OmanIntroduction liberalize its markets. It ratified a free trade agreementOfficial name: Sultanate of Oman with the U.S. in 2006 and seeks similar agreementsNationality: Omani with the European Union, China, and Japan. ToArea: 212,460 square kilometers (82,030 square miles) provide jobs for a burgeoning youth population, theLanguages: Arabic (official), English, Baluchi, Urdu, government is encouraging a greater number of Indian dialects Omanis to work in sectors previously staffed byCurrency: Omani riyal (OMR) expatriates.Location: Middle East; borders Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia; also has Government coastline on the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Capital: Muscat Gulf, and the Arabian Sea Oman is a monarchy. The Sultan is both chief of stateStatistical Information and head of government and is selected by a processPopulation 3.2 million outlined in the country’s constitution. The country is 0-14 years 42.7 percent divided into five administrative regions and four 15-64 years 54.6 percent governorates. Oman has a legislature called the Majlis 65+ years 2.7 percent Oman, which consists of two houses. The 58-seatBirth rate 36 births/1,000 Majlis Al-Dawla, or upper house, has advisory powersDeath rate 4 deaths/1,000 only and members are appointed by the Sultan; the 84-Fertility rate 5.7 children/woman seat Majlis Al-Shura, or lower house, has limitedPop. growth rate 3.23 percent power to propose legislation; its members are electedLife expectancy 74 years by popular vote to serve four-year terms.Literacy 81.4 percentHIV/AIDS rate 0.1 percent ClimateEthnic groups Arab Although situated in the tropics, Oman is subject to Baluchi (Indo-Iranian) climate changes like temperate regions. During the South Asian winter the weather is cool, but during the summer it is African hot and humid near the coast and hot and dry in theReligion 65 percent Ibadhi Muslim interior. In the mountains the temperature drops 35 percent other (includes Sunni drastically at night. Oman’s hottest months are June Muslim, Shi’a Muslim, Hindu, through August. The southern coast is touched by Christian) summer monsoons during this period, bringing light rain and resulting in a cool and wet summer. RainfallEconomy varies but in general is sparse and irregular. In northernOman has a middle-range economy. The country has Oman, most of the precipitation comes from wintersignificant oil and natural gas resources, with a storms out of the Mediterranean from January throughsubstantial trade surplus and a low inflation rate. March. In the south, the majority of rainfall comesSustained high oil prices over the past few years have during the summer monsoon months.helped increase Oman’s trade surplus and foreignreserves. Since 2000, Oman has been a part of the HistoryWorld Trade Organization and has been working to Oman was known as Magan to ancient Persian and Mesopotamian civilizations, and it was an important
producer of copper and ornamental stone. The country Zanzibar, while the Qais branch allied itself with thewas settled when Arab tribes migrated eastward to interior tribes and supported a return to imamate rule.Oman, resisting encroachments from Iranian tribes. In 1868 Azzam ibn Qais Al Said proclaimed himself Imam of Oman, and although many Hinawi tribesIn the 7th century A.D., during the lifetime of the recognized him as such, he was never elected Imam byProphet Mohammed, Arab tribes in Oman adopted the public. Imam Azzam realized that in order to unifyIslam. The country became an imamate when ibn Oman, a strong, central government was needed toMasoud was elected as the first Imam, or Islamic exercise control over the interior tribes. Imam Azzamreligious leader. Oman remained an imamate for alienated the Ghafiri tribes with his military attempts atcenturies. unification, inciting them to revolt in 1870.In 1508, the Portuguese began to colonize the coastal The British stepped in and backed Imam Azzam’sareas of Oman. In 1515, Oman became a Portuguese rival, Turki ibn Said Al Said, who succeeded incolony when the Portuguese conquered Muscat. The defeating the forces of Imam Azzam. The Imam wasfifth imamate of Oman, the Yarubid Imamate, killed in battle outside of Matrah in January 1871.recaptured Muscat and pushed the Portuguese out ofOman in 1650. The Yarubid dynasty expanded the Through the mediation of the British government, thecountry’s borders, capturing Portuguese colonies along empire was divided into two principalities: Zanzibar,the coast of Africa and engaging in the slave trade. The along with other East African colonies, and Muscat andnomination in 1719 of Saif ibn Sultan II as imam lead Oman. Zanzibar paid an annual subsidy to Muscat andto a civil war between two major tribes, the Hinawi and Oman until its independence in 1964.the Ghafiri. After the leaders of both factions had beenkilled, Saif ibn Sultan II took power, but the infighting During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, thegave the Iranians an opening to occupy Muscat and Sultan in Muscat continued to face problems fromSuhar. interior tribes centered around the town of Nizwa, who still wanted to be ruled by the Imam of Oman. In 1920,The Omanis revolted, and in 1744 they pushed the the Sultan and the Imam reached an agreement in theIranians out of Muscat. Following the expulsion of the Treaty of Seeb, which allowed the Imam to rule theIranians, Ahmad ibn Said al Said was elected Sultan of interior of the country, called the Imamate of Oman,Muscat. From this point, the Sultanate became a while the Sultan retained control over the rest of Oman.hereditary position, ending the complete control of theImam. The al Said dynasty is still in power. In 1954 conflict flared up again when a new Imam led a rebellion against efforts by the Sultan to extend hisThe new Sultan faced challenges from the independent control into the interior of Oman. The British steppedtribes of the interior, who would not accept the Sultan’s in and helped the Sultan put down the rebellion byrule and considered the Imam the only legitimate ruler 1959. The Sultan terminated the Treaty of Seeb,of Oman. Due to disagreements, the royal family was eliminating the office of Imam and exiling the currentsplit: the Sultan ibn Ahmad al Said line controlled the Imam. Despite efforts to gain support during his exilecoastal regions, also exercising token authority over the in Saudi Arabia, the Imam failed to return to power inentire country, and the Qais line controlled the Al Oman.Batinah and Ar Rustaq regions. A separatist revolt in Dhofar Province began in 1964.During the rule of Sultan Said ibn Sultan Al Said, from The rebels, aided by Communist and leftist1806 to 1856, Oman cultivated its east African governments, desired to see the overthrow of allcolonies, profiting from the slave trade. When the traditional Persian Gulf regimes such as the SultanateBritish declared slavery illegal in the mid-1800s, of Oman.demand for slaves dropped and Oman’s economydeclined. Many Omani families migrated to Zanzibar. In 1970, Qaboos bin Said Al Said deposed his father,Throughout the 18th century, Oman was the subject of Sa’id bin Taymur. Sultan Qaboos inherited a host ofrivalry between the French and British. In the 19th problems in Oman, including insurgency, illiteracy,century, Oman and Britain negotiated a series of and widespread poverty. The new Sultan abolishedfriendship agreements that led to strong British ties to many of his father’s harsh restrictions, which hadOman in the years to come. driven many Omanis to leave the country. He also offered amnesty to exiled opponents of his father’sThe death of Sultan Said ibn Sultan Al Said in 1856 led regime. He launched programs to upgrade health andto further divisions within the royal family. The educational systems and to build a moderndescendants of the late Sultan ruled Oman and infrastructure.
Sultan Qaboos expanded the military and vigorously Dressfought to curb the rebellion in Dhofar. He also offered Although some Western styles of dress are becomingamnesty to any surrendering rebels and obtained more common as Oman modernizes, most Omanismilitary support from Britain, Jordan, and Iran. The continue to wear traditional clothing.guerrillas were defeated by 1975. At the end of thewar, Sultan Qaboos prioritized civil action programs in Omani men wear a simple, ankle-length, white gownDhofar, winning the support of the people. with long sleeves called a dishdasha. A tassel of entwined thread rests on the chest; traditionally thisSultan Qaboos’s modernizations have opened the would be soaked in a perfume or frankincense. Omanicountry to the outside world. Oman maintains men wear one of two different head coverings: thediplomatic relations with Eastern and Western mussar, a square piece of finely woven fabric that iscountries, and it cooperates to prevent sectarian or wrapped around the head like a turban, or the kummah.fanatical elements from jeopardizing the safety and The mussar is worn for official engagements andsecurity of the region. celebrations. A kummah is more like a cap and is used for everyday wear.Ethnic GroupsThe vast majority of Omanis are Arabs, although there Many Omani women wear a loose-fitting black cloakare Omanis of African descent. Oman also has a known as an abaya over the clothing of their choice.significant population of non-nationals, many of whom There is a colorful array of traditional regional dressare guest workers from Pakistan, the Philippines, India, throughout Oman. Many women wear intricatelySri Lanka, Bangladesh, and other Middle Eastern and designed gold jewelry, often containing elaborateSoutheast Asian countries. patterns, symbols, and sometimes Quranic calligraphy. The eyes are often enhanced with kohl, eyeliner madeReligion of frankincense. Many Omani women use henna toOman is the only country in the Islamic world with a decorate their skin, especially before major holidaysmajority Ibadhi population. Ibadhi is a form of Islam and celebrations. Henna is a paste that is used to drawrelated to but distinct from both the Sunni and Shi’a intricate designs on one’s hands and feet.sects; it is also one of the earliest schools of Muslimthought, founded only 50 years after the death of Visitors to Oman are asked to be sensitive to IslamicMohammed. Ibadhi Muslims are considered a culture and wear modest dress.traditional and moderate school. Travel/TransportationThere are several doctrinal differences between Ibadhi Road conditions, traffic safety, and lighting in majorMuslims and Sunni Muslims. Ibadhi Muslims believe cities and on highways are very good. Thoroughfaresthat Muslims cannot see Allah in this life or in the life connecting major cities are excellent and well-lit. Roadto come, while Sunnis believe that they will see Allah conditions vary from good to poor on rural roads,on the Day of Judgment. Ibadhis also believe that one’s depending upon the location.fate after death is eternal. In contrast, some Sunnithought suggests that it is possible that those who enter The safety of public transportation is generally veryhell may not remain there for eternity. Ibadhis, along good, although buses, vans, and taxis are prone towith much of the Shi’a community, also hold that the erratic paths to pick up passengers.Qu’ran is a created book. Sunnis believe that theQu’ran is uncreated. Traffic laws in Oman are strictly enforced. Seat belts are required, and the use of cellular phones whileOutside of Oman, small populations of Ibadhi Muslims driving is prohibited unless you have a hands-freecan be found in East Africa (especially Zanzibar), cellular device.Libya, Algeria, and Tunisia. Americans involved in accidents in Oman are advisedThe Ibadhis of Oman have lived with people of other not to move their vehicles from the scene until givenfaiths for centuries. Although the state religion is permission from the Royal Oman Police.Islam, other religions are not forbidden. Non-Muslimsare free to worship at churches and temples built on Many parts of Oman employ European-style trafficlands donated by the Sultan. circles. Unlike European traffic circles, however, the driver on the inside always has the right-of-way in Oman. Turning right on a red light is prohibited.
A visitor to Oman may drive a rental car with a valid ElectricityAmerican driver’s license, but residents must have an Power converters are necessary to use any AmericanOmani driver’s license. To obtain an Omani driver’s appliance in Oman. Voltage in Oman varies from 220license, you must either have a valid American license to 240 volts, with a 50-hertz frequency. This is withinor pass a driving test in Oman. the tolerance range of European appliances, so a power converter designed to convert American appliances toIllness/Injury European outlets will suffice in Oman. TravelersHealthcare in Oman’s major cities is very modern. wishing to use American appliances will also need a setBasic treatment outside cities can be obtained from of adapter plugs, as most outlets in Oman accept typeregional clinics. Hospital emergency treatment is G plugs, which have three rectangular blades, asavailable. Most doctors and hospitals expect cash opposed to American flat-bladed plugs, types A and B.payment for their services.CrimeStreet crime is nearly nonexistent in Oman. Visitors areadvised to use normal precautions, such as avoidingtraveling after dark or in deserted or unfamiliar areas.Currency and valuables should not be left unsecured inhotel rooms.Entry/Exit RequirementsA valid passport and visa are required for entry intoOman. U.S. citizens may obtain a 30-day visa bypresenting their valid U.S. passport on arrival at anyOman land, air, or sea port. This visa may only beextended for an additional 30 days. The fee is RiyalsOmani 6.00 ($16.00 US). Other types ofvisit/business/work visas are available for longer stays,but these must be arranged through an Omani sponsorbefore arrival.For more information or to obtain a visa, contact theEmbassy of the Sultanate of Oman, 2535 BelmontRoad NW, Washington, DC 20008; (202) 387-1980.ImmunizationsIn most cases, immunizations are not required forentrance into Oman. Travelers entering Oman from acountry at risk for yellow fever must present proof ofimmunization.There is limited risk of malaria in remote areas ofMusandam Province, but the risk is so slight that acourse of antimalarial drugs is not recommended.Travelers should take precautions to protect themselvesfrom mosquito bites.Special CircumstancesDuring the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims arerequired to refrain from smoking, eating, and drinkingduring the hours of fasting (sunrise to sunset). If youvisit Oman during Ramadan, you are expected tofollow the same rules in public out of respect for theculture. The timing of Ramadan varies each year, sinceMuslim holidays are based on the lunar calendar.