except some attached to the beach resort hotels, or those adjoining military or official property. Wadis are green, lush oases of palm trees, grasses, and flowers. Some wadis have year-round running water, with deep, cool pools in which it is quite safe to swim if the currents are slow. A Falaj (pl. aflaaj) is a system for the distribution of water and is commonly used to describe irrigation channel systems downstream of water sources. Some aflaaj in Oman were built more than 1,500 years ago, whilst others were built at the beginning of the 20th century. In many areas, the only water available is attained by drilling wells to depths of dozens of meters.[citation needed]

Numerous forts and castles are included among Oman's cultural landmarks and, together with its towers and city walls, have historically been used as defensive bastions or look-out points, as well as the seats of administrative and judicial authority. There are over 500 forts, castles, and towers in various architectural styles, built to defend more than 3200 km coastline from potential invaders.



Inside of Grand Hyatt at Muscat

Souqs can be found in many of the towns throughout the country. One of the oldest preserved souqs in Oman is Muttrah, on the Corniche, consisting of a maze of pathways; gold and silver jewelry is found in abundance as well as numerous wooden carvings, ornaments and spices and traditional implements. Household goods make up the bulk of the wares. Today the capital area also has a number of Western European-style Shopping Malls, mainly situated in Qurum, but also extending to the Al Khuwair area of Muscat, where a variety of shops, ranging from boutiques to chain stores, can be found.[43] The largest mall in the country is the Muscat City Centre which includes a French Carrefour hypermarket. Another mall, The Muscat Grand Mall has now opened in alkhuwair. As well as ten other big hypermarkets in Oman with the most popular being Lulu Hypermarket.

Other popular tourist activities include sand skiing in the desert, scuba diving, rock climbing, trekking, surfing & sailing, cave exploration, birdwatching, bull fighting, and camel races. The Sohar Music Festival happening in Sohar every October/November attracts more and more tourists each year. The Muscat Festival, usually held in January and February, is similar to the Dubai Shopping Festival, but smaller in scale, where traditional dances are held, temporary theme parks open, and concerts take place. Another popular event is The Khareef Festival held in Salalah, Dhofar, which is 1,200 km from the capital city of Muscat, during the monsoon season (August) and is similar to Muscat Festival. During this latter event the mountains surrounding Salalah are popular with tourists as a result of the cool weather and lush greenery, rarely found anywhere else in Oman.[44]

Labor

The estimated workforce was 920,000 in 2002. These days average pay is around 100 OMR to 150 OMR per month. A large proportion of the indigenous population were still engaged in subsistence agriculture or fishing. The skilled local labor force is small, and many of the larger industries depend on foreign workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, India, and Sri Lanka. Oman's foreign workers send an estimated US$30 billion annually to their Asian and African home states, more than half of them earning a monthly wage of less than US$400.[45] The largest foreign community is from the south Indian states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka or come from Maharastra, Gujarat and the Punjab,[46] representing more than half of entire workforce in Oman. Salaries for overseas workers are known to be less than for Omani nationals, though still from two to five times higher than for the equivalent job in India.[45]

The minimum working age for Omani citizens is 13, but this provision is not enforced against the employment of children in family businesses or on family farms. The minimum working age for foreign workers is 21. The minimum wage for non-professional workers was US$260 per month in 2002. However, many classes of workers (domestic servants, farmers, government employees) are not required to receive the minimum wage and the government is not consistent in its enforcement of the minimum wage law. The private sector working week is 40 to 45 hours long, while government officials have a 35-hour working week.[citation needed]

Labor unions

Oman Law was amended during February 2010 to allow the formation of labor unions. There are now approximately 70 Labor Unions within the Sultanate. The law allows peaceful protests. Collective bargaining is not permitted, however there exist labor-management committees in firms with more than 50 workers. These committees are not authorized to discuss conditions of employment, including hours and wages. The Labor Welfare Board provides a venue for grievances.[citation needed]

Inflation

As oil prices have risen to a record high, so has inflation. The government depends mostly on oil revenue, more than on tax returns from companies and other government-owned companies. The government is also Oman's largest employer, so the high interest that government gets increases the prices of food and construction equipment. The government did support the fuel prices so it doesn't increase the inflation and to make the price suitable for people on low wages.

The minimum wage has been changed from 120 Rials a month to 140 Rials because of high records of inflation driven by high prices of oil.[citation needed] In February 2011, the minimum wage was increased from 140 Rials per month to 200 Rials per month.[citation needed]

Transportation

Oman maintains the following road links to its neighboring countries:

  • United Arab Emirates: Oman has several good road connections at Buraimi (Al Ain), Waddi Hatta (Wajaja), Khamat Mulahah (Fujairah) and Bukha.
  • Yemen: Route 47: Raysut to Sarfait in Oman – Yemen border. The road then goes to Hawf, Al Faydami, Al Ghaydah. Another road is from Thumrait to Al Mazyonah in Oman – Yemen border.The road then goes to Shisan, Al Kurah, Al Ghaydah.
  • Saudi Arabia: Desert road through Al Mashash. There is also a new road under construction to link the two countries.

Oman National Transport Company or ONTC is the Oman's public bus service company. Muscat International Airport and Salalah Airport are the two main airports in Oman. A rail link has been proposed connecting all major GCC nations and Oman is party to this project. The Muscat Port or Port Sultan Qaboos (Mina Qaboos as its locally known) is the prime maritime gateway of Oman. Other ports have been built in Salalah and Sohar. The Sohar port will be one of the largest in the region once construction completely finishes. Oman is also constructing the Al Duqm Port & Drydock and drydock.

Oman Air is the national carrier of Oman. Formerly Gulf Air was the national carrier of the Sultanate, but as other Arab nations withdrew from the joint venture, Oman too withdrew. It was the last country to do so.

The Oman Ferries Company maintains the two diesel-powered, high-speed, car ferries – Shinas and Hormouz. The ferries are used for travel between Muscat and Khasab. Khasab is strategically located in Musandam on the southern tip of the Strait of Hormuz and is controlled by Oman. Mainland Oman is separated by a small strip of UAE territory from Musandam.[47]

Education

Before 1970, only three formal schools existed in the whole country with fewer than 1000 students receiving education in them. Since Sultan Qaboos came to power in 1970, the government has given high priority to education to develop a domestic work force, which the government considers a vital factor in the country's economic and social progress. Today there are over 1000 state schools and about 650,000 students. In 1986, Oman's first university, Sultan Qaboos University, opened. University of Nizwa is also one of the fastest growing Universities in Oman with a newly completed research center and a growing department of Information Systems. The department of Information Systems of the University of Nizwa is perhaps the biggest in the Gulf in terms of students' population. Among notable American Professors include Dr. Richmond Adebiaye who is considered an expert in Information Systems and Security. Other post-secondary institutions in Oman include Higher College of Technology and its six other colleges of technology, six colleges of applied sciences (including a teacher's training college), a college of banking and financial studies, an institute of Sharia sciences, and several nursing institutes. Some 200 scholarships are awarded each year for study abroad.

University of Nizwa

The University of Nizwa was established in 2002 by the Decree of His Majesty the Sultan Qaboos as the first non-profit university in the Sultanate of Oman; it remains the only institution of its kind in the nation. Upon the satisfaction of all requirements set forth by the Ministry of Higher Education and the Higher Education Council, the University of Nizwa was granted legal status by ministerial decision No. 1/2004 on 3 January 2004. On 16 October 2004, the University of Nizwa opened the doors to its inaugural class of 1,200 students, 88% of whom were Omani women. The current campus is located near the base of the famous Jabal al-Akhdhar in Birkat al-Mouz, 20 km NW of Nizwa. The construction of a new campus, located near the new Farq-Hail highwa began in March 2010. The university is currently in the final stage of institutional accreditation in accordance with the academic standards established by the Oman Academic Accreditation Authority.

Though the student body comprises native Arabic speakers, the official language of academic instruction is English, making the university a bilingual institution. language proficiency is achieved in a year-long intensive course as part of the academic General Foundation Program.

Pre-university education in Oman has three stages: primary, preparatory, and secondary. Six years of primary schooling are followed by preparatory school. Academic results of the preparatory exams determine the type of secondary education the student will receive. Nine private colleges exist, providing two-year post secondary diplomas. Since 1999, the government has embarked on reforms in higher education designed to meet the needs of a growing population, only a small percentage of which are currently admitted to Higher Education Institutions. Under the reformed system, four public regional universities will be created, and incentives are provided by the government to promote the upgrading of the existing nine private colleges and the creation of other degree-granting private colleges.[citation needed]

The adult illiteracy rate was estimated at 28.1% for the year 2000 (males, 19.6%; females, 38.3%). In 1998, there were 411 primary schools with 313,516 students and 12,052 teachers. Student-to-teacher ratio stood at 26 to 1. In secondary schools in 1998, there were 12,436 teachers and 217,246 students. As of 1999, 65% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 59% of those eligible attended secondary school. In the same year, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3.9% of GDP. In 1993, there were 252 literacy centers and 176 adult education centers. Three teachers' colleges were functioning as of 1986. The Institute of Agriculture at Nazwa became a full college by 1985. Sultan Qaboos University opened in 1986. In 1998, all higher-level institutions had 1,307 teachers and 16,032 students.

Apart from the schools for Omani nationals, various other schools are present in Oman too that accommodate the children of the huge expatriate population of Oman. These include Indian Schools, Bangaldeshi Schools, Sri Lankan Schools, Pakistani Schools, The American School in Muscat, The American British Academy and the Philippine School Muscat.

Science and technology



A water oasis in Oman provides a source of drinking water for animals and humans.

Most research conducted in Oman has been done at the behest of the government; agriculture, minerals, water resources, and marine sciences have drawn the most attention. Sultan Qaboos University, founded in 1985, has colleges of science, medicine, engineering, and agriculture. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 13% of college and university enrollments.

The Institute of Health Sciences, under the Ministry of Health, was founded in 1982. Muscat Technical Industrial College (later renamed the Higher College of Technology), founded in 1984, has departments of computing and mathematics, laboratory science, and electrical, construction, and mechanical engineering.[citation needed] The Oman Natural History Museum, founded in 1983, includes the national herbarium and the national shell collection. All of these organizations are located in Muscat.

Meteorites

The central desert of Oman is an important source of meteorites for scientific analysis.[48] Since 1999, search campaigns in Oman have provided about 20% of the world's meteorites.[citation needed] These include rare meteorites from Mars and the Moon. The meteorite accumulations in the gravelly central desert play an important role in increasing knowledge of conditions in the early solar system.

Health

Life expectancy at birth in Oman is estimated to be 74.47 years in 2012.[49] As of 1999, there were an estimated 1.3 physicians and 2.2 hospital beds per 1,000 people. In 1993, 89% of the population had access to health care services. In 2000, 99% of the population had access to health care services.[citation needed] During the last three decades, the Oman health care system has demonstrated and reported great achievements in health care services and preventive and curative medicine. In 2001, Oman was ranked number 8 by the World Health Organization.

Culture

Although Arabic is Oman's official language, there are native speakers of different dialects, as well as Balochi (the language of the Baloch from Baluchistan western-Pakistan, eastern Iran), and southern Afghanistan or offshoots of Southern Arabian, and some descendants of Sindhi sailors.[50] Also spoken in Oman are Semitic languages only distantly related to Arabic, but closely related to Semitic languages in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Swahili [6] and are also widely spoken in the country due to the historical relations between Oman and Zanzibar the two languages have been linked historically. The dominant indigenous language is a dialect of Arabic and the country has also adopted as a second language. Almost all signs and writings appear in both Arabic and [51] A significant number also speak Urdu, due to the influx of Pakistani migrants during the late 1980s and the 1990s.



Khanjar knife, traditional dagger of Oman, circa 1924

Oman is famous for its khanjar knives, which are curved daggers worn during holidays as part of ceremonial dress. During the Medieval era, khanjars became highly popular as they symbolized Muslim sailors, and later various types of khanjars were made, representing various sailing nations in the Muslim world. Today, traditional clothing is worn by most Omani men. This typically consists of an ankle-length, collarless robe called a dishdasha that buttons at the neck with a tassel hanging down. Traditionally, this tassel would be dipped in perfume. Today the tassel is merely a traditional part of the dishdasha.

Women wear the hijab and abaya. Some women cover their faces and hands, but most do not.[citation needed] The abaya is a traditional dress and currently comes in different styles. The Sultan has forbidden the covering of faces in universities. On holidays, such as Eid, the women wear traditional dress, which is often very brightly colored and consists of a mid-calf length tunic over trousers. The Abaya is mostly worn in the capital, whereas in the interior regions brightly colored dresses are the usual attire.[citation needed]

Food

The main daily meal is usually eaten at midday, while the evening meal is lighter. During Ramadan, dinner is served after the Taraweeh prayers, sometimes as late as 11 pm. However these dinner timings differ according to each family and when they eat, for instance some families would choose to eat right after maghrib prayers and have dessert after taraweh. Arsia is a festival meal, served during celebrations, which consists of mashed rice and meat, sometimes chicken instead. Another popular festival meal is shuwa, which is meat cooked very slowly (sometimes for up to 2 days) in an underground clay oven. The meat becomes extremely tender and it is infused with spices and herbs before cooking to give it a very distinct taste. Fish is often used in main dishes too, and the kingfish is a popular ingredient. Mashuai is a meal consisting of a whole spit-roasted kingfish served with lemon rice. Rukhal bread is a thin, round bread originally baked over a fire made from palm leaves. It is eaten at any meal, typically served with Omani honey for breakfast or crumbled over curry for dinner. Chicken, fish and mutton are regularly used in dishes. The Omani Halwa is a very popular sweet, its basically cooked raw sugar with nuts, there are many different flavors you can have, the most popular one is the black halwa(origional) and the second popular is the saffron halwa. This is eaten on occassions and regular days, it is served with the Omani black coffee.

Although spices, herbs, onion, garlic and lime are liberally used in traditional Omani Cuisine, unlike similar Asian food, it is not hot or spicy. Omani Cuisine is also distinct from the Indigenous foods of other Arab states of the Arabian Peninsula and even varies within the Sultanate's different regions.[citation needed] There are also significant differences in cuisine between different regions of Oman.

Sport



Ali Al-Habsi is an Omani professional association football player. He currently plays in the Premier League as a goalkeeper for Wigan Athletic.[52]

The government aims to give young people a fully rounded education by providing activities and experience in the sporting, cultural, intellectual, social and scientific spheres, and to excel internationally in these areas and for this reason, in October 2004, the government created a Ministry of Sports Affairs to replace the General Organization for youth, sports and cultural affairs.

The 2009 Gulf Cup of Nations, the 19th edition, took place in Muscat, from 4 to 17 January 2009 and was won by the Omani national football team.

The International Olympic Committee awarded the former GOYSCA its prestigious prize for Sporting excellence in recognition of its contributions to youth and sports and its efforts to promote the Olympic spirit and goals.

The Oman Olympic Committee played a major part in organizing the highly successful 2003 Olympic Days, which were of great benefit to the sports associations, clubs and young participants. The football association took part, along with the handball, basketball, rugby union, hockey, volleyball, athletics, swimming, and tennis associations. In 2010, Muscat hosted the 2010 Asian Beach Games.

They also host tennis tournaments in different age divisions each year. Inside the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex stadium contains a 50 meter pool for swimming which is used for international tournaments from different schools in different countries. The Tour of Oman, a professional cycling 6-day stage race, is held in February.

Oman also hosted the Asian 2011 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup qualifiers, where 11 teams are competing for 3 spots at the FIFA World Cup.

Oman hosted the Men's and Women's Beach Handball 2012 World Championships at the Millennium Resort in Mussanah, from 8 to 13 July.[53]

Oman is perhaps the only Gulf nation to have bullfighting events organised in its territories. Al-Batena area is prominent for such events. Wide audiences turn up to see the events unfold. Omani bullfighting is however not a violent event. The origins of Bullfighting in Oman are unknown though many locals here believe it was brought to Oman by the Moors of Spanish origin. Yet others say it has a direct connection with Portugal which colonized the Omani coastline for nearly 2 centuries.[54]



More information

Airports130 (2012)
Borders WithSaudi Arabia
Borders WithUnited Arab Emirates
Borders WithYemen
Coastline2,092 km
Coordinates21 00 N, 57 00 E
Domain Suffix.om
Ethnic GroupArab
Ethnic GroupBaluchi
Ethnic GroupSouth Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi)
Ethnic GroupAfrican
Female Life Expectancy76.43 years (2012 est.)
Female Median Age22.8 years (2012 est.)
Fertility Rate2.87 children born/woman (2012 est.)
GDP$85 billion (2011 est.)
GDP$80.61 billion (2010 est.)
GDP$76.8 billion (2009 est.)
GDP Growth5.4% (2011 est.)
GDP Growth5% (2010 est.)
GDP Growth3.9% (2009 est.)
Government typemonarchy
Highest PointJabal Shams 2,980 m
Land Area309,500 sq km
Land boundary1,374 km
LanguageArabic (official)
LanguageBaluchi
LanguageIndian dialects
LocationMiddle East, bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, and Persian Gulf, between Yemen and UAE
Lowest PointArabian Sea 0 m
Male Life Expectancy72.61 years
Male Median Age25.7 years
NationalityOmani(s)
Population Growth2.043% (2012 est.)
RegionMiddle East
Roadways53,430 km
Terraincentral desert plain, rugged mountains in north and south
Total Area309,500 sq km
Total Life Expectancy74.47 years
Total Median Age24.4 years
Water Area0 sq km

Notes

  1. In 1783, when Saiad Said succeeded to the "masnad" of Muscat and Oman (an independent state founded in 1749), he fell out with his brother Saiad Sultan, who fled to safety in Makran and entered into communication with Nasir Khan of Kalat. Saiad was granted the Kalat share of the revenues of Gwadar and lived there until 1797 when he achieved the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman.
  2. Gwadar remained an Omani possession as part of the sultanate until September 1958

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Neighboring countries


Important people