21°N 57°E / 21°N 57°E / 21; 57

Oman (/ˈmɑːn/ (listen) oh-MAHN), officially the Sultanate of Oman (Arabic: سلْطنةُ عُمان Salṭanat(u) ʻUmān), is a country in Western Asia. It is situated on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and spans the mouth of the Persian Gulf. It shares land borders with Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, and maritime borders with Iran and Pakistan. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the southeast, and the Gulf of Oman on the northeast. The Madha and Musandam exclaves are surrounded by United Arab Emirates on their land borders, with the Strait of Hormuz (which it shares with Iran) and the Gulf of Oman forming Musandam's coastal boundaries.

Sultanate of Oman
سلطنة عُمان (Arabic)
Salṭanat ʻUmān
Anthem: نشيد السلام السلطاني
"as-Salām as-Sultānī"
"Sultanic Salutation"
Location of Oman in the Arabian Peninsula (dark green)
Location of Oman in the Arabian Peninsula (dark green)
and largest city
23°35′20″N 58°24′30″E / 23.58889°N 58.40833°E / 23.58889; 58.40833
Official languagesArabic[1]
GovernmentUnitary Islamic absolute monarchy
• Sultan
Haitham bin Tariq
Theyazin bin Haitham
LegislatureCouncil of Oman
Council of State (Majlis al-Dawla)
Consultative Assembly (Majlis al-Shura)
• The Azd tribe migration
• Al-Julanda
• Imamate established[3]
• Al Said dynasty
8 January 1856
• Sultanate of Oman
9 August 1970
• Total
309,500 km2 (119,500 sq mi) (70th)
• Water (%)
• 2021 estimate
4,520,471[4][5] (125th)
• 2010 census
• Density
15/km2 (38.8/sq mi) (177th)
GDP (PPP)2022 estimate
• Total
Increase $165.947 billion[7] (78th)
• Per capita
Increase $35,286 (71st)
GDP (nominal)2022 estimate
• Total
Increase $110.127 billion[8] (66th)
• Per capita
Increase $23,416 (55th)
Gini (2018)30.75[9]
HDI (2021)Increase 0.816[10]
very high · 54th
CurrencyOmani rial (OMR)
Time zoneUTC+4 (GST)
Date formatdd.mm.yyyy
Driving sideleft
Calling code+968
ISO 3166 codeOM
Internet TLD.om, عمان.

From the 17th century, the Omani Sultanate was an empire, vying with the Portuguese and British empires for influence in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. At its peak in the 19th century, Omani influence and control extended across the Strait of Hormuz to Iran and Pakistan, and as far south as Zanzibar.[11] In the 20th century, the sultanate came under the influence of the United Kingdom. For over 300 years, the relations built between the two empires were based on mutual benefit. UK recognized Oman's geographical importance as a trading hub that secured their trading lanes in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean and protected their empire in the Indian sub-continent. Historically, Muscat was the principal trading port of the Persian Gulf region. Oman is an absolute monarchy led by a Sultan. Qaboos bin Said was the Sultan from 1970 until their death on 10 January 2020.[12] Qaboos, who died childless, had named their cousin, Haitham bin Tariq, as their successor in a letter, and the family confirmed them as the Sultan of Oman.[13]

Formerly a maritime empire, Oman is the oldest continuously independent state in the Arab world.[14][15] It is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. It has oil reserves ranked 22nd globally.[14][16] In 2010, the United Nations Development Programme ranked Oman as the most improved nation in the world in terms of development during the preceding 40 years.[17] A portion of its economy involves tourism and trading fish, dates and other agricultural produce. Oman is categorized as a high-income economy and, as of 2022, ranks as the 64th most peaceful country in the world according to the Global Peace Index.[18]


The origin of the name seems to be related to Pliny the Elder's Omana[19] and Ptolemy's Omanon (Ὄμανον ἐμπόριον in Greek),[20] both probably the ancient Sohar.[21] The city or region is typically etymologized in Arabic from aamen or amoun ("settled" people, as opposed to the Bedouin).[21] While a number of eponymous founders have been proposed (Oman bin Ibrahim al-Khalil, Oman bin Siba' bin Yaghthan bin Ibrahim, Oman bin Qahtan and the Biblical Lot), others derive it from the name of a valley in Yemen at Ma'rib presumed to have been the origin of the city's founders, the Azd, a tribe migrating from Yemen.[22]


Prehistory and ancient historyEdit

At Aybut Al Auwal, in the Dhofar Governorate, a site was discovered in 2011 containing more than 100 surface scatters of stone tools, belonging to a regionally specific African lithic industry—the Nubian Complex—known previously only from the northeast and Horn of Africa. Two optically stimulated luminescence age estimates place the Arabian Nubian Complex at 106,000 years old. This supports the proposition that human populations moved from Africa into Arabia during the Late Pleistocene.[23]

In years surveys have uncovered Palaeolithic and Neolithic sites on the eastern coast. Palaeolithic sites include Saiwan-Ghunaim in the Barr al-Hikman.[24] Archaeological remains are including for the Bronze Age Umm an-Nar and Wadi Suq periods. Sites such as Bat show professional wheel-turned pottery, hand-made stone vessels, a metals industry and monumental architecture .[25]

During the 8th century BCE, it is believed that the Yaarub, the descendant of Qahtan, ruled the entire region of Yemen, including Oman. Wathil bin Himyar bin Abd-Shams (Saba) bin Yashjub (Yaman) bin Yarub bin Qahtan later ruled Oman.[26] It is thus believed that the Yaarubah were the first settlers in Oman from Yemen.[27]

In the 1970s and 1980s scholars like John C. Wilkinson[28] believed by virtue of oral history that in the 6th century BCE, the Achaemenids exerted control over the Omani peninsula, possibly ruling from a coastal centre such as Suhar.[29] Central Oman has its own indigenous Samad Late Iron Age cultural assemblage named eponymously from Samad al-Shan. In the northern part of the Oman Peninsula the Pre-Islamic Period begins in the 3rd century BCE and extends into the 3rd century CE. Whether or not Persians brought south-eastern Arabian under their control is a moot point, since the lack of Persian finds speak against this belief. M. Caussin de Percevel suggests that Shammir bin Wathil bin Himyar recognized the authority of Cyrus the Great over Oman in 536 BCE.[26]

Sumerian tablets referred to Oman as "Magan"[30][31] and in the Akkadian language "Makan",[32][33] a name which links Oman's copper resources.[34]

Arab settlementEdit

Over centuries tribes from western Arabia settled, making a living by fishing, farming, herding or stock breeding. Arab migration to Oman started from northern-western and south-western Arabia and those who chose to settle had to compete with the indigenous population for the best arable land. When Arab tribes started to migrate to Oman, there were two groups. One group, a segment of the Azd tribe migrated from Yemen in A.D. 120[35]/200 following the collapse of Marib Dam, while the other group migrated centuries before the birth of Islam from Nejd (what later is Saudi Arabia), named Nizari. Other historians believe that the Yaarubah from Qahtan which belong to an older branch, were the first settlers of Oman from Yemen, and then came the Azd.[27]

Ruins of Khor Rori, built between 100 BCE & 100 CE

The Azd settlers in Oman are descendants of Nasr bin Azd and were later known as "the Al-Azd of Oman".[35] 70 years after the first Azd migration, another branch of Alazdi under Malik bin Fahm, the founder of Kingdom of Tanukhites on the west of Euphrates, is believed to have settled.[35] According to Al-Kalbi, Malik bin Fahm was the first settler of Alazd.[36] He is said to have first settled in Qalhat. By this account, Malik, with an armed force of more than 6000 men and horses, fought against the Marzban, who served a Persian king in the battle of Salut and eventually defeated the Persian forces.[27][37][38][39] This account is semi-legendary and seems to condense centuries of migration and conflict into a story of two campaigns that exaggerate the success of the Arabs. The account may represent an amalgamation of traditions from not only the Arab tribes but also the region's original inhabitants.[37][40][41]

In the 7th century CE, Omanis came in contact with and accepted Islam.[42][43] The conversion of Omanis to Islam is ascribed to Amr ibn al-As, who was sent by the prophet Muhammad during the Expedition of Zaid ibn Haritha (Hisma). Amer was dispatched to meet with Jaifer and Abd, the sons of Julanda who ruled Oman. They appear to have readily embraced Islam.[44]

Imamate of OmanEdit

Omani Azd used to travel to Basra for trade, which was a centre of Islam, during the Umayyad empire. Omani Azd were granted a section of Basra, where they could settle and attend to their needs. Some of the Omani Azd who settled in Basra became merchants and, under their leader Muhallab bin Abi Sufrah, started to expand their influence of power eastwards towards Khorasan. Ibadhi Islam originated in Basra through its founder, Abdullah ibn Ibadh, around the year 650 CE; the Omani Azd in Iraq would subsequently adopt this as their predominant faith. Later, Al-hajjaj, the governor of Iraq, came into conflict with the Ibadhis, which forced them back to Oman. Among those who returned was the scholar Jaber bin Zaid. His return (and the return of other scholars) enhanced the Ibadhi movement.[45] Alhajjaj made an attempt to subjugate Oman, then ruled by Suleiman and Said (the sons of Abbad bin Julanda). Alhajjaj dispatched Mujjaah bin Shiwah, who was confronted by Said bin Abbad. This confrontation devastated Said's army, after which he and his forces retreated to the Jebel Akhdar (mountains). Mujjaah and his forces went after Said, successfully flushing them out from hiding in Wadi Mastall. Mujjaah later moved towards the coast, where he confronted Suleiman bin Abbad. The battle was won by Suleiman's forces. Alhajjaj sent another force (under Abdulrahman bin Suleiman); he eventually won the war, taking over the governance of Oman.[46][47][48]

Bahla Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was built between 12th and 15th c. by the Nabhani dynasty.

The first elective Imamate of Oman is believed to have been established after the fall of the Umayyad Dynasty in 750/755 AD, when Janaħ bin ʕibadah Alħinnawi was elected.[45][49] Other scholars claim that Janaħ bin Ibadah served as a Wāli (governor) under the Umayyad dynasty (and later ratified the Imamate), and that Julanda bin Masud was the first elected Imam of Oman, in A.D. 751.[50][51] The first Imamate reached its peak power in the 9th century A.D.[45] The Imamate established a maritime empire whose fleet controlled the Gulf, during a time when trade with the Abbasid Dynasty, the Far East, and Africa flourished.[52] The authority of the Imams started to decline due to power struggles, the interventions of Abbasid, and the rise of the Seljuk Empire.[53][50]

Nabhani dynastyEdit

During the 11th and 12th centuries, the Omani coast was in the sphere of influence of the Seljuk Empire. They were expelled in 1154, when the Nabhani dynasty came to power.[53] The Nabhanis ruled as muluk, or kings, while the Imams were reduced to largely symbolic significance. The capital of the dynasty was Bahla.[54] The Banu Nabhan controlled the trade in frankincense on the overland route via Sohar to the Yabrin oasis, and then north to Bahrain, Baghdad and Damascus.[55] The mango-tree was introduced to Oman during the time of Nabhani dynasty, by ElFellah bin Muhsin.[27][56] The Nabhani dynasty started to deteriorate in 1507 when Portuguese colonisers captured the coastal city of Muscat, and gradually extended their control along the coast up to Sohar in the north and down to Sur in the southeast.[57] Other historians argue that the Nabhani dynasty ended earlier in A.D. 1435 when conflicts between the dynasty and Alhinawis arose, which led to the restoration of the elective Imamate.[27]

In 1552 an Ottoman fleet captured the fort in Muscat, during their fight for control of the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, and departed after destroying the surroundings of the fortress.[58] Later in the 17th century, using its bases in Oman, Portugal engaged in the largest naval battle ever fought in the Persian Gulf. The Portuguese force fought against a combined armada of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and English East India Company support by the Safavid empire. The result of the battle was a draw and resulted in the loss of Portuguese influence in the Gulf.[59] Cities were sketched in the 17th century and appear in the António Bocarro Book of fortress.[60]

Portuguese presence in the 16th and 18th century in the Persian Gulf

Yaruba dynasty (1624–1744)Edit

Following the expulsion of the Portuguese Empire, Oman became one of the powers in the western Indian Ocean from 1698 onwards.[61]

The Ottoman Empire temporarily captured Muscat from the Portuguese again in 1581 and held it until 1588. During the 17th century, the Omanis were reunited by the Yaruba Imams. Nasir bin Murshid became the first Yaarubah Imam in 1624, when he was elected in Rustaq. Nasir's energy and perseverance is believed to have earned him the election.[62] Imam Nasir and his successor succeeded in the 1650s in expelling the Portuguese from their coastal domains in Oman.[45] The Omanis over time established a maritime empire that pursued the Portuguese and expelled them from all their possessions in East Africa, which were then incorporated into the Omani domains. To capture Zanzibar Saif bin Sultan, the Imam of Oman, pressed down the Swahili Coast. An 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 Imam Saif bin Sultan in 1698. Saif bin Sultan occupied Bahrain in 1700. The rivalry within the house of Yaruba over power after the death of Imam Sultan in 1718 weakened the dynasty. With the power of the Yaruba Dynasty dwindling, Imam Saif bin Sultan II eventually asked for help against his rivals from Nader Shah of Persia. A Persian force arrived in March 1737 to aid Saif. From their base at Julfar, the Persian forces eventually rebelled against the Yaruba in 1743. The Persian empire then tried to take possession of the coast of Oman until 1747.[45][63]

18th and 19th centuriesEdit

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

After the Omanis expelled the Persians, Ahmed bin Sa'id Albusaidi in 1749 became the elected Imam of Oman, with Rustaq serving as the capital. Since the revival of the Imamate with the Yaruba dynasty, the Omanis continued with the elective system and, provided that the person is deemed qualified, gave preference to a member of the ruling family.[64] Following Imam Ahmed's death in 1783, his son, Said bin Ahmed became the elected Imam. His son, Seyyid Hamed bin Said, overthrew the representative of his father the Imam in Muscat and obtained the possession of Muscat fortress. Hamed ruled as "Seyyid". Afterwards, Seyyid Sultan bin Ahmed, the uncle of Seyyid Hamed, took over power. Seyyid Said bin Sultan succeeded Sultan bin Ahmed.[65][66] During the entire 19th century, in addition to Imam Said bin Ahmed who retained the title until he died in 1803, Azzan bin Qais was the only elected Imam of Oman. His rule started in 1868. The British refused to accept Imam Azzan as a ruler, as he was viewed as inimical to their interests. This view played an instrumental role in supporting the deposition of Imam Azzan in 1871 by his cousin, Sayyid Turki, a son of the late Sayyid Said bin Sultan, and brother of Sultan Barghash of Zanzibar, who Britain deemed to be more acceptable.[67]

Oman's Imam Sultan, defeated ruler of Muscat, was granted sovereignty over Gwadar, an area of what later is Pakistan. Gwadar was a part of Oman from 1783 to 1958. This coastal city is located in the Makran region of what is later the far southwestern corner of Pakistan, near what is later the border of Iran, at the mouth of the Gulf of Oman.[note 1][68]

British de facto colonisationEdit

The British empire was keen to dominate southeast Arabia to stifle the growing power of other European states and to curb the Omani maritime power that grew during the 17th century.[69][52] The British empire over time, starting from the 18th century, began to establish a series of treaties with the sultans with the objective of advancing British political and economic interest in Muscat, while granting the sultans military protection.[52][69] In 1798, the first treaty between the British East India Company and the Albusaidi dynasty was signed by Sayyid Sultan bin Ahmed. The treaty aimed to block commercial competition of the French and the Dutch as well as obtain a concession to build a British factory at Bandar Abbas.[70][45][71] A second treaty was signed in 1800, which stipulated that a British representative shall reside at the port of Muscat and manage all external affairs with other states.[71] As the Omani Empire weakened, the British influence over Muscat grew throughout the nineteenth century.[61]

In 1854, a deed of cession of the Omani Kuria Muria islands to Britain was signed by the sultan of Muscat and the British government.[73] The British government achieved predominating control over Muscat, which, for the most part, impeded competition from other nations.[74] Between 1862 and 1892, the Political Residents, Lewis Pelly and Edward Ross, played an instrumental role in securing British supremacy over the Persian Gulf and Muscat by a system of indirect governance.[67] By the end of the 19th century, and with the loss of its African dominions and its revenues, British influence increased to the point that the sultans became dependent on British loans and signed declarations to consult the British government on all important matters.[69][75][76][77] The Sultanate thus came de facto under the British sphere.[76][78]

Zanzibar was a property as the main slave market of the Swahili Coast as well as being a producer of cloves, and became an increasingly important part of the Omani empire, a fact reflected by the decision of the Sayyid Sa'id bin Sultan, to make it the capital of the empire in 1837. Sa'id built 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 Omani domains on the Swahili Coast. The other son, Thuwaini, inherited Oman and the Asian domains. Zanzibar's influences in the Comoros archipelago in the Indian Ocean indirectly introduced Omani customs to the Comorian culture. These influences include clothing traditions and wedding ceremonies.[79] In 1856, under British arbitration, Zanzibar and Muscat became two sultanates.[80]

Treaty of SeebEdit

The split between the interior region (orange) and the coastal region (red) of Oman and Muscat

The British imperial development over Muscat and Oman during the 19th century led to the renewed revival of the cause of the Imamate in the interior of Oman, which has appeared in cycles for more than 1,200 years.[52] The British Political Agent, who resided in Muscat, owed the alienation of the interior of Oman to the influence of the British government over Muscat, which he described as being completely self-interested and without any regard to the social and political conditions of the locals.[81] In 1913, Imam Salim Alkharusi instigated an anti-Muscat rebellion that lasted until 1920 when the Sultanate established peace with the Imamate by signing the Treaty of Seeb. The treaty was brokered by Britain, which had no economic interest in the interior of Oman during that point of time. The treaty granted autonomous rule to the Imamate in the interior of Oman and recognized the sovereignty of the coast of Oman, the Sultanate of Muscat.[69][82][83][84] In 1920, Imam Salim Alkharusi died and Muhammad Alkhalili was elected.[45]

On 10 January 1923, an agreement between the Sultanate and the British government was signed in which the Sultanate had to consult with the British political agent residing in Muscat and obtain the approval of the High Government of India to extract oil in the Sultanate.[85] On 31 July 1928, the Red Line Agreement was signed between Anglo-Persian Company (later renamed British Petroleum), Royal Dutch/Shell, Compagnie Française des Pétroles (later renamed Total), Near East Development Corporation (later renamed ExxonMobil) and Calouste Gulbenkian (an Armenian businessman) to collectively produce oil in the post-Ottoman Empire region, which included the Arabian peninsula, with each of the 4 companies holding 23.75% of the shares while Calouste Gulbenkian held the remaining 5% shares. The agreement stipulated that none of the signatories was allowed to pursue the establishment of oil concessions within the agreed on area without including all other stakeholders. In 1929, the members of the agreement established Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC).[86] On 13 November 1931, Sultan Taimur bin Faisal abdicated.[87]

Reign of Sultan Said (1932–1970)Edit

Said bin Taimur became the sultan of Muscat officially on 10 February 1932. The rule of sultan Said bin Taimur was backed by the British government, and has been characterised as being feudal, reactionary and isolationist.[84][52][76][88] The British government maintained administrative control over the Sultanate as the defence secretary and chief of intelligence, chief adviser to the sultan and all ministers except for one were British.[76][89] In 1937, an agreement between the sultan and Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), a consortium of oil companies that was 23.75% British owned, was signed to grant oil concessions to IPC. After failing to discover oil in the Sultanate, IPC was interested in some promising geological formations near Fahud, an area located within the Imamate. IPC offered financial support to the sultan to raise an armed force against any potential resistance by the Imamate.[90][91]

In 1955, the exclave coastal Makran strip acceded to Pakistan and was made a district of its Balochistan province, while Gwadar remained in Oman. On 8 September 1958, Pakistan purchased the Gwadar enclave from Oman for US$3 million.[note 2][92]

Jebel Akhdar WarEdit

Nizwa Fort attacked by British Royal Air Force strike aircraft during Jebel Akhdar War

Sultan Said bin Taimur expressed his interest in occupying the Imamate after the death of Imam Alkhalili, thus taking advantage of any potential instability that might occur within the Imamate when elections were due, to the British government.[93] The British political agent in Muscat believed that the only method of gaining access to the oil reserves in the interior was by assisting the sultan in taking over the Imamate.[94] In 1946, the British government offered arms and ammunition, auxiliary supplies and officers to prepare the sultan to attack the interior of Oman.[95] In May 1954, Imam Alkhalili died and Ghalib Alhinai was elected Imam.[96]

In December 1955, Sultan Said bin Taimur sent troops of the Muscat and Oman Field Force to occupy the centres, including Nizwa, the capital of the Imamate of Oman, and Ibri.[82][97] The Omanis in the interior led by Imam Ghalib Alhinai, Talib Alhinai, the brother of the Imam and the Wali (governor) of Rustaq, and Suleiman bin Hamyar, who was the Wali (governor) of Jebel Akhdar, defended the Imamate in the Jebel Akhdar War against British-backed attacks by the Sultanate. In July 1957, the Sultan's forces were withdrawing, and were repeatedly ambushed, sustaining casualties.[82] Sultan Said, with the intervention of British infantry (two companies of the Cameronians), armoured car detachments from the British Army and RAF aircraft, was able to suppress the rebellion.[98] The Imamate's forces retreated to the inaccessible Jebel Akhdar.[98][90]

Colonel David Smiley, who had been seconded to organise the Sultan's Armed Forces, managed to isolate the mountain in autumn 1958 and found a route to the plateau from Wadi Bani Kharus.[99] On 4 August 1957, the British Foreign Secretary gave the approval to carry out air strikes without prior warning to the locals residing in the interior of Oman.[88] Between July and December 1958, the British RAF made 1,635 raids, dropping 1,094 tons and firing 900 rockets at the interior of Oman targeting insurgents, mountain top villages, water channels and crops.[76][88] On 27 January 1959, the Sultanate's forces occupied the mountain in an operation.[99] Imam Ghalib, his brother Talib and Sulaiman managed to escape to Saudi Arabia, where the Imamate's cause was promoted until the 1970s.[99] The exiled partisans of the abolished Imamate of Oman presented the case of Oman to the Arab League and the United Nations.[100][101] On 11 December 1963, the UN General Assembly decided to establish an Ad-Hoc Committee on Oman to study the 'Question of Oman' and report back to the General Assembly.[102] The UN General Assembly adopted the 'Question of Oman' resolution in 1965, 1966 and again in 1967 that called upon the British government to cease all repressive action against the locals, end British control over Oman and reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Omani people to self-determination and independence.[103][104][78][105][106][107]

Reign of Sultan Qaboos (1970–2020)Edit

After deposing his father in 1970, Sultan Qaboos opened up the country, embarked on economic reforms, and followed a policy of modernisation marked by increased spending on health, education and welfare.[108] Slavery was outlawed in 1970.[79]

In 2002, voting rights were extended to all citizens over the age of 21, and the first elections to the Consultative Assembly under the rules were held in 2003. In 2004, the Sultan appointed a female minister with portfolio, Sheikha Aisha bint Khalfan bin Jameel al-Sayabiyah. She was appointed to the post of National Authority for Industrial Craftsmanship, an office that attempts to preserve and promote Oman's traditional crafts and stimulate industry.[109] The Sultan continued to rule by decree. Nearly 100 suspected Islamists were arrested in 2005 and 31 people were convicted of trying to overthrow the government. They were ultimately pardoned in June of the same year.[14]

Inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings that were taking place throughout the region, protests occurred during months of 2011. While they did not call for the ousting of the regime, demonstrators demanded political reforms, improved living conditions and the creation of more jobs. They were dispersed by riot police in February 2011. Sultan Qaboos reacted by promising jobs and benefits. In October 2011, elections were held to the Consultative Assembly, to which Sultan Qaboos promised greater powers. The following year, the government began a crackdown on internet criticism. In September 2012, trials began of 'activists' accused of posting "abusive and provocative" criticism of the government online. 6 were given jail terms of 12–18 months and fines of around $2,500 each.[110]

Qaboos, the Arab world's longest-serving ruler, died on 10 January 2020, and the government declared 40 days of national mourning. He was buried the next day.[111]

Reign of Sultan Haitham (2020–)Edit

On 11 January 2020, Qaboos was succeeded by his first cousin Sultan Haitham bin Tariq.[112] Sultan Qaboos did not have any children.[113]


Wadi Shab

Oman lies between latitudes 16° and 28° N, and longitudes 52° and 60° E. A gravel desert plain covers most of central Oman, with mountain ranges along the north (Al-Hajar) and southeast coast (Qara or Dhofar Mountains).[114][115]

The peninsula of Musandam (Musandem), strategically located on the Strait of Hormuz, is an exclave separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates.[116]

Coast of Sur

Madha, another exclave, is an enclave within UAE territory located halfway between the Musandam Peninsula and the main body of Oman.[116] Madha, part of the Musandam governorate, covers 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, and consisting of about forty houses with a clinic and telephone exchange.[117]

The central desert is a source of meteorites for scientific analysis.[118]


Summer temperatures in Muscat and northern Oman average 30 to 40 °C (86.0 to 104.0 °F).[119] Annual rainfall in Muscat averages 100 mm (3.9 in), occurring mostly in January. In the south, the Dhofar Mountains area near Salalah has a tropical-like climate and receives seasonal rainfall from June to September as a result of monsoon winds from the Indian Ocean, leaving the summer air saturated with moisture and fog.[120] Summer temperatures in Salalah range from 20 to 30 °C (68.0 to 86.0 °F).[121]

The mountain areas receive more rainfall, and annual rainfall on the higher parts of the Jabal Akhdar probably exceeds 400 mm (15.7 in).[122] Lower temperatures in the mountainous areas leads to snow cover once every years.[123] Some parts of the coast, particularly near the island of Masirah, sometimes receive no rain at all within the course of a year. Temperatures reach around 54 °C (129.2 °F) (peak) in the hot season, from May to September.[124]

On 26 June 2018 the city of Qurayyat set the record for highest minimum temperature in a 24-hour period, 42.6 °C (108.7 °F).[125]

In terms of climate action, challenges remain to be solved, per the United Nations Sustainable Development 2019 index. The CO2 emissions from energy (tCO2/capita) and CO2 emissions embodied in fossil fuel exports (kg per capita) rates are "very high", while imported CO2 emissions (tCO2/capita) and people affected by climate-related disasters (per 100,000 people) rates are "low".[126]


Nakhal palm tree farms in Batina Region
Non-migratory Arabian Sea humpback whales off Dhofar

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 9 endangered species of mammals, 5 endangered types of birds,[127] and 19 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. However, the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary is the first site ever to be deleted from UNESCO's World Heritage List, following the government's 2007 decision to reduce the site's area by 90% to clear the way for oil prospectors.[128]

Local and national entities have noted unethical treatment of animals. In particular, stray dogs (and to a lesser extent, stray cats) are the victims of torture, abuse or neglect.[129] The only approved method of decreasing the stray dog population is shooting by police officers. The government has refused to implement a spay and neuter programme or create any animal shelters. Cats, while seen as more acceptable than dogs, are viewed as pests and die of starvation or illness.[130][131]

In years, Oman has become one of the newer spots for whale watching, highlighting the critically endangered Arabian humpback whale, the most isolated and only non-migratory population in the world, sperm whales and pygmy blue whales.[132]


The Sultan's Al Alam Palace in Old Muscat

Oman is a unitary state and an absolute monarchy,[133] in which all legislative, executive and judiciary power ultimately rests in the hands of the hereditary Sultan. Consequently, Freedom House has routinely rated the country "Not Free".[134]

The sultan is the head of state and directly controls the foreign affairs and defence portfolios.[135] He has absolute power and issues laws by decree.[136][137]

Legal systemEdit

While ultimate power is concentrated in the Sultan, and Oman does not have an official separation of powers, the late Sultan Qaboos declined to grant the full title Minister of Defence, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance to the ministers exercising those responsibilities, preferring to keep them within the Royal Domain. Sultan Haitham has granted the ministers responsible of those portfolios the full titles, whilst elevating the defense portfolio to that of a deputy prime minister. Since 1970 all legislation has been promulgated through royal decrees, including the 1996 Basic Law. The Sultan appoints the ministers, the judges, and can grant pardons and commute sentences. The Sultan's authority is inviolable and the Sultan expects total subordination to his will.[12]

The administration of justice is personalized, with limited due process protections, especially in political and security-related cases.[138] The Basic Statute of the State[139] is supposedly the cornerstone of the Omani legal system and it operates as a constitution for the country. The Basic Statute was issued in 1996 and has been amended in 2011.[140]

Women and children face legal discrimination in areas. Women are excluded from certain state benefits, such as housing loans, and are refused equal rights under the personal status law. Women experience restrictions on their self-determination in respect to health and reproductive rights.[12]

The legislature is the bicameral Council of Oman, consisting of an upper chamber, the Council of State (Majlis ad-Dawlah) and a lower chamber, the Consultative Council (Majlis ash-Shoura).[141] Political parties are banned, as are any affiliations based on religion.[137] The upper chamber has 71 members, appointed by the Sultan from among prominent Omanis; it has only advisory powers.[142] The 84 members of the Consultative Council are elected by universal suffrage to serve 4-year terms.[142] The members are appointed for 3-year terms, which may be renewed once.[141]

Foreign policyEdit

Sultan Haitham bin Tariq with US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, February 2020

Since 1970, Oman has pursued a moderate foreign policy, and has expanded its diplomatic relations. Oman is among the Arab countries that have maintained friendly ties with Iran.[143][144] WikiLeaks disclosed US diplomatic cables which state that Oman helped free British sailors captured by Iran's navy in 2007.[145] The same cables portray the government as wishing to maintain cordial relations with Iran, and as having consistently resisted US diplomatic pressure to adopt a sterner stance.[146][147][148]

Oman allowed the British Royal Navy and Indian Navy access to the port facilities of Al Duqm Port & Drydock.[149]


SIPRI's estimation of Oman's military and security expenditure as a percentage of GDP in 2020 was 11%, making it the world's highest rate in that year, higher than Saudi Arabia (8.4 percent).[150] On-average military spending as a percentage of GDP between 2016 and 2018 was around 10%, while the world's average during the same period was 2.2%.[151]

Military manpower totalled 44,100 in 2006, including 25,000 men in the army, 4,200 sailors in the navy, and an air force with 4,100 personnel. The Royal Household maintained 5,000 Guards, 1,000 in Special Forces, 150 sailors in the Royal Yacht fleet, and 250 pilots and ground personnel in the Royal Flight squadrons. Oman maintains a paramilitary force of 4,400 men.[152]

The Royal Army of Oman had 25,000 active personnel in 2006, plus a contingent of Royal Household troops. Oman has a number of tanks, including 6 M60A1, 73 M60A3 and 38 Challenger 2 main battle tanks, and 37 aging Scorpion light tanks.[152]

The Royal Air Force of Oman has approximately 4,100 men, with 36 combat aircraft and no armed helicopters. Combat aircraft include 20 aging Jaguars, 12 Hawk Mk 203s, 4 Hawk Mk 103s and 12 PC-9 turboprop trainers with a limited combat capability. It has one squadron of 12 F-16C/D aircraft. Oman has 4 A202-18 Bravos and 8 MFI-17B Mushshaqs.[152]

The Royal Navy of Oman had 4,200 men in 2000, and is headquartered at Seeb. It has bases at Ahwi, Ghanam Island, Mussandam and Salalah. In 2006, Oman had ten surface combat vessels. These included two 1,450 ton Qahir class corvettes, and eight ocean-going patrol boats. The Omani Navy had one 2,500 ton Nasr al Bahr class LSL (240 troops, 7 tanks) with a helicopter deck. Oman had at least 4 landing craft.[152] Oman ordered three Khareef class corvettes from the VT Group for £400 million in 2007. They were built at Portsmouth.[153] In 2010 Oman spent US$4.074 billion on military expenditures, 8.5% of the gross domestic product.[154] The sultanate has a history of association with the British military and defence industry.[155] According to SIPRI, Oman was the 23rd largest arms importer from 2012 to 2016.[156]

Human rightsEdit

Torture methods in use include mock execution, beating, hooding, solitary confinement, subjection to extremes of temperature and to constant noise, abuse and humiliation.[157][158] There have been reports of torture and other forms of punishment perpetrated by security forces on protesters and detainees.[159] Prisoners detained in 2012 complained of sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and solitary confinement. Authorities kept Sultan al-Saadi, a social media activist, in solitary confinement, denied him access to his lawyer and family, forced him to wear a black bag over his head whenever he left his cell, including when using the toilet, and told him his family had "forsaken" him and asked for him to be imprisoned.[160]

The government decides who can or cannot be a journalist and this permission can be withdrawn at any time. Censorship and self-censorship are a factor.[161] Omanis have limited access to political information through the media.[162] Access to news and information can be problematic: journalists have to be content with news compiled by the official news agency on some issues. Through a decree by the Sultan, the government has extended its control over the media to blogs and other websites. Omanis cannot hold a public meeting without the government's approval. Omanis who want to set up a non-governmental organisation of any kind need a licence. To get a licence, they have to demonstrate that the organisation is "for legitimate objectives" and not "inimical to the social order".[161] The Omani government does not permit the formation of independent civil society associations.[159] Human Rights Watch issued in 2016, that an Omani court sentenced 3 journalists to prison and ordered the permanent closure of their newspaper, over an article that alleged corruption in the judiciary.[163]

The law prohibits criticism of the Sultan and government in any form or medium. Oman's police do not need search warrants to enter people's homes. The law does not provide citizens with the right to change their government. The Sultan retains ultimate authority on all foreign and domestic issues. Government officials are not subject to financial disclosure laws. Liberal laws and concerns for national security have been used to suppress criticism of government figures and politically objectionable views. Publication of books is limited and the government restricts their importation and distribution, as with other media products. In 2009, a web publisher was fined and given a suspended jail sentence for revealing that a supposedly live TV programme was actually pre-recorded to eliminate any criticisms of the government.[161]

Faced with restrictions, Omanis sometimes use donkeys to express their views. Writing about Gulf rulers in 2001, Dale Eickelman observed: "Only in Oman has the occasional donkey… been used as a mobile billboard to express anti-regime sentiments. There is no way in which police can maintain dignity in seizing and destroying a donkey on whose flank a political message has been inscribed."[161] Some people have been arrested for allegedly spreading fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic in Oman.[164]

Omani citizens need government permission to marry foreigners. The Ministry of Interior requires Omani citizens to obtain permission to marry foreigners (except nationals of GCC countries); permission is not automatically granted. Citizen marriage to a foreigner abroad without ministry approval may result in denial of entry for the foreign spouse at the border and preclude children from claiming citizenship rights. It may result in a bar from government employment and a fine of 2,000 rials ($5,200).[160]

In August 2014, The Omani writer and human rights defender Mohammed Alfazari, the founder and editor-in-chief of the e-magazine Mowatin "Citizen", disappeared after going to the police station in the Al-Qurum district of Muscat. For months the Omani government denied his detention and refused to disclose information about his whereabouts or condition.[165] On 17 July 2015, Alfazari left Oman seeking political asylum in UK after a travel ban was issued against him without providing any reasons and after his official documents including his national ID and passport were confiscated for more than 8 months.[166] There were more reports of politically motivated disappearances in the country. In 2012, armed security forces arrested Sultan al-Saadi, a social media activist. According to reports, authorities detained him at an unknown location for one month for comments he posted online critical of the government. Authorities previously arrested al-Saadi in 2011 for participating in protests and again in 2012 for posting comments online deemed insulting to Sultan Qaboos. In May 2012 security forces detained Ismael al-Meqbali, Habiba al-Hinai and Yaqoub al-Kharusi, human rights activists who were visiting striking oil workers. Authorities released al-Hinai and al-Kharusi after their detention and did not inform al-Meqbali's friends and family of his whereabouts for weeks. Authorities pardoned al-Meqbali in March.[160] In December 2013, a Yemeni national disappeared after he was arrested at a checkpoint in Dhofar Governorate. Authorities refuse to acknowledge his detention.[167]

The National Human Rights Commission, established in 2008, is not independent from the regime. It is chaired by the former deputy inspector general of Police and Customs and its members are appointed by royal decree. In June 2012, one of its members requested that she be relieved of her duties because she disagreed with a statement made by the Commission justifying the arrest of intellectuals and bloggers and the restriction of freedom of expression in the name of respect for "the principles of religion and customs of the country".[12]

Since the beginning of the "Omani Spring" in January 2011, a number of violations of civil rights have been reported. Prisons are inaccessible to independent monitors. Members of the independent Omani Group of Human Rights have been harassed, arrested and sentenced to jail. There have been testimonies of torture and other forms of punishment perpetrated by security forces on protesters and detainees. The detainees were all peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly. Authorities must obtain court orders to hold suspects in pre-trial detention. The penal code was amended in October 2011 to allow the arrest and detention of individuals without an arrest warrant from public prosecutors.[12]

In January 2014, intelligence agents arrested a Bahraini actor and handed him over to the Bahraini authorities on the same day of his arrest. The actor has been subjected to a forced disappearance.[168]

Administrative divisionsEdit


The Sultanate is administratively divided into 11 governorates. Governorates are, in turn, divided into 60 wilayats.[169][170]


A proportional representation of exports, 2019
Historical development of real GDP per capita

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."[171] In terms of monetary value, mineral fuels accounted for 82.2% of total product exports in 2018.[172]

Oman's socio-economic structure is described as being hyper-centralized rentier welfare state.[173] The largest 10% of corporations are the employers of almost 80% of Omani nationals in the private sector. Half of the private sector jobs are classified as elementary. One third of employed Omanis are in the private sector, while the remaining majority are in the public sector.[174] A hyper-centralized structure produces a monopoly-like economy.[173]

Since a 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, namely tourism and infrastructure. Oman had a 2020 Vision to diversify the economy established in 1995, which targeted a decrease in oil's share to less than 10% of GDP by 2020, and it was rendered obsolete in 2011. Oman then established 2040 Vision.[173]

A free-trade agreement with the United States took effect 1 January 2009, eliminated tariff barriers on all consumer and industrial products, and provided protections for foreign businesses investing.[175] Tourism, another source of revenue, is on the rise.[176] An 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.[177]

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Oman by country as of 2017[178]

  United Kingdom (48%)
  United Arab Emirates (10.8%)
  Kuwait (4.6%)
  Other (36.6%)

Foreign workers send an estimated US$10 billion annually to their home states in Asia and Africa, more than half of them earning a monthly wage of less than US$400.[179] The largest foreign community is from the Indian states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and the Punjab,[180] representing more than half of entire workforce. Salaries for overseas workers are known to be less than for Omani nationals, while still from two to five times higher than for the equivalent job in India.[179]

In terms of foreign direct investment (FDI), total investments in 2017 exceeded US$24billion. The highest share of FDI went to the oil and gas sector, which represented around US$13billion (54.2 percent), followed by financial intermediation, which represented US$3.66billion (15.3 percent). FDI is dominated by the United Kingdom with an estimated value of US$11.56billion (48 percent), followed by UAE USD 2.6billion (10.8 percent), followed by Kuwait USD 1.1billion (4.6 percent).[178]

Oman, in 2018 had a budget deficit of 32% of total revenue and a government debt to GDP of 47.5%.[181][182] Military spending to GDP between 2016 and 2018 averaged 10%, while the world's average during the same period was 2.2%.[183] Health spending to GDP between 2015 and 2016 averaged 4.3%, while the world's average during the same period was 10%.[184] Research and development spending between 2016 and 2017 averaged 0.24%, which is lower than the world's average (2.2%) during the same period.[185] Government spending on education to GDP in 2016 was 6.11%, while the world's average was 4.8% (2015).[186]

Spending in 2016
Type Spending (% of GDP)[187][188][189][190]
military spending
education spending
health spending
research & development spending

Oil and gasEdit

Petrochemical tanks in Sohar

Proved reserves of petroleum total about 5.5 billion barrels, 25th largest in the world.[143] Oil is extracted and processed by Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), with proven oil reserves holding approximately steady, while oil production has been declining.[191][192] The Ministry of Energy and Minerals is responsible for all oil and gas infrastructure and projects.[193] Following the 1970s energy crisis, Oman doubled their oil output between 1979 and 1985.[194]

In 2018, oil and gas represented 71% of the government's revenues.[181] In 2016, oil and gas share of the government's revenue represented 72 percent.[195] The government's reliance on oil and gas as a source of income dropped by 1% from 2016 to 2018. Oil and gas sector represented 30.1% of the nominal GDP in 2017.[196]

Between 2000 and 2007, production fell by more than 26%, from 972,000 to 714,800 barrels per day.[197] Production has recovered to 816,000 barrels in 2009, and 930,000 barrels per day in 2012.[197] Natural gas reserves are estimated at 849.5 billion cubic metres, ranking 28th in the world, and production in 2008 was about 24 billion cubic metres per year.[143]

In September 2019, Oman was confirmed to become the first Middle Eastern country to host the International Gas Union Research Conference (IGRC 2020). This 16th iteration of the event will be held between 24 and 26 February 2020, in collaboration with Oman LNG, under the auspices of the Ministry of Energy and Minerals.[198]


Al-Bustan Palace Hotel

Tourism has grown and is expected to be one of the largest industries in the country.[199] The World Travel & Tourism Council stated that Oman is the fastest growing tourism destination in the Middle East.[200]

Tourism contributed 2.8% to the GDP in 2016. It grew from RO 505 million (US$1.3 billion) in 2009 to RO 719 million (US$1.8 billion) in 2017 (+42.3% growth). Citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), including Omanis who are residing outside of Oman, represent the highest ratio of all tourists visiting Oman, estimated to be 48%. The second highest number of visitors come from other Asian countries, who account for 17% of the total number of visitors.[201] A challenge to tourism development is the reliance on the government-owned firm, Omran, as a key actor to develop the tourism sector, which potentially creates a market barrier-to-entry of private-sector actors and a crowding out effect. Another issue to the tourism sector is deepening the understanding of the ecosystem and biodiversity to guarantee their protection and preservation.[202]

Wahiba Sands

Oman has tourist attractions and is known for adventure and cultural tourism.[176][203] Muscat, the capital, was named the second best city to visit in the world in 2012 by the travel guide publisher Lonely Planet.[204] Muscat was chosen as the Capital of Arab Tourism of 2012.[205]

In November 2019, Oman made the rule of visa on arrival an exception and introduced the concept of e-visa for tourists from all nationalities. Under the laws, visitors were required to apply for the visa in advance by visiting online government portal.[206]

Industry, innovation and infrastructureEdit

In industry, innovation and infrastructure, Oman is still faced with "significant challenges", as per United Nations Sustainable Development Goals index, as of 2019. Oman has scored "high" on the rates of internet use, mobile broadband subscriptions, logistics performance and on the average of top 3 university rankings. Meanwhile, Oman scored "low" on the rate of scientific and technical publications and on research & development spending.[126] Manufacturing value added to GDP rate in 2016 was 8.4%, which is lower than the average in the Arab world (9.8%) and world average (15.6%). In terms of research & development expenditures to GDP, Oman's share was on average 0.20% between 2011 and 2015, while the world's average during the same period was 2.11%.[207] The majority of firms operate in the oil and gas, construction and trade sectors.[202]

Non-hydrocarbon GDP growth 2015 2016 2017 2018
Value (%)[208] 4.8 6.2 0.5 1.5

Oman is refurbishing and expanding the ports infrastructure in Muscat, Duqm, Sohar and Salalah to expand tourism, local production and export shares. Oman is expanding its downstream operations by constructing a refinery and petrochemical plant in Duqm with a 230,000 barrels per day capacity projected for completion by 2021.[178] The majority of industrial activity takes place in 8 industrial states and 4 free-zones. The industrial activity is mainly focused on mining-and-services, petrochemicals and construction materials.[202] The largest employers in the private-sector are the construction, wholesale-and-retail and manufacturing sectors, respectively. Construction accounts for nearly 48% of the total labour force, followed by wholesale-and-retail, which accounts for around 15% of total employment and manufacturing, which accounts for around 12% of employment in the private sector.[174]

Oman, as per Global Innovation Index (2019) report, scores "below expectations" in innovation relative to countries classified under high income.[209] Oman in 2019 ranked 80 out of 129 countries in innovation index, which takes into consideration factors, such as, political environment, education, infrastructure and business sophistication.[210] Innovation, technology-based growth and economic diversification are hindered by an economic growth that relies on infrastructure expansion, which depends on a percentage of 'low-skilled' and 'low-wage' foreign labour. Another challenge to innovation is the dutch disease phenomenon, which creates an oil and gas investment lock-in, while relying on imported products and services in other sectors. Such a locked-in system hinders local business growth and global competitiveness in other sectors, and thus impedes economic diversification.[202] The inefficiences and bottlenecks in business operations that are a result of dependence on natural resources and 'addiction' to imports suggest a 'factor-driven economy'.[174] A third hindrance to innovation is an economic structure that is dependent on firms, while granting opportunities for SMEs to enter the market, which impedes a market-share competition between firms.[202] The ratio of patent applications per million people was 0.35 in 2016 and the MENA region average was 1.50, while the 'high-income' countries' average was approximately 48.0 during the same year.[211] Oman was ranked 76th in the Global Innovation Index in 2021.[212]

Patent Grants 2014 2015 2016 2017
Total[213] 2 4 6 14

Agriculture and fishingEdit

Fishing industry contributed 0.78% to the GDP in 2016. Fish exports between 2000 and 2016 grew from US$144 million to US$172 million (+19.4 percent). The main importer of Omani fish in 2016 was Vietnam, which imported almost US$80 million (46.5%) in value, and the second biggest importer was the United Arab Emirates, which imported around US$26 million (15%). The other main importers are Saudi Arabia, Brazil and China. Oman's consumption of fish is almost twice the world's average. The ratio of exported fish to total fish captured in tons fluctuated between 49% and 61% between 2006 and 2016.[201]

Dates represent 80% of all fruit crop production. Date farms employ 50% of the total agricultural area in the country. Estimated production of dates in 2016 is 350,000 tons, making it the 9th largest producer of dates. The vast majority of date production (75%) comes from 10 cultivars. Total export of dates was US$12.6 million in 2016, almost equivalent to total imported value of dates, which was US$11.3 million in 2016. The main importer is India (around 60% of all imports). Date exports remained steady between 2006 and 2016. Oman is considered to have good infrastructure for date production and support provision to cultivation and marketing, and lacks innovation in farming and cultivation, industrial coordination in the supply chain and encounter high losses of unused dates.[201]


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.

By 2020, the population exceeded 4.5 million[214] The total fertility rate in 2020 was estimated to be 2.8 children born per woman; this rate has been decreasing in years.[215] About half of the population lives in Muscat and the Batinah coastal plain northwest of the capital. Omanis are predominantly of Arab, Baluchi and African origins.[143]

Omani society is somewhat tribal[216][217][218] and encompasses three identities:[216] that of the tribe, the Ibadi faith and maritime trade.[216] The first two identities are tied to tradition and are prevalent in the interior of the country, owing to periods of isolation.[216] The third identity pertains mostly to Muscat and the coastal area, and is reflected by business, trade,[216] and the origins of Omanis, who trace their roots to Baloch, Al-Lawatia, Persia and historical Omani Zanzibar.[219] Gwadar, a region of Balochistan, was a Colony of Oman for more than a century and in the 1960s, Pakistan took over the land. Some people in this area are Omani and Pakistani.[220]


Religion percentage (2020)[221]

  Islam (88.9%)
  Hinduism (5.5%)
  Christianity (3.6%)
  others (2.0%)

Most Omanis are Muslims; these predominantly follow the Ibadi school of Islam.[222]

There are communities of ethnic Indian Hindus, Christians, Sikh[223] and Jewish.[224]


Arabic and English road sign

Arabic is the official language. It belongs to the Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic family.[171] There are dialects of Arabic spoken, all part of the Peninsular Arabic family: Dhofari Arabic (also known as Dhofari, Zofari) is spoken in Salalah and the surrounding coastal regions (the Dhofar Governorate).[225]

According to CIA, besides Arabic, English, Baluchi (Southern Baluchi), Urdu, Bengali (spoken by Indians and Bangladeshis), Hindi, Malayalam, Tulu and other Indian languages are the main languages spoken.[143] English is widely spoken in the business community and is taught at school from an early age. Almost all signs and writings appear in both Arabic and English at tourist sites.[176] Baluchi is the mother tongue of the Baloch people from Balochistan in western Pakistan, eastern Iran and southern Afghanistan. It is used by some descendants of Sindhi sailors.[226] Bengali is spoken due to a Bangladeshi expatriate population. A number of residents speak Urdu, due to the influx of Pakistani migrants during the 1980s and 1990s. Swahili is spoken due to the historical relations between Oman and Zanzibar.[11]

Prior to Islam, Central Oman lay outside of the core area of spoken Arabic. Possibly Old South Arabian speakers dwelled from the Al Batinah Region to Zafar, Yemen.[227] Musnad inscriptions have come to light in central Oman and in the Emirate of Sharjah, and the script says nothing about the language which it conveys.[228] A bilingual text from the 3rd century BCE is written in Aramaic and in musnad Hasiatic, which mentions a 'king of Oman' (mālk mn ʿmn).[229] The Mehri language is limited in its distribution to the area around Salalah, in Zafar and westward into the Yemen. Until the 18th or 19th century it was spoken further north, perhaps into Central Oman.[230] Baluchi (Southern Baluchi) is spoken.[231] Endangered indigenous languages include Kumzari, Bathari, Harsusi, Hobyot, Jibbali and Mehri.[232] Omani Sign Language is the language of the deaf community. Oman was the first Arab country in the Persian Gulf to have German taught as a second language.[233] The Bedouin Arabs, who reached eastern and southeastern Arabia in migrational waves—the latest in the 18th century, brought their language and rule including the ruling families of Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.[234]


The Human Capital Index[235]
Rank Economy score
56 Albania 0.62
55 Malaysia 0.62
54 Oman 0.62
53 Turkey 0.63
52 Mauritius 0.63

The percentage of students who complete lower secondary school and the literacy rate between the age of 15 and 24 is 99.7% and 98.7%, respectively. Net primary school enrollment rate in 2019, which is 94.1%, is rated as "challenges remain" by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) standard. Overall evaluation in quality of education, according to UNSDG, is 94.8 ("challenges remain") as of 2019.[126]

Higher education produces a surplus in humanities and liberal arts, while it produces an insufficient number in technical and scientific fields and required skill-sets to meet the market demand. Further, sufficient human capital creates a business environment that can compete with, partner or attract foreign firms. Accreditation standards and mechanisms with a quality control that focuses on input assessments, rather than output, are areas of improvement, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development 2014 report.[202] The transformation Index BTI 2018 report on Oman recommends that the education curriculum should focus more on the "promotion of personal initiative and critical perspective".[173] Oman was ranked 84th in the Global Innovation Index in 2020, down from 80th in 2019.[236][237][238][239]

The adult literacy rate in 2010 was 86.9%.[240]

According to the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, the top-ranking universities in the country are Sultan Qaboos University (1678th worldwide), the Dhofar University (6011th) and the University of Nizwa (6093rd).[241]


Since 2003, Oman's undernourished share of the population has dropped from 11.7% to 5.4% in 2016, and the rate remains double the level of high-income economies (2.7%) in 2016.[242] UNSDG targets 0 hunger by 2030.[243] Coverage of essential health services in 2015 was 77%, which is higher than the world's average of approximately 54% during the same year, and lower than high-income economies' level (83%) in 2015.[244]

Since 1995, the percentage of children who receive key vaccines has consistently been above 99%. As for road incident death rates, the rate has been decreasing since 1990, from 98.9 per 100,000 individuals to 47.1 per 100,000 in 2017, and remains above average, which was 15.8 per 100,000 in 2017.[245] Oman's health spending to GDP between 2015 and 2016 averaged 4.3%, while the world's average during the same period averaged 10%.[184]

As for mortality due to air pollution (household and ambient air pollution), the rate was 53.9 per 100,000 population as of 2016.[246] In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Oman as the least polluted country in the Arab world, with a score of 37.7 in the pollution index. The country ranked 112th in Asia among the list of highest polluted countries.[247]

Life expectancy at birth was estimated to be 76.1 years in 2010.[248] As of 2010, there were an estimated 2.1 physicians and 2.1 hospital beds per 1,000 people.[248] In 1993, 89% of the population had access to health care services. In 2000, 99% of the population had access to health care services.[249] During 3 decades, the Oman health care system has demonstrated and reported achievements in health care services and preventive and curative medicine. Oman has been making steps in health research. Comprehensive research on the prevalence of skin diseases was performed in North Batinah governorate.[250] In 2000, the health system was ranked number 8 by the World Health Organization.[251]


Outwardly, Oman shares some of the cultural characteristics of its Arab neighbours, particularly those in the Gulf Cooperation Council. Factors make Oman unique in the Middle East. These result as much from geography and history as from culture and economics. The artificial nature of the state makes it "difficult" to describe a national culture; cultural heterogeneity exists within its national boundaries to make Oman distinct from other Arab States of the Persian Gulf. The cultural diversity can be influenced by its historical expansion to the Swahili Coast and the Indian Ocean.[253]

Oman has a tradition of shipbuilding, as maritime travel played a role in the Omanis' ability to stay in contact with the civilisations of the world. Sur was a shipbuilding city of the Indian Ocean. The Al Ghanja ship takes a whole year to build. Other types of Omani ship include As Sunbouq and Al Badan.[254]

In March 2016 archaeologists working off Al Hallaniyah Island identified a shipwreck believed to be that of the Esmeralda from Vasco da Gama's 1502–1503 fleet. The wreck was initially discovered in 1998. Later underwater excavations took place between 2013 and 2015 through a partnership between the Oman Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Blue Water Recoveries Ltd., a shipwreck recovery company. The vessel was identified through such artifacts as a "Portuguese coin minted for trade with India (one of only two coins of this type known to exist) and stone cannonballs engraved with what appear to be the initials of Vincente Sodré, da Gama's maternal uncle and the commander of the Esmeralda."[255]


Khanjar (c. 1924)

The male national dress consists of the dishdasha, an ankle-length, collarless gown with sleeves.[166] Its main adornment, a tassel (furakha) sewn into the neckline, can be impregnated with perfume.[256] Underneath the dishdasha, men wear a plain strip of cloth wrapped around the body from the waist down. Noted regional differences in dishdasha designs are the style with which they are embroidered, which varies according to age group.[166] On formal occasions a black or beige cloak called a bisht may cover the dishdasha. The embroidery edging the cloak is in silver or gold thread.[256]

Men wear two types of headdress:

  • the ghutra, also called "Musar" a square piece of woven wool or cotton fabric of a single colour, decorated with embroidered patterns.
  • the kummah, a cap that is the head dress worn during leisure hours.[166]

Some men carry the assa, a stick, which can have practical uses or is simply used as an accessory during formal events. Men, on the whole, wear sandals on their feet.[256]

The khanjar (dagger) forms part of the national dress and men wear the khanjar on all formal public occasions and festivals.[166] It is traditionally worn at the waist. Sheaths may vary from more simple covers to more ornate silver or gold-decorated pieces.[256] It is a symbol of a man's origin, his manhood and courage. A depiction of a khanjar appears on the national flag.[166]

Women wear national costumes, with regional variations. In the past, the choice of colours reflected a tribe's tradition. The women's traditional costume comprises garments: the kandoorah, which is a tunic whose sleeves or radoon are adorned with hand-stitched embroidery of designs. The dishdasha is worn over a pair of fitting trousers, tighter at the ankles, known as a sirwal. Women wear a head shawl referred to as the lihaf.[257]

As of 2014 women reserve wearing their traditional dress for special occasions, and instead wear a black cloak called an abaya over their personal choice of clothing, whilst in some regions, particularly amongst the Bedouin, the burqa is worn.[257] Women wear hijab, and some women cover their faces and hands. The Sultan has forbidden the covering of faces in public office.[252]

Music and mediaEdit

There are over 130 forms of songs and dances. The Oman Centre for Traditional Music was established in 1984 to preserve them.[258] In 1985, Sultan Qaboos founded the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra. Instead of engaging foreign musicians, they decided to establish an orchestra made up of Omanis.[259] On 1 July 1987 at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel's Oman Auditorium the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra gave its inaugural concert.[260]

Cinema in Sur

The cinema of Oman has one film Al-Boom (2006) as of 2007. Oman Arab Cinema Company LLC is the single largest motion picture exhibitor chain. It belongs to the Jawad Sultan Group of Companies, which has a history spanning more than 40 years in the Sultanate of Oman.[261] In music, a 7-minute music video about Oman achieved 500,000 views on YouTube within 10 days of being released on YouTube in November 2015. The a cappella production features Kahliji musician Al Wasmi, Omani poet Mazin Al-Haddabi and actress Buthaina Al Raisi.[262]

The government has continuously held a monopoly on television. Oman TV is the only state-owned national television channel broadcaster. It began broadcasting for the first time from Muscat on 17 November 1974 and separately from Salalah on 25 November 1975. On 1 June 1979, the two stations at Muscat and Salalah linked by satellite to form a unified broadcasting service. Oman TV broadcasts four HD channels, including Oman TV General, Oman TV Sport, Oman TV Live and Oman TV Cultural.[263]

While private ownership of radio and television stations is permitted, Oman has one privately owned television channel.[264] Majan TV is a private TV channel. It began broadcasting in January 2009. Its official channel website was updated in 2010.[265] Moreover, the public has access to foreign broadcasts since the use of satellite receivers is allowed.[264][266]

Oman Radio is the only state-owned radio channel.[264] It began broadcasting on the 30th, July 1970.[267] It operates Arabic and English networks. Other private channels include Hala FM, Hi FM, Al-Wisal, Virgin Radio Oman FM and Merge. In 2018, Muscat Media Group (MMG), trend-setting media group founded by late Essa bin Mohammed Al Zedjali, launched a private radio stations in hopes of catering educative and entertaining programmes to the youth of the Sultanate.[268][269][270]

Oman has 9 newspapers, 5 in Arabic and 4 in English.[271] Instead of relying on sales or state subsidies, private newspapers depend on advertising revenues to sustain themselves.[272]

The media landscape has been described as restrictive, censored, and subdued.[273] The Ministry of Information censors politically, culturally, or sexually offensive material in domestic or foreign media. The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders ranked the country 127th out of 180 countries on its 2018 World Press Freedom Index. In 2016, the government drew international criticism for suspending the newspaper Azamn and arresting 3 journalists after a report on corruption in the judiciary. Azamn was not allowed to reopen in 2017 while an appeal court ruled in 2016 that the paper can resume operating.[272]


Art movements in the 20th century reveal that the art scene began with practices that included a range of tribal handicrafts and self-portraiture in painting since the 1960s.[274] Since the inclusion of Omani artists in international collections, art exhibitions, and events, such Alia Al Farsi, the first Omani artist to show at the last Venice Biennale and Radhika Khimji, the first Omani artist to exhibit at both the Marrakesh and Haiti Ghetto biennale, Oman's position as a "newcomer" to the contemporary art scene in years has been "more important" for Oman's international exposure.[275]

Ancient irrigation system and water channels.[276] Aflaj Gallery, The National Museum of Oman.

Bait Muzna Gallery is an art gallery. Established in 2000 by Sayyida Susan Al Said, Bait Muzna has served as a platform for emerging Omani artists to showcase their talent and place themselves on the wider art scene. In 2016, Bait Muzna opened a second space in Salalah to branch out and support art film and the digital art scene. The gallery has been primarily active as an art consultancy.[275][277]

The Sultanate's flagship cultural institution, the National Museum of Oman, opened on 30 July 2016 with 14 permanent galleries. It showcases national heritage from the earliest human settlement in Oman 2 million years ago through to the later day. The museum takes a further step by presenting information on the material in Arabic Braille script for the visually impaired, the first museum to do this in the Gulf region.[275]

The Omani Society for Fine Arts, established in 1993, offers educational programmes, workshops and artist grants for practitioners across disciplines. In 2016, the organisation opened its first exhibition on graphic design. It hosted the "Paint for Peace" competition with 46 artists in honour of the country's 46th National Day, where Mazin al-Mamari won the top prize. The organisation has additional branches in Sohar, Buraimi and Salalah.[275]

Bait Al- Zubair Museum is a private, family-funded museum that opened its doors to the public in 1998. In 1999, the museum received Sultan Qaboos’ Award for Architectural Excellence. Bait Al Zubair displays the family's collection of artifacts that spans a number of centuries and reflect inherited skills that define society. Located within Bait Al-Zubair, Gallery Sarah, which opened in October 2013, offers an array of paintings and photographs by established local and international artists. The gallery occasionally holds lectures and workshops.[278]


Oman hosted and won the 19th Arabian Gulf Cup.

The first "El Clasico" to be played outside of Spain, was played on 14 March 2014, at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex.[279]

There is dhow racing, horse racing, camel racing, bull fighting and falconry.[280] Association football, basketball, waterskiing and sandboarding[281] are among the sports that have emerged.[280]

2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Round 3 match between Oman and Japan at the Royal Oman Police Stadium on 7 June 2008 in Muscat

Oman hosts tennis tournaments in different age divisions each year. The Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex stadium contains a 50-meter swimming pool which is used for international tournaments from different schools in different countries. The Tour of Oman, a professional cycling 6-day stage race, takes place in February. Oman hosted the Asian 2011 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup qualifiers, where 11 teams competed for 3 spots at the FIFA World Cup. Oman hosted the Men's and Women's 2012 Beach Handball World Championships at the Millennium Resort in Mussanah, from 8 to 13 July.[282] Oman has competed repeatedly for a position in the FIFA World Cup, but have yet qualified to compete in the tournament.

Oman, along with Fujairah in UAE, are the only regions in the Middle East that have a variant of bullfighting, known as 'bull-butting', organised within their territories.[283] Al-Batena area is specifically for such events. It involves two bulls of the Brahman breed pitted against each other, and as the name implies, they engage in a forceful barrage of headbutts. The first one to collapse or concede its ground is declared the loser. Most bull-butting matches last for less than 5 minutes.[283][284] Locals believe bullfighting was brought to Oman by the Moors of Spanish origin. Others say it has a direct connection with Portugal, which colonised the coastline for nearly two centuries.[285]

In cricket, Oman was chosen as the venue to decide on the grouping of teams for the 2021 ICC Men's T20 World Cup.[286]

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  2. ^ Gwadar remained an Omani possession as part of the Sultanate until September 1958


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