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Oman

OMAN

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS OMANIS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Sultanate of Oman

Saltanat 'Uman

CAPITAL: Muscat (Masqat)

FLAG: The flag is red with a broad stripe of white at the upper fly and green at the lower fly. In the upper left corner, white crossed swords overlay a ceremonial dagger.

ANTHEM: Nashid as-Salaam as-Sutani (Sultan's National Anthem).

MONETARY UNIT: The Omani riyal (ro), established in November 1972, is a paper currency of 1,000 baizas. There are coins of 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, and 500 baizas, and notes of 100, 250, and 500 baizas (the last two being replaced by coins) and 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 riyals. ro1 = $2.56410 (or $1 = ro0.39) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system was adopted on 15 November 1974. The imperial and local system also are used.

HOLIDAYS: Accession of the Sultan, 23 July; National Day, 18 November; Sultan's Birthday, 19 November. Movable Muslim religious holidays include 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', and Milad an-Nabi.

TIME: 4 pm = noon GMT. Solar time also is observed.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

The Sultanate of Oman is the second-largest country after Saudi Arabia on the Arabian Peninsula, with an area officially estimated at 212,460 sq km (82,031 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Oman is slightly smaller than the state of Kansas. Oman's territory includes the tip of the strategically important Ra's Musandam, which juts into the Strait of Hormuz. Oman's part of the peninsula is separated from the rest of the country by the territory of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Oman proper extends 972 km (604 mi) nesw and 513 km (319 mi) senw. It is bordered on the n by the Strait of Hormuz, on the ne by the Gulf of Oman, on the e and s by the Arabian Sea, on the sw by the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), on the w by the Ar-Rub' al-Khali (Empty Quarter) and Saudi Arabia, and on the nw by the United Arab Emirates. The total estimated boundary length is 3,466 km (2,154 mi), of which 2,092 km (1,300 mi) is coastline.

TOPOGRAPHY

Physically, Oman, except for the Dhofar (Zufar) region, consists of three divisions: a coastal plain, a mountain range, and a plateau. The coastal plain varies in width from 16 km (10 mi) to practically nothing near Muscat, where the hills descend abruptly to the sea. The highest point, Jabal Shams, is at 2,980 meters (9,777 ft) in the Al Jabal range of the north. The plateau has an average height of about 300 m (1,000 ft) and is mostly stony and waterless, extending to the sands of the Ar-Rub' al-Khali. The coastline southward to Dhofar is barren and forbidding. From Salalah, a semicircular fertile plain extends to the foot of a steep line of hills, some 1,500 m (4,920 ft) high, and forms the edge of a stony plateau also extending to the sands of the Empty Quarter.

CLIMATE

Annual rainfall in Muscat averages 10 cm (4 in), falling mostly in January. Dhofar is subject to the southwest monsoon, and rainfall up to 64 cm (25 in) has been recorded in the rainy season from late June to October. 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 54°c (129°f) in the hot season, from May to October.

FLORA AND FAUNA

Desert shrub and desert grass, common to southern Arabia, are found. Vegetation is sparse in the interior plateau, which is largely gravel desert. The greater rainfall in Dhofar and the mountains makes the growth there more luxuriant. Coconut palms grow plentifully in Dhofar and frankincense grows in the hills. Oleander and varieties of acacia abound.

Indigenous mammals include the cheetah, hyena, fox, wolf, and hare. Birds include the Arabian see-see partridge, redleg chukor partridge, and Muscat bee eater. As of 2002, there were at least 56 species of mammals, 109 species of birds, and over 1,200 species of plants throughout the country.

ENVIRONMENT

Maintaining an adequate supply of water for agricultural and domestic use is Oman's most pressing environmental problem. The nation has only one cubic kilometer of renewable water resources, with 94% of annual withdrawals used in farming and 2% for industrial activity. Both drought and limited rainfall contribute to shortages in the nation's water supply. The nation's soil has shown increased levels of salinity. Pollution of beaches and other coastal areas by oil tanker traffic through the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman is also a persistent problem.

In 2003, about 14% of the total land area was protected, According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 12 types of mammals, 14 species of birds, 4 types of reptiles, 18 species of fish, 1 species of invertebrate, and 6 species of plants. Decrees have been passed to protect endangered species, which include the South Arabian leopard, mountain gazelle, goitered gazelle, Arabian tahr, green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, and olive turtle. The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

POPULATION

The population of Oman in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 2,436,000, which placed it at number 137 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 33% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 128 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.8%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 2,984,000. The population density was 12 per sq km (30 per sq mi), with the greatest concentrations around Muscat and on the Batinah coast; together, these two regions have more than half the population.

The UN estimated that 76% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 3.27%. The capital city, Muscat (Masqat), had a population of 638,000 in that year. Salalah is the principal town of the south.

MIGRATION

There is frequent movement of workers between Oman and neighboring states. In 2000 there were 682,000 migrants living in Oman, primarily foreign laborers. In 2001, foreigners were nearly 25% of the labor force. Oman declared that, by the end of 2003, cashiers, drivers, security officers, and workers in retail stores and supermarkets must be Omanis. By 2007 restaurants catering mainly to tourists would also be Omanized.

In 2004, there were 7 refugees and 24 asylum seekers. The net migration rate was an estimated 0.31 migrants per 1,000 population in 2005.

ETHNIC GROUPS

The indigenous population is predominantly Arab except on the Batinah coast, where there is significant Baluchi, Iranian, and African representation, and in Muscat and Matrah, where there are Khojas and other Indians, Baluchis, and Pakistanis. Tribal groups are estimated to number over 200.

LANGUAGES

The official language is Arabic. Urdu, Baluchi, and several Indian dialects are also spoken, especially in the cities of Muscat and Matrah. English is taught as a second language.

RELIGIONS

The state religion is Islam, with most of the population adhering to the Ibadhi or Sunni sects. Tribes in the north are mainly Sunni Muslims of the Hanbali, Shafai, and Wahhabi rites. A minority of the population is Shia Muslim. There is a small community of Indian Hindu citizens and there is reportedly a very small number of Christians. Non-Muslims, the majority of whom are noncitizen immigrant workers from South Asia, are free to worship at churches and temples, some of which are built on land donated by the Sultan.

The Basic Statute of the State allows for the freedom to practice religious rites as long as these rites do not breach public order. In practice, the government has reserved the right to place some restrictions on non-Muslim faiths. Non-Muslims may not proselytize to Muslims and non-Muslim groups may not publish religious materials within the country. Certain Muslim holidays are celebrated as national holidays.

TRANSPORTATION

As of 2002, there were 32,800 km (20,382 mi) of roadways, of which only 9,840 km (6,115 mi) were paved, including 550 km (342 mi) of expressways. A major 800-km (500-mi) highway links Nazwa in the north to Thamarit and Salalah in the Dhofar region. A main coastal road has been laid from Muscat to Suhar, a distance of 240 km (150 mi), and the road from Muscat to Buraymi on the United Arab Emirates border has been completed. In 2003, there were 266,325 passenger cars and 113,370 commercial vehicles registered. There are no railways or waterways in Oman.

In 2004, there were an estimated 136 airports. As of 2005, a total of six had paved runways, and there was also one heliport. Seeb International Airport, 30 km (19 mi) northwest of Muscat, is served by numerous international carriers, including Gulf Air, in which Oman holds a 20% interest. A second modern airport, at Salalah in the south, serves domestic flights. In 2003, about 2.777 million passengers were carried on scheduled international and domestic airline flights.

Mina's Qabus, near Muscat, is the main port in the north, serving international and regional shipping. Port Salalah, 1000 km (621 mi) down the cost from Muscat is the main port for the south. Opened in 1998, Port Salalah is the only port between Europe and Singapore that can accommodate the S-class ships, the world's largest class of container vessel. It is now among the top 20 container ports in the world in terms of handling capacity, and among the top 10 in terms of efficiency. All Omani crude oil is exported from Mina's al-Fahl, west of Matrah. In 2005, Oman had one merchant vessel (a passenger ship) of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 15,430 GRT.

HISTORY

Oman's history can be traced to very early times. In Genesis 10:2630, the descendants of Joktan are said to have migrated as far as Sephar (now Dhofar). The area was already a commercial and seafaring center in Sumerian times, and Phoenicians probably visited the coastal region. Other groups that probably came to the area in ancient times include the Baida and Ariba, Semitic tribes from northern Arabia, now extinct; the first Himyar dynasty from Yemen, which fell to the Persians in the time of Cyrus, about 550 bc; ancient Greek navigators; and the Parthians (174136 bc).

The entire population was converted to Islam during the lifetime of Muhammad, but Oman soon becameand remains todaythe center of the Ibadhi sect, which maintained that any pious Muslim could become caliph or imam and that the imam should be elected. Omani tribes have elected their imams since the second half of the 8th century.

The first prolonged contact with Europe came in 150708, when the Portuguese overran Muscat. They maintained control until they were driven out with Persian aid in 1649. During the next 75 years, Oman conquered Mombasa, Mogadishu, the island of Zanzibar, and the Portuguese possessions in East Africa. Later it held parts of what are now Iran and Pakistan.

The first sultanate was established in Muscat about 1775. In 1798, Britain concluded its first treaty with Muscat. Sa'id bin Sultan (r.180456) became dependent on British support, and after his death his sons quarreled over his succession (the basic Ibadhi tenet having been rejected). Thus weakened by political division, Muscat lost control of the interior. In 1920, the Treaty of Seeb was signed between the sultan of Muscat and the imam of Oman, acknowledging the autonomy of the imamate of Oman under the sovereignty of the Sultan. From 1920 to 1954 there was comparative peace. On the death of the imam in 1954, Sultan Sa'id bin Taymur moved to succeed him.

That year, Sa'id concluded a new agreement with Petroleum Development (Oman) Ltd., a British-managed oil company that had the oil concession for Oman. By this agreement, the company maintained a small army, the Muscat and Oman Field Force (MOFF), raised and led by the British. In early 1955, it subdued the area up to and including the town of 'Ibri. When British troops took Buraymi, MOFF occupied the rest of Oman and expelled the rebellious new imam. By 1959 when the last of the insurgents supporting the imam were defeated, the sultan voided the office and declared the Treaty of Seeb terminated. The imam, exiled in Saudi Arabia, tried in vain to muster Arab support for his return.

Under the terms of the Anglo-French Declaration of 10 March 1962, the sultanate of Muscat was proclaimed an independent and sovereign state. Certain Arab states charged, however, that the United Kingdom was maintaining a colonial presence in the former imamate of Oman. In 1965 and repeatedly thereafter, the UN called unsuccessfully for the elimination of the British presence. Oman joined the UN late in 1971.

Meanwhile, as early as 1964, a tribal rebellion had been brewing in the Dhofar region. The rebel tribes, organized as the Dhofar Liberation Front and aided by South Yemen, later joined forces with the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arab Gulf. The insurgency was suppressed in 1975 with direct military assistance from Jordan and Iran. A treaty with Yemen defining the border was ratified in 1992.

Qaboos bin Sa'id ousted his father, Sa'id bin Taymur, on 23 July 1970 and has ruled as sultan since that time. He immediately changed the name of the country from Muscat and Oman to the Sultanate of Oman and has presided over an extensive modernization program, easing his father's harsh restrictions and opening the country to the outside world, while preserving political and military ties with the British. Oman has been a proponent of cooperation among the Gulf States. A member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), it has also sought to keep good relations with Iran. Because Oman dominates the Strait of Hormuz, which links the Gulf of Oman with the Persian Gulf, its strategic importance drew it and the United States closer together with the start of the IranIraq war in 1979. Under the terms of a pact signed in 1980, US military personnel and ships have been given access to Omani military and naval bases and are permitted to preposition military material for use in contingencies.

Oman pursues a moderate, independent foreign policy. Unlike most Arab states, it supported the Camp David accords and did not break relations with Egypt following its peace treaty with Israel. Similarly, during the Gulf War, Oman sent forces to Saudi Arabia and granted strategic facilities to the United States, but did not sever diplomatic relations with Iraq during the conflict.

In 1994 reports began appearing of arrests of critics of the Omani government. It was estimated that the Omani government detained nearly 500 such critics with points of view ranging from the Arab nationalist Ba'th movement to Islamists supporting the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood.

Through 1995 Oman was considered as having "graduated" from the ranks of under-developed nations needing World Bank loans. Its ambitious economic goals included a 10-year plan for cultivating tourism and plans to improve its infrastructure, including water desalinization. However, in 1998, the economy was adversely affected when the price of oil dropped below $10 per barrel, a 25-year low. Oman agreed with the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC), of which Oman is not a member, to reduce global oil production by 2.1 million barrels of crude per day until April 2000 in the hope of raising oil prices to $18 per barrel. In October 1999, the Omani oil minister recommended extending oil production cuts beyond the date originally proposed. Meanwhile, Oman has sought to diversify its economic base and ease its dependence on oil. A gas liquefaction plant at Sur was slated for completion in 2000.

As of 1999, Oman held to a middle-of-the-road stance of conciliation and compromise in Middle Eastern politics. In January 1999, Oman's foreign minister met with his counterparts from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen at a closed meeting in Cairo to forge a position on the question of Iraq. Also in 1999, Oman's sultan, Qaboos bin Sa'id, signed an agreement with the president of the United Arab Emirates defining the borders between Oman and the emirate of Abu Dhabi. In October 2001, extensive Omani-British military exercises in the Omani desert coincided with the launch of strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

During 2002 and into 2003, Oman, along with the other countries of the Persian Gulf, was confronted with the situation of a potential US-led war with Iraq. On 8 November 2002, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441, calling on Iraq to immediately disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and WMD weapons capabilities, to allow the immediate return of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and UN weapons inspectors, and to comply with all previous UN resolutions regarding the country since the end of the Gulf War in 1991. If Iraq was found to be in "material breach" of the resolution, "serious consequences" were to result. The United States and the United Kingdom began amassing troops in the region, and by the end of February 2003, the number of troops in the Persian Gulf was approximately 200,000. As of 1 February, there were 3,600 US military personnel, 100 elite British special forces, and approximately 40 aircraft in Oman. As well, a new airbase was under construction, which would have a 14,000-ft. runway. However, Oman has said it would not act in a conflict with Iraq without UN approval.

Oman's borders with all its neighbors have been demarcated. A 2002 demarcation of the Oman-UAE border was ratified in 2003, including Oman's Musandam Peninsula and Al Madhah exclave, but details were not made public.

At an Arab League summit held at Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, on 1 March 2003, sharp divisions between Arab leaders on the Iraq situation emerged, particularly between Libya and Saudi Arabia. However, the leaders issued a declaration expressing "complete rejection of any aggression on Iraq," and called for continuing UN weapons inspections. It also called upon Iraq to disarm itself of WMD and the missiles needed to deliver them. At the summit, some leaders argued war was inevitable and that the countries of the region should prepare for its aftermath; some argued that war could be avoided if Iraq were to comply with weapons inspections; and a third group argued that the summit should issue an unequivocal antiwar declaration.

Since 2000 the Omani government promoted an "Omanisation" campaign to ensure jobs for citizens, to promote self-reliance in human resources, and also to reduce dependence on expatriates. Expatriates with valid work permits in the private sector were replaced or left jobs, over 130,000 between January 2003 and July 2005. This policy also resulted in the massive repatriation of guest workers whose employment visas had expired.

In May 2005 two cargo ferries carrying 1,018 Pakistanis were deported from Oman, some 40,000 Pakistanis having been deported from Oman between 2003 and 2005. In August 2005 undocumented or overstaying Filipinos in Oman were urged to return to the Philippines because of the sultanate's impending crackdown on undesirable foreigners. In October 2005 special arrangements were made for 5,700 Indian overstayers to exit Oman.

In March 2004 the Sultan appointed Oman's first female minister with portfolio and added two more women to the cabinet by year's end. These appointments were a clear indication that the government was leading by example and that the participation of women in national life was a priority. In addition, the most capable people available filled government positions.

In January 2005, nearly 100 suspected Islamists were arrested. Thirty-one Omanis were subsequently convicted of trying to overthrow the government, but were pardoned in June. This group was neither Sunni followers of Osama bin Laden nor Shiites loyal to Iran or Iraq, but preachers, Islamic scholars, university professors and government figures from the Ibadi faith. It is the sect to which Sultan Qaboos and the majority of Omani belong. The dissidents wanted a return to a strict Islamic state, the imamate, contesting the pro-Western policies of the Sultan.

In October 2005, a free trade agreement with the United States was finalized.

GOVERNMENT

Oman's sultan is an absolute monarch. The sultanate has no constitution, legislature, or suffrage, until of late. In 1970, Sultan Qaboos appointed a cabinet of ministers responsible for various government departments and functions.

A state Consultative Council, established in 1981, consisted of 55 appointed representatives of government, the private sector, and regional interests. This body was replaced in 1991 by a Majlis Al-Shura, a 59-seat Consultative Council, which was seen as a first step toward popular participation in government. The Sultan expanded the membership to 80 seats after the country's first national census in 1993. The Council has no formal legislative powers but may question government ministers, and recommend changes to new laws on economic and social policy. These recommendations have led to amendments to proposed decrees.

On 6 November 1996 the Sultan decreed the country's first "basic law" which provides for citizens' basic rights in writing and a body known as the Majlis Oman (Council of Oman) that includes a new Council of State, Majlis Al-Dawla (upper chamber), and the Consultative Council, Majlis al-Shura (lower chamber). In 2000, the Consultative Council was expanded to 83 seats, and members were chosen by the vote of 175,000 government-selected electors. In January 2001, the sultan appointed 53 members of the Majlis Al-Dawla, including 5 women.

In November 2002, the sultan extended voting rights to all citizens over the age of 21, except for members of the military and security forces. Voters in Oman were previously chosen from among tribal leaders, intellectuals, and businessmen. The first elections to the Majlis al-Shura in which all citizens over the age of 21 (except for members of the military and security forces) were entitled to vote were held in October 2003. Members are elected for four-year term; the body has some limited power to propose legislation, but otherwise has only advisory powers. Little change in the political make-up of the lower house resulted from this election. The next Majlis al-Shura elections are scheduled for 2007.

POLITICAL PARTIES

There are no legal political parties nor, at present, any active opposition movement. As more and more young Omanis return from education abroad, it seems likely that the traditional, tribal-based political system will have to be adjusted.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The nation is divided into five regions, three governates (Muscat, Musandam, Dhofar) and 59 wilayats (districts), governed by walis. Most wilayats are small in area, but can vary greatly in population. The walis is appointed by the Minister of Interior and answerable to them. The walis is responsible for local disputes, collecting taxes, and maintaining peace. The governors of Muscat, Musandam, Dhofar are appointed directly by the Sultan and hold Minister of State rank.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

Shariah courts based on Islamic law administer justice, with the Central Magistrate Court at Muscat. There are four additional magistrate courts in Suhār, Şūr, Salalah, and Nizwa. Qadis, or religious judges, appointed by the sultan, function within each wilayat. Appeals from the Central Magistrate Court are made to the sultan, who exercises powers of clemency. The Shariah courts, adhering to Islamic law, equate the testimony of one man with that of two women. There is also a security court, rarely used, which handles internal security cases. A commercial dispute may be resolved at the Authority for Settlement of Commercial Disputes.

In 1996, the sultan promulgated a basic law providing for citizens' basic rights. The basic law affirms the independence of the judiciary. There are no jury trials.

ARMED FORCES

Oman's armed forces, including the Royal Household troops, had 41,700 foreign and domestic active personnel in 2005. The Army had 25,000 personnel equipped with 117 main battle tanks, 37 Scorpion light tanks, 145 reconnaissance vehicles, 191 armored personnel carriers, and 233 artillery pieces. The Air Force had 4,100 personnel, and was equipped with 48 combat capable aircraft, including 36 fighter ground attack aircraft, of which 12 were used in a training capacity. The Navy numbered 4,200 active members. Major naval units included two corvettes and eight patrol/coastal combatants. Paramilitary forces consisted of the 4,000man Tribal Home Guard (Firqats) and a police coast guard of 400, which included a small police air wing. The elite Royal Household brigade, naval unit, and air unit numbered 6,400, including 2 special forces regiments. An estimated 2,000 foreigners also served in Oman's armed forces. In 2005 Oman's defense budget totaled $3.02 billion.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

On 7 October 1971, Oman gained membership in the United Nations; it belongs to ESCWA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, ILO, UNESCO, UNIDO, the World Bank, and the WHO. Oman also participates in the WTO, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Arab Monetary Fund, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), G-77, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Arab League. Oman is a member of the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.

ECONOMY

Oman's location at the entrance to the Persian Gulf for centuries made it an entrepôt for trade, including a substantial traffic in arms and slaves. Its prosperity declined in the 19th century, when, as a result of Western dominance in Asia, traditional trade patterns and communications routes were radically changed. Oman's economy then became predominantly dependent on agriculture and fishing.

The situation changed with the discovery of oil in 1964. Production began in August 1967, and by the mid-1970s most of the economy revolved around oil. The hydrocarbons sector accounted for 77% of export earnings and government revenues in 2000. Despite diversification efforts, petroleum's share of GDP rose from 37% in 1994 to 38.2% in 1995 to 40% in 1999. In 2000, petroleum's share jumped to 49% of GDP as oil prices rose sharply from near-record lows in early 1999. As of January 2001, Oman's proven oil reserves were 5.5 billion barrels. At the estimated high production level of 959,816 barrels per day in 2001, the reserves would last another 15.7 years. The government's Oman 2020 program looks to a fundamental transformation of the economy by that time. The production of natural gas has become a significant factor of the economy. Gas reserves increased from 9.8 trillion cubic feet in 1990 to 29.3 trillion cubic feet 2001, and government predictions are that this will eventually expanded to some 40 trillion cubic feet in 1999 and are further increasing. Two major extensions of Oman's pipeline connections from gas deposits in the center of the country were completed in August 2002: a pipeline to the north coast at Sohar and a pipeline to the south coast at Salalah. With the recovery of gas prices from in the latter half of 1999, GDP grew at extraordinarily high rates of 15.6% in 1999 and 19.6% in 2000. Inflation was negligible at 0.4% in 1999 and 1.4% in 2000.

In 2004, the GDP growth rate was 0.7%, down from 2.3% in 2003, and 1.9% in 2002; in 2005, the economy expanded by an estimated 1.6%. The inflation rate has been fairly stable, and at 0.3% in 2004 it did not pose any problems to the economy, although it was not ideal for the export sector. The unemployment rate was tagged at 15%, but only a certain layer of society is affected by it. To respond to this problem, the government is trying to replace foreign expatriate workers with local workers. In 2005 work on a new liquefied gas facility progressed, but plans are made to diversify the economy for the days when Oman's natural resources will be exhausted.

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Oman's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $40.1 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $13,400. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 1.9%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 0.4%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 2.8% of GDP, industry 40%, and services 57.1%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $39 million or about $15 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.2% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $45 million or about $17 per capita.

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Oman totaled $8.75 billion or about $3,368 per capita based on a GDP of $21.7 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings.

In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 22% of household consumption was spent on food, 25% on fuel, 13% on health care, and 21% on education.

LABOR

The estimated workforce of Oman was 920,000 in 2002. As of 2000, the services sector accounted for 82.1% of the labor force, with industry accounting for 11.2%, agriculture 6.4%, and the remaining 0.4% in undefined occupations. As of 2004, the country's unemployment rate was estimated at 15%.

Omani law does not provide the right of union formation. The law forbids a strike for any reason. 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.

The minimum working age is 13, but this provision is not enforced against the employment of children in family businesses or on family farms. The minimum wage for nonprofessional workers was $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 workweek is 40 to 45 hours long, while government officials have a 35-hour workweek.

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture contributes only about 3% to GDP, but engages 37% of the economically active population, mostly at a subsistence level. The potential for expanding agriculture in Oman is good. Land use is determined primarily by the availability of water. There is extensive cultivation along the Batinah and Shumailiyah coasts; in the interior, however, cultivation is confined to areas near wadis, where water is taken off by a system of water channels (fallaj). The total area under cultivation is estimated to be about 80,000 hectares (198,000 acres).

The principal agricultural product is the date, at 238,000 tons in 2004. On the Baunah coast, groves containing some 10 million date palm trees form a strip 240-km (150-mi) long and 40-km (25-mi) wide. Fruits grown in Dhofar include bananas, mangoes, and coconuts. Citrus fruits (notably limes), nuts, melons, bananas, coconuts, alfalfa, and tobacco are also grown. Tomatoes, cabbages, eggplant, okra, and cucumbers are important winter crops. Frankincense is traditionally produced from about 8,000 trees growing wild in Dhofar. Along the Batinah coast, a wide variety of produce is grown, including fruits, wheat, rice, and durra. Agricultural exports were valued at $402 million in 2004, while agricultural imports amounted to $1.17 billion that year.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

Goats, sheep, donkeys, and camels are widely raised. In 2005 there were 1,070,000 goats, 375,000 sheep, 335,000 head of cattle, 123,000 camels, and 28,500 donkeys. There is a relatively large-scale cattle-raising industry in Dhofar. Total meat production in 2005 was 43,400 tons. Oman estimates that it is 53% self-sufficient in milk production, 46% in beef, 44% in eggs, and 23% in milk. The camels of Oman are famous for their fine riding qualities.

FISHING

The waters of the Gulf of Oman are rich in sardines, mackerel, shrimp, lobsters, crayfish, tuna, barracudas, groupers, and sharks. The annual catch in 2003 was 138,833 tons, mainly sardines. Fishing employs about 26,000 persons. Investment in onshore processing and refrigeration plants, harbors, and repair yards has facilitated commercial fishing development. Exports of fish products amounted to $79.9 million in 2003. The government subsidizes the cost of boats and engines to promote employment in fishing. Fish stocks and breeding patterns are studied at a research center south of Muscat. In 1996, three new fishing harbors were opened (at Bukha in Musandam, Quriyat, and Shinas), at a combined cost of ro10.3 million and with a capacity for about 1,000 small boats.

FORESTRY

Forest coverage is less than 1%. The use of wood as the sole fuel and overgrazing by goats have depleted the forests of Oman, but the interior of the country is fairly well wooded. Oman imported $74.1 million in forest products during 2004.

MINING

Petroleum and natural gas dominated Oman's economy. Although large deposits of copper have been discovered northwest of Muscat, with other deposits also discovered at Hajl al-Safiand at Rakah, in Ibri, there was no recorded production of mined copper in 2004. However, an estimated 224,000 metric tons of smelted copper was produced from copper ore imports. In 2003, only 4 kg of gold was produced, down from an estimated 188 kg in 2002 and 603 kg in 2001. There was no recorded gold production in 2004. Nor was there any recorded silver production in 2003 or 2004. In 2000, National Mining Co. of Oman explored for copper, gold, and silver near Sohar, and the Metal Mining Agency of Japan completed exploration for copper and gold in the South Batinaha area. Output of chromium (gross weight) in 2004 was 18,575 metric tons, up from 13,000 metric tons in 2003. Sand and gravel production in 2004 was estimated at 22 million metric tons, unchanged from 2003, while marble output in 2004 totaled an estimated 140,000 metric tons. Oman in 2004 also produced, gypsum, salt, sulfur and hydraulic cement.

ENERGY AND POWER

Oman's reserves of oil and natural gas are modest in size when compared to other countries in the Middle East. However, the country's importance to the world's oil markets lies in its geographic location overlooking the Strait of Hormuz. Oman is not a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), but is a leader in IPEC, the main independent petroleum exporter's organization.

As of 1 January 2005, Oman's proven oil reserves were estimated at 5.5 billion barrels, most of which are located in its central and northern regions. In 2003, oil production averaged an estimated 784,000 barrels per day, with crude oil accounting for 781,000 barrels per day. In that same year, domestic oil consumption was estimated at 59,000 barrels per day, allowing for net exports of 725,000 barrels per day. Oman's primary customers in 2003 were China, Japan, South Korea, India, Thailand, and Singapore. Oman's crude oil refining capacity, as of 1 January 2005, was estimated at 85,000 barrels per day.

Oman, as of 1 January 2005, had proven natural gas reserves estimated at 29.3 trillion cu ft. In 2002, natural gas production and domestic consumption were estimated at 530 billion cu ft and 231 billion cu ft, respectively.

Although more than 22 million tons of coal deposits have been found in Oman's Wadi Fisaw and Wadi Muswa areas, near the city of Sur, these deposits have yet to be developed commercially.

As of 1 January 2002, Oman's electric power capacity was estimated at 2.4 GW, which in 2002 was entirely dedicated to conventional thermal sources. Electric power output in 2002 was estimated at 9.8 billion kWh. Demand for power in 2002 came to 9.031 billion kWh.

INDUSTRY

Besides oil, industry in Oman still consists largely of small-scale food-processing enterprises. Many new industries were set up in the 1980s, including a cement plant with an annual capacity of 609,000 tons. In 1995, Oman's cement production totaled 1.4 million tons. The majority of these manufacture nonmetallic mineral products followed by wood and wood products, and fabricated metal products. The Rusail industrial estate had 81 working factories by 1996, with 15 more under construction. The $250 million Salalah Container Port opened in 1998 as a magnet for value-added manufacturing enterprises. Another $250 industrial port in the Sohar on which construction began in 1999 was expected to be operational in 2003. By the latest available estimate, industry comprised 40% of the GDP in 1999.

Industry accounted for 40% of economic output in 2005 (with oil and gas production carrying the lion share), and was bested by services with a 57.1% share. Agriculture continues to be the weakest economic sector, with just a 2.8% share in the GDP. The industrial production growth rate was only 0.9%, indicating that the sector is going through a recession period.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

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 198797, 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, founded in 1984, has departments of computing and mathematics, laboratory science, and electrical, construction, and mechanical engineering. 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.

Oman's high technology exports in 2002 totaled $36 million, or 2% of the country's manufactured exports. For the period 1990 to 2001, Oman had four researchers for every one million people.

DOMESTIC TRADE

Though oil is the strongest basis for the Omani economy, agriculture and fishing are still very much a part of the traditional lifestyle. Most of the government's development plans are aimed at industry to support greater foreign trade, rather than to provide consumer products for the domestic market. Muscat and Matrah are the primary commercial centers. Much of the business is carried on by long-established and settled Khoja and Hindu merchants, but supermarkets and other larger retail establishments are beginning to take root.

Normal business hours are 8:30 am to 1:30 pm and 4 to 7 pm, SaturdayWednesday; banking hours are generally 8 am to noon, though some banks reopen from 4 to 6 pm. Banks and businesses close at 11:30 am on Thursday and remain closed Friday. Business hours are reduced during the Ramadan fast.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 10,115.4 6,572.2 3,543.2
Areas nes 8,448.6 8,448.6
United Arab Emirates 468.6 1,417.9 -949.3
Iran 415.5 45.7 369.8
Saudi Arabia 134.1 224.4 -90.3
United States 83.4 409.6 -326.2
United Kingdom 78.0 371.5 -293.5
Jordan 56.6 56.6
Kuwait 41.3 34.8 6.5
Yemen 34.8 34.8
Singapore 30.9 75.6 -44.7
() data not available or not significant.

FOREIGN TRADE

Oman runs a considerable trade surplus. Since 1967, oil has been the chief export. In 2000 Oman's major export commodities were crude petroleum (80%) and motor vehicles and parts (3.4%). Other exports included tobacco (1.2%) and apparel (1.1%). In 2000 Oman's imports were distributed among the following categories: consumer goods, 18.2%; food, 13.2%; fuels, 1.7%; industrial supplies, 20.2%; machinery, 18.4%; transportation, 25.7%; and other, 2.6%.

In 2005, exports reached $19 billion (FOBFree on Board), while imports grew to $9 billion (FOB). The bulk of exports went to China (29.5%), South Korea (17.5%), Japan (11.5%), Thailand (10.6%), and the UAE (7.2%). Imports included machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food and live animals, and mainly came from the UAE (21.2%), Japan (16.6%), the United Kingdom (8.4%), Italy (6%), Germany (5.1%), and the United States (4.7%).

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

Oman's balance of payments account is dominated by crude oil export earnings, consumer and capital goods and services, imports payments, and by large outgoing remittances by foreign workers.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Oman's exports was $10.9 billion while imports totaled $5.4 billion resulting in a trade surplus of $5.5 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Oman had exports of goods totaling $11.1 billion and imports totaling $5.31 billion. The services credit totaled $349 million and debit $1.68 billion.

Exports of goods totaled $13 billion in 2004, up from $12 billion in 2003. Imports grew from $6 billion in 2003, to $8 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently positive, but on a downward spiral$6 billion in 2003, and $5 billion in 2004. A similar trend was registered for the current account balance, which deteriorated slightly from $880 million in 2003, to $443 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (excluding gold) grew to almost $3.6 billion in 2004, covering more than five months of imports.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

The Central Bank of Oman, set up in April 1975, has powers to regulate credit and is authorized to make temporary advances to the government.

Banks in Oman are generally in good financial shape because of close regulation by the Central Bank of Oman. All commercial banks in the sultanate instructed to raise their paid-up capital to ro10 million for local banks and ro3 million for foreign banks. The Central Bank of Oman advised all banks which were unable to comply with these new requirements to merge with other commercial banks. The Central Bank has been encouraging banks to merge in order to cut down on the oversupply of banking services. Banks are required to maintain a 12% level of capital adequacy and restrict consumer lending to 30% of the loan portfolio. In 2002, there were 15 local and foreign commercial banks and four specialized banks. The largest local bank is Bank Muscat, created through a merger of the former Bank Muscat and the Commercial Bank of Oman. In 2002, it had assets of $3.4 billion, deposits of $2.4 billion, and was followed in size by the National Bank of Oman, Oman International Bank, Oman Arab Bank, and Bank Dhofar Al Omani Al Fransi.

The British Bank of the Middle East (BBME) was the first foreign bank to establish itself in Oman in 1948. Today, foreign banks, in descending order of local branch asset size, include British Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, The British Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank Saderate Iran, Bank Melli Iran, Banque Banorabe, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, and Citibank. The banking sector has been under pressure to increase its proportion of Omani staff to 90%, but the deadline for such a move has been progressively delayed. Because of the proliferation of branches concentrated in coastal areas, commercial banks now have to open two branches in the interior for every branch opened along the coast. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $1.8 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $6.8 billion.

An Omani stock market, the Muscat Securities Market (MSM), was officially established in 1988, but trading did not begin until the following year. By 2001 there were 91 companies listed on the exchange with a combined capitalization of $2.6 billion. The MSM has now established a link with the Bahrain Stock Exchange (BSE) where shares can be cross-listed. A similar agreement with Kuwait is expected. The MSM Index showed a 25.4% loss in 2001 a mere four years after posting a spectacular 141% gain in 1997. The drop-off has been attributed to speculation, over-valued offerings, the impact of the Asian financial crises, and the drop in oil prices. As of 2004, a total of 96 companies were listed on the MSM, which had a market capitalization of $6.325 billion. In 2004, the MSM 30 Index rose 23.8% from the previous year to 3,375.1.

INSURANCE

By 1997, one national insurance firm, the Oman National Insurance Co. (SAOG), and around 17 foreign-owned firms were operating in Oman. In 2003, the value of all direct written insurance premiums totaled $257 million, of which nonlife premiums accounted for $221 million. In 1999 (the latest date for which data was available) Oman's top life insurer was Oman National Insurance Co., which had gross written life insurance premiums totaling $18.3 million. Data was not available for individual nonlife insurers.

PUBLIC FINANCE

Although Oman is a relatively small oil producer, oil revenues support 69% of government expenditures. The government owns 60% of Petroleum Development (Oman) Ltd. (PDO), the main oil company. Higher oil prices in 1997 and a 5% cut in capital spending produced a budget deficit of only $47 million, a substantial improvement over 1996. With the fall in global oil prices in 1998, however, the government's budget fell deeply into deficit, and had to be financed by loans and by drawing down the State General Reserve Fund. In anticipation of still further drops in the price of oil, the government increased a number of taxes and imposed spending cuts of between 5 and 10% on most government ministries.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Oman's central government took in revenues of approximately $14.3 billion and had expenditures of $10.6 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $3.7 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 7.5% of GDP. Total external debt was $4.586 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues were ro2,073,500 and expenditures were ro2,295,100. The value of revenues was us$5,393,000 and expenditures us$5,969,000, based on a official exchange rate for 2001 of us$1 = ro0.3845, as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 13.3%; defense, 35.3%; public order and safety, 5.9%; economic affairs, 9.2%; housing and community amenities, 6.4%; health, 6.6%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.8%; education, 15.9%; and social protection, 5.6%.

TAXATION

Introduced in 1971, a corporate income tax on commercial enterprises other than individual traders remains the only tax in the country. Resident companies and those resident in countries that are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are subject to a 0% tax rate on their initial ro30,000 of income, and a 12% rate on income over that amount. Foreign company branches are taxed at a rate starting at 0% up to 30% for each of seven income levels. Companies engaged in agriculture, fishing and any other essential activity deemed by the government are exempt from income taxes. Oman has a comprehensive double taxation treaty with France.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

General import duties are 5% ad valorem on the CIF (cost, insurance, and freight) value of the good. Some luxury items have a 20% duty, while alcohol, tobacco, limes and pork products have a 100% duty placed on them. There are a number of exempt goods, including many imports from GCC member states. Protective tariffs are levied seasonably on a number of fruits and vegetables.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

The principal foreign investment is in the oil sector. Foreign private investment is officially encouraged in certain areassuch as industry, agriculture, and fishingthrough an initial five-year tax exemption, which may be renewed for another five years. Foreign participation in a local company cannot exceed 65% (this also applies to the sharing of profits). Companies holding commercial agencies must also have at least 51% Omani participation. In 2002, the largest foreign investor was Royal Dutch Shell Oil, which holds a 34% of the shares of the state oil company, Petroleum Development Oman, and 30% of Oman Liquid Natural Gas. Other investors in the oil industry include Occidental Petroleum, Hapex, Amoco, and Elf Aquitaine. The Sultanate does not publish estimates of inbound and out-bound investment Foreign investment in the Muscat Securities Market (MSM) has averaged 1516%, but has dropped in absolute terms. In December 1999, foreign investment in the MSM was $867.8 million. A year later this had fallen to $730.5 million, and at the end of May 2001, foreign investment in the SMS was $708.9 million.

No systematic information is available on foreign direct investment (FDI). However, it is known that Oman seeks to diversify its economic base, so it is actively seeking private foreign investors in information technology, tourism, and higher educational fields. In September 2004, total investment in listed Omani companies with foreign participation was estimated at $2.4 billion (with 9% of it being foreign investment).

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Oman's economic policy operates under five-year development plans. Oman's second five-year plan (198185) suffered to some extent from the impact of declining oil prices in the early 1980s. The objectives of the third development plan (198690) were to encourage the private sector to play a larger role in the economy and to expand such areas as agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, and mining. The fourth five-year development plan (199195), aimed to achieve average annual GDP growth rates of just over 6% and the diversification of the sources of national income in order to reduce the dependence on the oil sector. The declared aim of the fifth five-year plan (19962000) was to achieve a balanced budget. The fall in oil prices to near-record lows in 1998 subverted the goal of a zero budget deficit in 2000, but rising oil prices in 2000 allowed the government to cut the deficit to only 1.5% of GDP ($301 million) in 2000. Oman's sixth five-year development plan (200105) aims at lessening dependence on government spending and employment, and at making the private the engine of growth for the economy.

The government's long-run development strategy is the Sultan's "Oman Vision 2020," which is designed to see the economy through the depletion of oil reserves. The emphases are on processes of "Omanization," industrialization, and privatization. One of the most successful diversification projects has been the Salalah Container Port opened in November 1998. In 2000, it handled over 500,000 FEUs (40-foot equivalency unit) and ranked among the top 10 container ports in efficiency. A new industrial port is also being built at Sohar, to be operational in 2003. In terms of developing its natural gas potential, the government took a major step n October 2000 with the inauguration of the $2.64 billion liquefied natural gas project in Sur. Other gas development projects include plans for urea fertilizer plant in Sur, an aluminum smelter in Sohar, and petrochemical plant at Salalah. An emphasis on income diversification has opened the country to foreign participation in the form of joint ventures.

The economy has recovered slightly in 2005, as a result of strong domestic demand growth. However, economic expansion rates are expected to be sluggish as long as oil production will not pick up. As soon as oil prices will increase, and imports will decrease, the economy will likely experience a healthy boom.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Oman maintains a social security system that provides old-age pensions, disability and survivorship benefits to employed citizens ages 1559 who are under a permanent work contract. This program is funded by 5% contributions from employees, 2% by the government, and 8% contribution by employers. Retirement is set at age 60 for men and age 55 for women. Work injury legislation provides disability and medical benefits for injured workers. Hospitalization and medical care are provided to workers.

Islamic precepts result in de facto discrimination against women in a number of areas, such as inheritance. Traditional views on the subordinate role of women in society lead most women to work exclusively inside the home. Land grants and housing loans are rarely given to females. Some progress is being made, however, and women have begun to enter professional areas such as medicine and communications in greater numbers. The government has made efforts to increase educational opportunities for women. Women comprise roughly half of the 5,000 students at Sultan Qaboos University, and 50% of the total student body in the public school system. Women are required to get permission from a male relative to leave the country. Domestic abuse remains within the confines of the family, and sexual abuse of domestic employees remains a problem. As of 2004, there were no governmental programs for abused women. The welfare of children is funded adequately by the government.

Human rights abuses include arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention and the mistreatment of prisoners. Human rights organizations are prohibited by law from operating in Oman, and international monitors are unable to inspect prisons.

HEALTH

As of 2004, there were an estimated 126 physicians, 297 nurses, 11 dentists, and 22 pharmacists per 100,000 people. It was estimated that 89% of the population had access to health care services, 39% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 92% had adequate sanitation.

Average life expectancy in 2005 was 73.13 years. Infant mortality that year was 19.51 per 1,000 live births. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 37.8 and 4 per 1,000 people. About 24% of married women (ages 15 to 49) were using contraception. The fertility rate was 4.3 children per woman living through her childbearing years.

Children up to one year old were vaccinated against tuberculosis, 96%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 99%; polio, 99%; measles, 98%; and hepatitis B, 99%. The rates for DPT and measles were, respectively, 86% and 99%. About 12% of children under five were malnourished and goiter was prevalent in 10% of school-age children.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 1,300 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 110 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

HOUSING

In May 1973, Sultan Qabus approved the Law of People's Housing to make housing loans to needy Omanis. By 1985, 5,300 low-income units had been built. At the 1993 census, there was a total of 344,846 housing units nationwide. At the 2003 census, the total was at 430,996 housing units. About 39.7% of all housing units were traditional Arabic houses, 23.6% were villas, 17.3% were apartments, and 4.8% were rural homes. About 13.6% of all housing units were improvised housing. The average household has eight members.

An Arabic house is a one-story, single-family detached structure consisting of several rooms with some type of central courtyard; there is generally a boundary wall surrounding the home. A villa is similar to an Arabic house in structure but contains two floors. Rural houses are also similar in shape to an Arabic house, but often without a specific courtyard or complete boundary wall and generally made of a mixture of local materials such as mud and wood. Improvised housing consists of structures made of wood, hay, palm leaves, or other such materials.

In 2003, about 98.1% of all traditional housing units had access to a public electricity network, 96.8% used gas for cooking, and 43.1% had piped drinking water. about 78.6% of all housing units were occupied. About 85.4% of all traditional units had an equipped kitchen, 91.3% had an equipped bath/shower room, and 88.5% had flush toilets. An equipped room was defined as one that is linked to piped water and a piped sewage system.

EDUCATION

Elementary school (primary) covers a six-year course of study, which is followed by three years of preparatory school and three years of general secondary school. Academic results of the preparatory exams determine the type of secondary education the student will receive, either focusing on arts or sciences. Islamic schools offer the same courses as preparatory schools, as well as religious and Arabic studies. At the secondary level, boys may choose to attend a technical school. The academic year runs from September to June.

In 2001, about 5% of children between the ages of four and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 72% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 69% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 73% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 21:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 17:1.

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 2001, about 8% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 74.4%, with 82% for men and 65.4% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.6% of GDP.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

The library at Sultan Qaboos University has 145,000 volumes, and the Muscat Technical and Industrial College has 10,000 volumes. A British Council Library of almost 8,000 volumes was founded in 1973 in Matrah. The Library of Manuscripts and Documents (1976) contains the Sultanate's most extensive collection of rare manuscripts. The Ministry of National Heritage and Culture administers the National Museum, the Oman Museum, the Qurm Museum, and the Natural History Museum, which includes the National Herbarium of Oman (a botanical garden) and the National Shell Collection. An Oil and Gas Museum opened in 1995 to chronicle the history of the industry in the nation. There is also a Children's Museum.

MEDIA

Postal, telephone, and telex systems are supervised by the Ministry of Posts, Telegraphs, and Telephones. By the end of 1991, the entire country was connected to a 79,000-line telephone network. In 2003, there were an estimated 84 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 2,100 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 229 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Radio and television facilities are government owned; color television was introduced in 1974. Satellite dish owners may receive programming from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. As of 1999 there were 3 AM and 9 FM radio stations and 13 television broadcast stations, all controlled by the government. In 2003, there were an estimated 621 radios and 553 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 35 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 71 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were six secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

Newspapers and journals in Arabic include the daily Al-Wattan (2002 circulation, 32,500) and Oman Daily Newspaper (15,560) and weekly periodicals such as Al-Aquida and Al-Usra. There are two English-language newspapers: Oman Daily Observer (22,000) and Times of Oman (15,000).

A 1984 Press and Publication Law authorizes the state to censor domestic and imported foreign publications. Journalists are said to practice self-censorship to avoid harassment. Criticism of the sultan is explicitly illegal.

ORGANIZATIONS

There is a Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Muscat. There are some professional associations in the country, including the Oman Medical Association (est. 2001). Among the social and cultural organizations are the Oman Women's Association, the Oman Cultural Club (for university graduates), the Omani National Organization for Scouts and Guides, the National Union of Oman Students, and the Omani Historical Association (open to non-Omanis). There are sports associations representing such pastimes as squash, tennis, rugby, football (soccer), and track and field.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

Oman is cautiously developing tourism, which was discouraged by previous rulers. The visa is valid for one month after entry. Most large hotels have clubs that offer various recreational activities; water sports are popular, but spear fishing has been prohibited as a conservation measure.

In 2003, about 630,000 foreign visitors arrived in Oman, of whom 26% came from Europe. There were 6,473 hotel rooms with 9,809 beds and an occupancy rate of 39%. Tourism expenditure receipts totaled $372 million that year. All travelers must have a valid passport and a visa. Visas are issued upon arrival at all entry points and can be used at anytime within six months of the issue date.

The US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Muscat at $240 in 2004.

FAMOUS OMANIS

Oman's great Islamic religious leader, whose followers are called Ibadhis, was 'Abdallah bin Ibad (fl.8th century); many of his teachings are still followed in Oman. Ahmad ibn Sa'id (r.174183), founder of the present dynasty, freed Muscat from Persian rule. Sultan Qabus bin Sa'id (b.1940) has ruled Oman since his removal of Sa'id bin Taymur (191072), his father, in 1970.

DEPENDENCIES

Oman has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Casey-Vine, Paula. (ed.) Oman in History. London: Immel Publishers, 1995.

Chatty, Dawn. Mobile Pastoralists: Development Planning and Social Change in Oman. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Clements, Frank. Oman. (rev. ed.) Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio, 1994.

Oman and the United Arab Emirates. London: Lonely Planet, 2000.

Rabi, Uzi. The Emergence of States in a Tribal Society: Oman under Sa'id bin Taymur, 19321970. Portland, Ore.: Sussex Academic Press, 2006.

Seddon, David (ed.). A Political and Economic Dictionary of the Middle East. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Skeet, Ian. Oman: Politics and Development. New York: St. Martin's, 1992.

Stannard, Dorothy. (ed.) Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Singapore: APA Publications, 1998.

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Oman

OMAN

Sultanate of Oman

Saltanat 'Uman

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

The Sultanate of Oman borders the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf and shares borders with Yemen, the United Arab Emi-rates, and Saudi Arabia. Oman has an area of 212,460 square kilometers (82,030 square miles) and a coastline that totals 2,092 kilometers (1,299 miles). Comparatively, Oman occupies an area slightly smaller than Kansas. Muscat, Oman's capital, is located on the country's northeastern coastline.

POPULATION.

In July 2000 the population of Oman was estimated at 2,533,389, of whom 2,006,311 were Omani and 527,078 were non-Omani. Large expatriate communities (communities of foreigners who have left their own country to live and work abroad) are very common in the Gulf countries on account of the oil and services industries. In Oman many unskilled expatriates from Asia are employed to carry out menial jobs, although this community has been declining slowly since 1996. The Omani population increases on average by 2.7 percent a year and, as a result, the country has a very young population.

Some 47 percent of Omanis are under the age of 20 compared to only 4 percent who are over the age of 60. In 2000 the birth rate stood at 38.08 births per 1,000 population, while the death rate stood at 4.16 per 1,000. With a projected annual population growth rate of 3.46 percent, the population is expected to reach 3,848,217 by the year 2015.

The majority of the Omani population is Sunni Muslim, but a substantial number of peopleincluding the ruling familyfollow Ibahism, an offshoot of Shia Islam. Given Oman's long trading history, its population is a mixture of different races and even one of its most prominent mercantile families is of Hindu descent. Oman was a hub for the slave trade in the 18th and 19th century and although this practice was abolished in the 20th century, many continue to work for the families that previously owned their ancestors.

Employment in Oman is largely dependent on nationality. In the public sector , Omanis held 70 percent of the jobs in 1999, while in the private sector which contains most of the lower-paying jobs90 percent of the employees were from foreign countries. Rising unemployment in Oman has forced the government to realize that it can no longer pursue its policy of guaranteeing jobs to young Omanis entering the labor market and it is now focusing on increasing employment opportunities for Omanis in the private sector. Oman has seen a dramatic migration of people to the cities in search of better jobs; the largest proportion of the population is found in the capital city Muscat and in the larger northern towns of Suhar, Nizwa, and Sur.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

Historically, Oman has been a gateway for trade between Asia and the Middle East. Its capital, Muscat, is the country's most developed city as well as the center of economic activity, thanks to its coastal location. The strategic Musandam peninsula gives Oman control over the land adjacent to the vital Strait of Hormuz, through which a majority of the world's oil passes. Oil is the most important factor in the Omani economy and it is the oil industry that is the catalyst for growth in gross domestic product (GDP). GDP growth averaged 4.4 percent between 1993 and 1996, reached 6.2 percent in 1997, and fell to 2.9 percent in 1998 due to the crash in global oil prices. Crude oil has accounted for over 30 percent of Oman's GDP since 1980. Oman differs from other Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emi-rates in that its reserves of oil are difficult to extract from the ground, limited in quantity, and predicted to run out in 17 years. Given that the oil industry is not labor intensive, the population in the Sultanate is growing rapidly, and the public sector is over-staffed, there is a serious unemployment problem in the country. However, the government has never released any unemployment statistics and no credible estimates have been made since 1995 due to international skepticism about the official population figures.

Oman is a free market economy, but the government is at present the most important factor in the economy, both as an employer and as a purchaser of goods and services. The Omani economy has been growing steadily over the last 25 years and considerable development has taken place. However, with the fluctuations in the global price of oil, an oil industry that will soon be negligible, massive investments made in infrastructure , and hence shrinking foreign exchange reserves , there is a pressing need to diversify the economy. It is especially important to expand the sources of export earnings as well as to provide jobs for a growing population. These 2 goals form the basis of Oman's policy initiatives. The government has encouraged private domestic and foreign investors to take the lead in promoting these initiatives, and a period of structural transformation from primary to manufactured exports has begun. In the late 1980s the government's commitment to economic diversification coincided with the discovery of abundant natural gas and since this time, drilling sites for both gas and oil are to be found all over the country. The Omani government has announced that it intends to implement a 5-year plan (2001-2006) in order to address these important challenges. In addition, policymakers will also have to focus on Oman's membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). This will expose the country to even more foreign competition.

Political parties in Oman are not legal, but the major trading families who control the bulk of the country's trade and industry are very powerful groups and are represented in the government. In 1998 Oman received US$509,100,000 in official development assistance, the largest portion of which came from the United Kingdom, a country with which Oman enjoys strong ties. Oman also has a good relationship with the European Union and much improved relations with the United States; its main trading partners are Japan and China. The economy's main exports are oil, live animals, animal products, textiles, base metals, and mineral products. Before the discovery of oil in the 1960s, the Omani economy was dependent on agriculture, however, in 1999 this sector accounted for 2 percent of GDP due to the lack of water supply. Nevertheless, it still employs a large number of people along the northern coast and in the south.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

Oman has been ruled by the Royal Al Bu Sa'id family since the 18th century. Political parties are not allowed in the country and there are no directly elected representatives. The current sultan, Qaboos Bin Sa'id Al Sa'id, overthrew his father in a palace coup in 1970 and seized the throne. Although the family has traditionally ruled over all state affairs, the new sultan has been careful to balance tribal, ethnic, and regional interests and as a result he has placed several tribal leaders in the government. In 1991 the sultan established the 59-seat Consultative Council, or Majlis Ash-Shura, to act as a consultative body, thus allowing a limited form of political expression. The government selects council members from lists of nominees proposed by each of the 59 wilayats (regions). Nevertheless, the country is an absolute hereditary monarchy and the sultan still rules by royal decree. He can appoint and fire all council ministers as well as ministers in the defense department, the department of foreign affairs, and the department of finance.

Oman did not have a constitution until 1996, when the sultan promulgated (proclaimed) the "Basic Law" by decree. This basic law clarifies the royal succession, provides for a prime minister, bars ministers from holding interests in companies doing business with the government, establishes a bicameral legislature, and guarantees basic civil liberties for Omani citizens. The legislature has no power to overturn the sultan's wishes. Its role has been purposefully ill-defined so as to render it a fairly ineffective body. The state promises to provide health care and education for all citizens as well as maintain security through the use of the army. Basic freedoms such as freedom of the press are touched upon, however, they are not clearly defined and are still very restricted. The Omani legal system is based both on English common law and Islamic law. The ultimate authority in law remains the sultan and he has not yet accepted compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (this institution has its seat in The Hague and is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations).

The major source of government revenue does not come from taxation but from oil revenues. The only direct taxes in Oman are income tax (which ranges from 15 to 45 percent) and some regional taxes; the only indirect tax is customs duty . There are 5 percent taxes on hotel and restaurant bills, a 2 percent tax on electricity bills exceeding OR50. Oman makes no distinction between resident and non-resident companies. If a company has income from Oman that requires occasional visits to the Sultanate, the income will be considered taxable. Tax rates on non-petroleum, foreign-owned firms were lowered in October 1996 for all except those firms with greater than 90 percent foreign ownership. The nature of the relationship between the petroleum companies and the government will often govern taxation and royalties on petroleum producers. Labor law and the Oman tax law also affects a foreigner's ability to do business in Oman. There is no complete body of regulations codifying these laws and many government decisions are made on an ad hoc basis.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

Due to the large-scale program of road construction carried out by the Ministry of Communications over the past 3 decades, there are now approximately 6,000 kilometers (3,720 miles) of paved roads and 24,000 kilometers (14,880 miles) of unpaved roads in Oman. In 1970 there were only 10 kilometers (6 miles) of paved roads and about 1,700 kilometers (1,054 miles) of unpaved road in the entire country. The number of licensed automobiles on the road increased from 261,627 in 1992 to 404,375 in 1998 and this increase in traffic also led to an increase in the number of road deaths from 218 in 1992 to 478 in 1998. Oman does not have a rail system.

The country's main airport, Muscat Seeb International, has a capacity of 1.3 million passengers. The

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Oman 29 598 595 0 43 2.7 21 2.87 50
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Saudi Arabia 57 321 262 N/A 31 N/A 49.6 1.17 300
Yemen 15 64 29 N/A 1 N/A 1.2 0.02 10
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

airport has been fully modernized and boasts duty-free shopping areas, impressive lounges, and large transit areas. The main runway has been extended to 3,585 meters (11,760 feet) and the passenger terminals have been expanded to handle 3,000 passengers an hour. In 1995 the total number of passengers passing through Seeb International airport amounted to 2,176,033. Salalah, the country's second airport, which was built initially as a military installation, began operating a passenger terminal in 1986 and the main runway was extended in 1992. Oman now has 6 civil airports in total at Seeb, Salalah, Sur, Masirah, Khasab, and Diba in Musandam. The country's main port is Mina Sultan Qaboos, which was completed in 1974 with a capacity to handle 2.2 million tons annually. Many improvements have since been made, including dredging the harbor entrance to a depth of 13 meters (42 feet). The second-largest port is called Mina Raysut and it is this port that serves Salalah and the Governorate of Dhofar. The construction of a third port in Suhar started in 1999 and the project is expected to cost US$250 million.

Electrical power in Oman is supplied both by the public sector and by the private sector. In 1999 the total national production amounted to 5.2 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) with consumption reaching 4.9 billion kWh. In 1999 there were 31 power stations with a total installed capacity of 1,662 megawatts. The government-owned General Telecommunications Organization (GTO) was established in 1980 and was responsible for setting up the modern telephone system throughout the country. Thirty years ago there were only 500 lines in and around the capital and international telephone calls could be made only through radio channels. As of 1998, all the telephone exchanges became digital and one can now telephone all over the world. Oman has an overall telephone capacity of 420,000 lines, both fixed and mobile, and given the widespread use of the telephone, it is estimated that Oman will need about 500,000 telephone lines by the year 2020, which will require massive investment.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

The Omani economy is a diverse one with services contributing 57 percent of GDP and industry contributing approximately 40 percent. However, over the past 40 years there has been a major shift in the structure of the economy. In the 1950s and 1960s, when the oil fields had not yet been discovered, the agricultural sector drove the economy. This sector has diminished in importance since the early 1970s, representing only 3 percent of GDP in 1999, whereas the export of oil and petroleum-related products and the manufacturing of goods such as textiles has increased. The sector's output is heavily dependent upon the weather, and accurate figures on employment in agriculture remain unknown.

AGRICULTURE

Prior to the discovery of oil in the 1960s, the agricultural sector was central in the Omani economy. However, in 1999 the sector contributed only 3 percent to GDP and was heavily subsidized by the government. Oman is not self-sufficient in food and in 1995 the country spent US$572 million on food and live animals. This figure rose to US$650 million in 1999. There are efforts underway to develop self-sufficiency in staple foods. The main crops grown in Oman are tomatoes, eggplant, dates, bananas, limes, and carrots. The principal agricultural area is found along the Batinah coast, in the northeast between Muscat and Diba al-Hisn, which accounts for about half the total crop area of approximately 101,000 acres. In the south, agriculture is centered on a small coastal plain that is fed by monsoon rain coming from the Indian Ocean. In spite of its small contribution to GDP, the agricultural sector is still a major employer. In 1994, the World Bank estimated that over half the Omani labor force was working in the agricultural sector. The Omani government reports that a total of 140,000 people are employed permanently in this sector and that 47,000 of these people are unpaid family workers. Agricultural employees are primarily of Omani descent.

Oman is famed for producing very high quality agricultural goods and the highest quality products are usually exported to the neighboring Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. (On 26 May 1981 an agreement was signed between the 6 conservative monarchies of the Gulf: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar to coordinate their economic, political, cultural, and security policy.) However, the agricultural farm is threatened by many problems, including outdated technology and an increase in the salinity of the water. The government has responded to these issues by investing more into the sector. Its goal is to obtain self-sufficiency in food production by improving agricultural conditions. In working to make the agricultural sector internationally competitive, the government has introduced incentives for foreign investors. These exemptions include tax reductions, utilities discounts, loans, and tariff protection. The government has also helped Omani firms in exporting their products.

FISHING.

With 2,092 kilometers (1,297 miles) of coastline running from the mouth of the Gulf in the north to the border with Yemen in the south, Oman has very rich fishing potential which has yet to be fully developed. There is a 200-mile exclusive economic zone which extends from Oman out to sea and over 150 species of fish and crustaceans have been identified in Omani waters ranging from tuna and crayfish to lobster and shrimp. Large amounts of lobsters are caught off the Masirah islands and off the coast of Dhofar, and they are exported to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates where they are in great demand. In 1998, approximately 26,940 Omanis were employed in the fishing industry and a total of 116,780 tons of fish were caught. The number of fish caught per annum has been slowly declining over the past 20 years due to pollution and the depletion of fish stocks. In response to this, the Omani government has put restrictions on the amount of fish catches. Lobster may now be harvested only twice a year. The annual fish catch remains at over 100,000 tons per year, and efforts to produce value-added , manufactured fish products are underway. Processing and packaging for export are key concerns, as is the use of better technology at sea.

IRRIGATION.

Oman's position in a semi-arid climatic zone results in the serious problem of water scarcity. The government has been pursuing programs of improved water efficiency and water resource development and some far-reaching legislation has been passed through the government. In 1999 there were 48 dams all over the country that collect rainwater as well as a major project underway to decrease water consumption through the use of water-saving devices on taps. The government has also initiated a plan for the supply of water to Muscat up until 2010 that involves extending the existing pipelines. Two additional reservoirs have been built around Muscat at a cost of US$3 million.

INDUSTRY

OIL.

Similar to many of the Gulf countries, the Omani industrial sector makes up a large proportion of GDP, accounting for 40 percent of it in 1999. However, Oman is not a typical Persian Gulf oil producer due to its small, scattered oil fields and, as a result, production costs are much higher per barrel than those in other GCC countries. The average Omani oil field produces one-tenth the volume per well that Saudi Arabia or Iran produce. Oil was not discovered in commercial amounts until 1962, much later than most oil-producing Gulf states. Oman is not a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). (OPEC is an international organization of 11 developing countries which are heavily reliant on oil revenues as their main source of income. The current members are Algeria, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.) However, in the past Oman has cut production in co-operation with OPEC in an attempt to raise prices. Oman's oil production has wavered between 910,000 barrels a day (b/d) and 890,000 b/d since April 1999. The Omani government has announced a new 5-year plan which is to run from 2001 to 2005 and which aims to increase production to 1 million b/d. The bulk of Oman's 5.28 billion barrels in proven reserves is situated in the north and in the center of the country. In the north the largest fields are Yibal, Natih, Fahud, al-Huwaisah, and Lekhwair. The largest field is Yibal, producing 180,000 b/d and, together, these fields produce half of the total Omani oil production. The crude oil produced in the north is mainly light or medium crude and is found alongside natural gas. The oil fields further south tend to produce heavier crude and are usually not associated with natural gas.

With oil reserves amounting to 5.28 billion barrels, Oman has a further 17-year supply of oil if it continues to produce at 910,000 b/d. Since the discovery of oil, the oil and gas industry has been the catalyst of growth for the Omani economy, contributing approximately 37 percent to GDP each year and as much as 55 percent of GDP up until the early 1980s. In addition, oil provides 75.3 percent of state revenues. The oil industry is largely run by Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) which has a government majority ownership. PDO controls 90 percent of the country's output. Shell owns 34 percent of the company and operates the majority of Oman's large fields. In 1999, Oman exported 95.8 million barrels of oil to Japan, 65.6 million barrels to Thailand, 55.9 million barrels to South Korea, and 39.4 million barrels to China.

GAS.

The gas sector in Oman is considered to be the cornerstone of the government's economic growth strategy and great efforts have been made to turn natural gas into a thriving export industry. There are abundant gas reserves in Oman and 1999 estimates put the proven reserves at 29.28 trillion cubic feet (tcf). The government has projected that by the year 2002 natural gas will contribute 15 percent of GDP. Most of the gas reserves are located in areas that are controlled by PDO. Oman has entered into a number of projects with overseas companies such as Gulfstream resources of Canada and Neste Oy of Finland to develop, explore, and produce natural gas in the northern part of the country.

MANUFACTURING.

Following the discovery of large gas deposits, attention moved away from the manufacturing industry and in 1999, manufacturing contributed 5 percent to GDP. Most of the country's industrial enterprises are involved in light industry. Existing companies manufacture soft drinks, textiles, perfume, and cement. The sector grew by 3 percent between 1994 and 1998, but it relies heavily on skilled expatriate labor and therefore does not contribute much to the creation of local jobs.

SERVICES

TOURISM.

Evidence of Oman's rich cultural and architectural heritage can be seen in its hundreds of historic sites and its many beautiful beaches. The country's varied geography and range of climatic conditions give it enormous potential in the tourism industry, a sector which is still very undeveloped. Given Oman's current unemployment problem, combined with the thousands of young Omanis entering the workforce every year, the expansion of the tourism sector could create much-needed jobs. The government initiated a 15-year tourism plan in 1990, easing visa restrictions in order to open up the country to more tourists, and very quickly the number of visitors rose from 290,000 in 1994 to 503,000 in 1999.

In 2000, tourism represented less than 1 percent of GDP even though there was an 11 percent increase in the number of visitors between 1988 and 1992. In 1994 there were only 37 hotels in Oman and in 2000 there were 89. The government has made an attempt to attract visitors from the Gulf region, signing an agreement with Dubai whereby nationals of both countries can easily obtain visas. However, the government's plan is to attract affluent European visitors to the country who are happy to take supervised coach tours instead of exploring the country on their own. Government concerns about local sensitivities as well as the continuing high tax on alcohol serve as major constraints to the growth of this potentially lucrative industry.

FINANCIAL SERVICES.

The Omani government has made serious attempts to ensure the stability of the banking sector and in 2000 there were 16 commercial banks in the country, of which 9 were branches of foreign banks. In addition to the commercial banks, the government has set up 2 credit institutions that provide small loans for Omani citizens. The Omani Housing Bank provides loans to finance the construction of homes and the Oman Development Bank provides general microcredit . The Central Bank of Oman places restrictions on the amount of foreign exchange that banks are allowed to lend and invest and in addition sets the total amount of capital to be held by local banks at US$26 million and by foreign banks at US$9 million.

Oman's stock exchange was established in 1989 and is called the Muscat Securities Market (MSM). There are over 100 banks and companies listed on the exchange with a current capitalization of over US$2 billion. In 1999 Oman was included in the International Finance Corporation's emerging market index and the government has made concerted efforts to make the stock market more transparent and more regulated. Electronic trading was introduced in 1999 as well as a regulatory agency called the Capital Markets Authority (CMA).

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

In 1999, Oman's exports amounted to US$7.2 billion and its imports were valued at US$5.4 billion. The country's principal export is oil and in 1999 the commodity accounted for 76 percent of all exports. In the 1980s, however, oil accounted for over 90 percent but its share has declined due to the falling price of crude oil. The second major export in Oman is re-exports which totaled US$1.3 billion in 1999. Given that the Omani economy is not very diversified, the smallest proportion of exports is non-oil exports such as foodstuffs and animal products. These accounted for 35 percent of total non-oil Omani exports in 1999. In 1999 the principle importer of Omani crude oil was Japan. Japan imported a total of 95.8 million barrels followed by Thailand, which imported 65.6 million barrels.

Oman has slowly increased its production of crude oil and as a result the country has enjoyed trade surpluses throughout the last decade even though it has increased its imports. Nevertheless, the size of these surpluses varies considerably from year to year due to the world prices of crude oil. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 the price of oil increased substantially and that year Oman's trade surplus amounted to US$2.9 billion. However, when world oil prices fell drastically in 1998, Oman's surplus fell to just US$291 million. In 1993 the

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Oman
Exports Imports
1975 1.044 .765
1980 2.386 1.732
1985 4.705 3.153
1990 5.508 2.681
1995 5.962 4.248
1998 N/A 5.682
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

surplus stood at US$1.3 billion and in 1996 the rise in the price of crude oil pushed it up to US$3 billion.

Over the past 30 years, Oman has come to rely more and more on imports because it has a very small industrial sector and an agricultural sector that is unable to meet the demand for the variety and quantity of food that the middle-and upper-class Omanis desire. Imports of food amounted to 14 percent of the total value of imports in 1999. The bulk of imports come from the United Arab Emirates and Japan, representing 26.3 percent and 15.8 percent of all imports, respectively. Major Omani imports include food and live animals, beverages and tobacco, crude materials, and minerals. In 1999, Oman's imports totaled US$4.67 billion. Oman's main trading partners are Japan, China, Thailand, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

In October 2000 the General Council of the World Trade Organization approved Omani membership and in November Oman became the 139th member. Prior to its accession, Oman had to make several changes in order to conform to WTO's membership rules. Not only did the authorities have to agree upon a custom duty ceiling, allow foreign firms with under 70 percent foreign ownership to be taxed the same rates as Omani firms, but also it had to establish intellectual property rights. The consequence of this new membership will open up the Omani markets further and expose local companies to increased competition. By 2003, Oman is required to allow fully foreign-owned computer companies, banks, and insurance companies to operate within the country.

MONEY

Due to the small size of the Omani economy, the country's monetary policy is quite straightforward. The goal of the Omani Central Bank is to maintain a stable riyal so that the economy can function competitively abroad. The riyal has been pegged to the dollar since 1973. In 1986 the riyal was devalued by 10.2 percent and since then it has been stable at about US$2.60 to 1 riyal.

Exchange rates: Oman
Omani riyals per US$1
2001 0.3845
2000 0.3845
1999 0.3845
1998 0.3845
1997 0.3845
1996 0.3845
Note: Currency rates have been fixed since 1986.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

All the money flowing into the economy is regulated by the Central Bank of Oman. The central bank also regulates the commercial banks through a variety of measures.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

In 1970 Oman initiated a comprehensive sustainable development program and it was among one of the first developing countries to place a real emphasis on the social sector. The program was called Oman 2020 and, since its inception, it has achieved some of the fastest-ever recorded growth in the history of human development. In 1970 there was no formal education system in place apart from 3 primary schools in Muscat that had a maximum capacity of 900 boys. By the end of 1994, 920 schools had opened all over the country and approximately 450,000 students were enrolled in formal education of whom about 50 percent were girls. In 1999, 70 percent of all Omani children attended primary school. In addition to the improvements in education, there have been far-reaching improvements in life expectancy and infant mortality. Life expectancy has increased by 24 years from 47 in 1970 to 71 in 1997, and infant mortality has been reduced 10 times over from more than 215 per 1,000 live births to less than 18 in 1997.

Before the development program began, there were many health problems that were prevalent in Oman due to the poverty and the lack of education. One of the most serious diseases that afflicted more than half of all Omani school children was trachoma, a disease that leads to blindness. This disease is spread through the bite of a blackfly, which breeds in fast-flowing rivers and streams. When the fly bites, it deposits the larvae of a parasitic worm which moves rapidly through the body, causing severe eyesight damage and possible blindness when it enters the eyes. This disease has now been totally wiped out. Additional gains in social and health conditions have led to improvements in the sanitation system; almost three-quarters of all houses have clean running water and toilets that flush. The vast majority of homes have electric light, electricity, and gas with which to cook. The government provides pensions for the elderly and the disabled as well as widows, orphans,

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Oman 3,516 3,509 5,607 5,581 N/A
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Saudi Arabia 9,658 11,553 7,437 7,100 6,516
Yemen N/A N/A N/A 266 254
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Oman 22 8 25 13 21 5 7
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Saudi Arabia N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Yemen 25 5 26 3 5 5 31
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

and divorced women. This massive investment in human capital was made possible by the revenues that the state collected from the oil industry. Without this income it is unlikely that Oman would have made such ground-breaking progress in achieving better standards of living for a large part of its population.

Although Oman serves as a good example for other less-developed countries, there is still much room for improvement due to the high income inequality. The female literacy rate is still less than half that of the male literacy rate, and the total fertility rate (the number of children the average woman will have in her lifetime) is 6.9, one of the highest in the world.

WORKING CONDITIONS

Oman is heavily dependent on expatriate labor with an expatriate community of 527,078 and a total labor force of 650,000. Expatriate workers send large amounts of their wages back home, and in 1997 these earnings amounted to US$1.5 billion or 9.5 percent of GDP. Foreign labor mostly comes from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, and in most cases these expatriates perform menial and physical jobs. In some cases they have managerial jobs. There are an estimated 30,000 young Omanis entering the workforce every year, and the government has realized that it can no longer provide jobs for the entire workforce. To this end, it has been pursuing a policy of "Omanization" whereby expatriate labor is slowly replaced by Omani labor. Foreigners are not allowed to work in agriculture or public relations, nor are they allowed to be Arabic typists, guards, or technical assistants unless the employer can show that no Omanis are capable of filling the position. Taxi drivers and fishermen must be Omani. In 1994 Oman joined the International Labor Organization (ILO). (This is a UN agency that seeks the promotion of social justice and human and labor rights.) As a consequence, Oman must follow international standards covering a wide range of issues in the world of work, including certain basic human rights, the abolition of forced labor, the elimination of discrimination in employment, the employment of women, and the employment of children.

Oman's labor code lays out basic workers' rights and in 1998 the minimum wage was raised by the government and set at US$260 (100 riyals) per month plus US$52 (20 riyals) for transport costs and housing costs. However, the minimum wage does not apply to all occupations such as small businesses that employ fewer than 5 people, domestic servants, dependent family members working in a family business, and some manual labor jobs. The government has been reluctant to enforce the minimum wage for foreign workers employed in menial jobs. In contrast, the foreign workers who are highly skilled and in managerial positions are often paid much more than their Omani counterparts. The working week is 5 days in the public sector and 5 and a half days in the private sector. Non-Omanis working in construction, retail , in the personal service outlets, or in the petroleum fields usually work a 7-day week.

Foreign men and women employed in manual labor or as domestic servants have made official complaints in the past about employers withholding salaries and inhumane treatment. In many cases the government has been unhelpful or undertaken investigative procedures that have been detrimental to the employee concerned, which clearly goes directly against the principles of the International Labor Organization. Employers who mistreat their foreign domestic servants are not always held accountable for their actions and several foreign women working in Oman have been forced to contact their governments' embassies to seek shelter and escape from abuse.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1921. Treaty of Sib is signed, which marks the British takeover of the government of Oman. A council of Ministers governs with British advisers and the British take control of customs revenue. Also during this time, new Western strategic interests develop in Oman in the form of air routes and oil prospecting.

1951. British recognize Oman as an independent state.

1962. Oil is discovered.

1967. Oil production starts.

1970. Sultan Sa'id is overthrown by his own son, Qa-boos Bin Sa'id, in a palace coup. Sultan Qaboos liberalizes the political system, and starts many development projects. Oman is plagued by civil war.

1980. Military agreement signed with the United States which reflects the Western strategic interest in Oman for the planning of rapid deployment force capabilities to secure Western access to gulf oil.

1981. Oman forms the Gulf Cooperation. This agreement is signed between the 6 conservative monarchies of the Gulf: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emi-rates, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar to coordinate their economic, political, cultural, and security policy.

1991. Sultan Qaboos expands and restructures Oman's consultative council.

1994. Oman joins the International Labor Organization (ILO).

1999. Oman is included in the International Finance Corporation's emerging market index. Electronic trading is introduced.

2000. Oman becomes a member of the World Trade Organization.

FUTURE TRENDS

Oman looks to the future with both pessimism and optimism. The pessimism comes from the certainty that the country's major source of revenueoilwill run out before the year 2020. Oil accounted for the great majority of Oman's exports and GDP ever since it was discovered in the early 1960s. The oil boom had a widespread impact on the economy: it allowed Oman to provide jobs for many of its people in the public sector, it allowed the country to import labor to perform the least wanted jobs in the economy, and it allowed Oman to avoid developing other industries. With the coming decline of the oil economy, Oman must seek alternative means for economic development.

Fortunately, Oman's government has taken a number of steps to ease the country into new economic patterns. The government plans to develop the production of its natural gas and other non-oil energy-based industries. Its 4 previous 5-year plans have been successful and the current 5-year plan focuses on the private sector as the catalyst for non-petroleum economic growth. The government is moving ahead with privatization of its utilities, the development of a body of commercial law to facilitate foreign investment, and increased budgetary outlays. However, Oman will have to continue to liberalize its markets in conjunction with its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Managing the transition from an oil-based to a more diversified economy will not be easy. Even though Oman has a reputation for stability and cooperation, the country's future success is likely to depend on the wisdom and political will of the country's leaders.

DEPENDENCIES

Oman has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Chatty, Dawn. Mobile Pastoralists: Development Planning and Social Change in Oman. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Oman, 2000. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999. Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, 1999.

Skeet, Ian. Oman: Politics and Development. London: Macmillan, 1992.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000: Oman. <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/mu.html>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Oman. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_ guides/2000/nea/index.html>. Accessed February 2001.

World Bank. World Development Report 2000/2001: Attacking Poverty. <http://www.worldbank.org/poverty/wdrpoverty/report/index.htm>. Accessed February 2001.

Salamander Davoudi

CAPITAL:

Muscat.

MONETARY UNIT:

Omani riyal (OR). One OR equals 1,000 baiza. Coins are in denominations of 500, 250, 200, 100, 50, 25, 10, and 5 baiza. Paper currency comes in denominations of OR50, 20, 10, 5, and 1, as well as 500, 250, 200, and 100 baiza.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Petroleum, re-exports, fish, metals, and textiles.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, livestock, and lubricants.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$19.6 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$7.63 billion (f.o.b., 1997 est.). Imports: US$5.682 billion (f.o.b., 1997 est.).

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Oman

OMAN

Sultanate of Oman

Major City:
Muscat

Other Cities:
Matrah, Salālah

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated July 1994. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

OMAN , known as Muscat and Oman before 1970, was once the most powerful of all the Arabian states. At the beginning of the 19th century, it controlled Zanzibar and much of the coast of Persia and Baluchistan, and it was only in 1958 that the last of its vast holdings, the town of Gwadar, was ceded to Pakistan. It does, however, maintain control of the Strait of Hormuz, through which flows much of the oil for the West.

The early history of Oman is obscure, but it is known that it was one of the first countries converted to Islam by Amir ibn al-As in the seventh century, during the lifetime of Mohammed (or Muhammad). In 1508, the Portuguese conquered parts of Oman's coastal region, and that country's influence dominated the sultanate for more than a century (with a short interruption of Turkish seizure). Oman today is an absolute monarchy, which has survived periods of insurgency and tribal revolt, and which is intent on developing its economy and upgrading its social and educational standards. It maintains close relations with Great Britain, and is a reliable ally of the United States.

MAJOR CITY

Muscat

The Muscat (Masqat) capital/commercial area (including the cities of Ruwi and Qurum), with an estimated population of 635,000, consists of a series of towns and neighborhoods strung along the Gulf of Oman for more than 50 miles. Only one of these is old Muscat, the original seat of government and still the site of one of the sultan's palaces.

Old Muscat lies between the sea and stark, brown cliffs that rise to a height of 1,500 feet. The harbor is dominated by Forts Mirani and Jalali, built by the Portuguese in the 15th and 16th centuries. The winding streets and the wall surrounding the old city have retained much of their medieval style and flavor.

About three miles from Muscat is Oman's retail commercial center, the city of Matrah. It is also the site of the country's major seaport, Port Mina Qaboos.

Just beyond Matrah is Ruwi Valley. Because of Muscat's limited land area, most government ministries and commercial enterprises have established themselves here. This section also has become the site of much residential construction.

The expansion of the capital area in recent years has brought rapid development to places beyond Ruwi as well. The suburbs of Qurum and Madinat Qaboos are becoming important residential areas. Many ministries are located in the latter.

Despite new road construction and the opening of a limited-access highway from Qurum to Matrah, congestion is a problem in the capital area and, during peak hours, traffic often slows or comes to a halt.

Food

Numerous grocery stores in Oman offer a reasonably wide range of products, although seasonal variations and occasional shortages occur. Quality and freshness are generally below U.S. standards; food is relatively expensive.

Clothing

Cotton summer clothing can be worn throughout the year. However, blends of cotton and polyester retain heat, and are comfortable only in the cooler season. One or two outfits for occasional cool winter evenings are recommended.

Although more items are becoming available locally, do not expect to buy needed clothing here, especially shoes. Some Americans have been successful in locating local tailors, but get recommendations before trying one.

Westerners find that lightweight slacks with shirt and tie (skirts and blouses for women), or single-knit safari suits are appropriate for office wear. Lightweight suits are needed for some business events or evening wear.

Women wear caftans, street-length cotton skirts, dresses, or dressy slacks to social functions in the evenings. The caftans and skirts are also recommended for souk shopping or beach cover-up, and simple cotton versions may be purchased locally at reasonable prices. Only a limited supply of appropriate foot-wear is available. Children's clothing, particularly shoes and swimwear, is in extremely short supply.

Omani men commonly wear a long straight robe called a dishdasha, usually white but sometimes pastel. For ceremonial occasions, the dishdasha is worn with a decorated belt adorned in front with a large, curved knife in an ornate, silver sheath called a khanjar. Affluent Omanis wear the dishdasha with a gold-trimmed black robe called a bisht. The head covering is either a small, embroidered cap or a loosely wound turban (musarr or emama ).

The women of Oman generally wear brightly patterned blouses and pantaloons, covered by long, head-to-toe black capes. Some of them wear the traditional face veil, but most use no face covering. A face mask, common to women of the Batinah coast, is rarely seen in the capital area. Jewelry, usually silver, is worn in profusion.

A few Omani social customs involving dress include swimwear being worn only at hotel pools; women should wear skirts of reasonable length and avoid shorts, sundresses, and sleeveless outfits; and men should wear slacks and shirt to work and in public, never shorts or shirtless.

Supplies & Services

Most toiletries, cosmetics, nonprescription drugs, and household and entertainment items are available. However, specific brand names may not be available.

Several women's hair stylists and a few barbers are satisfactory. One or two dry cleaners do acceptable work, but shoe repair facilities are limited. The cost of services generally compares to, or exceeds, U.S. prices.

Education

The American British Academy, founded in 1987, is a coeducational day school sponsored by the American Embassy. Grades are from pre-kindergarten to grade 12.

The curriculum is designed to meet the needs of both British and American academic programs. The school offers the International Baccalaureate program, which is recognized in many countries for university entrance.

Several private English-speaking nursery schools accept children from three years of age. Space is limited and the schools usually have waiting lists, but most parents have been able to place their children in a satisfactory school.

Recreation

With the exception of outings sponsored by the Historical Association, few organized touring and sight-seeing activities are available in Oman. However, the country's interesting archaeological, historical, scenic, and cultural sights appeal to photographers and artists. Many towns have fortresses in excellent condition. Interesting sights within a day's drive of Muscat include the ancient capitals of Rustaq, Nizwa, and Sohar. Colorful Arab bazaars, called souks, are found in all but the smallest villages.

Four first-class local hotels have swimming pool facilities open to nonresidents for a yearly fee. Among other facilities offered at the hotels are lighted tennis courts and air-conditioned squash courts. One hotel has a bowling alley, another has six; some have a sports club with an equipped gym and a sauna.

Soccer and field hockey are the only organized sports which Omanis regularly play. The most popular form of recreation is water sports. Swimming, snorkeling, water-skiing, windsurfing, and skin diving are available. Collectors are rewarded with an abundance of beautiful sea shells. Many beaches lie along the coast, and others are accessible by boat.

Oman offers both deep-sea and surf fishing. The sea abounds in a wide variety of fish, both large and small.

Camping and hiking are also popular; the hot weather eliminates the need for tents, particularly if mosquito netting is used.

Entertainment

Europeans and Americans frequent restaurants at the airport and at the large hotels. There also are numerous Indian restaurants as well as two Chinese, an Italian, a French, and a few Arab restaurants where Westerners meet. The hotels often provide entertainment and music for dancing.

Local movie theaters feature Indian films. Omani television has one or two English programs a week, and occasionally presents an English film.

The American Women's Club meets monthly, offering a wide range of social activities to its members. An amateur drama group occasionally produces plays, and the Muscat Singers give concerts.

For the American and European community in Muscat, the main social activity informal dinners or gatherings, primarily with other members of the non-Omani community, as well as taking advantage of the "specials" frequently offered at the major hotels. Omanis attend both formal and informal gatherings, but most Omani men are not accompanied by their wives.

The Department of Tourism is part of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The mailing address is P.O. Box 550, Muscat, Oman.

OTHER CITIES

MATRAH (also spelled Mutrah and Muttrah), just west of Muscat on the Gulf of Oman, is the country's principal port and commercial center. There is an important fish market in the city, and shipbuilding is significant. Caravans to the interior begin here, carrying commodities such as fruits and fish. Oman's oil terminal is located three miles outside of town; the city opened its modern port facilities in the late 1970s. The population is more than 129,000.

SALĀLAH is the trading hub of the Dhofar area in the south, about 80 miles east of the border with the Republic of Yemen. The explorer Marco Polo (1254-1324) depicted Salālah as a prosperous city in the 13th century. It had been renowned since ancient times for its frankincense. The sultan of Oman took over the vicinity in the 1800s. Government construction has included a hotel and a hospital. A paved road links the city to the north; there also is an international airport, completed in 1978. The population in Salālah is approximately 10,000.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

Oman occupies the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered on the north by the United Arab Emirates, on the northwest by Saudi Arabia, on the southwest by the Republic of Yemen, and on the southeast by the Gulf of Oman. With an area of slightly more than 100,000 square miles, it is about the size of Colorado.

Oman has three distinct topographical features. The first consists of two flat, relatively fertile coastal strips up to 20 miles wideone in the north stretching from Muscat to the border with the U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates), and one surrounding the southern coastal town of Salālah. The second feature includes two mountainous regionsone in the north, with elevations ranging from several hundred feet to the craggy peaks of Jebel Akhdar at 10,000 feet, and the other bordering the Salālah plain in the south. Both are deeply scarred throughout with dry stream beds called wadis. The third feature is sandy wasteland, mainly in the Rub'Al Khali (the Empty Quarter) along the border with Saudi Arabia; this area is almost devoid of inhabitants.

Oman's climate is one of the hottest in the world. Temperatures reach 130°F in summer months, from April to September, and rarely drop below 65°F in the cooler season, from October to March. Rainfall averages only four or five inches annually, and occurs from December to March or April. Nevertheless, humidity averages 65 to 80%. Summer monsoons create a more tropical climate in the south.

Population

Oman's population numbers over two million, of whom 1.6 million are Omanis. Omanis are a people of two dominant ethnic stocksthe Qahtan, immigrants from southern Arabia, and the Nizar, from the north. Its long history of trading, and its former colonies on the coasts of Africa and the Indian subcontinent have produced a population of extraordinary range and diversity. Arabs predominate, but communities from India and Pakistan also inhabit Oman.

Arabic is the official and most widely spoken language, but Hindi, Urdu, Swahili, and local dialects are also used. English is spoken by many officials in the Omani Government and by the majority of merchants dealing with the expatriate community.

Most Omanis are Ibadhi or Sunni Muslims, and there is a small but influential Shi'a minority. There is also a small Hindu population.

More than 50% of the population is engaged in fishing or subsistence farming. Literacy is about 35%.

Omanis are reserved, but friendly. They have a strong sense of hospitality and often share coffee, tea, dates, or halwa (a sweet, honey-colored dessert) with guests. Although many Omanis observe prohibitions against alcohol and tobacco, they are seldom offended by their offer. Most abstain from eating pork.

A number of social customs are observed in Oman including using only the right hand when eating, never asking questions concerning another's family members, always dressing in modest attire, and never allowing the sole of the foot to be exposed towards a host. It is polite to accept the refreshments offered to visitors, which is a national custom.

Government

The Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said, is an absolute monarch who rules with the aid of his ministers. The sultanate has no constitution, legislature, or legal political parties, although an appointed Consultative Council was formed in October 1981, and in 1991 he replaced that body with one whose members were nominated by traditional leaders from each district of the country.

Except for decrees from the sultan and recently established police and commercial courts, the legal system is based almost exclusively on the Shari'ah (The Koranic laws and oral teaching of Muhammad). Jurisdiction is exercised by qadis (men versed in the religious code). Petty courts have been established to deal with minor matters such as traffic offenses. In less populated areas and among the Bedouin, tribal custom often is the only law, although a system of primary courts is making inroads into the interior. In 1987, a "flying court" service was initiated to serve these isolated areas.

For administrative purposes, the country is divided into wilayats (districts). These are presided over by walis (governors), appointed by the minister of the interior, who oversees all administrative tasks in the area and provides the main link between the people and the central government.

Oman is one of the Gulf region's most stable countries and Sultan Qaboos has proven an able and popular monarch. While maintaining a low profile during the Persian Gulf War, the country allowed Western military organizations use of its air bases.

Oman became a member of the United Nations in 1971. The country is also a member of the Arab League, Gulf Cooperation Council, World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and several other international bodies.

The flag of the Sultanate of Oman is red, white, and green. The vertical red band on the staff is embossed with a white emblem consisting of a sheathed dagger superimposed on crossed swords, and the rest of the flag has horizontal bands of white and green divided by a red stripe.

Arts, Science, Education

The Omanis have long been renowned for their craftsmanship in everything from silver-and goldsmithing to boatbuilding. Oman is perhaps most famous for its national symbol, the khanjar an ornate, curved dagger embossed in silver and still worn in the interior and on special occasions. Other handicrafts include weaving, pottery, and boat-building, with the famous Omani dhows still being handmade in Sur.

Traditional art forms such as singing and dancing are seen mostly in the interior. Western culture has made inroads, mostly in the capital area, but Islamic and Omani culture and customs still prevail.

Oman has greatly stressed the importance of scientific and technical advance, especially since the accession of Sultan Qaboos in 1970. In 1986, Sultan Qaboos University opened its doors to both men and women students. There are five colleges within the university: Education and Islamic Sciences, Agriculture, Engineering, Science and Medicine, and Arts. It boasts modern facilities and a highly qualified staff, including American and European professors. Many Omanis also go abroad each year to further their education, often to the U.K. or U.S.

Education is not compulsory. Students may start primary school at six years of age and finish at age 12. Six years of secondary education follows. Less than 25 years ago, Oman had 16 primary and no secondary schools. By 1998, there were 411 primary schools with about 313,000 students. Teachers are primarily Egyptian, Jordanian, and Sudanese.

Commerce and Industry

Although Oman is a relatively small oil producer at 850,000 barrels of crude per day, oil revenues account for 90% of the nation's total export revenues, and 77% of total government revenues (2000 est.). Oman was the last of the Arab Gulf states to become a major producer of oil for export; it is also not a member of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), but has complied with OPEC policies.

However, analysts have predicted that Oman's oil reserves will last for only about 18 years. With this in mind, the government hopes to diversify its economy by developing natural gas sales.

Since the accession of Sultan Qaboos in 1970, Oman has concentrated on development of an infrastructure. The country now has an excellent highway system, modern airports at Seeb and Salālah, and deep-water ports at Mina Qaboos and Raysut. Large industrial projects underway include a copper mining and smelting operation, an oil refinery, and cement plants. An industrial zone at Rusail will be the showcase for a variety of new light industries. At the same time, the government is seeking to develop the agriculture and fisheries sectors, from which about 60% of the Omani population still derive their livelihood.

Oman's prosperity was originally concentrated in the area surrounding Muscat, but an increasing number of government services are available to the inhabitants of the interior. Virtually everything in the Omani economy is imported. The U.S. trade relationship is minor. The United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates are Oman's most important import sources; major export destinations are Japan and South Korea.

Like other countries in the region, Oman relies on imported labor to carry out its development plans. The expatriate work force is estimated at over 400,000. The majority of foreign nationals in Oman work in construction, trade, or agriculture; and the majority of expatriates are Indian or Pakistan nationals. The government has made a substantial investment in education and as a result Omanis are now employed in occupations once held only by expatriates.

In recent years, the government has attempted to diversify the economy and to emphasize private industry. Because of its limited population (and therefore a small market for goods), the intent is for industry to provide materials for export. A number of incentives have been provided by the government and foreign investment is being encouraged. While there continue to be large numbers of British and subcontinental technical advisers and managers, some Americans are finding positions in both the government and the private sector.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry can be reached at P.O. Box 550, Muscat; the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, at P.O. Box 4400, Ruwi, Muscat.

Transportation

Oman's major general-cargo port is the 1.5-million-ton capacity Port Mina Qaboos, located in Matrah. Although Oman does not receive direct service from American shipping lines, it does receive regularly scheduled foreign-flag service from the U.S. east coast. Port Mina Qaboos has far less congestion than other ports in the Gulf.

Seeb International Airport is served by 18 international carriers. British Airways, Kuwait Airways, UTA, Pakistan International, Air India, Saudia, Gulf Air, MEA, KLM, Air Lanka, Thai International, Sudan Airways, Biman Bangladesh, Air Tanzania, Egyptair, Kenya Airways, Royal Jordanian, and TWA provide service to many major cities. British Airways and Gulf Air provide direct flights to London. The other carriers connect Muscat with Africa, Asia, and major Middle East cities. Connecting service is available from New York and Washington, DC on Gulf Air and TWA. An international airport also is located at Salālah. Gulf Air and Oman Aviation operate daily domestic routes to serve other towns in the country. Permission to fly to Salālah must be obtained from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Bus service is available for the 25-mile trip from Muscat to Seeb Airport, and to Sohar, Nizwa, Rustaq, and several other towns in the interior. The bus trip from Muscat to Salālah takes about 12 hours.

There are taxis at the airport and at the larger hotels in Muscat. Finding an unengaged taxi at other locations in the city can be difficult. Fares are generally high; there are no meters so fares should be negotiated in advance. Most taxi drivers do not speak English. Omanis and third-country workers reduce the cost by sharing taxis with other riders.

Local bus service is available, but public transportation routes operate only along major thoroughfares and none go into the area where most Americans and Europeans live. Fares are based on distance traveled. Women seldom use local buses. Visitors should not use the bus system.

Cars may be rented by the day or week. Both an international and valid national driver's license are necessary.

Private cars provide the only practical and dependable means of transportation within the country. Because the city is spread out over a large area and public transportation is inadequate, a car is a necessity. Air conditioning is a necessity.

Oman's more than 3,000 miles of paved roads include four roads from the capital area to the U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates) border, and others to Nizwa, Ibra, Rustaq, Salālah, Sur, and other interior towns. An additional 750 miles of graded roads may be traveled by standard passenger cars, but all other roads and trails require four-wheel-drive or high-wheel-base vehicles. Driving is on the right. Right-hand-drive vehicles are not allowed to be registered. There is no railway system here.

Communications

International telephone and telegraph facilities are available, although delays occur. International direct dialing is available. The local telephone system is quite good. Depending on the area, new subscribers may wait up to three months for telephone installation. Telex service is available at major hotels and at the Public Telex Office in Ruwi. Fax is widely used in place of mail service.

International airmail is generally reliable, and arrives in five to eight days from the U.S. However, newspapers and magazines are subject to censorshipmainly to restrict entry of pornography and items considered politically offensiveand may take considerably longer for delivery.

The local FM radio station broadcasts in English from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Standard broadcast-band reception is limited mostly to nearby Arab countries broadcasting in Arabic, but also includes about six hours a day in English from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in London, relayed from Masirah Island in the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Oman. A shortwave receiver is the only way of ensuring regular Voice of America (VOA) or other English-language reception. A wide range of receivers may be bought locally.

Television programs, most of them in color, are aired from 3:00 p.m. to about 11 p.m., but often run beyond midnight. Most programming is in Arabic, although a few American TV programs and one movie with Arabic subtitles are shown weekly on an irregular basis. A 15-minute English-language news program airs daily at 8 p.m.

English-language periodicals that are regularly available a few days after publication are Time, Newsweek, The Economist, Events, and Middle East International. London daily newspapers, such as the Express and the Times, are available in Oman about three to four days after publication. The International Herald Tribune arrives between one and three days after publication.

The Oman Daily Observer and the weekly Times of Oman (both in English) can be bought at newsstands. Also available is the daily Khaleej Times from the U.A.E.

Health and Medicine

Most resident Americans in Muscat use Al Khoula Hospital (surgical/maternity) or Al Nahdha Hospital (medical) for emergencies or for simple treatment. Those with serious ailments usually go for treatment in Europe. The Royal Hospital has recently opened and is available for obstetrical/maternity care, as well as other types of treatments. There are several private clinics (one staffed with Swedish physicians, a second with British) that resident Americans also use for medical care.

For minor problems or treatment, Oman has several qualified physicians with advanced training in the U.S. or in the United Kingdom. These doctors, however, have long hours and a heavy work load in the Omani Government hospitals, and are not always available.

Some local medical facilities that have modern equipment often lack qualified personnel. Hygiene, in many cases, is inadequate. Oman's dental facilities generally fall below U.S. standards. However, Oman has two qualified dental facilities: a French facility that provides routine care and a British facility that provides care comparable to U.S. standards. Orthodontic care and oral surgery are available.

Oman's sanitation level is low by American standards. Incidence of bacillary dysentery, infectious hepatitis, and intestinal worms exists, although the frequency has diminished sharply in recent years, especially in the capital area.

Malaria exists; there is a 5% chance of contracting malaria in the capital area; 20% in other areas of Oman.

Many Omanis also suffer from poliomyelitis, meningococcal infection, trachoma and tuberculosis. Dust conditions aggravate respiratory ailments. Typhoid is still common.

Oman has no municipal sewage system, and the roughly constructed septic tanks are a constant threat of contamination to the water supply. Garbage is collected regularly from open cubicles in various locations throughout Muscat. Flies are somewhat controlled by periodic spraying. Mosquitoes and other insects, especially cockroaches, are common, as are rats in some areas.

Americans are strongly advised to maintain inoculation schedules for typhoid, tetanus, and poliomyelitis prevention. Gamma globulin also is recommended. Malaria suppressants (Chloroquine) should be started two weeks before arrival, and continued for the duration of the stay and for four weeks after departure, and ending with a final two week course of Primaquine. Drinking water should be filtered and boiled, and uncooked vegetables and fruits soaked in water containing bleach or Milton (available locally). Close supervision of domestics' hygiene and kitchen routines is necessary.

Sanitation standards at the leading restaurants catering to expatriates, and in the restaurants of major hotels, appear to be adequate.

Most drugs are available locally, but often not the American equivalent. A six-month supply of regularly prescribed medication is advised for long-term visitors.

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

Passage, Customs and Duties

A valid passport and visa are required. Omani embassies and consulates issue two-year, multiple-entry tourist and/or business visas to qualified American citizens. "No objection certificates" for entry into Oman may also be arranged through an Omani sponsor. Certain categories of visitors may qualify to obtain a visa upon arrival at a port of entry. Evidence of yellow fever immunization is required if the traveler enters from an infected area. For further information on entry requirements, contact the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, 2535 Belmont Road N.W., Washington, D.C., telephone (202) 387-1980, 1981 or 1982.

Travelers entering Oman may not carry with them, or bring into the country in accompanied baggage, firearms, ammunition, or pornography; all are subject to seizure if found. No more than one bottle of liquor is permitted per non-Muslim adult. Unaccompanied baggage and shipments of household goods are subject to inspection. Books, videotapes, and audiotapes may be reviewed prior to being released to the owner. A copy of the packing list is required to clear effects through customs. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Omani employers often ask that expatriate employees deposit their passports with the company as a condition of employment. Although customary, this practice is not required by Omani law. The U.S. Embassy in Muscat advises Americans to exercise caution in agreeing to employer confiscation of passports, since this operates as a restraint on travel and could give undue leverage to the employer in a dispute.

U.S. citizens living in or visiting Oman are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and obtain updated information on travel and security within Oman. The U.S. Embassy in Oman is located on Jameat A'Duwal Al Arabiya Street, Al Khuwair area, in the capital city of Muscat, P.O. Box 202, Medinat Al Sultan Qaboos 115, Sultanate of Oman, telephone (968) 698-989, fax (968) 699-189. The Embassy's e-mail address is [email protected], and its web site can be visited at http://www.usa.gov.om/.

Pets

Pets entering Oman require an import permit from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Department of Animal Health, before shipment. Forms may be obtained from the Ministry through one's sponsor and must be submitted with a copy of the pet's rabies vaccination record and a health certificate. Vaccination against rabies is required no less than one month and no more than six months before the travel date. There are additional vaccination requirements for dogs and cats less than 30 days old. A second health certificate dated 48 hours before the pet travels is also required. Pets may be subjected to a six-month quarantine, although this is usually not required when importing the pet from a rabies-free country. Pets must be manifested as cargo on an airway bill when transported by air.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

The unit of currency is the Omani rial, divided into 1,000 baizas. The rial is pegged to the American dollar. American and American-affiliated banks include Citibank, Grindley's (Citibank), National Bank of Oman (Bank of America), and the Bank of Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait (Chemical Bank).

The metric system of weights and measures is used. Highway signs are in both Arabic and English, and give distances and speeds in kilometers.

The time in Oman is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) plus four.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Nov. 18 National Day

Nov. 19 Birthday of HM Sultan Qaboos

Id al-Adha*

Hijra New Year*

Mawlid an Nabi*

Lailat al Miraj*

Ramadan*

Id al Fitr*

*variable, based on the Islamic calendar

RECOMMENDED READING

The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Akehurst, John. We Won a War: The Campaign in Oman 1965-75. London: Michael Russell, 1982.

Allen, Calvin H. Oman: the Modernization of the Sultanate. London: Croom Helm, 1987.

Barth, Fredrich. Sohar: Culture and Society in an Omani Town. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.

Clements, F.A. Oman: The Reborn Land. London: Longman, 1980.

Cottrell, Alvin J., ed. The Persian Gulf States. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1980.

Fenelon, K.G. The United Arab Emirates. 2nd ed. London: Longman, 1976.

Fiennes, Ranulph. Where Soldiers Fear To Tread. London: Hodder Stoughton, 1975.

Graz, Liesl. The Omanis: Sentinels of the Gulf. New York: Longman, 1982.

Hawley, Donald. Oman and Its Renaissance. London: Stacey International, 1977.

Landen, Robert G. Oman Since 1856. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967.

Miles, S.B. The Countries and Tribes of the Persian Gulf. 3rd ed. London: Frank Cass, 1966.

Peterson, J.E. Oman in the Twentieth Century. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1978.

Skeet, Ian. Muscat and Oman, the End of an Era. London: Faber & Faber, 1985.

Thesiger, Wilfred. Arabian Sands. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.

Townsend, John. Oman: The Making of a Modern State. London: Croom Helm, 1977.

Ward, Philip. Travels in Oman: on the Track of the Early Explorers. Cambridge: Oleander Press, 1986.

Wikan, U. Behind the Veil in Arabia: Women in Oman. London: John Hopkins Press, 1982.

Wilkinson, John C. The Imamate Tradition of Oman. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

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Oman

Oman

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Sultanate of Oman
Region: Middle East
Population: 2,533,389
Language(s): Arabic, English, Baluchi, Urdu
Literacy Rate: 80%
Number of Primary Schools: 411
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 4.5%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 313,516
  Secondary: 217,246
  Higher: 16,032
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 76%
  Secondary: 67%
  Higher: 8%
Teachers: Primary: 12,052
  Secondary: 12,436
  Higher: 1,307
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 26:1
  Secondary: 18:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 74%
  Secondary: 66%
  Higher: 7%

History & Background

Located in the Middle East, Oman, officially known as the Sultanate of Oman, borders Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. Its bordering waterways include the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf. Oman is 82,030 square miles (1,374 kilometers) large. Its capital and largest city is Muscat.

Oman has a mixture of ethnic groups including people of Arab, Baluchi, South Asian, and African decent. Its official language is Arabic, but English, Indian dialects, Baluchi, and Urdu are spoken as well. Its primary religion is Islam.

Oman gained its independence during its expulsion of the Portuguese in 1650. Its government is a monarchy, and the legal system is based on a combination of English common law and Islamic law. Although Oman is an independent state under the sultan, it has been under British protection since the early nineteenth century.

Even though it is an active member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Oman's borders were once sealed to the outside world, with Muscat's gates closing shut at sunset. In 1970, however, things changed drastically; Sultan Qabus bin Said overthrew his father, Sultan Sa'id ibn Timur, as the sultan and began to use money that came from the oil surplus to build schools, houses, roads, and improve the environment. The young sultan also made health and education free.


Educational SystemOverview

In 1970 there were only three official (governmentrun) schools in the country of Oman, with slightly more than 900 pupils. In fact, these three schools were reserved for boys that were personally chosen by the former sultan. In addition to these official schools, there was a religious institute with an enrollment of about 50 boys, three private schools for Hyderabadis (Indians), and one U.S. missionary school for 50 girls. Schools were, and continue to be, segregated by gender in Oman; the exception to this is rural schools where a lack of facility space requires gender-mixed schools.

In contrast to small enrollments and a few schools in 1970, by 1998 there were more than 950 government schools, 84 private schools, 192 adult education schools, and 228 literacy centers. In addition to these educational facilities, a special school for children with hearing impairments and a special school for children with intellectual impairments were established in the 1980s. However, by 1998, a special school for children with visual impairments had not yet been established, resulting in many of these students being sent to neighboring countries to get an education.

In 1970 the adult illiteracy rate, according to the Europa World Yearbook 2000, was at a high of 80 percent. By 1994, under the leadership of Sultan Qabus, who made the expansion of the school system a national priority, government education expenditures rose to 4.5 percent of GNP and had grown to represent 15.5 percent of all government expenditures. By 1995 adult illiteracy had dropped to 36 percent, and government literacy centers had been successful in helping to correct illiteracy problem. By 2000 the illiteracy rate had dropped further nearing about 20 percent.


Preprimary & Primary Education


In 1993, there were no government established nursery schools. As Oman's society continues to develop and grow, more women are entering the workplace, thus creating a growing need for government-supported nursery schools. Although there were some nongovernmental schools, the government had not taken steps in that area. Part of this can be explained by Omani culture, which supports children being cared for by their parents or extended family members. However, since more Omani women are continuing their education and pursuing professional roles, added nursery schools will be useful.

Overall, education in Oman is based on a 6-3-3 system, which means six years of primary education, three years of preparatory education, and three years of secondary education. Primary education begins at age six and continues for six years. Primary education is not compulsory, however, despite it not being compulsory, there are a growing number of Omani children who are attending due to a widespread support of education. At the primary level, students learn basic skills. Primary education enrollment was 76 percent of all relevant age-group children in 1997. Once children successfully complete primary education, they are promoted to their first grade of the preparatory level.


Secondary Education

Following primary education, pupils who successfully complete that level advance to the next level of education, which is divided into two equal parts called preparatory and secondary education, lasting a total of six years. The first preparatory schools were established in 1972. One was designated for boys and one for girls. Preparatory schools often share facilities with either a primary or secondary school. At the preparatory level, students may choose from four specific options: general education, health sciences, military studies, or vocational training. At the end of preparatory education, students take a national examination. If they successfully pass it, they are enrolled in secondary education. However, if they do not pass, they are not eligible to re-enroll as regular students.

The first secondary school opened during the 1973-1974 academic year with an enrollment of 25 students. By 1985, there were more than 12,000 secondary students in Oman. Although secondary education levels still have lower enrollments than primary education (67 percent enrollment), this rate has been growing. Secondary education has two options, general education, which prepares pupils for the university, or a vocational education, which prepares pupils for careers. General education provides one year of basic academic subjects and two years in the humanities or sciences. The specialized vocational education includes basic academic subjects, but emphasizes Islamic, commercial, agricultural, industrial, or teacher training.

During the 1998-1999 academic school year, a new system was initiated, which consisted of ten years of basic education and two years of secondary education. This was introduced to 17 schools with the intent of gradually implementing this change throughout the country.


Higher Education

Oman's first university, Sultan Qaboos University, was founded in 1985 and opened in 1986. Its academic year begins in September and ends in May. The university is made up of five colleges: Education and Islamic Sciences, Science, Medicine, Agriculture, and Engineering. In 1998 there were more than 6,000 students attending the university. In addition to Sultan Qaboos University, the Europa World Yearbook 2000 identified eight teacher-training colleges, eight Islamic colleges, and nine vocational institutesincluding institutes for health sciences, banking, and technical institutes. There have also been great gains in the area of adult literacy, and education centers have been established.


Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Oman's education system is governed by the Council for Education, which is chaired by the sultan and operated by the Ministry of Education and Youth. With continued government support, the total number of pupils in state education had grown from 909 pupils in 1970 to 528,400 between 1995-1996, with 24,100 teachers to instruct them in 965 schools. By 1997 there were 967 schools identified at the primary, preparatory, and secondary levels, not including 106 private kindergartens and schools regulated by the Ministry of Education. Plans were initiated in 1997 to further develop technical, agricultural, and artistic/craft training at the intermediate and secondary levels.

The state has endeavored to make education available to all by providing free public education and encouraging the growth of private educational programs. Despite all of these government endeavors, education is not compulsory, which ultimately impacts the national literacy rate. Even though Oman's literacy rate is much better than many countries, the literacy rate would be expected to grow even more with a compulsory education system.


Teaching Profession

Training for Omani primary level teachers was first initiated in 1976. From there, training for preparatory and secondary education teachers was established. By 1984, the intermediate colleges for male and female teachers were established; intermediate colleges accept secondary education graduates and train them to be teachers, focusing on developing well-rounded teachers who have both scientific and educational backgrounds and an ability to be leaders in their communities.

By the mid-1980s the government began to put a greater emphasis on teacher training to reduce its dependency on foreign staff. In 1980-1981 only 11 percent of the teaching staff were native Omanis. Although this number has increased since then, having indigenous Omani teachers continues to be a national agenda.


Summary

Oman has made great growth in its general educational arena and literacy improvements; however, growth in technological supports that facilitate educational advances have been slowerthe type and amount of instructional technology that teachers receive varies greatly. Even at the higher education levels, the most common instructional media used by many teachers and a large portion of student teachers has been chalkboards, followed by lectures, printed materials, and the use of textbooks. The use of computer tools, including software and Internet sources has not been fully accessed, understood, or used. The use of more media in the Omani education system is still needed. In 1999, Oman had only one Internet service provider, which minimized the amount of global resources that pupils could receive and access.

In addition to the need for more technological and Internet resources, Oman is in greater need of library resources at all levels of the education system, including national. Library resources and facilities have been limited in content and sparsely populated.

As a whole, the educational system in Oman has improved tremendously under Sultan Qabus. The literacy rate has greatly improved, national resources have made educational support a priority, and teacher training has sought to better prepare teachers and to solicit more indigenous teachers from Oman. With added improvements in the area of technological resources, library expansion, and government nursery care, Oman's educational system will only grow stronger.


Bibliography

Abu-Jaber, Majed. "Student Teachers' Use of Instructional Media and its Implications at Sultan Qaboos University in the Sultanate of Oman." International Journal of Instructional Media 23, no. 1 (1996): 59-78.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2001. Available from http://www.cia.gov/.

Dahawy, Bayoumi Mohamed. "Pre-school Education in Egypt, Oman, and Japan: A Comparative Perspective." Research/Technical Reports (April 1993): 1-38.

The Europa World Yearbook 2000. Vol. 1. London: Europa Publications Limited, 2000.

Hadidi, Muna S.Z. "Education of Children with Vision Impairments in the Sultanate of Oman." International Journal of Disability, Development, and Education 45, no. 4 (December 1998): 423-429.

"Happy and Rich in an Omani Toytown." The Economist, 2 September 2000.


Karim, Bakri Musa A. "The Emergence of Libraries in the Sultanate of Oman." International Library Review 23, no.3 (September 1991): 229-236.

The Library of Congress. Country Studies: Area Handbook Series, 6 March 2001. Available from http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/cshome.html.

Razik, Taher A. "Evaluation of Curriculum The Case of Oman: Primary Level."Ministry of Education and Youth, 1987.


Kimberly A. Battle-Walters

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Oman

Oman

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Sultanate of Oman
Region (Map name): Middle East
Population: 2,533,389
Language(s): Arabic, English,Baluchi, Urdu
Literacy rate: 80%

Oman (Uman ) is situated in the southeastern portion of the Arabian Peninsula next to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is an independent sultanate (Sultanat Uman ) that has considerably upgraded its economic and social situation through various developments since a 1970 peaceful coup established Qa-boos bin Said al Said as sultan in place of his father. In light of its interest in technological progress and its historical relationship with Great Britain, Oman utilizes Western advisors in an attempt to provide itself with a buffer against its larger, better funded and historically aggressive neighbors.

Freedom of the press is guaranteed by law in Article 31 of Oman's Basic Statute. However, the exact wording leaves room for interpretations that can be antithetical to a free press, i.e., matter "leading to discord, harming the State's security or abusing human dignity or rights is prohibited."

There are six daily newspapers, four in Arabic and two in English. Those printed in Arabic are: Khaleej Times, Oman Daily Newspaper (with a circulation of 15,560), Ash-Shabibah, and Al-Watan (The Nation, 32,500). Those published in English are: The Oman Daily Observer (22,000;) and the Times of Oman (15,000).

There are approximately 20 periodicals published in the sultanate, a number of them by sections of the government. They include: Jund Oman (Soldiers of Oman, a monthly magazine of the Ministry of Defence), Al-Ghorfa (Oman Commerce, a bi-monthly with a circulation of 10,500 and published by Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry), Al-Omaniya (Omani Woman, a monthly with a circulation of 10,500), Oman Today (a bimonthly with a circulation of 20,000 that covers leisure and sports), Al-'Akidah (The Faith, a weekly with a circulation of 10,000 covering politics), Al-Mazari' (Farms, a weekly journal of the ministries of Agriculture and Fish-eries, and of Petroleum and Minerals).

Radio and television are overseen by the Ministry of Information. A director general of Radio and Television reports to the Minister of Information. The director general is responsible for complete oversight of operations. Radio and television media are entirely government funded; advertising is prohibited.

Radio Sultanate of Oman and Radio Salalah were both founded in 1970. Radio development was especially important to Oman in the 1970s to counteract anti-Omani propaganda being broadcast from Marxist South Yemen. In 2000 there were approximately 1.4 million radios in the country being broadcast to from three AM, nine FM, and two shortwave stations, and typically receiving broadcasts in Arabic, English and Dhofari. While Oman has no particular aspersions to become a broadcasting powerhouse in the region, programming is available in a few ways to outsiders. Those interested can listen to Omani radio utilizing either an Omani satellite channel on ARABSAT or via the Internet. In the future broadcasts may also be available on Egypt's NILESAT. INTELSAT also is available to Oman.

Omani television is as prevalent as radio, with about 1.4 million television sets reported in 2000. There are stations operating in both Muscat and Salalah, with 117 other television transmitters, many of them solar powered, throughout the country. The nodes of this network are connected by satellite. Local programming in Oman has the potential for greater influence than in some of the other Arab region states because the positioning of major cities in the state does not conflict with any other broadcast signals; there is no competition. The competition present comes from home videos and satellite television signals (satellite dish ownership is legally sanctioned). Omani state television imports less Western programming than some other Gulf states and tends to emphasize regionally contextual programming concerning faith, history, politics, social life and the like.

The British Broadcasting Company utilizes Masirah Island off the coast of Oman for a medium-wave relay station to boost the signal for its Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Pashtu, English and Urdu programming. The eventual plan is to move the relay station from the island to the Omani mainland. All of this is suggests an historical and continuing relationship between Oman and Great Britain.

Oman began Internet service in 1997 and recently boasted 50,000 users. Reporters Sans Frontieres notes that while the Internet has been a positive move for Oman, Web sites at times are blocked by OmanTelecommunications (OmanTel) since they are perceived as incompatible with Islam and/or too Westernized. Due to the government's wish to maintain control over this medium, there remains one Internet service provider for the entire country.

Bibliography

Al-Ghorfa (Oman Commerce). Available from www.omanchamber.org.

All the World's Newspapers. Available from www.webwombat.com.au/intercom/newsprs/index.htm .

Allen, Calvin H., and W.L. Rigsbee. Oman under Qa-boos: From Coup to Constitution, 1970-1996. London: Frank Cass, 2000.

Boyd, Douglas. Broadcasting in the Arab World: A Survey of the Electronic Media in the Middle East, 3rd edition. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1999.

Congressional Quarterly Inc. The Middle East, 9th ed. 2000. Washington, DC.

"Country Index." Atalpedia Online. Available from http://www.atlapedia.com/online/country_index .

Data and Statistics. World Bank. Available from http://www.worldbank.org/data/countrydata/countrydata.html .

Eickelman, Christine. Women and Community in Oman. New York: New York University Press, 1984.

International Press Institute. World Press Review. Available from http://www.freemedia.at/wpfr/world.html.

Kechichian, J. Oman and the World. Rand, 1997.

Kurian, George, ed. World Press Encyclopedia. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1982.

The Library of Congress. Country Studies. Available from http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/ .

Maher, Joanne, ed. Regional Surveys of the World: The Middle East and North Africa 2002, 48th ed. London: Europa Publications, 2001.

"Middle East Archives 2002." Reporters Sans Frontieres. Available from http://www.rsf.fr .

Ministry of Information. Available from http:// www.omanet.com .

"Oman." BBC News Country Profiles. Available from-http://news.bbc.co.uk/ .

"Oman." Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In The World Factbook 2001. Available: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/.

"Oman Annual Report 2002." Reporters Sans Frontieres. Available from http://www.rsf.fr .

Radio Sultanate of Oman. Available from http://www.oman-radio.gov.om .

Redmon, Clare, ed. Willings Press Guide 2002, vol. 2. Chesham Bucks, UK: Waymaker Ltd, 2002.

Russell, Malcom. The Middle East and South Asia 2001, 35th ed. Harpers Ferry, WV: United Book Press, Inc., 2001.

Stat-USA International Trade Library: Country Background Notes. Available from http://www.stat-usa.gov.

Sumner, Jeff, ed. Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media, Vol. 5, 136th ed. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2002.

UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Available from www.uis.unesco.org.

World Desk Reference. Available from www.travel.dk.com/wdr.

Zahlan, Rosmarie Said, and Roger Owen. The Making of the Modern Gulf States: Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman. Reading: Ithaca Press, 1997.

Clint B. Thomas Baldwin

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Oman

OMAN

arabian peninsula sultanate formerly known as muscat and oman.

Oman, officially the Sultanate of Oman since 1970, extends some 1,000 miles along the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, on the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. Approximately 118,000 square miles, it has a population of 2,018,074 (1993 census). Oman's long-disputed southern border with Yemen and its western borders with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the maritime northern border with Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, have all been largely negotiated and demarcated.

Physically, Oman in divided into three regions: Ruʾus al-Jibal, Oman Proper, and Dhufar. The Ruʾus al-Jibal exclave is separated from Oman by a 50-mile corridor of United Arab Emirates territory and is the mountainous tip of the Musandam Peninsula. Oman Proper, including Masira and the Daymaniyat Islands, is characterized by a narrow coastal plain (Batina), a parallel mountain chain (Jabal Hajar) anchored by Jabal al-Akhdar, and along its western limits, a dry gravel plain (al-Dhahira) that blends into the Rub al-Khali desert. Additional desert and gravel plains (Sharqiyya and Wusta) extend to the south. Dhufar, including the Halaniyat (Khuriya Muriyah) Islands, also has parallel regions of a coastal plain, the Qara Mountains, and interior desert. The overall climate is hot, with summer temperatures reaching 120° F; dry inland, the coast is extremely humid. The climate of Dhufar is moderated by summer monsoon rains.

Oman's population is 80 percent Omani Arab, plus a significant South Asian expatriate community. Arabic is the predominant language, but English is used widely. Oman is unique because Ibadi Islam, characterized by its adherence to the principle of an elected religious leader called an imam, is the majority faith. Other Muslims include large Sunni and small Shiʿite minorities, and a small Hindu community. The Muscat capital area, an amalgam of several formerly separate coastal towns adjacent to Muscat, is the major urban center, with 550,000 people. Other cities are Salala, Nizwa, and Suhar.

Oman's modern history began in 1749 when Ahmad ibn Saʿid (17491783), founder of its present Al Bu Saʿid dynasty, restored Omani independence from Persian invaders and gained election as imam. Ahmad successfully balanced tribal and religious support while encouraging maritime and commercial expansion, but his successors devoted greater attention to external affairs and abandoned claims to the imamate. Saʿid ibn Sultan Al Bu Saʿid (18041856) established the antecedent of today's sultanate by utilizing Muscat as the base for expansion in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf and East Africa to form the western Indian Ocean's leading maritime state. But this proto-sultanate was considered illegitimate by Omanis committed to the imamate ideal. Periodic interventions by the Saʿudis aggravated the internal instability, and Saʿid often ran afoul of his British allies' efforts to suppress both the slave trade and piracy, the latter a consequence of Saʿid's expansionism. With his options in Arabia thwarted, Saʿid made Zanzibar his principal residence in the 1830s. Following Saʿid's death in 1856, the British recognized separate Al Bu Saʿid sultanates in Muscat and Zanzibar. Long-simmering Omani opposition to political conditions peaked with the election of Azzan ibn Qays (18681871), leader of an Al Bu Saʿid cadet branch, as imam, and the unification of Oman under his rule. The British government utilized gunship diplomacy to overthrow the imamate and restore the sultanate. Muscat became a thinly veiled British protectorate. Support for the imamate remained strong and continued to grow as a consequence of the disruptive influences of economic globalization in the late nineteenth century. In the early twentieth century the imamate reappeared in Oman's interior but failed to overthrow the British-defended sultanate. In 1920 the rival Omani governments signed the so-called Treaty of Sib and regularized the conditions under which they coexisted for the next thirty-five years. Saʿid ibn Taymur Al Bu Saʿid (19321970) signaled Muscat's revival by diminishing British influence, suppressing the imamate, and reuniting Oman in 1957, then initiating exploitation of its oil resources. But his opposition to socioeconomic development led to widespread disaffection, a rebellion in Dhufar, and greater dependence on the British. In July 1970 Qabus (also Qaboos) ibn Saʿid deposed his father. The new sultan ended Oman's long diplomatic isolation, suppressed the insurgency in Dhufar, and launched political and economic reforms.

Oman's political system has evolved from autocracy to nascent democratic system during the past thirty years. The Basic Law of 1996 defines the political system, which has two consultative bodiesan elected Majlis al-Shura and an appointed Council of State. There are no political parties. The sultan continues to be the source of all law. An independent judiciary system was implemented in 2001. In principle, women have full political rights, and they do serve in both consultative bodies and senior government positions.

Until the early 1970s Omanis subsisted upon an agricultural and fishing economy. Oil exports began in 1967 and funded modest economic development under Saʿid ibn Taymur. Those efforts accelerated greatly under Qabus after 1970. Modernized agriculture, livestock, and fishery practices still support about 50 percent of the population, but service jobs (35%) in both the public and private sector have increased dramatically. Industry and commerce (15%) provide other livelihoods. Production of petroleum products, both crude oil and natural gas, dominates the economy, accounting for 70 percent of state revenues and 90 percent of exports, mostly to East Asia. Oman also exports copper and chromite, some industrial goods (mostly clothing), and food products, and it imports machinery, transport, and consumer goods, mainly from Japan, Britain, the United Arab Emirates, and South Asia. Since 1970 the government has developed a comprehensive communication and transportation infrastructure and provided modern education through university level and healthcare facilities for the Omani people.

see also al bu saʿid family and tribe of oman; al bu saʿid, qabus ibn saʿid; al bu saʿid, saʿid ibn taymur; dhufar; majles al-shura; muscat; sib, treaty of (1920); zanzibar.


Bibliography


Allen, Calvin H., Jr., and Rigsbee, W. Lynn. Oman under Qaboos: From Coup to Constitution, 19701996. London: Frank Cass, 2000.

Anthony, John Duke. Historical and Cultural Dictionary of the Sultanate of Oman and the Emirates of Eastern Arabia. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1976.

Kechichian, Joseph A. Oman and the World: The Emergence of an Independent Foreign Policy. Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1995.

Landen, Robert G. Oman since 1856: Disruptive Modernization in a Traditional Arab Society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967.

Peterson, J. E. Oman in the Twentieth Century: Political Foundations of an Emerging State. London: Croon Helm, 1978.

Wilkinson, John C. The Imamate Tradition of Oman. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

robert g. landen
updated by calvin h. allen, jr.

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Oman

Oman

Official name: Sultanate of Oman

Area: 212,460 square kilometers (82,031 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Jabal Sham (3,035 meters/9,957 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 4 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 972 kilometers (604 miles) from northeast to southwest; 513 kilometers (319 miles) from southeast to northwest

Land boundaries: 1,374 kilometers (854 miles) total boundary length; Yemen 288 kilometers (179 miles); Saudi Arabia 676 kilometers (420 miles); United Arab Emirates 410 kilometers (255 miles)

Coastline: 2,092 kilometers (1,300 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

The sultanate of Oman is located in the extreme southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula and is the second-largest country on the peninsula. It includes a small enclave at the tip of the Musandam Peninsula, on the Strait of Hormuz, that is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. With an area of 212,460 square kilometers (82,031 square miles), Oman is nearly as large as the state of Kansas.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

Oman has no territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

Oman's climate is arid subtropical. The climate differs somewhat from one region to another, however. The interior is generally very hot, with temperatures reaching 54°C (129°F) in the hot season from May to October. The coastal areas are hot and humid from April to October. The prevailing summer wind, the Gharbi, makes the heat more oppressive. In the south, the Dhofar (Zufar) region has a more moderate climate.

Average annual precipitation is 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches), depending on the region and the prevailing summer wind. While the mountain areas receive more plentiful rainfall, some parts of the coast, particularly those areas near the island of Maşīrah, sometimes receive no rain at all. Yearly rainfall totals of up to 64 centimeters (25 inches) have been recorded in the rainy season from late June to October. An unusual feature of Oman's weather is that part of the eastern coast regularly has dense fog.

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

Oman has a diverse topography with a number of different regions and subregions. The major regions are the narrow Al Bātinah coastal plain to the north, bordering the Gulf of Oman; the Al Hajar mountain range that stretches south-eastward paralleling the northern coast; an interior plateau that stretches southwestward toward the desert; the Rub'al Khālī desert, which Oman shares with Saudi Arabia and Yemen; the barren plain of Jalaan, which borders the Arabian Sea on the east; and the southern Dhofar region, which includes both mountainous highlands and a fertile coastal strip that constitutes the southernmost part of Oman. In addition, Oman encompasses an isolated strip of land at the tip of the Musandem Peninsula.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

Oman borders the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, the latter of which separates the Arabian Peninsula from the rest of the Middle East.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Inlets (khors ) in the Al Bātinah plain often have stands of mangroves. An extremely rugged area exists where two inlets, the Elphin-stone and Malcom, cut into the coastline south of the Strait of Hormuz.

Islands and Archipelagos

Along the Arabian Sea coastline and separated from it by about 16 kilometers (10 miles) is the barren and virtually uninhabited island of Maşīrah,

Coastal Features

The northern coastline is smooth, while the shore along the Arabian Sea is more jagged and indented, forming several bays and capes (including the Ra's al Hadd, which separates the Gulf of Oman from the Arabian Sea) and the Gulf of Maşīrah near Maşīrah Island.

6 INLAND LAKES

There are no lakes in Oman, but the country has two large areas of salt flats, one in the west-central region and another opposite Maşīrah Island, off the eastern coast.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

There are no perennial rivers in Oman. A small number of wadis (shallow watercourses) are found in the Al Hajar Mountains and their foothills, however.

8 DESERTS

Situated mainly in Saudi Arabia but occupying a portion of western Oman, the Rub'al Khālī, or Empty Quarter, is one of the largest sand deserts in the world and one of the driest places on earth. The Wahiba Sands, in Oman's interior, are the largest areas of lithified (changed into solid rock) sand dunes in the world. Its surface dunes can reach heights of 100 meters (328 feet).

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

The Al Bātinah coastal plain to the north, scored along its length by wadis, is cultivated with the aid of irrigation. The sandy plain of Jalaan to the east is barren and inhospitable, while the narrow coastal strip of the Dhofar region in the south is lush and fertile. The valleys and foothills immediately south of the Al Hajar Mountains are considered the country's heartland.

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

The Al Hajar (the Rock) Mountainsthe highest in the eastern part of the Arabian peninsulaform two ranges: the Hajar al-Gharbi, or Western Hajar, and the Hajar al-Shargi, or Eastern Hajar. They are divided by the Wadi Sanā'il, a valley that forms the traditional route between Masqat and the interior. The general elevation is about 4,000 feet (1,219 meters). In the southern Dhofar region, a semicircular band of mountains rises to around 1,500 meters (5,000 feet).

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

There are many caverns in Oman. One of the largest in the world, Teyq Cave, is 250 meters (820 feet) deep and 300 cubic meters (10,595 cubic feet) in volume.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

The foothills of the Al Hajar Mountains in the north give way to a plateau with an average height of about 300 meters (1,000 feet). It is mostly stony and waterless, arable only at oases, extending to the sands of the Rub'al Khālī Desert. In the central part of Oman, in the Al-Wusta region, this plateau narrows to the Jiddat al-Harāsīs, bordered by the Rub'al Khālī desert to the west and the plain of Jalaan to the east.

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

There are three forts in Muscat that have remained essentially unchanged since the 1580s.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Chatty, Dawn. Mobile Pastoralists: Development Planning and Social Change in Oman. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Kay, Shirley. Enchanting Oman. Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Motivate Publishing, 1988.

Newcombe, Ozzie. The Heritage of Oman: A Celebration in Photographs. Reading, Berkshire, U.K.: Garnet Publishing, 1995.

Oman: People & Heritage. Oman: Oman Daily Observer, 1994.

Web Sites

Middle East & Islamic Studies Collection. http://www.library.cornell.edu/colldev/mideast/universi.htm (accessed March 10, 2003).

Ministry of Information: Sultanate of Oman. http://www.omanet.com/ (accessed March 10, 2003).

Natural History of Oman & Arabia. http://www.oman.org/nath00.htm (accessed May 10, 2003).

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Oman

Oman (ōmän´), officially Sultanate of Oman, independent sultanate (2005 est. pop. 3,002,000), c.82,000 sq mi (212,380 sq km), SE Arabian peninsula, on the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. It is bordered on the west by Yemen and Saudi Arabia and on the north by the United Arab Emirates, which separates the major portion of the sultanate from a small area on the Strait of Hormuz. The capital and largest city is Muscat.

Land and People

For the most part, Oman comprises a narrow coastal plain backed by hill ranges and an interior desert plateau. The highest point is Jebel Sham (c.9,900 ft/3,018 m).The inhabitants are mostly Arabs; there are also minorities of Baluchis, South Asians, East Africans, and migrant workers of varied ethnicities. About 75% are Ibadhi Muslims; the rest are mostly Sunni or Shiite Muslims or Hindus. Arabic is the official language; English, Baluchi, and Urdu are also spoken.

Economy

In the extreme north, dates, limes, nuts, bananas, alfalfa, and vegetables are cultivated, and in the southwest there is an abundance of camels, cattle and other livestock. Fishing is an important industry. The major product, however, is oil, which was discovered in Oman in 1964 and first exported in 1967. Crude oil is produced and refined; other industrial products include natural gas, copper, steel, chemicals, and optic fiber. Petroleum, reexported goods, fish, metals, and textiles are important exports; imports include machinery and transportation equipment, manufactured goods, foods, livestock, and lubricants. Oman has a large trade surplus. The main trading partners are Japan, the United Arab Emirates, China, and South Korea.

Government

Oman does not have a constitution, but the Basic Law, which was promulgated by royal decree in 1996, is considered by the government to be a constitution. The monarch is both head of state and head of government. The bicameral legislature consists of the 58-seat Majlis al-Dawla, or upper house, whose members are appointed by the monarch, and the 84-seat Majlis al-Shura, or lower house, whose members are popularly elected to serve four-year terms. Though its influence was increased in 2011, the legislature is mainly an advisory body. Administratively, the country is divided into five regions and four governorates.

History

Ancient settlements in Oman, initially associated with nomads, date back to c.6000 BC Beginning in the 6th cent. BC and for roughly a millenium thereafter, much of coastal Oman was dominated by Persia (under the Achaemenids and Sassanids) and Parthia. Sumhuram, ruins in S Oman near modern Salalah, was founded (late 1st cent. BC) as a port in the frankincense trade and was closely linked to ancient Sheba. In the 6th cent. AD the region converted to Islam, and was successively controlled by the Umayyads, Abbasids, Karmathians, Buyids, and Seljuk Turks. Much of the coast of Oman was controlled by Portugal from 1508 to 1659, when the Ottoman Empire took possession. The Ottoman Turks were driven out in 1741 by Ahmad ibn Said of Yemen, who founded the present royal line.

In the late 18th cent., Oman began its close ties with Great Britain, which still continue. In the early 19th cent., Oman was the most powerful state in Arabia, controlling Zanzibar and much of the coast of Iran and Baluchistan. Zanzibar was lost in 1856, and the last Omani hold on the Baluchistan coast, Gwadar, was ceded to Pakistan in 1958. The sultan of Oman has had frequent clashes with the imam (leader) of the interior ethnic groups. In 1957 the groups revolted but were suppressed with British aid. Several Arab countries supporting the imam charged in the 1960s that the sultan's regime was oppressive and that the British were exercising colonial influence in Oman.

In 1965 the United Nations called for the elimination of British influence in Oman. In 1970, Sultan Said ibn Timer was deposed by his son, Qabus bin Said, who promised to use oil revenues for modernization. Rebel activity continued until the mid-1970s, however, particularly in Dhofar, in the south, where a Chinese-aided liberation front was strong. Oman joined the United Nations and the Arab League in 1971, but it did not become part of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). In 1981, Oman joined Persian Gulf nations and Saudi Arabia in founding the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and has since sought to promote ties among the participating nations.

Relations between Oman and the United States have been close since the 1970s. However, Oman did not establish full diplomatic relations with its neighbor Southern Yemen until 1983 and with the Soviet Union until 1985. As a result of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in Aug., 1990, Oman opened its bases to international coalition forces against Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In 1996 the sultan issued a decree promulgating a new basic law that established a procedure for choosing the royal successor, provided for a bicameral advisory council with some limited legislative powers and a prime minister, and guaranteed basic civil liberties for Omani citizens. Military bases in Oman were used (2001) by U.S. forces involved in ground raids against Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden. In 2003 the lower house of the advisory council was freely elected for the first time. In the first half of 2011, Oman, like many other Arab nations, experienced antigovernment protests; in response, the sultan offered some economic concessions and political reforms, but dissent and discontent, in the form of strikes and protests, continued to fester on a small scale.

Bibliography

See P. Risso, Oman and Muscat (1986); C. H. Allen, Jr., Oman (1986); D. Hawley, ed., Oman and Its Renaissance (4th ed. 1987); J. C. Wilkinson, The Imamate Tradition of Oman (1987); M. Valeri, Oman: Politics and Society in the Qaboos State (2009, repr. 2014); A. R. Takriti, Monsoon Revolution: Republicans, Sultans, and Empires in Oman, 1965–1976 (2013).

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Oman

Oman

area:

212,460sq km (82,278sq mi)

population:

2,176,000

capital (population):

Muscat (776,300)

government:

Monarchy with a consultative council

ethnic groups:

Omani Arab 74%, Pakistani 21%

languages:

Arabic (official)

religions:

Islam 86%, Hinduism 13%

currency:

Omani rial = 100 baizas

Sultanate on the se corner of the Arabian peninsula, sw Asia; the capital is Muscat.

Land and climate

Oman is 95% desert. On the Gulf of Oman coast lies the fertile plain of Al Batinah, and the city of Muscat. The plain is backed by the Al Hajar mountains, which rise, at Jebel Sham, to 3019m (9905ft). In the s lies part of the barren and rocky Rub' al Khali desert (‘Empty Quarter’). The sultanate also includes the tip of the Musandam Peninsula, overlooking the strategic Strait of Hormuz, and separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. Oman has a hot tropical climate. In Muscat, summer temperatures rise to 47°C (117°F). Parts of the n mountains have an average annual rainfall of 400mm (16in), but most of Oman has less than 125mm (5in). Date palms grow on the coastal plain and around desert oases. Grassy pasture occurs on the Al Hajar mountains and on the s coast.

History and Politics

In ancient times, Oman was an important trading area on the main route between The Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Islam was introduced in the 7th century ad, and Muslim culture remains a unifying force. In 1507, the Portuguese captured several seaports in Oman, including Muscat. Portugal controlled maritime trade until expelled by the Ottomans in 1659. Oman set up trading posts in East Africa, including Zanzibar in 1698 and, until the 1860s, was the dominant Arabian power. The al-Said family have ruled Oman since taking power in 1741. During the 20th century, the sultanate was often in conflict with religious leaders (imams) of the Ibahdi sect, who sought a more theocratic society. British colonial interference and economic inequality led to popular rebellions in the 1950s and 1960s. Insurrectionist forces continued to control much of s Oman. In 1970, Sultan Said bin Taimur was deposed by his son, Qaboos bin Said. In 1971, Oman joined the UN and the Arab League. Qaboos bin Said initiated the modernization of health, education, and social welfare services. Despite the extension of free education, 65% of the population remained illiterate by 1992. In 1981, Oman was a founder member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Ties with the UK and the USA remain strong. Oman allowed coalition forces to use its military bases during the Gulf War (1991).

Economy

Oman is an upper-middle-income developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$7700). Oil production dominates the economy. Oil was first discovered in 1964, and now accounts for more than 90% of exports. The industry attracts many migrant workers. Oil refining and the processing of copper are among Oman's few manufacturing industries. Agriculture supports 50% of the workforce. Major crops include alfalfa, bananas, coconuts, dates, limes, and tobacco. Some farmers raise camels and cattle. Fishing, especially for sardines, is also important, but Oman is reliant on food imports.

Political map

Physical map

Websites

http://www.omanet.com

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Oman

Oman

Culture Name

Omani

Alternative Names

Various peoples in Oman use regional names such as Dhofari, which identifies them as being from the southern region of Oman, or Zanzibari, which identifies them as having close links with East Africa and at one time Zanzibar.

Orientation

Identification. Although Oman has existed as a distinct nation for several thousand years, the modern statethe Sultanate of Omanis a creation of the last two centuries. The traditional territorial concept of Oman was altered in this period by the independence of the northwestern part of Oman as the United Arab Emirates and the absorption into the sultanate of the southern region of Dhofar. Although the names of both Oman and Dhofar are clearly of great antiquity, their original meanings and sources are uncertain. While most northern Omanis share a common Arab, Muslim, and tribal culture, the people of Dhofar remain culturally distinct and often feel culturally closer to neighboring regions in Yemen to the west.

Location and Geography. The Omani culture owes much to the geography of the country. The cultural heartland lies in the interior, in the valleys of the mountainous backbone which parallels the coastal plains and the interior plains. Seas to the north and east and deserts to west and south have served to isolate the country from the outside world. At the same time, Oman's presence on the Indian Ocean has fostered a long maritime tradition which has enriched the culture through the settlement of many Baluchis (the Indo-Iranian people of Baluchistan) along the northern coast and the interaction with East African cultures. Traditionally, Oman's capital was located in the interior but Muscat (Masqat), now the principal seaport, has served as the capital since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Northern Oman is separated from southern Dhofar by several hundred miles of desert, which results in the cultural distinctiveness of the Dhofaris.

Demography. Oman's only census (1993) revealed a total population of 2 million, of which 1.5 million were Omanis. There were 175,000 residents of Dhofar. Census figures were not broken down into ethnic or linguistic categories, although it can be estimated that several hundred thousand Omanis were of Baluchi origin. About half the Omani population belongs to the Ibadi sect of Islam and a similar number belong to mainstream Sunni Islam. There are several small communities of Shia Muslims. Population growth is estimated at nearly 4 percent per year.

Linguistic Affiliation. Arabic is the principal language spoken by Omanis, who have spoken it since the immigration of Arab tribes nearly two millennia ago. The Omani dialect generally is close to modern standard Arabic, although coastal dialects employ a number of loanwords from Baluchi, Persian, Urdu and Gujarati (two Indo-Aryan languages), and even Portuguese. The mountain peoples of Dhofar, as well as several small nomadic groups in the desert between Dhofar and northern Oman, speak a variety of unique South Arabian languages that are not mutually intelligible with modern Arabic. Minority groups speak Arabic as well as their own languages at home, and English is widely spoken as a second language.

Symbolism. The national symbol employs a pair of crossed khanjars, the traditional daggers that all Omani men wore until recently (and still wear on formal occasions). This symbol is integrated into the national flag and appears in nearly all government logos.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Oman has a very long history and was known as Magan to ancient Persian and Mesopotamian civilizations and was an important producer of copper and ornamental stone. The Arab tribes in Oman adopted Islam during the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad (c.570632) and forced the Persian colonizers to leave. Since then, Oman has generally remained an independent Arab and Ibadi/Sunni Muslim entity.

National Identity. The Omani national identity has evolved from its predominant Arab language and culture, its tribal organization, and Islam. Oman withstood attempts by classical Islamic empires to subdue the country, and the Portuguese invasion of the sixteenth century was confined to coastal ports and was terminated by national Omani resistance in the mid-seventeenth century.

Ethnic Relations. Although the dominant cultural group in Oman is Arab and Ibadi/Sunni Muslim, the culture has been very tolerant of other groups. Ethnic, sectarian, or linguistic conflict rarely occurs in Oman although tribal disputes are not unknown.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The contemporary urban character of Omani culture has strong ties to Indian Mogul architectural style. This is manifested in the seafront whitewashed two- and occasionally three-story residential buildings that line the road along the harbor of Matrah (Muscat's sister city). It is also seen in the style of some mosques and minarets with their slim and ornate shapes, as well as in public buildings such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Qurm. Other contemporary constructions are more eclectic in style.

Earlier architectural styles found in the towns and interior cities of Oman, such as Nizwa, Ibri, Ibra, and Bahla, reflected a pared down and simpler cultural expression and use of space that was consistent with Ibadism, a relatively austere form of Islam.

Private residences reflect the culture's concern for gendered space. Most Omani homes have formal rooms for men and their visitors, while women generally socialize in each other's private quarters. When people meet to mark various rites of passage, such as births, marriages, and deaths, the celebrations are marked by clear gendered space. It is women who visit other women on the occasion of a birth in a family. Marriage rituals entail elaborate celebrations for women only, for men only, and, when space is open, with segregated sitting areas. Deaths are similarly marked by gendered use of space, with only men attending the actual burial of a body.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Omani cuisine revolves around rice. The morning meal is not significant, often consisting of bread or leftovers from the day before, and tea. The main meal of the day is in early to mid-afternoon. It is generally a large dish of rice with a thin sauce often based on tomato or tomato paste and meat or fish. Pork does not exist in the Omani diet as it is prohibited by Islam. The evening meal is generally very light, sometimes consisting only of fruit or bread and tea. The influence of Indian cooking is very strong. A variety of Indian restaurants are found throughout the country. In the capital area, there are a number of Western fast-food establishments, as well as a variety of French, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese restaurants.

Food Customs and Ceremonial Occasions. Dates, fresh or dried, are important to the diet and to the ritual of hospitality. Equally important is helwa, a sweet confection based on clarified butter, honey, and spices. Both are served to guests with strong, bitter, and often cardamom-scented coffee. During Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, Omanis refrain from eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset. They break their fast with coffee and dates followed shortly thereafter by a ritual meal, often shared with family and close friends, of elaborate foods heavy in oils and spices.

Basic Economy. A large percentage of Omanis live in rural areas and many others own land and property in the countryside even though they live and work in the towns. Many of those in the countryside are self-sufficient farmers and fishermen. Livestock production is the basis of agricultural activity in the center and south of Oman, with fishing along Oman's long coastline coming a close second. Nearly one-third of Omani's nonoil exports come from agriculture and fisheries. Oman imports more than half the vegetables and dairy products it needs and just under half the beef, eggs, and mutton.

Land Tenure and Property. All land is officially owned by the state. Some land has been recognized as privately held and in the late twentieth century the government pursued a policy of providing all Omanis with private parcels of land for residences and farms. Shared property rights or land use rights are held by custom and are generally tribal in origin. Hence much of the interior semiarid and arid lands are used by nomadic pastoral tribes. Although their territory is no longer recognized as theirs by the state, it remains uncontested by local inhabitants and other tribes.

Commercial Activities. Agriculture and fishing are the traditional economic activities in Oman. Dates and limes, make up most of the country's exports. Coconut palms, wheat, and bananas are also grown. Cattle are raised in Dhofar. Fish and shellfish exports create a steady income of roughly $40 million (U.S.).

Major Industries. Oman is an oil-producing nation and revenues from petroleum products have been the backbone of Oman's dramatic development over the last three decades of the twentieth century. But oil resources are not extensive and natural gas reserves are becoming more prominent, with liquified natural gas exports expected to provide significant new income in the early twenty-first century.

Trade. After oil, petroleum, and liquified gas, fish and shellfish account for the majority of Oman's export trade. The fish and shellfish are sold mainly to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, although some of this fresh product finds its way in refrigerated trucks further north. Dates and limes are also exported.

Division of Labor. Both men and women engage in agricultural activities: men work the date gardens, while women tend to the fields of wheat, barley, and alfalfa. Men go out in fishing boats or dive from the shore, while women often mend fishing nets. Children take on domestic agricultural and fishing tasks at an early age, nine being a common age for starting. The elderly are greatly respected and are often relieved from any physical work, but their opinions and ideas are eagerly sought by the middle-aged and young.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Omani culture does not have a caste system, but it does operate in a hierarchy based on family connections (tribal ties), relative wealth, and religious education. At the top of the pyramid is the sultan and his immediate family, the Al-Sa'id. This is followed by a large tribal group, the Al-Bu Sa'id. Prior to the discovery of oil in the country, the wealthiest group (class) was arguably made up of the merchant families, many of them Indian in origin, language, and culture; a particular Omani community, mainly of Hyderabadi origin, also accumulated some wealth through trade in foodstuffs. Certain families and tribes had built reputations for religious learning and mediation skills, and they often represented the government in the interior of the country. In the late twentieth century, wealth spread somewhat and a few more Omani families joined the ranks of the extremely wealthy. Oman has a small but growing middle class while the vast majority of its population outside of the capital area are engaged in subsistence agriculture, fishing, or animal husbandry.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Dress in Omani culture is a "badge," one highly visible and prominent marker of ethnic identity. Among Omani nationals, dress is finely tuned to reflect each person's region of origin or ethnic background. Women's clothing and, in particular, the choice of face covering and head cloth advertises membership in a particular tribal, ethnic, or language group. Men's clothing, consisting of a long, ankle-length shirt (locally called a thawb or dishdashah ), is also amenable to the expression of tribal and regional belonging through variations in the style of the collars and sleeves. Head covering is required of men as well as women.

Political Life

Government. Oman is a sultanate (a type of monarchy) with a sultan as the head of state and head of government. His position is hereditary within the Al Bu Sa'id family. There are few checks on the power of the sultan and his decrees form the basis of law. He appoints a council of ministers and can dismiss ministers without reason. There is no prime minister.

Leadership and Political Officials. Senior members of the sultan's family routinely receive important government positions. More distant members of the family serve as ministers, other government officials, and the equivalent of governors throughout the country. Other ministers and senior government officials are chosen by merit and family or tribal connections; Muscat merchant families are overrepresented. There are no political parties and a limited electorate chooses candidates for the Majlis al-Shura, an indirectly elected consultative council dealing with social issues.

Social Problems and Control. The legal system is derived from a combination of Western and Arab civil codes with the Shari'ah (Islamic law) used in family matters such as marriage and inheritance. The Royal Oman Police covers the entire country and is responsible for traffic, criminal investigation, firefighting, the coast guard, and immigration. Crime is infrequent although the capital area has seen a modest increase in burglaries and there is some drug and alcohol abuse. Civil disobedience is unknown and there is complete respect for the law and state institutions.

Military Activity. The armed forces of Oman were created to counter several insurrections beginning in the 1950s. Since the mid-1970s, however, there has been no unrest in Oman and the security forces are geared to protect against potential external threats. Oman continues to maintain a relatively large military establishment in part to provide employment for its people.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Social welfare is still basically a family and kin network business. The old, the handicapped, the disabled, and the disadvantaged are looked after by a network of relatives. Since the 1970s, the government has worked hard to establish a social welfare service to promote stability and security for families in a rapidly changing social environment. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Labor, and Vocational Training takes responsibility for making monthly payments to the elderly, the widowed, the divorced, and the disabled. Special attention has been given to training the mildly disabled, especially the young, through special government centers.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Organizations

Oman has very few nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Perhaps as a reflection of security concerns, it remains very difficult to acquire formal government recognition of NGO status. The first NGO to be created in Oman in the 1970s, the Omani Women's Association, was integrated into the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor in the early 1980s. The Association for the Welfare of Handicapped Children, which was founded in 1990, runs a number of centers for the care and rehabilitation of disabled children and has acquired a semiofficial status. The Oman Charitable Organization (also known as the Oman Benevolent Society), was created in the late 1990s by royal decree to provide assistance to the needy. Other NGOs include sports clubs, literary associations, and university cultural centers.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Gender roles are shaped by the demands of the economic realities of peoples' lives. In the desert interior of the country, women contribute very actively to economic activities associated with livestock raising and have significant social and political power. In the agricultural oasis settlements, the economic role of women is not as active and this is reflected in reduced social and political power. Women's roles in religion reflect the formal restrictions of Islam. In urban centers and towns, however, many women serve as teachers in Islamic pre-schools, the kuttaib.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Women have significant authority within the family unit and make strong contributions toward family decisions regarding various rites of passage. Outside the kin group, however, women have little authority or privilege. From the early 1990s, the government has made great efforts to include women in government. Women were nominated to run for election to the consultative council in 1997, with two obtaining seats, and several speeches of the sultan emphasized the importance of integrating women into public life.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriages are normally arranged. The preferred marriage is to a cousin. First choice is to a patrilateral cousin, and second choice is to a matrilateral cousin. Even the well-educated elite of the country, university medical students, express a preference for their families to arrange marriages for them. Love matches are very infrequent, as marriage is viewed more as a contract between two families with the major aim being to produce offspring for the next generation. In polygamous households (more common among the wealthy, but not restricted to them), the first wife tends to be a close cousin and the second wife a younger, less-close relative. In the past, men tended to take on additional wivesIslam permits up to fourbut in recent years, men have tended to divorce first wives and remarry, often leaving divorced women destitute and reliant on the government for support.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit is generally an extended three-generation nuclear family; residence is usually patrilocal, with the husband's family. Although many nuclear family units reside in single residences, individual family members keep in constant contact with each other through either daily visits or regular telephone calls. It is not unusual to find families of eight, nine or ten persons living in one household. The eldest male has the greatest authority in the family while an elderly female usually takes responsibility for allocating tasks within the household.

Inheritance. The rules of inheritance are entirely governed by the Shari'ah (Islamic law), which lays down the percentage of an estate that each relative may inherit. In descending order of shares, this moves from the direct descendants (sons, wives, daughters, and husbands) to cousins and more distant relatives. These rules apply to fixed property and capital. In the interior among the pastoral tribes, women often pass on their share of certain large livestock (camels) to brothers or sons, in exchange for informal welfare security in their old age.

Kin Groups. Omani culture is organized around the kin group as a large extended family or tribe inhabiting a particular valley or set of hamlets. There are also dispersed kin groups, the pastoral tribes, who move around with their livestock in search of grazing land in a territory normally regarded as theirs to use. Life revolves around the kin group in the interior of the country, while in the urban centers the extended family or tribe is the hub and locus of much activity and networking.

Socialization

Infant Care. Omanis do not separate the infant or child from family rhythm or routine. The newborn child remains exclusively with her or his mother for the first forty days after birth. After that the infant sleeps, eats, and plays at her side, and is nursed on demand for two years. Infants are not offered particular stimulation, but soothed and calmed and encouraged to watch rather than interact.

Child Rearing and Education. After the age of two, Omani children are encouraged to behave like miniature adults, taking on duties or hospitality toward guests at a very young age. They are only reprimanded, ever mildly, occasionally with a tap across the back of the legs. They are socialized to look to their peer group. Punishment for unusual or unacceptable behavior is often offered as: "What would your friends say?" Girls are circumcised with little ceremony at or just after birth and boys are circumcised in later childhood with some celebration of their entering an age of "reason."

Primary education for both boys and girls is encouraged. In the later intermediary and high school years, however, attendance by girls, particularly in rural areas, declines, largely due to a persistent pattern of early marriage. Many boys also leave school before the end of their secondary education in order to seek jobs, thus contributing to a large low-skill sector of the workforce. The government also operates a number of vocational training institutes.

Higher Education. In 1986, Oman opened its first university. Built upon a combination of American and English models of higher education, the first colleges were of medicine, engineering, science, Islamic studies and education, and agriculture. In the 1990s, several more colleges were opened including a faculty of commerce and economics and a faculty of Shari'ah and law. Enrollment in the university is nearly equally split between male and female students. It was only in 1993 that, under pressure from elements in the private sector and the government, the university administration decided to deny women admission to two colleges, engineering and agriculture. In the late 1990s, the government sanctioned several private colleges that emphasized business curricula.

Etiquette

Omanis are very polite and formal in public. Upon meeting, formulaic greetings must be exchanged before a discussion can ensue. To do otherwise would be considered rude. Although men and women may interact in public, their contact should always be chaperoned or in the open. Even educated elite women often find it necessary to be chaperoned by a male relative at public events, parties, or receptions. Omanis tend to stand close to one another as Arabs do, and it is common for friends and relatives of the same sex to hold hands. Two or more men or women entering a doorway at the same time always try to persuade the others to enter first, although a man always invites a woman to enter first. On the other hand, forming lines in shops, banks, and other public places is not a cultural trait, although women invariably are encouraged to go first.

Religion

Religious Beliefs. Nearly all Omanis are Muslim, divided nearly equally into Sunnis and Ibadis with a small percentage of Shia. A few families of Indian origin are Hindu but there are no Omani Christians or Jews. Omanis tend to be careful in their observance of religious obligations. Most carry out the prescribed five prayers per day and many men go to nearby mosques to perform them. Most Omanis observe the dawn-to-dusk fasting required during the Islamic month of Ramadan, and it is against the law to eat, drink, or smoke in public during daylight hours in Ramadan. In addition to formal religious beliefs and practices, superstitions are common and some folk rituals are practiced.

Religious Practitioners. There is little formal religious hierarchy. The government appoints the mufti who serves as the country's highest Islamic authority. Traditional religious educators, known as sheikhs, are trained by the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs and teach in Koranic schools throughout the country. Religious judges (qadi ) are appointed by the state to serve in Shari'ah courts. There are also religious healers (mutawi' ) whose services are called upon by the population, often to deal with mental illnesses.

Rituals and Holy Places. All Omani Muslims are obliged to fast during Ramadan. One of the pillars of Islam, this period of abstinence lasts twenty-nine or thirty days. This month is also one of celebration and prayer and is followed by two important festivals, one immediately after the period of fasting, Eid-il-Fitr, and one sixty-six days later, Eid -il Adha. Many Omanis undertake the hajj, or pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca (in Saudi Arabia), if they are physically and financially able. Because of the austerity of Ibadi Islam, there are no specific holy places in northern Oman; there are, however, some venerated tombs of "saints" in Dhofar.

Death and the Afterlife. Omanis are pragmatic when it comes to dealing with sickness. They will try modern medicine but if that fails will turn to traditional healers. Traditional herbalists, bonesetters, and exorcists have a thriving practice, especially in the interior of the country. Many look to the cold and hot properties of foods for curing sickness (a common practice in Islamic belief). Spirit possession, often among women, is addressed through zar, or exorcism, ceremonies, which frequently involve the community in the curative process.

Secular Celebrations

National Day takes place on 18 November, the birthday of the sultan, Qabus ibn Sa'id. This is the principal nonreligious celebration of the year and includes a major pageant, a profusion of fireworks around the country, and the sultan's annual policy speech. Armed Forces Day (11 December) is the occasion for a large banquet hosted by the sultan for his officers, senior government officials, and the diplomatic corps. The Islamic, but not the Christian, New Year's Day is an official holiday.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. The government provides some limited assistance for the arts through subsidies to such organizations as the Omani Arts Society. Most artists, however, either hold full-time jobs or come from well-to-do families.

Literature. In the past, literature was confined to religious treatises and histories. Like other Arabs, Omanis gave great importance to oral traditions, including poetry and an emphasis on genealogical roots. The Ministry of Information has sought to revive these traditions through folk programs on radio and television. In the last decades of the twentieth century, a small number of authors published works of fiction and poetry.

Graphic Arts. Traditional Omani handicrafts are in decline although periodic attempts are made to encourage their production. Notable handmade products include silver and gold jewelry, woven baskets, goat- and camel-hair rugs, swords and khanjars (daggers), and large pottery water jugs. Drawing, painting, and photography have become popular forms of expression in educated circles, although artists still tend to avoid representation of the human form as per Islamic convention.

Performance Arts. Local instrumental and vocal music is very popular, as are songs from other Arab countries. Traditional performers still provide songs and dances at events such as marriages. The Ministry of National Heritage and Culture maintains a small national theater. Arab entertainers are well known throughout the country and many educated Omanis enjoy Western performance arts.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Physical sciences, particularly earth sciences such as geology and hydrology, are popular subjects for study and research in Oman's university and in a number of government ministries. The social sciences, however, are not as well represented. Economics and sociology are taught at the university, but anthropology, political science, and psychology are not.

Bibliography

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, and W. Lynn Rigsbee II. Oman under Qaboos: From Coup to Constitution, 1970-1996, 2000.

Bannerman, J. P. "The Impact of the Oil Industry on Society in the Arabian Peninsula." In R. I. Lawless, ed., The Gulf in the Early Twentieth Century: Foreign Institutions and Local Responses, 1986.

Barth, Fredrik. Sohar: Culture and Society in an Omani Town, 1983.

Chatty, Dawn. "The Bedouin of Central Oman." Journal of Oman Studies 6 (1): 149162, 1983.

. Mobile Pastoralists: Development Planning and Social Change in Oman, 1996.

. "A Women and Work in Oman: Cultural Constraints and Individual Choice." International Journal of Middle East Studies 32 (2): 241254, 2000.

Costa, Paolo M., et al. Musandam: Architecture and Material Culture of a Little Known Region of Oman, 1991.

Damluji, Salma Samar. The Architecture of Oman, 1998.

Eickelman, Christine. "Women and Politics in an Arabian Oasis." In Farhad Kazemi and R. D. McChesney, eds., A Way Prepared: Essays on Islamic Culture in Honour of Richard Bayly Winder, 1988.

Eickelman, Dale F. "Omani Village: The Meaning of Oil." In J. E. Peterson, ed., The Politics of Middle Eastern Oil, 1983.

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Hawley, Donald. Oman and Its Renaissance, jubilee ed., 1995.

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Kechichian, Joseph A. Oman and the World: The Emergence of an Independent Foreign Policy, 1995.

Kervran, Monique, and Vincent Bernard. "Mihrab/s omanais du 16e siècle: Un curieux exemple de conservatisme de l'art du stuc iranien des époques seldjouqide et mongole." Archéologie islamique 6: 109156, 1996.

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Dawn Chatty and J.E. Peterson

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Oman

Oman

OMANIS 17

The people of Oman are called Omanis. On the northern coast, there are groups of Baluchi, Iranian, and African people. In Muscat and Matrah, there are Indians, Baluchis, and Pakistanis. Tribal groups are estimated to number over 200.

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Oman

OmanAbadan, Abidjan, Amman, Antoine, Arne, Aswan, Avon, Azerbaijan, Baltistan, Baluchistan, Bantustan, barn, Bhutan, Dagestan, darn, dewan, Farne, guan, Hahn, Hanuman, Hindustan, Huascarán, Iban, Iran, Isfahan, Juan, Kazakhstan, khan, Koran, Kurdistan, Kurgan, Kyrgyzstan, macédoine, Mahon, maidan, Marne, Michoacán, Oman, Pakistan, pan, Pathan, Qumran, Rajasthan, Shan, Siân, Sichuan, skarn, soutane, Sudan, Tai'an, t'ai chi ch'uan, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Taklimakan, tarn, Tatarstan, Tehran, Tenochtitlán, Turkestan, Turkmenistan, tzigane, Uzbekistan, Vientiane, yarn, Yinchuan, yuan, Yucatán •Autobahn • Lindisfarne •Bildungsroman • Nisan • Khoisan •Afghanistan • bhagwan • Karajan •Alabaman, Amman, Ammon, Drammen, gammon, Mammon, salmon •Bradman, Caedmon, madman, madmen •flagman, flagmen •trackman, trackmen •hangman, hangmen •chapman, chapmen •cragsman, cragsmen •cracksman, cracksmen, Flaxman •batsman, batsmen •batman, batmen •Tasman •clansman, clansmen, Klansman, Klansmen, landsman, landsmen 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•dolman, dolmen •Scotsman, Scotsmen, yachtsman, yachtsmen •Boltzmann • Cotman •bondsman, bondsmen •Bormann, doorman, doormen, foreman, foremen, Mormon, Norman, storeman, storemen •Kauffmann • Walkman •horseman, horsemen, Norseman, Norsemen •sportsman, sportsmen •oarsman, oarsmen, outdoorsman, outdoorsmen •swordsman •longshoreman, longshoremen •bowmen, cowman, cowmen, ploughman (US plowman), ploughmen (US plowmen) •councilman, councilmen •Hauptmann • Housman •groundsman, groundsmen, roundsman, roundsmen, townsman, townsmen •warehouseman, warehousemen •Bowman, Oklahoman, Oman, omen, Roman, showman, showmen, yeoman, yeomen •coachman, coachmen •Coleman, Goldman •nobleman, noblemen •postman, postmen •spokesman, spokesmen •boatman, boatmen •lifeboatman, lifeboatmen •dragoman •crewman, crewmen, energumen, human, ichneumon, Newman, numen, Schumann, subhuman, Trueman •woman •woodman, woodmen •bookman, bookmen •Pullman •Bushman, Bushmen •footman, footmen •woodsman, woodsmen •ombudsman, ombudsmen •clanswoman •backwoodsman, backwoodsmen •charwoman •craftswoman, draughtswoman •gentlewoman • Welshwoman •Frenchwoman •airwoman, chairwoman •laywoman • stateswoman •saleswoman • policewoman •kinswoman • Englishwoman •businesswoman • Irishwoman •congresswoman • countrywoman •jurywoman • servicewoman •tribeswoman •Scotswoman, yachtswoman •forewoman • horsewoman •sportswoman • oarswoman •townswoman • spokeswoman •Dutchwoman • frontierswoman •alderwoman • anchorwoman •washerwoman • Ulsterwoman •churchwoman • acumen • summon •Dutchman, Dutchmen •gunman, gunmen •busman, busmen, dustman, dustmen •huntsman, huntsmen •Newcomen • Layamon •privateersman, privateersmen, steersman, steersmen •frontiersman, frontiersmen •fireman • Dobermann • lumbermen •abdomen • Omdurman •alderman, aldermen •Turkoman •cellarman, cellarmen, telamon •cyclamen •Highlandman, Highlandmen •Solomon • trawlerman • cinnamon •Chinaman, Chinamen •trencherman, trenchermen •fisherman, fishermen, militiaman, militiamen •washerman, washermen •ottoman •waterman, watermen •Ulsterman, Ulstermen •Burman, firman, German, Herman, sermon, Sherman •churchman, churchmen •turfman, turfmen •Bergman •kirkman, kirkmen, workman, workmen •Perelman •herdsman, herdsmen

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Oman

Oman

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-OMANI RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the June 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Sultanate of Oman

PROFILE

Geography

Area: About 309,500 sq. km. (approximately the size of the State of New Mexico). It is bordered on the north by the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), on the northwest by Saudi Arabia, and on the southwest by the Republic of Yemen. The Omani coastline stretches 3,165 km.

Cities: Capital—Muscat. Other cities—Salalah, Nizwa, Sohar, Sur.

Terrain: Mountains, plains, and arid plateau.

Climate: Hot and humid along the coast; hot and dry in the interior; summer monsoon in the far south.

People

Nationality: Noun—Oman. Adjective—Omani(s).

Population: (2006 est.) 3.20 million (includes 577,000 non-nationals).

Annual growth rate: (2006 est.) 3.2%.

Ethnic groups: Arab, Baluchi, East African (Zanzabari), South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi).

Religions: Ibadhi; Sunni Muslim, Shia Muslim, Hindu, Christian.

Languages: Arabic (official), English, Baluchi, Urdu, Swahili, Hindi and Indian dialects.

Education: Literacy—approx. 80% (total population).

Health: (2006 est.) Infant mortality rate—18.28 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy—73.62 years.

Work force: 920,000 total; Agriculture and fishing—approx. 50%.

Government

Type: Monarchy.

Constitution: None. On November 6, 1996, Sultan Qaboos issued a royal decree promulgating the Basic Statute which clarifies the royal succession, provides for a prime minister, bars ministers from holding interests in companies doing business with the government, establishes a bicameral parliament, and guarantees basic rights and responsibilities for Omani citizens.

Government branches: Executive—Sultan. Legislative—Majlis Oman (bicameral: State Council and Consultative Council). Judicial—Civil courts are divided into four departments: Criminal courts handle cases under the penal code; Shari'a (Islamic law) courts oversee personal status and family law issues; Commercial courts adjudicate business and commercial matters; Labor courts oversee labor and employment cases.

Political parties: None.

Suffrage: Universal adult.

Political subdivisions: Eight administrative regions—Muscat Governorate, Dhofar Governorate, Musandam Governorate, Al-Buraimi Governorate, Al Batinah, Al Dhahirah, Al Dakhliya, Al Shariqiya, Al Wusta. There are 61 districts (wilayats).

Economy

GDP: (2006 est.) $39.50 billion.

Per capita GDP: (2006 est.) $13,845.

Real GDP growth rate: (2006 est.) 6.6%.

Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, copper, marble, limestone, gypsum, chromium.

Agriculture and fisheries: (2.1% of GDP). Products—dates, bananas, mangoes, alfalfa, other fruits and vegetables. Fisheries—kingfish, tuna, other fish, shrimp, lobster, abalone.

Industry: Types—crude petroleum (not including gas liquids) about 750,000 barrels per day; construction, petroleum refinery, copper mines and smelter, cement and various light industries.

Trade: (2006 est.) Exports—$18.69 billion. Major markets—Japan (22.1%), China (15.2%), Thailand (12.6%), South Korea (19.9%), U.A.E. (9.4%). Imports—$8.83 billion: machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, food, livestock, lubricants. Major suppliers—U.A.E. 27.6%, Japan 16.7%, U.K. 7.4%, U.S. 6.9%, Germany 5%.

PEOPLE

About 55% of the population lives in Muscat and the Batinah coastal plain northwest of the capital; about 215,000 live in the Dhofar (southern) region, and about 30,000 live in the remote Musandam Peninsula on the Strait of Hormuz. Some 660,000 expatriates live in Oman, most of whom are guest workers from South Asia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Philippines.

Since 1970, the government has given high priority to education in order to develop a domestic work force, which the government considers a vital factor in the country's economic and social progress. In 1986, Oman's first university, Sultan Qaboos University, opened. It has continued to expand, recently adding a law college, and remains the country's only major public university. In total, there are about 20 public post-secondary education institutions in Oman, including technical colleges, teacher training colleges, and health institutes. More than 300 full and partial scholarships are awarded each year for study abroad.

There are three private universities and 20 private post-secondary education institutions in Oman, including a banking college, a fire and safety college, a dentistry college, and business and management colleges. Most of these public and private post-secondary education institutions offer four-year degrees, while the remainder provide 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. Approximately 40% of Omani high school graduates pursue some type of post-secondary education.

HISTORY

Oman adopted Islam in the seventh century A.D., during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. Ibadhism, a form of Islam distinct from Shiaism and the “Orthodox” schools of Sunnism, became the dominant religious sect in Oman by the eighth century A.D. Oman is the only country in the Islamic world with a majority Ibadhi population. Ibadhism is known for its “moderate conservatism.”One distinguishing feature of Ibadhism is the choice of ruler by communal consensus and consent.

Contact with Europe was established in 1508, when the Portuguese conquered parts of Oman's coastal region. Portugal's influence predominated for more than a century. Fortifications built during the Portuguese occupation can still be seen at Muscat.

Except for a period when Persia conquered parts of Oman, Oman has been an independent nation. After the Portuguese were expelled in 1650 and while resisting Persian attempts to establish hegemony, the Sultan of Oman extended his conquests to Zanzibar, other parts of the eastern coast of Africa, and portions of the southern Arabian Peninsula. During this period, political leadership shifted from the Ibadhi imams, who were elected religious leaders, to hereditary sultans who established their capital in Muscat. The Muscat rulers established trading posts on the Persian coast and also exercised a measure of control over the Makran coast (now Pakistan). By the early 19th century, Oman was the most powerful state in Arabia and had a major presence on the East African coast.

Oman was the object of Franco-British rivalry throughout the 18th century. During the 19th century, Oman and the United Kingdom concluded several treaties of friendship and commerce. In 1908, the British entered into an agreement of friendship. Their traditional association was confirmed in 1951 through a new treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation by which the United Kingdom recognized the Sultanate of Oman as a fully independent state.

When Sultan Sa'id bin Sultan Al-Busaid died in 1856, his sons quarreled over his succession. As a result of this struggle, the Omani empire—through the mediation of the British Government under the “Canning Award”—was divided in 1861 into two separate principalities—Zanzibar, with its East African dependencies, and Muscat and Oman. Zanzibar paid an annual subsidy to Muscat and Oman until its independence in early 1964.

During the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries, the sultan in Muscat faced a rebellion by members of the Ibadhi sect residing in the interior of Oman, centered around the town of Nizwa, who wanted to be ruled exclusively by their religious leader, the Imam of Oman. This conflict was resolved temporarily by the Treaty of Seeb in 1920, which granted the imam autonomous rule in the interior, while recognizing the sovereignty of the sultan elsewhere.

Following the discovery of oil in the interior, the conflict flared up again in 1954, when the new imam led a sporadic 5-year rebellion against the sultan's efforts to extend government control into the interior. The insurgents were defeated in 1959 with British help. The sultan then terminated the Treaty of Seeb and eliminated the office of the imam. In the early 1960s, the imam, exiled to Saudi Arabia, obtained support from his hosts and other Arab governments, but this support ended in the 1980s.

In 1964, a separatist revolt began in Dhofar Province. Aided by communist and leftist governments such as the former South Yemen (People's Democratic Republic of Yemen), the rebels formed the Dhofar Liberation Front, which later merged with the Marxist-dominated Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arab Gulf (PFLOAG). The PFLOAG's declared intention was to overthrow all traditional Arab Gulf regimes. In mid-1974, PFLOAG shortened its name to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman (PFLO) and embarked on a political rather than a military approach to gain power in the other Gulf states, while continuing the guerrilla war in Dhofar.

With the help of British advisors, Sultan Qaboos bin Sa'id assumed power on July 23, 1970, in a palace coup

directed against his father, Sa'id bin Taymur, who later died in exile in London. The new sultan was confronted with insurgency in a country plagued by endemic disease, illiteracy, and poverty. One of the new sultan's first measures was to abolish many of his father's harsh restrictions, which had caused thousands of Omanis to leave the country, and to offer amnesty to opponents of the previous regime, many of whom returned to Oman. He also established a modern government structure and launched a major development program to upgrade educational and health facilities, build a modern infrastructure, and develop the country's natural resources.

In an effort to end the Dhofar insurgency, Sultan Qaboos expanded and re-equipped the armed forces and granted amnesty to all surrendered rebels while vigorously prosecuting the war in Dhofar. He obtained direct military support from the U.K., Iran, and Jordan. By early 1975, the guerrillas were confined to a 50-square kilometer (20-sq. mi.) area near the Yemen border and shortly thereafter were defeated. As the war drew to a close, civil action programs were given priority throughout Dhofar and helped win the allegiance of the people. The PFLO threat diminished further with the establishment of diplomatic relations in October 1983 between South Yemen and Oman, and South Yemen subsequently lessened propaganda and subversive activities against Oman. In late-1987, Oman opened an embassy in Aden, South Yemen, and appointed its first resident ambassador to the country.

Since his accession in 1970, Sultan Qaboos has balanced tribal, regional, and ethnic interests in composing the national administration. The Council of Ministers, which functions as a cabinet, consists of 30 ministers (but only 28 ministries), all directly appointed by Qaboos. The bicameral Majlis Oman's mandate is to review legislation pertaining to economic development and social services prior to its becoming law. The elected Maj-lis al-Shura (Consultative Council) may request ministers to appear before it. In early 2003, Sultan Qaboos declared universal suffrage for the October 2003 Majlis al-Shura elections. Two women were elected to sit with 81 male colleagues in those elections, which were observed to be free and fair. Roughly 194,000 Omani men and women, or 74% of registered voters, participated in the elections. Since 2003, Sultan Qaboos has also expanded the Majlis al-Dawla, or State Council, to 59 members from 53, including nine women. The State Council acts as the upper chamber in Oman's bicameral representative body.

In November 1996, Sultan Qaboos presented his people with the “Basic Statute of the State,” Oman's first written “constitution.” It guarantees various rights within the framework of Shariah and customary law. It partially resuscitated long dormant conflict-of-interest measures by banning cabinet ministers from being officers of public shareholding firms. Perhaps most importantly, the Basic Statute provides rules for the royal succession.

The northern tip of Oman, called the Musandam Peninsula, is strategically located on the Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf, 35 miles directly opposite Iran. Oman is concerned with regional stability and security, given tensions in the region, the proximity of Iran and Iraq, and the potential threat of political Islam. Oman maintained its diplomatic relations with Iraq throughout the Gulf War while supporting the UN allies by sending a contingent of troops to join coalition forces and by opening up to prepositioning of weapons and supplies. In addition, since 1980 Oman and the U.S. have been parties to a military cooperation agreement, which was revised and renewed in 2000. Oman also has long been an active participant in efforts to achieve Middle East peace.

Following the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001, the Omani Government at all levels pledged and provided impressive support to the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism. Oman is a signatory of most UN-sponsored anti-terrorism treaties.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sultan Qaboos bin Sa'id rules with the aid of his ministers. His dynasty, the Al Sa'id, was founded about 250 years ago by Imam Ahmed bin Sa'id Al Bu Said. Sultan Qaboos is a direct descendant of the 19th century ruler, Sa'id bin Sultan, who first opened relations with the United States in 1833. The Sultanate has neither political parties nor legislature, although the bicameral representative bodies provide the government with advice.

Oman's judicial system traditionally has been based on the Shari'a—the Quranic laws and the oral teachings of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. Traditionally, Shari'a courts fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, Awqaf, and Islamic Affairs (since divided into the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs). Oman'sfirst criminal code was not enacted until 1974.

In 1999, royal decrees placed the entire court system under the financial supervision of the Ministry of Justice, though the 1996 Basic Law ensures the independence of the judiciary. An independent Office of the Public Prosecutor also has been created (formerly a part of the Royal Oman Police), as has a supreme court. Regional court complexes are envisioned to house the various courts, including the courts of first instance for criminal cases and Sha-riah cases (family law and inheritance).

The country is divided into 61 administrative districts (wilayats), presided over by appointed executives (walis) responsible for settling local disputes, collecting taxes, and maintaining peace. Most wilayats are small in area, but can vary considerably in population. The 61 wilayats are divided into eight regions. Four of those regions (Muscat, Dhofar, Musandam, and Buraimi) have been accorded a special status as governorates. The governors of those four regions are appointed directly by the Sultan and hold Minister of State or Under Secretary rank. Walis, however, are appointed by the Minister of Interior.

In November 1991, Sultan Qaboos established the Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council), which replaced the 10-year-old State Consultative Council, in an effort to systematize and broaden public participation in government. Representatives were chosen in the following manner: Local caucuses in each of the 59 districts sent forward the names of three nominees, whose credentials were reviewed by a cabinet committee. These names were then forwarded to the Sultan, who made the final selection. Since then, reforms have permitted Omanis to freely run for office in contested elections featuring universal adult suffrage. The Consultative Council serves as a conduit of information between the people and the government ministries. It is empowered to review drafts of and provide recommendations on economic and social legislation prepared by service ministries, such as communications and housing, and to approve state financial plans. Service ministers also may be summoned before the Majlis to respond to representatives' questions. It has no authority in the areas of foreign affairs, defense, security, and finance.

Although Oman enjoys a high degree of internal stability, regional tensions in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf war, the Iran-Iraq war, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom continue to necessitate large defense expenditures. In 2006, Oman spent roughly $3.84 billion for defense and national security—over 33% of its public expenditures. Oman maintains a small but professional and effective military, supplied mainly with British equipment in addition to items from the United States, France, and other countries. British officers, on loan or on contract to the Sultanate, help staff the armed forces, although a program of “Oman-ization” has steadily increased the proportion of Omani officers over the past several years.

After North and South Yemen merged in May 1990, Oman settled its border disputes with the new Republic of Yemen on October 1, 1992. The two neighbors have cooperative bilateral relations. Oman's borders with all neighbors are demarcated, including a 2002 demarcation of the Oman-U.A.E. border that was ratified in 2003.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Sultan: QABOOS bin Said al-Said

Special Representative for His Majesty the Sultan: THUWAYNI bin Shihab al-Said

Prime Min.: QABOOS bin Said al-Said

Dep. Prime Min. for Cabinet Affairs: FAHD bin Mahmud al-Said

Min. of Agriculture: Salim bin Hilal bin Ali al-KHALILI

Min. of Awqaf & Religious Affairs: Abdallah bin Muhammad bin Abdallah al-SALIMI

Min. of Civil Services: Muhammad bin Abdallah bin Isa al-HARTHI

Min. of Commerce, Industry, & Minerals: MAQBUL bin Ali Sultan

Min. of Defense: QABOOS bin Said al-Said

Min. of Diwan of the Royal Court: SAYF bin Hamad al-Busaidi

Min. of Education & Teaching: Yahya bin Saud al-SALIMI

Chmn., Electricity & Water Ministry: Abdallah bin Muhammad al-MAHRUQI

Min. of Environment & Climate Change: HAMAD bin Faysal al-Busaidi

Min. of Finance: QABOOS bin Said al-Said

Min. of Fisheries: Muhammad bin Ali al-QATABI

Min. of Foreign Affairs: QABOOS bin Said al-Said

Min. of Health: Ali bin Muhammad bin MUSA, Dr.

Min. of Higher Education: RAWYA bint Saud al-Busaidi

Min. of Housing: Muhammad bin Saif al SHABI

Min. of Information: Hamad bin Muhammad al-RASHIDI

Min. of Interior: SAUD bin Ibrahim al-Busaidi

Min. of Justice: Muhammad bin Abdallah bin Zahir al-HINAI

Min. of Labor: Juma bin Ali bin JUMA

Min. of Legal Affairs: Muhammad bin Ali bin Nasir al-ALAWI

Min. of National Economy: Ahmad bin Abd al-Nabi al-MAKKI

Min. of National Heritage & Culture: HAYTHIM bin Tariq al-Said

Min. of Oil & Gas: Muhammad bin Hamad bin Sayf al-RUMHI

Min. of Palace Affairs: ALI bin Hamud bin Ali al-Busaidi

Min. of Regional Municipalities & Water Resources: Abdallah bin Muhammad bin Abdallah al-RUWAS

Min. of the Royal Office: ALI MAJID bin Mussabagh al-Mamari, Gen.

Min. of Social Development: SHARIFA bint Khalfan bin Nasser al-Yahya

Min. of Sports: Ali bin Masud bin Ali al-SUNAIDI

Min. of Tourism: Rajiha bint Abd al-Amir bin ALI

Min. of Transport & Communication: KHAMIS bin Mubarak al-Alawi

Min. of State & Governor, Muscat: SAYID al-Mutasim bin Hamud al-Busaidi

Min. of State & Governor, Dhofar: MUHAMMAD bin Marhun bin Ali al-MAMARI

Min. Responsible for Defense Affairs: BADR bin Saud bin Harib al-Busaidi

Min. Responsible for Foreign Affairs: Yusuf bin ALAWI bin Abdallah

Special Adviser to His Majesty: Salim bin Abdallah al-GHAZALI

Special Adviser to His Majesty for Culture: Abd al-Aziz bin Muhammad al-RUWAS

Special Adviser to His Majesty for Economic Planning Affairs: Muhammad bin ZUBAYR

Special Adviser to His Majesty for Environmental Affairs: SHABIB bin Taymur al-Said

Special Adviser to His Majesty for External Liaison: Umar bin Abd al-Munim al-ZAWAWI

Governor, Central Bank of Oman: QABOOS bin Said al-Said

Executive Pres., Central Bank of Oman: Hamud bin Sangur bin Hashim al-ZADJALI

Ambassador to the US: Hunaina bint Sultan bin Ahmad al-MUGHAIRI

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Fuad bin Mubarak al-HINAI

Oman maintains an embassy in the United States at 2535 Belmont Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/387-1980).

ECONOMY

When Oman declined as an entrepot for arms and slaves in the mid-19th century, much of its former prosperity was lost, and the economy turned almost exclusively to agriculture, camel and goat herding, fishing, and traditional handicrafts. Today, oil and gas fuel the economy, and revenues from petroleum products have enabled Oman's dramatic development over the past 36 years.

Oil was first discovered in the interior near Fahud in the western desert in 1964. Petroleum Development (Oman) Ltd. (PDO) began production in August 1967. The Omani Government owns 60% of PDO, and foreign interests own 40% (Royal Dutch Shell owns 34%; the remaining 6% is owned by Compagnie Francaise des Petroles [Total] and Partex). In 1976, Oman's oil production rose to 366,000 barrels per day (b/d) but declined gradually to about 285,000 b/d in late 1980 due to the depletion of recoverable reserves. From 1981 to 1986, Oman compensated for declining oil prices by increasing production levels to 600,000 b/d. With the collapse of oil prices in 1986, however, revenues dropped dramatically. Production was cut back temporarily in coordination with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)—of which Oman is not a member—and production levels again reached 600,000 b/d by mid-1987, which helped increase revenues. By 2000, production had climbed to more than 900,000 b/d; however, it declined to roughly 750,000 b/d for 2006.

Natural gas reserves, which will increasingly provide the fuel for industrial projects in Sohar and power generation and desalination plants throughout the Sultanate, stand at 24 trillion cubic feet. A liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing plant located in Sur was opened in 2000, with production capacity of 6.6 million tons per year (tons/yr), as well as unsubstantial gas liquids, including condensates. The completion of the plant's expansion in December 2005 has increased capacity to 10.3 million tons/yr.

Oman does not have the immense oil resources of some of its neighbors. Total proven reserves are about 4.8 billion barrels. Oman's complex geology makes exploration and production an expensive challenge. Recent improvements in technology, however, have enhanced recovery.

Agriculture and fishing are the traditional way of life in Oman. Dates, grown extensively in the Batinah coastal plain and the highlands, make up most of the country's agricultural exports. Coconut palms, wheat, and bananas also are grown, and cattle are raised in Dhofar. Other areas grow cereals and forage crops. Poultry production is steadily rising. Fish and shellfish exports totaled $104.7 million in 2006.

The government is undertaking many development projects to modernize the economy, improve the standard of living, and become a more active player in the global market-place. Oman became a member of the World Trade Organization in October 2000, and continues to amend its financial and commercial practices to conform to international standards. Oman signed a Free Trade Agreement with the United States in January 2006, and continues to pursue, through the Gulf Cooperation Council, free trade agreements with a number of other key trading partners, including the EU and India.

Increases in agriculture and especially fish production are believed possible with the application of modern technology. The Muscat capital area has both an international airport at Seeb and a deepwater port at Mina Qaboos. The large-scale modern container port at Salalah, capital of the Dhofar Governorate, continues to operate at near-capacity levels. The government in early 2004 approved a project worth over $250 million to add two berths and extend the break-water at the port. Port expansion is underway at Mina Qaboos, and a large industrial and container port is under construction in Sohar. A national road network includes a $400 million highway linking the northern and southern regions. The government will also expand passenger and cargo capacity at its main international airports at Seeb (Muscat) and Salalah, and will construct new airports at Sohar, Ras al-Hadd, and Duqm. In an effort to diversify the economy, in the early 1980s, the government built a $200-million copper mining and refining plant at Sohar. Other large industrial projects underway or being considered include an 80,000 b/d oil refinery, a large petrochemical complex, fertilizer and methanol plants, an aluminum smelter, and two cement factories. Industrial zones at Rusayl, Sohar, and several other locations showcase the country's modest light industries. Marble, limestone, and gypsum may prove commercially viable in the future.

The Omani Government embarked on its seventh 5-year plan in 2006. In its efforts to reduce its dependence on oil and expatriate labor, the government projects significant increases in spending on industrial and tourism-related projects to foster income diversification, job creation for Omanis in the private sector, and development of Oman's interior. Government programs offer soft loans and propose the building of new industrial estates in population centers outside the capital area. The government is giving greater emphasis to “Omanization” of the labor force, particularly in banking, hotels, and municipally sponsored shops benefiting from government subsidies. Currently, efforts are underway to liberalize investment opportunities in order to attract foreign capital.

Some of the largest budgetary outlays are in the areas of health services and basic education. The number of schools, hospitals, and clinics has risen exponentially since the accession of Sultan Qaboos in 1970.

U.S. firms face a small and highly competitive market dominated by trade with Japan and Britain and re-exports from the United Arab Emirates. The sale of U.S. products also is hampered by higher transportation costs and the lack of familiarity with Oman on the part of U.S. exporters. However, the traditional U.S. market in Oman, oil field supplies and services, should grow as the country's major oil producer continues a major expansion of fields and wells. Major new U.S. investments in oil production, industry, and tourism projects in 2005 totaled several billion dollars. Moreover, negotiations on the U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement (FTA) were successfully concluded in October 2005; the FTA was ratified by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Bush in 2006 and is currently awaiting implementation. Once implemented, the FTA should provide further impetus to bilateral trade and investment.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

When Sultan Qaboos assumed power in 1970, Oman had limited contacts with the outside world, including neighboring Arab states. Only two countries, the United Kingdom and India, maintained a diplomatic presence in the country. A special treaty relationship permitted the United Kingdom close involvement in Oman's civil and military affairs. Ties with the United Kingdom have remained very close under Sultan Qaboos.

Since 1970, Oman has pursued a moderate foreign policy and expanded its diplomatic relations dramatically. It supported the 1979 Camp David accords and was one of three Arab League states, along with Somalia and Sudan, which did not break relations with Egypt after the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty in 1979. During the Iran-Iraq war, Oman maintained diplomatic relations with both sides while strongly backing UN Security Council resolutions calling for an end to the war. Oman has developed close ties to its neighbors; it joined the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council when it was established in 1981.

Oman has traditionally supported Middle East peace initiatives, as it did those in 1983. In April 1994, Oman hosted the plenary meeting of the Water Working Group of the peace process, the first Gulf state to do so. From 1996-2000, Oman and Israel exchanged trade offices. Oman closed the Israeli Trade Office in October 2000 in the wake of public demonstrations against Israel at the start of the second intifada.

During the Cold War period, Oman avoided relations with communist countries because of the communist support for the insurgency in Dhofar. In recent years, Oman has undertaken diplomatic initiatives in the Central Asian republics, particularly in Kazakhstan, where it is involved in a joint oil pipeline project. In addition, Oman maintains good relations with Iran, and the two countries regularly exchange delegations. Oman is an active member in international and regional organizations, notably the Arab League and the GCC.

U.S.-OMANI RELATIONS

The United States has maintained relations with the Sultanate since the early years of American independence. A treaty of friendship and navigation, one of the first agreements of its kind with an Arab state, was concluded between the United States and Muscat in 1833. This treaty was replaced by the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights signed at Salalah on December 20, 1958.

A U.S. consulate was maintained in Muscat from 1880 until 1915. Thereafter, U.S. interests in Oman were handled by U.S. diplomats resident in other countries. In 1972, the U.S. ambassador in Kuwait was accredited also as the first U.S. ambassador to Oman, and the U.S. embassy, headed by a resident charge d'affaires, was opened. The first resident U.S. ambassador took up his post in July 1974. The Oman embassy was opened in Washington, DC, in 1973.

U.S.-Omani relations were deepened in 1980 by the conclusion of two important agreements. One provided access to Omani military facilities by U.S. forces under agreed-upon conditions. The other agreement established a Joint Commission for Economic and Technical Cooperation, located in Muscat, to provide U.S. economic assistance to Oman. The Joint Commission continued in existence until the mid-1990s. A Peace Corps program, which assisted Oman mainly in the fields of health and education, was initiated in 1973 and phased out in 1983. A team from the Federal Aviation Administration worked with Oman's Civil Aviation Department on a reimbursable basis but was phased out in 1992.

In March 2005, the U.S. and Oman launched negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement that were successfully concluded in October 2005. The FTA was signed on January 19, 2006, and is pending implementation.

In 1974 and April 1983, Sultan Qaboos made state visits to the United States. Vice President George H. Bush visited Oman in 1984 and 1986, and President Clinton visited briefly in March 2000. Vice President Cheney visited Oman in 2002, 2005, and 2006.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

MUSCAT (E), APO/FPO APO/AE 09890-3000, [968] 2464-3400, Fax [968] 2464-3434, Workweek: SAT-WED/0800-1630, Website: http://oman.usembassy.gov.

AMB OMS:Jan Wheeler
ECO/COM:Brian M. Grimm
FM:Ralph Delarue
MGT:Edward Quinn
POL ECO:Brian Grimm
AMB:Gary A Grappo
CON:Bryce Isham
DCM:Alfred Fonteneau
PAO:Robert Arbuckle
GSO:Konstantin Gojnycz
RSO:Ronald Campbell
CLO:Monica Milton
DAO:David Crockett
FMO:Douglas Sun
ICASS:Chair Robert Arbuckle
IMO:Deanne Bryant
ISO:Robert Saunders
ISSO:Deanne Bryant
LEGATT:Martin Reardon (Res.Riyadh)
MLO COL:Thomas Milton
POL:Eric Carlson
RAMC:Fsc Bangkok

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

December 3, 2007

Country Description: The Sultanate of Oman, a land of great natural beauty on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula, has a long and proud heritage. With a population of 2.6 million, Oman has seen rapid economic and social development in the past three decades. A monarchy governed by Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the country does not have political parties or a legislature, although a bicameral representative body (the lower house of which is directly elected) provides the government with advice and reviews draft legislation. While Oman is traditionally Islamic and Islam is the state religion, Omanis have for centuries lived with people of other faiths. Non-Muslims are free to worship at churches and temples built on land donated by the Sultan. The economy is largely dependent on the production and export of oil and natural gas, but is becoming increasingly more diversified. Excellent tourist facilities are available in the major cities of Muscat, Salalah, Sohar, and Nizwa and can increasingly be found elsewhere in the country. Travelers may wish to visit the Sultanate's tourism web site at http://www.omantourism.gov.om/ for more information.

Entry Requirements: A valid passport and visa are required for entry into Oman. Omani embassies and consulates issue multiple-entry tourist and/or business visas valid for up to two years. Omani immigration officials at the port of entry determine the length of stay in Oman, which varies according to the purpose of travel. Alternatively, U.S. citizens may obtain a 30-day visa by presenting their U.S. passports on arrival at all Oman land, sea, and air entry points. Note: The validity period of the applicant's passport should not be less than six months. Adequate funds and proof of an onward/return ticket, though not required, are strongly recommended. The fee is Rials Omani 6.00 (approximately USD 16.00). This visa can only be extended for an extra 30 days; a completed extension application form and the fee of Rials Omani 6.00 (USD 16.00) should be submitted to the Directorate General of Passports and Residence or to its branches at regional Royal Omani Police offices. Other categories of short-term visit/business/work contract visas are available, but these must be arranged in advance through an Omani sponsor. To obtain a visa or for details on entry and travel requirements, please contact the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, 2535 Belmont Road NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 387-1980/ 2. Evidence of yellow fever immunization is required if the traveler enters from an infected area. Visit the Embassy of Oman web site at www.omani.info for the most current visa information.

Forbidden items: The Sultanate prohibits pornographic materials and firearms from entering Oman. Local law limits each traveler to two bottles of alcohol. Items subject to confiscation at the airport due to content considered culturally inappropriate include, but are not limited, to compact discs, digital video discs, and video and audiocassettes.

Safety and Security: There have been no instances in which U.S. citizens or facilities in Oman have been subject to terrorist attacks. However, the Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests throughout the region. American citizens in Oman are urged to maintain a high level of security awareness. The State Department suggests that all Americans in Oman maintain an unpredictable schedule and vary travel routes whenever possible. Americans are also urged to treat mail or packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. Unusual mail or packages should be left unopened and reported to local authorities. U.S. citizens with security concerns are encouraged to contact local authorities and the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Muscat.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's web site, where the current World-wide Caution Travel Alert, Middle East and North Africa Travel Alert, Travel Warnings and other Travel Alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: The incidence of street crime is low in Oman; violent crime is rare by U.S. standards, but can occur. Crimes of opportunity remain the most likely to affect visitors. Visitors to Oman should, therefore, take normal precautions, such as avoiding travel in deserted or unfamiliar areas and after dark. Visitors should also protect personal property from theft. In particular, valuables and currency should not be left unsecured in hotel rooms. Common sense and caution are always the best methods for crime prevention.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: There are a number of modern medical facilities in Oman. Local medical treatment varies from quite good to inadequate, depending in large part on location. Many Western pharmaceuticals can be found in Oman. Hospital emergency treatment is available. Doctors and hospitals often expect cash payment for health services.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Oman is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road Conditions and Hazards: Road conditions, lighting, and traffic safety in cities and on major highways are good. The condition of rural roads varies from good to poor. Travel between cities, especially at night, may be dangerous due to poor or no lighting, wandering livestock, and speeding drivers. The safety of public transportation is generally good. Taxis, minivans, and small buses may swerve to the side of the road to pick up passengers with little notice or regard for other vehicles.

Local Laws and Practices: Traffic laws in Oman are strictly enforced.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol is prohibited, and there are stringent penalties for violating this law. Seat belt use is required, and the use of non-hands-free cellular telephones while driving is prohibited. In the event of a traffic violation and fine, drivers should pay the fine as directed and should not attempt to pay or negotiate payment at the time of the traffic stop.

Effective June 1, 2007, the Royal Oman Police (ROP) introduced new procedures for minor Road Traffic Accidents (RTA) to reduce traffic jams. According to the ROP, the new procedure is currently in force in the Governorate of Muscat area and will eventually be implemented in the other governorates and regions of the Sultanate. American citizens considering driving in Oman are advised to familiarize themselves with the new procedures available on the ROP web site at http://www.rop.gov.om/english/index.asp under “Minor Road Traffic Accidents.”Note: Minor RTA are accidents causing minor damage to one or more vehicles that does not result in injuries, deaths, or material damage to public/private properties. Parties involved in such accidents should immediately move their vehicles to the side of the road.

American citizens involved in accidents outside of the Muscat area are advised not to move their vehicles from the accident location until the ROP gives them permission; moving a vehicle may be interpreted as an admission of guilt.

The use of European-style traffic circles is prevalent in Oman. However, unlike European traffic practice, the driver on the inside lane always has priority. A driver flashing his/her high beams is generally asking for a chance to pass. Turning right on a red traffic signal is prohibited.

Visitors should not drive without a valid license. Short-term visitors in possession of a valid U.S. driver's license may drive rental vehicles, but residents must have an Omani driver's license. To obtain an Omani license, a U.S. citizen must have a U.S. license that has been valid for at least one year or must take a driving test. Visitors hiring rental cars should insure the vehicles adequately against death, injury and loss or damage. Residents may insure their vehicles outside the Sultanate; however, third party liability insurance must be purchased locally.

Emergency Services: A modern ambulance service using American equipment and staff trained in the U.S. was instituted in 2004 and has been assessed as very good. The service currently serves only certain urban locations in Oman, including the capital area, but is eventually expected to provide coverage for motor vehicle accident victims throughout the entire Sultanate. For all traffic-related emergencies, the Royal Omani Police can be contacted by dialing "9999."

Visit the website of Oman's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.omantourism.gov.om.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Oman's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Oman's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: By Omani custom and law, expressing frustration either verbally or through otherwise innocuous hand gestures is considered insulting and abusive. Doing so could result in police action that may lead to a jail term and a fine. Confrontations of this nature occur mostly on Oman's roads, and visitors should exercise caution when dealing with difficult drivers.

Omani employers often ask that expatriate employees deposit their passports with the company as a condition of employment. While to an extent still customary, this practice is contrary to Omani law. The U.S. Embassy in Muscat advises Americans to exercise caution on the issue of permitting an employer to hold their passports, since this can operate as a restraint on travel and could give undue leverage to the employer in a dispute. U.S. passports are the property of the U.S. government.

Islamic ideals provide the conservative foundation of Oman's customs, laws, and practices. Foreign visitors are expected to be sensitive to Islamic culture and not dress in a revealing or provocative style, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter-tops and shorts. Athletic clothing is worn in public only when the wearer is obviously engaged in athletic activity. Western bathing attire, however, is the norm at hotel pools and beaches.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Omani laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Oman are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Oman are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Oman. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located on Jamiat A'Duwal Al Arabiya Street, Al Khuwair Area (Shatti Al-Qurum), in the capital city of Muscat. The mailing address is: PO Box 202, Medinat Al Sultan Qaboos 115, Sultanate of Oman, telephone: (968) 24-643-400, fax: (968) 24-643-535. The Embassy's Consular e-mail address is [email protected] and the web site is http://oman.usembassy.gov.

International Adoption

February 2008

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: Omani nationals who are Muslims must adopt Oman children.

Availability of Children for Adoption: To date, no Omani children have been adopted by American citizens.

Adoption Authority: The government office responsible for adoptions in Oman is the Ministry of Social Affairs. Please contact Ms. Batool Hassan, Deputy Director of the Office of Children's and Women's Affairs (968) 601-598.

Age and Civil Status Requirements: The Omani Government requires that individuals who wish to adopt Omani children must have Omani nationality and must be of the Muslim faith. Married couples are preferred but single women may also be eligible to adopt under special circumstances.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: All adoptions are processed by the Government of Oman.

Doctors: The U.S. Embassy maintains current lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Oman.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: A Oman child adopted by an American citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Prospective adopting parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions.

Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Omani Embassy in the United States
2535 Belmont Road, NW,
Washington, DC 20008
Tel. (202) 387-1980

U.S. Embassy
P.O. Box 202
Code 115 Madinat Al-Sultan Qaboos
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
Tel. (968) 698-989 X 216, 294, or 435.
Fax (968) 699-189
E-mail: [email protected]

Questions: Specific questions regarding adoption in Oman may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy Muscat, Oman. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-2818, Tel: 1-888-407-4747 with specific questions.

International Parental Child Abduction

February 2008

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Parental Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

General Information: Oman is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Oman and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. American citizens who travel to Oman are subject to the jurisdiction of Omani courts, as well as to the country'slaws and regulations. American citizens planning a trip to Oman with dual national children should bear this in mind.

Custody Disputes: When child custody disputes arise between parents of any religion, the custody decisions by Omani courts are based on Islamic (Sharia) law. Custody cases can be very complex and are usually determined on a case-by-case basis. When making decisions regarding child custody matters, Omani courts consider the parents” religion(s), place(s) of permanent residence, income, and the parents” marital status. Omani law differentiates between custodianship and guardianship. Generally speaking, a custodian has been awarded custody of the child and is responsible for his/her upbringing including education and care. A guardian is responsible for the child's financial support.

Omani courts do not, as a general rule, award custody of “dual national” (U.S./Omani) children to an American mother or father, even one who is Muslim. A fundamental consideration of awarding custody is the parent's place(s) of permanent residence and degree of access to the children. Custody of very young children is generally granted to the mother as long as certain restrictive conditions are met. Once the children come of age (for males completion of their seventh year of age, for females the onset of puberty), the father can appeal for, and will usually be awarded, full custody provided certain restrictive conditions are met. If a father were unable or unfit to be custodian of his children, the court may give custody to another family member. Sharia court judges have broad discretion in custody cases and often make exceptions to these general guidelines, particularly in cases in which a parent is from an influential family or has powerful connections in Oman.

Even when a mother is granted custody, the non-custodial father maintains a great deal of influence on the rearing of the children. In many cases, the father has been able to acquire legal custody of children against the wishes of the mother when she is unable or unwilling to meet certain conditions set by law for her to maintain her custodial rights. For example, if a mother refuses to give the father access to his child or attempts to leave Oman with the children without the court's permission, a mother's custody rights can be severed. The Omani court can sever a mother's custody if it determines that the mother is incapable of safeguarding the child or of bringing the child up in accordance with the appropriate religious standards. Either parent can lose custody by re-marrying a party considered “unmarriageable,” or by residing in a home with people that might be “strangers.” However, the final decision is left to the discretion of the Sharia court.

Sharia law forbids the removal of children from Oman without first obtaining permission from the court. The U.S. Embassy cannot prevent the Omani government from arresting and either deporting or prosecuting an American citizen who violates Omani law.

Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in an Omani court should retain an attorney in Oman. The State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Oman maintain a list of attorneys willing to represent American clients. A copy of this list may be obtained by contacting either office. It is the responsibility of the prospective client to assess the capabilities of an attorney. The Embassy cannot recommend any specific attorney, and makes no claim as to the ability or the integrity of the attorneys on the list. The Embassy cannot pay for any legal expenses incurred.

U.S. Embassy Muscat
Consular Section
P.O. Box 202
Madinat al Sultan Qaboos 115
Sultanate of Oman
Telephone: [968] 698-989
Fax: [968] 699-189
Website: http://www.usa.gov.om
Consular Section:
[email protected]

The workweek for the Embassy is Saturday through Wednesday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM.

Specific questions regarding child custody in Oman should be addressed to an Omani attorney or to the Embassy of Oman at:

Embassy of the Sultanate of
Oman

2535 Belmont Road, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: (202) 387-1980
Fax: (202) 745-4933

Enforcement of Foreign Judgments: Custody orders and judgments of foreign courts are not enforceable in Oman if they potentially contradict or violate local laws and practices. For example, an order from a U.S. court granting custody to an American parent will not be honored in Oman if the parent intends to take the child to live outside Oman. Nor will Omani courts enforce U.S. court decrees ordering a parent in Oman to pay child support.

Visitation Rights: Non-custodial parents are generally entitled to visitation rights as determined by the Sharia judge.

Dual Nationality: Dual nationality is not recognized by the Sultanate of Oman. Children of Omani fathers automatically acquire Omani citizenship at birth and must enter and leave the country on Omani passports even if they are entitled to hold the passport of another country. Omani women cannot transmit citizenship to their children.

Travel Restrictions: When a custody case is pending with the Sharia court, children, regardless of their nationality, are generally subject to court-imposed travel restrictions. Either parent can request the court to restrict the travel of his/her minor children.

Criminal Remedies: For information on possible criminal remedies, please contact your local law enforcement authorities or the nearest office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Information is also available on the Internet at the web site of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org.

For further information on international parental child abduction, contact the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State at 1-888-407-4747 or visit its web site on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov/family. You may also direct inquiries to: Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-4811; Phone: (202) 736-9090; Fax: (202) 312-9743.

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Oman

OMAN

Compiled from the February 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Sultanate of Oman


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

About 212,460 sq. km. (about the size of Kansas). It is bordered on the north by the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), on the northwest by Saudi Arabia, and on the southwest by the Republic of Yemen. The Omani coastline stretches 2,092 km.

Cities:

Capital—Muscat. Other cities—Salalah Nizwa, Sohar, Sur.

Terrain:

Mountains, plains, and arid plateau.

Climate:

Hot, humid along the coast; hot, dry in the interior; summer monsoon in far south.

People

Nationality:

Noun—Oman. Adjective—Omani.

Population (2003 census figures.):

2.33 million.

Annual growth rate (2003 est.):

1.9%.

Ethnic groups:

Arab, Baluchi, East African (Zanzabari), South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi).

Religion:

Ibadhi; Sunni Muslim, Shia Muslim, Hindu, Christian.

Language:

Arabic (official), English, Baluchi, Urdu, Swahili, Hindi and Indian dialects.

Education:

Literacy—approx. 80% (total population).

Health (2003):

Infant mortality rate—20.26/1,000. Life expectancy—72.85.

Work force (920,000):

Agriculture and fishing—50%.

Government

Type:

Monarchy.

Constitution:

On November 6, 1996, Sultan Qaboos issued a royal decree promulgating the Basic Statute which clarifies the royal succession, provides for a prime minister, bars ministers from holding interests in companies doing business with the government, establishes a bicameral parliament, and guarantees basic civil liberties for Omani citizens.

Branches:

Executive—Sultan. Legislative—Majlis Oman (bicameral: State Council and Consultative Council). Judicial—Magistrate courts handle criminal cases; Shari'a (Islamic law) courts oversee family law.

Political parties:

None.

Suffrage:

Universal adult.

Administrative subdivisions:

Eight administrative regions—Muscat Governorate, Al Batinah, Musandam Governorate, A'Dhahirah, A'Dakhliya, A'Shariqiya, Al Wusta, Dhofar Governorate. There are 59 districts (wilayats).

Economy

GDP (2004):

$21.58 billion (8.3 billion Omani rials).

Per capita GDP:

$9,261.

Natural resources:

Oil, natural gas, copper, marble, limestone, gypsum, chromium.

Agriculture and fisheries:

(2.1% of GDP).

Agriculture:

Products—dates, limes, bananas, mangoes, alfalfa, other fruits and vegetables. Fisheries—Kingfish, tuna, other fish, shrimp, lobster, abalone.

Industry:

Types—crude petroleum (not including gas liquids) about 800,000 barrels per day; construction, petroleum refinery, copper mines and smelter, cement and various light industries.

Trade (2002):

Exports—$11.7 billion. Major markets—Japan (22.1%), China (15.2%), Thailand (12.6%), South Korea (19.9%), U.A.E. (9.4%). Imports—$5.7 billion: machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, food, livestock, lubricants. Major suppliers—U.A.E. 27.6%, Japan 16.7%, U.K. 7.4%, U.S. 6.9%, Germany 5%.


PEOPLE

About 55% of the population lives in Muscat and the Batinah coastal plain northwest of the capital; about 215,000 live in the Dhofar (southern) region, and about 30,000 live in the remote Musandam Peninsula on the Strait of Hormuz. Some 560,000 expatriates live in Oman, most of whom are guest workers from South Asia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Philippines.

Since 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. In 1986, Oman's first university, Sultan Qaboos University, opened. Other post secondary institutions include a law school, technical college, banking institute, teachers training college, and health sciences institute. Some 200 scholarships are awarded each year for study abroad.

Nine private colleges exist, providing 2-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.


HISTORY

Oman adopted Islam in the seventh century A.D., during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. Ibadhism, a form of Islam distinct from Shiaism and the "Orthodox" schools of Sunnism, became the dominant religious sect in Oman by the eighth century A.D. Oman is the only country in the Islamic world with a majority Ibadhi population. Ibadhism is known for its "moderate conservatism." One distinguishing feature of Ibadhism is the choice of ruler by communal consensus and consent.

Contact with Europe was established in 1508, when the Portuguese conquered parts of Oman's coastal region. Portugal's influence predominated for more than a century. Fortifications built during the Portuguese occupation can still be seen at Muscat.

Except for a period when Persia conquered parts of Oman, Oman has been an independent nation. After the Portuguese were expelled in 1650 and while resisting Persian attempts to establish hegemony, the Sultan of Oman extended his conquests to Zanzibar, other parts of the eastern coast of Africa, and portions of the southern Arabian Peninsula. During this period, political leadership shifted from the Ibadhi imams, who were elected religious leaders, to hereditary sultans who established their capital in Muscat. The Muscat rulers established trading posts on the Persian coast and also exercised a measure of control over the Makran coast (now Pakistan). By the early 19th century, Oman was the most powerful state in Arabia and on the East African coast.

Oman was the object of Franco-British rivalry throughout the 18th century. During the 19th century, Oman and the United Kingdom concluded several treaties of friendship and commerce. In 1908, the British entered into an agreement of friendship. Their traditional association was confirmed in 1951 through a new treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation by which the United Kingdom recognized the Sultanate of Oman as a fully independent state.

When Sultan Sa'id bin Sultan Al-Busaid died in 1856, his sons quarreled over his succession. As a result of this struggle, the empire—through the mediation of the British Government under the "Canning Award"—was divided in 1861 into two separate principalities—Zanzibar, with its East African dependencies, and Muscat and Oman. Zanzibar paid an annual subsidy to Muscat and Oman until its independence in early 1964.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the sultan in Muscat faced rebellion by members of the Ibadhi sect residing in the interior of Oman, centered around the town of Nizwa, who wanted to be ruled exclusively by their religious leader, the Imam of Oman. This conflict was resolved temporarily by the Treaty of Seeb in 1920, which granted the imam autonomous rule in the interior, while recognizing the sovereignty of the sultan elsewhere.

Following the discovery of oil in the interior, the conflict flared up again in 1954, when the new imam led a sporadic 5-year rebellion against the sultan's efforts to extend government control into the interior. The insurgents were defeated in 1959 with British help. The sultan then terminated the Treaty of Seeb and eliminated the office of the imam. In the early 1960s, the imam, exiled to Saudi Arabia, obtained support from his hosts and other Arab governments, but this support ended in the 1980s.

In 1964, a separatist revolt began in Dhofar Province. Aided by communist and leftist governments such as the former South Yemen (People's Democratic Republic of Yemen), the rebels formed the Dhofar Liberation Front, which later merged with the Marxist-dominated Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arab Gulf (PFLOAG). The PFLOAG's declared intention was to overthrow all traditional Arab Gulf regimes. In mid-1974, PFLOAG shortened its name to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman (PFLO) and embarked on a political rather than a military approach to gain power in the other Gulf states, while continuing the guerrilla war in Dhofar.

With the help of British advisors, Sultan Qaboos bin Sa'id assumed power on July 23, 1970, in a palace coup directed against his father, Sa'id bin Taymur, who later died in exile in London. The new sultan was confronted with insurgency in a country plagued by endemic disease, illiteracy, and poverty. One of the new sultan's first measures was to abolish many of his father's harsh restrictions, which had caused thousands of Omanis to leave the country, and to offer amnesty to opponents of the previous regime, many of whom returned to Oman. He also established a modern government

structure and launched a major development program to upgrade educational and health facilities, build a modern infrastructure, and develop the country's natural resources.

In an effort to curb the Dhofar insurgency, Sultan Qaboos expanded and re-equipped the armed forces and granted amnesty to all surrendered rebels while vigorously prosecuting the war in Dhofar. He obtained direct military support from the U.K., Iran, and Jordan. By early 1975, the guerrillas were confined to a 50 square kilometer (20-sq. mi.) area near the Yemen border and shortly thereafter were defeated. As the war drew to a close, civil action programs were given priority throughout Dhofar and helped win the allegiance of the people. The PFLO threat diminished further with the establishment of diplomatic relations in October 1983 between South Yemen and Oman, and South Yemen subsequently lessened propaganda and subversive activities against Oman. In late-1987, Oman opened an embassy in Aden, South Yemen, and appointed its first resident ambassador to the country.

Since his accession in 1970, Sultan Qaboos has balanced tribal, regional, and ethnic interests in composing the national administration. The Council of Ministers, which functions as a cabinet, consists of 28 ministers, all directly appointed by Qaboos. The bicameral Majlis Oman's mandate is to review legislation pertaining to economic development and social services prior to its becoming law. The elected Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council) may request ministers to appear before it. In early 2003, Sultan Qaboos declared universal suffrage for the October 2003 Majlis al-Shura elections. Two women were elected to sit with 81 male colleagues in those elections, which were observed to be free and fair. Roughly 194,000 Omani men and women, or 74% of eligible voters, participated in the elections. Since 2003, Sultan Qaboos has also expanded the Majlis al-Dowla, or State Council, to 59 members from 53, including nine women. The State Council acts as the upper chamber in Oman's bicameral representative body.

In November 1996, Sultan Qaboos presented his people with the "Basic Statute of the State," Oman's first written "constitution." It guarantees various rights within the framework of Quranic and customary law. It partially resuscitated long dormant conflict-of-interest measures by banning cabinet ministers from being officers of public shareholding firms. Perhaps most importantly, the Basic Statute provides rules for setting Sultan Qaboos' succession.

Oman is strategically located on the Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf, 35 miles directly opposite Iran. Oman is concerned with regional stability and security, given tensions in the region, the proximity of Iran and Iraq, and the potential threat of political Islam. Oman maintained its diplomatic relations with Iraq throughout the Gulf War while supporting the UN allies by sending a contingent of troops to join coalition forces and by opening up to prepositioning of weapons and supplies. In addition, since 1980 Oman and the U.S. have been parties to a military cooperation agreement, which was revised and renewed in 2000. Oman also has long been an active participant in efforts to achieve Middle East peace.

Following the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001, the Omani Government at all levels pledged and provided impressive support to the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism. Oman is a signatory of most UN-sponsored anti-terrorism treaties.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sultan Qaboos bin Sa'id rules with the aid of his ministers. His dynasty, the Al Sa'id, was founded about 250 years ago by Imam Ahmed bin Sa'id. The sultan is a direct descendant of the 19th century ruler, Sa'id bin Sultan, who first opened relations with the United States in 1833. The Sultanate has neither political parties nor legislature, although the bicameral representative bodies provide the government with advice.

Oman's judicial system traditionally has been based on the Shari'a—the Quranic laws and the oral teachings of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. Traditionally, Shari'a courts fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, Awqaf, and Islamic Affairs. Oman's first criminal code was not enacted until 1974.

In 1999, royal decrees placed the entire court system—magistrates, commercial, Shari'a and civil courts—under the financial supervision of the Ministry of Justice, though the 1996 Basic Law ensures the independence of the judiciary. An independent Office of the Public Prosecutor also has been created (formerly a part of the Royal Oman Police), as has a supreme court. Regional court complexes are envisioned to house the various courts, including the courts of first instance for criminal cases and Shariah cases (family law and inheritance).

Administratively, the country is divided into 59 districts (wilayats), presided over by appointed executives (walis) responsible for settling local disputes, collecting taxes, and maintaining peace. Most wilayats are small in area, but can vary considerably in population. The 59 wilayats are divided into eight regions. Three of those regions (Muscat, Dhofar, and Musandam) have been accorded a special status as governorates. The governors of those three regions are appointed directly by the Sultan and hold Minister of State rank. Walis, however, are appointed by the Minister of Interior.

In November 1991, Sultan Qaboos established the Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council), which replaced the 10-year-old State Consultative Council, in an effort to systematize and broaden public participation in government. Representatives were chosen in the following manner: Local caucuses in each of the 59 districts sent forward the names of three nominees, whose credentials were reviewed by a cabinet committee. These names were then forwarded to the Sultan, who made the final selection. The Consultative Council serves as a conduit of information between the people and the government ministries. It is empowered to review drafts of economic and social legislation prepared by service ministries, such as communications and housing, and to provide recommendations. Service ministers also may be summoned before the Majlis to respond to representatives' questions. It has no authority in the areas of foreign affairs, defense, security, and finances.

Although Oman enjoys a high degree of internal stability, regional tensions in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf war, the Iran-Iraq war, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom continue to necessitate large defense expenditures. In 2004, Oman allocated $2.53 billion for defense—about 28.4% of its total budget. Oman maintains a small but professional and effective military, supplied mainly with British equipment in addition to items from the United States, France, and other countries. British officers, on loan or on contract to the Sultanate, help staff the armed forces, although a program of "Omanization" has steadily increased the proportion of Omani officers over the past several years.

After North and South Yemen merged in May 1990, Oman settled its border disputes with the new Republic of Yemen on October 1, 1992. The two neighbors have cooperative bilateral relations. Oman's borders with all neighbors are demarcated, including a 2002 demarcation of the Oman-UAE border that was ratified in 2003.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 1/3/2006

Sultan: QABOOS bin Said al-Said
Special Representative for His Majesty the Sultan: THUWAYNI bin Shihab al-Said
Prime Minister: QABOOS bin Said al-Said
Dep. Prime Min. for Cabinet Affairs: FAHD bin Mahmud al-Said
Min. of the Royal Office: Ali Majid bin Musabagh al-MAMARI, Gen.
Min. of Agriculture & Fisheries: Salim bin Hilal bin Ali al-KHALILI
Min. of Awqaf & Religious Affairs: Abdallah bin Muhammad bin Abdallah al-SALIMI
Min. of Civil Services: Hilal bin Khalid al-MIWALI
Min. of Commerce, Industry, & Minerals: Maqbul bin Ali SULTAN
Min. of Communications: Suhail bin Mustahail al-SHAMAS
Min. of Defense: QABOOS bin Said al-Said
Min. of Diwan of Royal Court: SAYF bin Hamad al-Busaidi
Min. of Education & Teaching: Yahya bin Saud al-SALIMI
Min. of Finance: QABOOS bin Said al-Said
Min. of Foreign Affairs: QABOOS bin Said al-Said
Min. of Health: Ali bin Muhammad bin MUSA, Dr.
Min. of Higher Education: RAWYA bint Saud al-Busaidi
Min. of Housing, Electricity, & Water: Khamis bin Mubarak bin Isa al-ALAWI
Min. of Information: Hamad bin Muhammad al-RASHIDI
Min. of Interior: SAUD bin Ibrahim al-Busaidi
Min. of Justice: Muhammad bin Abdallah bin Zahir al-HINAI
Min. of Labor: Juma bin Ali bin JUMA
Min. of Legal Affairs: Muhammad bin Ali bin Nasir al-ALAWI
Min. of National Economy: Ahmad bin Abd al-Nabi al-MAKI
Min. of National Heritage & Culture: HAYTHIM bin Tariq al-Said
Min. of Oil & Gas: Muhammad bin Hamad bin Sayf al-RUMHI
Min. of Palace Affairs: ALI bin Hamud bin Ali al-Busaidi
Min. of Regional Municipalities, Environment, & Water Resources: Abdallah bin Muhammad bin Abdallah al-RUWAS
Min. of Social Development: RAWYA bint Saud al-Busaidi
Min. of Sports: Ali bin Masud bin Ali al-SUNAIDI
Min. of Tourism: Rajiha bint Abd al-Amir bin ALI
Min. of Transport & Telecommunications: Muhammad bin Abdallah bin Isa al-HARTHI
Min. of State & Governor, Muscat: SAYID al-Mutasim bin Hamud al-Busaidi
Min. Responsible for Defense Affairs: BADR bin Saud bin Harib al-Busaidi
Min. Responsible for Foreign Affairs: Yusuf bin Alawi bin ABDALLAH
Special Adviser to His Majesty: Salim bin Abdallah al-GHAZALI
Special Adviser to His Majesty for Culture: Abd al-Aziz bin Muhammad al-RUWAS
Special Adviser to His Majesty for Economic Planning Affairs: Muhammad bin ZUBAYR
Special Adviser to His Majesty for Environmental Affairs: SHABIB bin Taymur al-Said
Special Adviser to His Majesty for External Liaison: Umar bin Abd al-Munim al-ZAWAWI
Governor, Central Bank: QABOOS bin Said al-Said
Executive Pres., Central Bank: Hamud bin Sangur Hashim al-ZADJALI
Ambassador to the US: Hunaina bint Sultan bin Ahmad al-MUGHAIRI
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Fuad bin Mubarak al-HINAI

Oman maintains an embassy in the United States at 2535 Belmont Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/387-1980).


ECONOMY

When Oman declined as an entrepot for arms and slaves in the mid-19th century, much of its former prosperity was lost, and the economy turned almost exclusively to agriculture, camel and goat herding, fishing, and traditional handicrafts. Today, oil and gas fuel the economy, and revenues from petroleum products have enabled Oman's dramatic development over the past 34 years.

Oil was first discovered in the interior near Fahud in the western desert in 1964. Petroleum Development (Oman) Ltd. (PDO) began production in August 1967. The Omani Government owns 60% of PDO, and foreign interests own 40% (Royal Dutch Shell owns 34%; the remaining 6% is owned by Compagnie Francaise des Petroles [Total] and Partex). In 1976, Oman's oil production rose to 366,000 barrels per day (b/d) but declined gradually to about 285,000 b/d in late 1980 due to the depletion of recoverable reserves. From 1981 to 1986, Oman compensated for declining oil prices by increasing production levels to 600,000 b/d. With the collapse of oil prices in 1986, however, revenues dropped dramatically. Production was cut back temporarily in coordination with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and production levels again reached 600,000 b/d by mid-1987, which helped increase revenues. By 2000, production had climbed to more than 900,000 b/d, however it declined to roughly 780,000 b/d in 2004. Oman is not a member of OPEC.

Natural gas reserves, which will increasingly provide the fuel for power generation and desalination, stand at 30 trillion cubic feet. An LNG processing plant located in Sur was opened in 2000, with production capacity of 6.6 million tons/yr, as well as unsubstantial gas liquids, including condensates. This plant is scheduled for expansion by the end of 2005, when total production capacity will reach 9.9 million tons/yr.

Oman does not have the immense oil resources of some of its neighbors. Total proven reserves are about 5.5 billion barrels. Oman's complex geology makes exploration and production an expensive challenge. Recent improvements in technology, however, have enhanced recovery.

Agriculture and fishing are the traditional way of life in Oman. Dates and limes, grown extensively in the Batinah coastal plain and the highlands, make up most of the country's agricultural exports. Coconut palms, wheat, and bananas also are grown, and cattle are raised in Dhofar. Other areas grow cereals and forage crops. Poultry production is steadily rising. Fish and shellfish exports totaled $78 million in 2003.

The government is undertaking many development projects to modernize the economy, improve the standard of living, and become a more active player in the global marketplace. Oman became a member of the World Trade Organization in October 2000, and continues to amend its financial and commercial practices to conform to international standards. Increases in agriculture and especially fish production are believed possible with the application of modern technology. The Muscat capital area has both an international airport at Seeb and a deepwater port at Mina Qaboos. The large-scale modern container port at Salalah, capital of the Dhofar Governorate, continues to operate at near-capacity levels, and the government in early 2004 approved a project worth over $250 million to add two berths and extend the breakwater at the port. A national road network includes a $400 million highway linking the northern and southern regions. In an effort to diversify the economy, in the early 1980s, the government built a $200-million copper mining and refining plant at Sohar. Other large industrial projects underway or being considered include an 80,000 b/d oil refinery, a large petrochemical complex, fertilizer and methanol plants, an aluminum smelter, and two cement factories. Industrial zones at Rusayl, Sohar, and several other locations showcase the country's modest light industries. Marble, limestone, and gypsum may prove commercially viable in the future.

The Omani Government is implementing its sixth 5-year plan, launched in 2000, to reduce its dependence on oil and expatriate labor. The plan focuses on income diversification, job creation for Omanis in the private sector, and development of Oman's interior. Government programs offer soft loans and propose the building of new industrial estates in population centers outside the capital area. The government is giving greater emphasis to "Omanization" of the labor force, particularly in banking, hotels, and municipally sponsored shops benefiting from government subsidies. Currently, efforts are underway to liberalize investment opportunities in order to attract foreign capital.

Some of the largest budgetary outlays are in the areas of health services and basic education. The number of schools, hospitals, and clinics has risen exponentially since the accession of Sultan Qaboos in 1970.

U.S. firms face a small and highly competitive market dominated by trade with Japan and Britain and reexports from the United Arab Emirates. The sale of U.S. products also is hampered by higher transportation costs and the lack of familiarity with Oman on the part of U.S. exporters. However, the traditional U.S. market in Oman, oil field supplies and services, should grow as the country's major oil producer continues a major expansion of fields and wells.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

When Sultan Qaboos assumed power in 1970, Oman had limited contacts with the outside world, including neighboring Arab states. Only two countries, the United Kingdom and India, maintained a diplomatic presence in the country. A special treaty relationship permitted the United Kingdom close involvement in Oman's civil and military affairs. Ties with the United Kingdom have remained very close under Sultan Qaboos.

Since 1970, Oman has pursued a moderate foreign policy and expanded its diplomatic relations dramatically. It supported the 1979 Camp David accords and was one of three Arab League states, along with Somalia and Sudan, which did not break relations with Egypt after the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty in 1979. During the Persian Gulf crisis, Oman assisted the UN coalition effort. Oman has developed close ties to its neighbors; it joined the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council when it was established in 1980.

Oman has traditionally supported Middle East peace initiatives, as it did those in 1983. In April 1994, Oman hosted the plenary meeting of the Water Working Group of the peace process, the first Gulf state to do so. From 1996-2000, Oman and Israel exchanged trade offices. Oman closed the Israeli Trade Office in October 2000 in the wake of public demonstrations against Israel during the intifada.

During the Cold War period, Oman avoided relations with communist countries because of the communist support for the insurgency in Dhofar. In recent years, Oman has undertaken diplomatic initiatives in the Central Asian republics, particularly in Kazakhstan, where it is involved in a joint oil pipeline project. In addition, Oman maintains good relations with Iran, its northern neighbor, and the two countries regularly exchange delegations. Oman is an active member in international and regional organizations, notably the Arab League and the GCC.


U.S.-OMANI RELATIONS

The United States has maintained relations with the Sultanate since the early years of American independence. A treaty of friendship and navigation, one of the first agreements of its kind with an Arab state, was concluded between the United States and Muscat in 1833. This treaty was replaced by the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights signed at Salalah on December 20, 1958.

A U.S. consulate was maintained in Muscat from 1880 until 1915. Thereafter, U.S. interests in Oman were handled by U.S. diplomats resident in other countries. In 1972, the U.S. ambassador in Kuwait was accredited also as the first U.S. ambassador to Oman, and the U.S. embassy, headed by a resident charge d'affaires, was opened. The first resident U.S. ambassador took up his post in July 1974. The Oman embassy was opened in Washington, DC, in 1973.

U.S.-Omani relations were deepened in 1980 by the conclusion of two important agreements. One provided access to Omani military facilities by U.S. forces under agreed-upon conditions. The other agreement established a Joint Commission for Economic and Technical Cooperation, located in Muscat, to provide U.S. economic assistance to Oman. The Joint Commission continued in existence until the mid-1990s. A Peace Corps program, which assisted Oman mainly in the fields of health and education, was initiated in 1973 and phased out in 1983. A team from the Federal Aviation Administration worked with Oman's Civil Aviation Department on a reimbursable basis but was phased out in 1992.

In 1974 and April 1983, Sultan Qaboos made state visits to the United States. Vice President George H. Bush visited Oman in 1984 and 1986, and President Clinton visited briefly in March 2000.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

MUSCAT (E) Address:; APO/FPO: APO AE 09890-3000; Phone: [968] 24-698-989; Fax: [968] 24-696-928; Workweek: SAT-WED/0800-1630; Website: www.usa.gov.om.

AMB:Richard L. Baltimore III
AMB OMS:Jennifer Schaaf
DCM:William R. Stewart
POL:Michael G. Snowden
CON:Bryce A. Isham
MGT:Vivian M. Lesh
CLO:Jenny L. Mouton
DAO:Mark A. Avery
ECO/COM:Brian M. Grimm
EEO:Kevin Rubesh
FMO:Javier A. Araujo
GSO:Alex Fleming
ICASS Chair:Dennis Long
IMO:Karen A Finer
ISO:Kevin L Rubesh
ISSO:Kevin L Rubesh
LEGATT:Martin Reardon (res. Riyadh)
MLO:Thomas Milton
PAO:Derek Hoffmann
RAMC:FSC Bangkok
RSO:Peter M. Riva
Last Updated: 1/7/2006

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

June 29, 2005

Country Description:

The Sultanate of Oman has a long and proud heritage, and is a land of great natural beauty on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula. With a population of 2.33 million, Oman has seen rapid economic and social development in the past three decades. As a monarchy governed by Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the country does not have political parties or a legislature, although a bicameral representative body provides the government with advice. While Oman is traditionally Islamic and Islam is the state religion, Omanis have for centuries lived with people of other faiths. Non-Muslims are free to worship at churches and temples built on land donated by the Sultan. The economy is largely dependent on the production and export of oil and, increasingly, natural gas. Excellent tourist facilities are available in the major cities of Muscat, Salalah, Sohar, and Nizwa, and can increasingly be found elsewhere in the country. Travelers may wish to visit the Sultanate's tourism website at: http://www.omantourism.gov.om for more information.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

A valid passport and visa are required for entry into Oman. Omani embassies and consulates issue two-year, multiple-entry tourist and/or business visas to qualified U.S. citizens. Alternatively, U.S. citizens may obtain a 30-day visa by presenting their U.S. passports on arrival at all Oman land, sea and air entry points. (Note: The validity period of the applicant's passport should not be less than six months.) Adequate funds and proof of an onward/return ticket, though not required, are strongly recommended. The fee is Rial Omani 6.00 (approximately USD 16.00). This visa can only be extended for an extra 30 days; a completed extension application form and the fee of Rial Omani 6.00 (USD 16.00) should be submitted to the Directorate General of Passports and Residence, or to its branches at regional Royal Oman Police offices. Other categories of short-term visit/business/work contract visas are available, but these must be arranged in advance through an Omani sponsor. To obtain a visa or for details on entry and travel requirements, please contact the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, 2535 Belmont Road N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 387-1980/2. Evidence of yellow fever immunization is required if the traveler enters from an infected area. Visit the Embassy of Oman web site at: www.embassy.org/embassies/om.html for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security:

There have been no instances in which U.S. citizens or facilities in Oman have been subject to terrorist attacks. However, the Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests throughout the region. American citizens in Oman are urged to maintain a high level of security awareness. The State Department suggests that all Americans in Oman maintain an unpredictable schedule and vary travel routes whenever possible. Americans are also urged to treat mail or packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. Unusual mail or packages should be left unopened and reported to local authorities. U.S. citizens with security concerns are encouraged to contact local authorities and the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Muscat.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement and Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

The incidence of street crime is low in Oman; violent crime is rare by U.S. standards, but can occur. Crimes of opportunity remain the most likely to affect visitors. Visitors to Oman should, therefore, take normal precautions, such as avoiding travel in deserted or unfamiliar areas and after dark. Visitors should also protect personal property from theft. In particular, valuables and currency should not be left unsecured in hotel rooms. Common sense and caution are always the best methods for crime prevention.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

There are a number of modern medical facilities in Oman. Local medical treatment varies from quite good to inadequate, depending in large part on location. Many Western pharmaceuticals can be found in Oman. Hospital emergency treatment is available. Doctors and hospitals often expect cash payment for health services.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Oman is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road Conditions and Hazards:

Road conditions, lighting, and traffic safety in cities and on major highways are good. The condition of rural roads varies from fair to poor. Travel between cities, especially at night, may be dangerous due to poor or no lighting, wandering livestock, and speeding drivers. The safety of public transportation is generally good. Taxis, minivans, and small buses may swerve to the side of the road to pick up passengers with little notice or regard for other vehicles.

Local Laws and Practices:

Traffic laws in Oman are strictly enforced. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is prohibited, and there are stringent penalties for violating this law. Seat belt use is required, and the use of non-hands-free cellular telephones while driving is prohibited. In the event of a traffic violation and fine, drivers should pay the fine as directed and should not attempt to pay or negotiate payment at the time of the traffic stop. In the event of an accident, the driver should not move the vehicle from the location of the accident until police grant permission; moving a vehicle may be interpreted as an admission of guilt.

The use of European-style traffic circles is prevalent in Oman. However, unlike European traffic practice, the driver on the inside lane always has priority. A driver flashing his/her high beams is generally asking for a chance to pass. Turning right on a red traffic signal is prohibited.

Visitors should not drive without a valid license. Short-term visitors in possession of a valid U.S. driver's license may drive rental vehicles, but residents must have an Omani driver's license. To obtain an Omani license, a U.S. citizen must have a U.S. license that has been valid for at least one year or must take a driving test. Visitors hiring rental cars should insure the vehicles adequately against death, injury and loss or damage. Residents may insure their vehicles outside the Sultanate; however, third party liability insurance must be purchased locally.

Emergency Services:

A modern ambulance service using American equipment and staff trained in the U.S. was instituted in 2004, and has been assessed as very good. The service currently serves only certain urban locations in Oman, including the capital area, but is eventually expected to provide coverage for motor vehicle accident victims throughout the entire Sultanate. For all traffic-related emergencies, the Royal Omani Police can be contacted by dialing "9999."

Visit the website of the country's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.omantourism.gov.om/.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Oman as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of Oman's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Special Circumstances:

Omani employers often ask that expatriate employees deposit their passports with the company as a condition of employment. Although customary, this practice is not required by Omani law. The U.S. Embassy in Muscat advises Americans to exercise caution on the issue of permitting an employer to hold their passports, since this can operate as a restraint on travel and could give undue leverage to the employer in a dispute. U.S. passports are the property of the U.S. government.

Islamic ideals provide the conservative foundation of Oman's customs, laws and practices. Foreign visitors are expected to be sensitive to the Islamic culture, and not dress in a revealing or provocative style, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter-tops and shorts. Athletic clothing is worn in public only when the wearer is obviously engaged in athletic activity. Western bathing attire, however, is the norm at hotel pools and beaches.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Omani laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Oman are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines, and even possible death sentences. Civil charges may also be filed. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://www.travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location:

Americans living or traveling in Oman are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Oman. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located on Jamiat A'Duwal Al Arabiya Street, Al Khuwair Area (Shatti Al-Qurum), in the capital city of Muscat. The mailing address is: P.O. Box 202, Medinat Al Sultan Qaboos 115, Sultanate of Oman, telephone: (968) 24-698-989,
Fax: (968) 24-699-189. The Embassy's e-mail address is: [email protected], and its website address is: http://oman.usembassy.gov.

International Adoption

January 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer:

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note:

Omani nationals who are Muslims must adopt Oman children.

For U.S. based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Bureau and licensing office of the Department of Health and Family Services in the state where the agency is located.

Availability of Children for Adoption:

To date, no Omani children have been adopted by American citizens.

Omani Adoption Authority:

The government office responsible for adoptions in Oman is the Ministry of Social Affairs. Please contact Ms. Batool Hassan, Deputy Director of the Office of Children's and Women's Affairs (968) 601-598.

Age and Civil Status Requirements:

The Omani Government requires that individuals who wish to adopt Omani children must have Omani nationality and must be of the Muslim faith. Married couples are preferred but single women may also be eligible to adopt under special circumstances.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys:

All adoptions are processed by the Government of Oman.

Doctors:

The U.S. Embassy maintains current lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Oman.

U.S. Immigration Requirements:

A Oman child adopted by an American citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

Omani Embassy in the United States:

2535 Belmont Road, NW,
Washington, DC 20008.
Tel. (202) 387-1980.

U.S. Embassy in Oman:

P.O. Box 202
Code 115 Madinat Al-Sultan Qaboos
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
Tel. (968) 698-989 X 216, 294, or 435.
Fax (968) 699-189.
E-mail: [email protected]

Additional Information:

Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult BCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions.

Questions:

Specific questions regarding adoption in Oman may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy Muscat, Oman. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-2818, Tel: 1-888-407-4747 with specific questions.

International Parental Child Abduction

January 2006

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at travel.state.gov.

Disclaimer:

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

General Information:

Oman is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Oman and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. American citizens who travel to Oman are subject to the jurisdiction of Omani courts, as well as to the country's laws and regulations. American citizens planning a trip to Oman with dual national children should bear this in mind.

Custody Disputes:

When child custody disputes arise between parents of any religion, the custody decisions by Omani courts are based on Islamic (Shari'a) law. Custody cases can be very complex and are usually determined on a case-by-case basis. When making decisions regarding child custody matters, Omani courts consider the parents' religion(s), place(s) of permanent residence, income, and the parents' marital status.

Note:

Omani law differentiates between custodianship and guardianship. Generally speaking, a custodian has been awarded custody of the child and is responsible for his/her upbringing including education and care. A guardian is responsible for the child's financial support.) Omani courts do not, as a general rule, award custody of "dual national" (U.S./Omani) children to an American mother or father, even one who is Muslim.

A fundamental consideration of awarding custody is the parent's place(s) of permanent residence and degree of access to the children. Custody of very young children is generally granted to the mother as long as certain restrictive conditions are met. Once the children come of age (for males completion of their seventh year of age, for females the onset of puberty), the father can appeal for, and will usually be awarded, full custody provided certain restrictive conditions are met. If a father were unable or unfit to be custodian of his children, the court may give custody to another family member. Shari'a court judges have broad discretion in custody cases and often make exceptions to these general guidelines, particularly in cases in which a parent is from an influential family or has powerful connections in Oman.

Even when a mother is granted custody, the non-custodial father maintains a great deal of influence on the rearing of the children. In many cases, the father has been able to acquire legal custody of children against the wishes of the mother when she is unable or unwilling to meet certain conditions set by law for her to maintain her custodial rights. For example, if a mother refuses to give the father access to his child or attempts to leave Oman with the children without the court's permission, a mother's custody rights can be severed. The Omani court can sever a mother's custody if it determines that the mother is incapable of safeguarding the child or of bringing the child up in accordance with the appropriate religious standards. Either parent can lose custody by re-marrying a party considered "unmarriageable," or by residing in a home with people that might be "strangers." However, the final decision is left to the discretion of the Shari'a court. Shari'a law forbids the removal of children from Oman without first obtaining permission from the court.

The U.S. Embassy cannot prevent the Omani government from arresting and either deporting or prosecuting an American citizen who violates Omani law. Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in an Omani court should retain an attorney in Oman. The State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Oman maintain a list of attorneys willing to represent American clients. A copy of this list may be obtained by contacting either office. It is the responsibility of the prospective client to assess the capabilities of an attorney. The Embassy cannot recommend any specific attorney, and makes no claim as to the ability or the integrity of the attorneys on the list.

Enforcement of Foreign Judgments:

Custody orders and judgments of foreign courts are not enforceable in Oman if they potentially contradict or violate local laws and practices. For example, an order from a U.S. court granting custody to an American parent will not be honored in Oman if the parent intends to take the child to live outside Oman. Nor will Omani courts enforce U.S. court decrees ordering a parent in Oman to pay child support.

Visitation Rights:

Non-custodial parents are generally entitled to visitation rights as determined by the Shari'a judge.

Dual Nationality:

Dual nationality is not recognized by the Sultanate of Oman. Children of Omani fathers automatically acquire Omani citizenship at birth and must enter and leave the country on Omani passports even if they are entitled to hold the passport of another country. Omani women cannot transmit citizenship to their children.

Travel Restrictions:

When a custody case is pending with the Shari'a court, children, regardless of their nationality, are generally subject to court-imposed travel restrictions. Either parent can request the court to restrict the travel of his/her minor children.

Criminal Remedies:

For information on possible criminal remedies, please contact your local law enforcement authorities or the nearest office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Information is also available on the Internet at the web site of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org. For further information on international parental child abduction, contact the Office of Children's Issues at 202-736-7000, visit the State Department website on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov, or send a nine-by-twelve-inch, self-addressed envelope to: Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20520-2818;
Phone: (202) 736-9090;
Fax: (202) 312-9743.

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Oman

Oman

1 Location and Size

2 Topography

3 Climate

4 Plants and Animals

5 Environment

6 Population

7 Migration

8 Ethnic Groups

9 Languages

10 Religions

11 Transportation

12 History

13 Government

14 Political Parties

15 Judicial System

16 Armed Forces

17 Economy

18 Income

19 Industry

20 Labor

21 Agriculture

22 Domesticated Animals

23 Fishing

24 Forestry

25 Mining

26 Foreign Trade

27 Energy and Power

28 Social Development

29 Health

30 Housing

31 Education

32 Media

33 Tourism and Recreation

34 Famous Omanis

35 Bibliography

Sultanate of Oman

Saltanat ‘Uman

CAPITAL: Muscat (Masqat)

FLAG: The flag is red with a broad stripe of white at the upper fly and green at the lower fly. In the upper left corner, white crossed swords overlay a ceremonial dagger.

ANTHEM: Nashid as-Salaam as-Sutani (Sultan’s National Anthem).

MONETARY UNIT: The Omani riyal (ro), established in November 1972, is a paper currency of 1, 000 baizas. There are coins of 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, and 500 baizas, and notes of 100, 250, and 500 baizas (the last two being replaced by coins) and 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 riyals. ro1 = $2.56410 (or $1 = ro0.39) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system was adopted on 15 November 1974. The imperial and local system also are used.

HOLIDAYS: Accession of the Sultan, 23 July; National Day, 18 November; Sultan’s Birthday, 19 November. Movable Muslim religious holidays include ‘Id al-Fitr, ‘Id al-’Adha’, and Milad an-Nabi.

TIME: 4 pm = noon GMT. Solar time also is observed.

1 Location and Size

The Sultanate of Oman is the second-largest country on the Arabian Peninsula (after Saudi Arabia), with an area officially estimated at 212, 460 square kilometers (82, 031 square miles), slightly smaller than the state of Kansas. The northernmost part of Oman is separated from the rest of the country by the United Arab Emirates and juts into the Strait of Hormuz. The country has a total land boundary length of 1, 374 kilometers (854 miles) and a total coastline of 2, 092 kilometers (1, 301 miles). The capital, Muscat, is in the northeastern part of the country.

2 Topography

Oman, except for barren coastline southward to Zufar (Dhofar), consists of three regions: a coastal plain, a mountain range at Al Jabal, and a plateau. The highest point, Jabal ash Sham, is at 2, 980 meters (9, 777 feet) in the Al Jabal range of the north. The plateau has an average height of about 300 meters (1, 000 feet) and is mostly stony and waterless, extending to the sands of the Ar-Rub’ al-Khali. The coastline southward to Zufar (Dhofar) is barren and forbidding. From

GEOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Geographic Features

Area: 212, 460 sq km (82, 031 sq mi)

Size ranking: 82 of 194 Highest elevation: 2, 980 meters (9, 777 feet) at Jabal ash Sham

Lowest elevation: Sea level at the Arabian Sea

Land Use*

Arable land: 0%

Permanent crops: 0%

Other: 100%

Weather**

Average annual precipitation: 10–64 centimeters (4–25 inches). Although annual rainfall in Muscat averages 10 centimeters (4 inches), the southern coast is subtropical and subject to monsoons, receiving more than 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) of rain per year. Average temperature in January: (Muscat): 19–25°c (66–77°f)

Average temperature in July: (Muscat): 31–36°c (88–97°f)

* Arable Land: Land used for temporary crops, like meadows for mowing or pasture, gardens, and greenhouses.

Permanent crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy its use for long periods, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, fruit and nut orchards, and vineyards.

Other: Any land not specified, including built-on areas, roads, and barren land.

** The measurements for precipitation and average temperatures were taken at weather stations closest to the country’s largest city.

Precipitation and average temperature can vary significantly within a country, due to factors such as latitude, altitude, coastal proximity, and wind patterns.

Salalah, a semicircular fertile plain extends to the foot of a steep line of hills, some 1, 500 meters (4, 920 feet) high, and forms the edge of a stony plateau also extending to the sands of the Empty Quarter. The lowest point is at sea level (Arabian Sea).

3 Climate

Annual rainfall in Muscat averages 10 centimeters (4 inches), most of which falls in January. The southern coast is subtropical and subject to monsoons, receiving more than 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) of rain per year. Zufar (Dhofar) is subject to the southwest monsoon, and rainfall up to 64 centimeters (25 inches) has been recorded in the rainy season from late June to October. While the mountain areas receive more 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 54°c (129°f) in the hot season, from May to October.

4 Plants and Animals

Desert shrub and desert grass, common to southern Arabia, are found. Vegetation is sparse in the interior plateau, which is largely gravel desert. The greater rainfall in Zufar (Dhofar) and the mountains makes the growth there more luxuriant. Coconut palms grow plentifully in Zufar (Dhofar), and frankincense grows in the hills. Oleander and varieties of acacia abound.

Indigenous mammals include the cheetah, hyena, fox, wolf, and hare. Birds include the Arabian see-see partridge, redleg chukor partridge, and Muscat bee eater.

5 Environment

Maintaining an adequate supply of water for agricultural and domestic use is Oman’s most pressing environmental problem. The nation’s soil has shown increased levels of salinity. Pollution of beaches and other coastal areas by oil tanker traffic through the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman is also a persistent problem.

In 2006, the nation had 12 species of mammals and 14 types of bird that were considered threatened. Six plant species are also threatened with extinction. Decrees have been passed to protect endangered species, which include the South Arabian leopard, Arabian oryx, Arabian tahr (a type of wild goat found in Asia), green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, and olive turtle.

6 Population

The estimated population of Oman was 2.4 million in 2005. The population density was 8 per square kilometer (21 per square mile). The projected population is 3.0 million for the year 2025. The city of Muscat had an estimated population of 638, 000 in 2005.

7 Migration

There is frequent movement of workers between Oman and neighboring states. In 2000, there were 682, 000 migrants living in Oman, primarily foreign laborers. The estimated net migration rate in 2005 was 0.3 migrants per 1, 000 population.

8 Ethnic Groups

Native Omanis are mostly Arab except on the northern coast, where there is significant Baluchi,

Iranian, and African representation, and in Muscat and Matrah, where there are Khojas and other Indians, Baluchis, and Pakistanis. Tribal groups are estimated to number more than 200.

9 Languages

The official language is Arabic. Urdu, Baluchi, and several Indian dialects also are spoken, especially in the cities of Muscat and Matrah. English is taught as a second language.

10 Religions

The state religion is Islam, and most of the population belongs to the Ibadhi or Sunni sects. Tribes in the north are mainly Sunni Muslims. A minority of the population is Shia Muslim. There is a small community of Indian Hindu citizens, and there are reportedly a very small number of Christians.

11 Transportation

As of 2002, there were 32,800 kilometers (20,382 miles) of roadways. In 2003, passenger car registrations totaled 266,325 and commercial vehicle registrations totaled 133,370. In 2005, Oman had one merchant vessel totaling 15,430 gross registered tons. In 2003,2.8 million passengers were carried on scheduled international and domestic airline flights.

12 History

Present-day Oman was already a commercial and seafaring center in ancient Sumerian times, and Phoenicians (from the region that is present-day Syria and Lebanon) probably visited the coastal region. The entire population was converted to Islam during the lifetime of Muhammad (570–632), but Oman soon became—and remains today—the center of the Ibadhi sect.

From 1507 to 1508, the Portuguese overran Muscat and maintained control until they were driven out with Persian aid in 1649. The first sultanate (kingdom) was established in Muscat about 1775 and concluded its first treaty with the British in 1798. Weakened by political division, Muscat lost control of the interior in the second half of the 19th century. In 1920 the Treaty of Seeb was signed between the sultan (king of a Muslim state) of Muscat and the imam (Muslim leader) of Oman, placing Oman under the rule of the Sultan as an independent area. From 1920 to 1954 there was comparative peace.

In that year, Petroleum Development (Oman) Ltd., a British-managed oil company, won permission to maintain a small army, the Muscat and Oman Field Force (MOFF). In early 1955, MOFF, together with British troops, occupied all of Oman and expelled the imam. In 1962, the sultanate of Muscat was proclaimed an independent state. Oman joined the United Nations late in 1971.

The present sultan, Qaboos bin Said, changed the name of the country from Muscat and Oman to the Sultanate of Oman in 1970. He has presided over a broad modernization program, opening the country to the outside world while preserving political and military ties with the British. Oman dominates the Strait of Hormuz, which links the Gulf of Oman with the Persian Gulf. Its strategic importance drew Oman and the United States closer together during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and the Gulf War in 1991.

In 1994, there were reports that about 500 people critical of the government were arrested.

In 1999, Said signed an agreement with the president of the United Arab Emirates defining the borders between Oman and the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

In October 2003, Omani voters over the age of 21 went to the polls for the first time to elect an 83-seat advisory council for the nation, the Majlis al-Shura.

In March 2004, Oman’s first female minister was appointed. In January 2005, nearly 100 suspected Islamists were arrested. Thirty-one Omanis were subsequently convicted of trying to overthrow the government, but were pardoned in June. In October 2005, a free trade agreement with the United States was finalized.

13 Government

Oman’s sultan is an absolute monarch. The country has no constitution or legislature. The 83-member Majlis al-Shura, or Consultative Council, established in 1991, is seen as a first step toward popular participation in government. It has no legislative function, but can question cabinet members on their policies and plans.

On 6 November 1996, the sultan issued a decree providing for citizens’ basic rights. The decree also established the Majlis Oman (Council of Oman), which includes a new Majlis al-Dawla (Council of State) and the current Consultative Council. The nation is divided into six regions, two governates (Musandam and Zufar or

BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Name: Qaboos Bin Said al-Said

Position: Sultan of a monarchy

Took Office: 23 July 1970 (a coup forced his father out of office)

Birthplace: Salalah, Oman

Birthdate: 18 November 1940

Education: Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, Britain; private tutors

Of interest: Said was described as a shy and withdrawn child.

Dhofar) and 59 wilayats (districts), governed by walis, who are responsible to the Ministry of the Interior. The Governate of the Capital is responsible for the administration of Muscat.

14 Political Parties

There are no legal political parties nor is there any active opposition movement.

15 Judicial System

Shariah courts based on Islamic law administer justice, with the Central Magistrate Court at Muscat. There are four additional magistrate courts in Sohar, Sur, Salalah, and Nizwa. Appeals from the Chief Court are made to the sultan, who exercises powers of clemency (mercy or leniency in setting punishment). The magistrate court, a criminal court, rules on violations of the criminal code.

In 1996, the sultan issued a basic law that recognized an independent judiciary. There are no jury trials.

16 Armed Forces

Oman’s armed forces, including Royal Household troops and foreign personnel numbered 41,700 in 2005. The army had 25,000 members, the air force 4,100, and the navy 4,200. In 2005, Oman’s defense budget totaled $3 billion.

17 Economy

Since the mid-1970s most of the economy has revolved around oil. The petroleum industry accounted for 77% of exports in 2000. Based on oil production in 2001, reserves should last some 15.7 years. In recent years, the production of natural gas has become a significant factor in the economy.

In 2004, the GDP growth was 1%, down from 2.2% in 2003. By 2005, growth reached 5.6%. The unemployment rate was tagged at 15%, but only a certain layer of society is affected by it. To respond to this problem, the government is trying to replace foreign expatriate workers with local workers.

18 Income

In 2005, Oman’s gross domestic product (GDP) was $40.1 billion, averaging about $13,400 per person. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.6% in 2005. The average inflation rate was at 0.3% in 2004.

19 Industry

Besides oil, Oman’s industries consist mostly of small-scale food processing enterprises. Other industries manufacture nonmetallic mineral products, wood products, and fabricated metal products. Industry accounted for 39% of economic output in 2005, and services accounted for 58%. The industrial production growth rate was only 0.9%, indicating that the sector is going through a recession period.

Yearly Growth Rate

This economic indicator tells by what percent the economy has increased or decreased when compared with the previous year.

20 Labor

Of an estimated Omani workforce of about 920,000 in 2002, a large proportion were still engaged in agriculture or fishing. Many of the larger industries depend on foreign workers, who made up more than 80% of the workforce in 1996. As of 2005, the country’s unemployment rate was estimated at 15%.

Young people under the age of 13 may not work, but this law is not enforced for children in family businesses or on family farms. The minimum wage for nonprofessional workers was $260 per month in 2002.

21 Agriculture

Agriculture contributes about 3% of the GDP and employs about 37% of the workforce, mostly at a subsistence level. The principal agricultural

Components of the Economy

This pie chart shows how much of the country’s economy is devoted to agriculture (including forestry, hunting, and fishing), industry, or services.

product is the date. There were 238,000 tons of dates produced in 2004. Fruits grown in Zufar (Dhofar) include bananas, mangoes, and coconuts. Frankincense is traditionally produced from about 8,000 trees growing wild in Zufar (Dhofar). Agricultural exports were valued at $402 million in 2004, while agricultural imports amounted to $1.2 billion that year.

22 Domesticated Animals

Goats, sheep, donkeys, and camels are widely raised. In 2005 there were 1.1 million goats, 375,000 sheep, 335,000 head of cattle, 123,000 camels, and 28,500 donkeys. Total meat production in 2005 was 43,400 tons. The camels of Oman are famous for their fine riding qualities.

23 Fishing

The waters of the Gulf of Oman are rich in sardines, mackerel, shrimp, lobsters, crayfish, tuna, and sharks. The annual catch in 2003 was 138,833 tons, mainly sardines. Fishing employs about 26,000 persons. Exports of fish products amounted to $79.9 million in 2003.

Yearly Balance of Trade

The balance of trade is the difference between what a country sells to other countries (its exports) and what it buys (its imports). If a country imports more than it exports, it has a negative balance of trade (a trade deficit). If exports exceed imports there is a positive balance of trade (a trade surplus).

24 Forestry

Forest coverage in Oman is less than 1%. The use of wood as the sole fuel and overgrazing by goats have depleted the forests, but the interior of the country is fairly well wooded. In 2004, Oman imported $74.1 million in forest products.

25 Mining

Large deposits of copper have been discovered northwest of Muscat, at Hajl al-Safi, and at Rakah. Gold was mined from the Rakah deposit. Mineral production in 2004 included 18,575 tons of chromium, 22 million tons of sand and gravel, and 140,000 tons of marble. Oman also produced limestone, manganese, gypsum, asbestos, and dimension stone.

Selected Social Indicators

The statistics below are the most recent estimates available as of 2006. For comparison purposes, data for the United States and averages for low-income countries and high-income countries are also given. About 15% of the world’s 6.5 billion people live in high-income countries, while 37% live in low-income countries.

IndicatorOman Low-income countriesHigh-income countriesUnited States
sources: World Bank. World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2006; Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006; World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.
Per capita gross national income (GNI)*$14,680 $2,258$31,009$39,820
Population growth rate2.3% 2%0.8%1.2%
People per square kilometer of land8 803032
Life expectancy in years: male73 587675
female76 608280
Number of physicians per 1,000 people1.3 0.43.72.3
Number of pupils per teacher (primary school)19 431615
Literacy rate (15 years and older)81.4% 65%>95%99%
Television sets per 1,000 people553 84735938
Internet users per 1,000 people101 28538630
Energy consumed per capita (kg of oil equivalent)4,975 5015,4107,843
CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)11.72 0.8512.9719.92
* The GNI is the total of all goods and services produced by the residents of a country in a year. The per capita GNI is calculated by dividing a country’s GNI by its population and adjusting for relative purchasing power.
n.a.: data not available >: greater than <: less than

26 Foreign Trade

Oman runs a considerable trade surplus. Since 1967, oil has been the chief export. The main imports are machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, and live animals. The principal trading partners are the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

27 Energy and Power

Output of crude oil during 2003 averaged 784,000 barrels per day. Petroleum reserves were estimated at 5.5 billion barrels in early 2005. Proven reserves of natural gas were estimated to be 29.3 trillion cubic feet in 2005, and it is anticipated that Oman will increasingly replace oil with gas as fuel. In 2002, electric power production totaled 9.8 billion kilowatt hours.

28 Social Development

Oman maintains a welfare program that provides old-age pensions and disability and survivorship benefits to employed citizens ages 15–59. Traditional views on the subordinate role of women in society lead most women to work inside the home. Domestic abuse remains within the confines of the family. However, women have begun to enter professional areas, such as medicine and communications, in greater numbers in recent years.

29 Health

As of 2004, there were an estimated 297 nurses, and 11 dentists per 100,000 people. In 2005, there were an estimate 1.3 physicians for every 1,000 people. Average life expectancy in 2005 was 73 years for men and 76 years for women. Infant mortality in that year was 37.8 per 1,000 live births. About 12% of children under five were malnourished as of 1999. There were only 1,300 acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) cases reported in 2004.

In 2003,39.7% of all housing units were traditional Arabic houses, 17.3% were modern apartments, and 23.6% were villas. In 2002, the government distributed 210,329 plots of land for residential development.

31 Education

In Oman, six years of primary schooling are followed by preparatory school. Preparatory exams are then given to determine the type of secondary education the student will receive. Student-to-teacher ratio averaged 19 to 1 in 2005. An estimated 72% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school in 2003, while about 69% of those eligible attend secondary school.

Oman also has literacy centers and adult education centers. The Institute of Agriculture at Nazwa became a full college by 1985. Sultan Qaboos University opened in 1986. All higher-level institutions have over 15,000 students. As of 2004, the adult literacy rate was estimated at 81.4% (males, 85%; females, 65.4%).

32 Media

As of 2003, there were 84 mainline telephone lines and 229 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people. As of 1999 there were 3 AM and 9 FM radio stations and 13 television broadcast stations, all controlled by the government. In 2004, there were 621 radios and 553 television sets for every 1,000 people. In 2001 there were 90,000 Internet subscribers; by 2004 101 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

Newspapers and journals in Arabic include the daily Al-Wattan (2002 circulation, 32,500) and Oman Daily Newspaper (15,560), and weekly periodicals such as Al-Aquida and AlUsra. There are two English-language newspapers: Oman Daily Observer (22,000) and Times of Oman (15,000).

33 Tourism and Recreation

In 2003,630, 000 foreign tourists visited Oman. There were 6,473 hotel rooms with a 39% occupancy rate in 1996. Water sports are popular.

34 Famous Omanis

Oman’s great Islamic religious leader was ‘Abdallah bin Ibad (fl. 8th century). Ahmad ibn Said (ruled 1741–83) was the founder of the present dynasty. Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said (1940–) has ruled Oman since 1970.

35 Bibliography

BOOKS

Allen, Calvin H. Oman. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 2003.

Barnett, Tracy. Oman. Philadelphia, PA: Mason Crest Publishers, 2004.

Callan, Lou. Oman & the United Arab Emirates. London: Lonely Planet, 2000.

Foster, Leila Merrell. Oman. New York: Children’s Press, 1999.

Joyce, Miriam. The Sultanate of Oman: a Twentieth Century History. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.

WEB SITES

Aquastat. www.fao.org/ag/Agl/AGLW/aquastat/countries/oman/index.stm. (accessed on January 15,2007).

Country Analysis Briefs. www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Oman/Background.html. (accessed on January 15,2007).

Government Home Page. www.omanembassy.org.uk/. (accessed on January 15,2007).

World Heritage List. whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/om. (accessed on January 15,2007).

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Oman

Oman

Compiled from the October 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Sultanate of Oman

PROFILE

PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-OMANI RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: About 309,500 sq. km. (about the size of New Mexico). It is bordered on the north by the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), on the northwest by Saudi Arabia, and on the southwest by the Republic of Yemen. The Omani coastline stretches 3,165 km.

Cities: Capital—Muscat. Other cities—Salalah, Nizwa, Sohar, Sur.

Terrain: Mountains, plains, and arid plateau.

Climate: Hot, humid along the coast; hot, dry in the interior; summer monsoon in far south.

People

Nationality: Noun—Oman. Adjective—Omani.

Population: (2005 est.) 2.51 million.

Annual growth rate: (2005 est.) 2.5%.

Ethnic groups: Arab, Baluchi, East African (Zanzabari), South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi).

Religions: Ibadhi; Sunni Muslim, Shia Muslim, Hindu, Christian.

Languages: Arabic (official), English, Baluchi, Urdu, Swahili, Hindi and Indian dialects.

Education: Literacy—approx. 80% (total population).

Health: (2005 est.) Infant mortality rate—10.28/1,000. Life expectancy—74.28.

Work force: (920,000) Agriculture and fishing—approx. 50%.

Government

Type: Monarchy.

Constitution: On November 6, 1996, Sultan Qaboos issued a royal decree promulgating the Basic Statute which clarifies the royal succession, provides for a prime minister, bars ministers from holding interests in companies doing business with the government, establishes a bicameral parliament, and guarantees basic rights and responsibilities for Omani citizens.

Government branches: Executive—Sultan. Legislative—Majlis Oman (bicameral: State Council and Consultative Council). Judicial—Civil courts are divided into four departments: Criminal courts handle cases under the penal code; Shari’a (Islamic law) courts oversee personal status and family law issues; Commercial courts adjudicate business and commercial matters; Labor courts oversee labor and employment cases.

Political parties: None.

Suffrage: Universal adult.

Political subdivisions: Eight administrative regions—Muscat Governorate, Al Batinah, Musandam Governorate, Al Dhahirah, Al Dakhliya, Al Shariqiya, Al Wusta, Dhofar Governorate. There are 60 districts (wilayats).

Economy

GDP: (2005 est.) $30.73 billion

Per capita GDP: (2005 est.) $12,663.

Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, copper, marble, limestone, gypsum, chromium.

Agriculture and fisheries: (2.1% of GDP).

Agriculture: Products—dates, bananas, mangoes, alfalfa, other fruits and vegetables. Fisheries—Kingfish, tuna, other fish, shrimp, lobster, abalone.

Industry: Types—crude petroleum (not including gas liquids) about 750,000 barrels per day; construction, petroleum refinery, copper mines and smelter, cement and various light industries.

Trade: (2005 est.) Exports—$18.69 billion. Major markets—Japan (22.1%), China (15.2%), Thailand (12.6%), South Korea (19.9%), U.A.E. (9.4%). Imports—$8.83 billion: machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, food, livestock, lubricants. Major suppliers—U.A.E. 27.6%, Japan 16.7%, U.K. 7.4%, U.S. 6.9%, Germany 5%.

PEOPLE

About 55% of the population lives in Muscat and the Batinah coastal plain northwest of the capital; about 215,000 live in the Dhofar (southern) region, and about 30,000 live in the remote Musandam Peninsula on the Strait of Hormuz. Some 660,000 expatriates live in Oman, most of whom are guest workers from South Asia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Philippines.

Since 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. In 1986, Oman’s first university, Sultan Qaboos University, opened. It has continued to expand, recently adding a law college, and remains the country’s only major public university. More than 300 full and partial scholarships are awarded each year for study abroad.

There are three private universities and twenty post-secondary education institutions in Oman, including a technical college, banking institute, teacher’s training college, and health sciences institute. A select few of these institutions offer four-year degrees, while the remainder provide 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. Approximately 40% of Omani high school graduates pursue some type of post-secondary education.

HISTORY

Oman adopted Islam in the seventh century A.D., during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. Ibadhism, a form of Islam distinct from Shiaism and the “Orthodox” schools of Sunnism, became the dominant religious sect in Oman by the eighth century A.D. Oman is the only country in the Islamic world with a majority Ibadhi population. Ibadhism is known for its “moderate conservatism.” One distinguishing feature of Ibadhism is the choice of ruler by communal consensus and consent. Contact with Europe was established in 1508, when the Portuguese conquered parts of Oman’s coastal region. Portugal’s influence predominated for more than a century. Fortifications built during the Portuguese occupation can still be seen at Muscat.

Except for a period when Persia conquered parts of Oman, Oman has been an independent nation. After the Portuguese were expelled in 1650 and while resisting Persian attempts to establish hegemony, the Sultan of Oman extended his conquests to Zanzibar, other parts of the eastern coast of Africa, and portions of the southern Arabian Peninsula. During this period, political leadership shifted from the Ibadhi imams, who were elected religious leaders, to hereditary sultans who established their capital in Muscat. The Muscat rulers established trading posts on the Persian coast and also exercised a measure of control over the Makran coast (now Pakistan). By the early 19th century, Oman was the most powerful state in Arabia and had a major presence on the East African coast.

Oman was the object of Franco-British rivalry throughout the 18th century. During the 19th century, Oman and the United Kingdom concluded several treaties of friendship and commerce. In 1908, the British entered into an agreement of friendship. Their traditional association was confirmed in 1951 through a new treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation by which the United Kingdom recognized the Sultanate of Oman as a fully independent state.

When Sultan Sa’id bin Sultan Al-Busaid died in 1856, his sons quarreled over his succession. As a result of this struggle, the Omani empire—through the mediation of the British Government under the “Canning Award”—was divided in 1861 into two separate principalities—Zanzibar, with its East African dependencies, and Muscat and Oman. Zanzibar paid an annual subsidy to Muscat and Oman until its independence in early 1964.

During the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries, the sultan in Muscat faced a rebellion by members of the Ibadhi sect residing in the interior of Oman, centered around the town of Nizwa, who wanted to be ruled exclusively by their religious leader, the Imam of Oman. This conflict was resolved temporarily by the Treaty of Seeb in 1920, which granted the imam autonomous rule in the interior, while recognizing the sovereignty of the sultan elsewhere.

Following the discovery of oil in the interior, the conflict flared up again in 1954, when the new imam led a sporadic 5-year rebellion against the sultan’s efforts to extend government control into the interior. The insurgents were defeated in 1959 with British help. The sultan then terminated the Treaty of Seeb and eliminated the office of the imam. In the early 1960s, the imam, exiled to Saudi Arabia, obtained support from his hosts and other Arab governments, but this support ended in the 1980s.

In 1964, a separatist revolt began in Dhofar Province. Aided by communist and leftist governments such as the former South Yemen (People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen), the rebels formed the Dhofar Liberation Front, which later merged with the Marxist-dominated Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arab Gulf (PFLOAG). The PFLOAG’s declared intention was to overthrow all traditional Arab Gulf regimes. In mid-1974, PFLOAG shortened its name to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman (PFLO) and embarked on a political rather than a military approach to gain power in the other Gulf states, while continuing the guerrilla war in Dhofar.

With the help of British advisors, Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id assumed power on July 23, 1970, in a palace coup directed against his father, Sa’id bin Taymur, who later died in exile in London. The new sultan was confronted with insurgency in a country plagued by endemic disease, illiteracy, and poverty. One of the new sultan’s first measures was to abolish many of his father’s harsh restrictions, which had caused thousands of Omanis to leave the country, and to offer amnesty to opponents of the previous regime, many of whom returned to Oman. He also established a modern government structure and launched a major development program to upgrade educational and health facilities, build a modern infrastructure, and develop the country’s natural resources.

In an effort to end the Dhofar insurgency, Sultan Qaboos expanded and re-equipped the armed forces and granted amnesty to all surrendered rebels while vigorously prosecuting the war in Dhofar. He obtained direct military support from the U.K., Iran, and Jordan. By early 1975, the guerrillas were confined to a 50-square kilometer (20-sq. mi.) area near the Yemen border and shortly thereafter were defeated. As the war drew to a close, civil action programs were given priority throughout Dhofar and helped win the allegiance of the people. The PFLO threat diminished further with the establishment of diplomatic relations in October 1983 between South Yemen and Oman, and South Yemen subsequently lessened propaganda and subversive activities against Oman. In late-1987, Oman opened an embassy in Aden, South Yemen, and appointed its first resident ambassador to the country.

Since his accession in 1970, Sultan Qaboos has balanced tribal, regional, and ethnic interests in composing the national administration. The Council of Ministers, which functions as a cabinet, consists of 30 ministers (but only 28 ministries), all directly appointed by Qaboos. The bicameral Majlis Oman’s mandate is to review legislation pertaining to economic development and social services prior to its becoming law. The elected Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council) may request ministers to appear before it. In early 2003, Sultan Qaboos declared universal suffrage for the October 2003 Majlis al-Shura elections. Two women were elected to sit with 81 male colleagues in those elections, which were observed to be free and fair. Roughly 194,000 Omani men and women, or 74% of registered voters, participated in the elections. Since 2003, Sultan Qaboos has also expanded the Majlis al-Dawla, or State Council, to 59 members from 53, including nine women. The State Council acts as the upper chamber in Oman’s bicameral representative body.

In November 1996, Sultan Qaboos presented his people with the “Basic Statute of the State,” Oman’s first written “constitution.” It guarantees various rights within the framework of Shariah and customary law. It partially resuscitated long dormant conflict-of-interest measures by banning cabinet ministers from being officers of public shareholding firms. Perhaps most importantly, the Basic Statute provides rules for the royal succession.

The northern tip of Oman, called the Musandam Peninsula, is strategically located on the Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf, 35 miles directly opposite Iran. Oman is concerned with regional stability and security, given tensions in the region, the proximity of Iran and Iraq, and the potential threat of political Islam. Oman maintained its diplomatic relations with Iraq throughout the Gulf War while supporting the UN allies by sending a contingent of troops to join coalition forces and by opening up to prepositioning of weapons and supplies. In addition, since 1980 Oman and the U.S. have been parties to a military cooperation agreement, which was revised and renewed in 2000. Oman also has long been an active participant in efforts to achieve Middle East peace.

Following the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001, the Omani Government at all levels pledged and provided impressive support to the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism. Oman is a signatory of most UN-sponsored anti-terrorism treaties.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id rules with the aid of his ministers. His dynasty, the Al Sa’id, was founded about 250 years ago by Imam Ahmed bin Sa’id Al Bu Said. Sultan Qaboos is a direct descendant of the 19th century ruler, Sa’id bin Sultan, who first opened relations with the United States in 1833. The Sultanate has neither political parties nor legislature, although the bicameral representative bodies provide the government with advice. Oman’s judicial system traditionally has been based on the Shari’a—the Quranic laws and the oral teachings of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. Traditionally, Shari’a courts fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, Awqaf, and Islamic Affairs (since divided into the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs). Oman’s first criminal code was not enacted until 1974.

In 1999, royal decrees placed the entire court system under the financial supervision of the Ministry of Justice, though the 1996 Basic Law ensures the independence of the judiciary. An independent Office of the Public Prosecutor also has been created (formerly a part of the Royal Oman Police), as has a supreme court. Regional court complexes are envisioned to house the various courts, including the courts of first instance for criminal cases and Shariah cases (family law and inheritance).

Administratively, the country is divided into 60 districts (wilayats), presided over by appointed executives (walis) responsible for settling local disputes, collecting taxes, and maintaining peace. Most wilayats are small in area, but can vary considerably in population. The 60 wilayats are divided into eight regions. Three of those regions (Muscat, Dhofar, and Musandam) have been accorded a special status as governorates. The governors of those three regions are appointed directly by the Sultan and hold Minister of State rank. Walis, however, are appointed by the Minister of Interior.

In November 1991, Sultan Qaboos established the Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council), which replaced the 10-year-old State Consultative Council, in an effort to systematize and broaden public participation in government. Representatives were chosen in the following manner: Local caucuses in each of the 59 districts sent forward the names of three nominees, whose credentials were reviewed by a cabinet committee.

These names were then forwarded to the Sultan, who made the final selection. Since then, reforms have permitted Omanis to freely run for office in contested elections featuring universal adult suffrage. The Consultative Council serves as a conduit of information between the people and the government ministries. It is empowered to review drafts of and provide recommendations on economic and social legislation prepared by service ministries, such as communications and housing, and to approve state financial plans. Service ministers also may be summoned before the Majlis to respond to representatives’ questions. It has no authority in the areas of foreign affairs, defense, security, and finance.

Although Oman enjoys a high degree of internal stability, regional tensions in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf war, the Iran-Iraq war, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom continue to necessitate large defense expenditures. In 2005, Oman spent roughly $3.65 billion for defense and national security—about 33.4% of its public expenditures. Oman maintains a small but professional and effective military, supplied mainly with British equipment in addition to items from the United States, France, and other countries. British officers, on loan or on contract to the Sultanate, help staff the armed forces, although a program of “Omanization” has steadily increased the proportion of Omani officers over the past several years. After North and South Yemen merged in May 1990, Oman settled its border disputes with the new Republic of Yemen on October 1, 1992. The two neighbors have cooperative bilateral relations. Oman’s borders with all neighbors are demarcated, including a 2002 demarcation of the Oman-U.A.E. border that was ratified in 2003.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 1/11/2007

Sultan: QABOOS bin Said al-Said

Special Representative for His Majesty the Sultan: THUWAYNI bin Shihab al-Said

Prime Minister: QABOOS bin Said al-Said

Dep. Prime Min. for Cabinet Affairs: FAHD bin Mahmud al-Said

Min. of the Royal Office: Ali Majid bin Mussabagh al-MAMARI, Gen.

Min. of Agriculture & Fisheries: Salim bin Hilal bin Ali al-KHALILI

Min. of Awqaf & Religious Affairs: Abdallah bin Muhammad bin Abdallah al-SALIMI

Min. of Civil Services: Hilal bin Khalid al-MIWALI

Min. of Commerce, Industry, & Minerals: MAQBUL bin Ali Sultan

Min. of Communications: Suhail bin Mustahail al-SHAMAS

Min. of Defense: QABOOS bin Said al-Said

Min. of Diwan of Royal Court: SAYF bin Hamad al-Busaidi

Min. of Education & Teaching: Yahya bin Saud al-SALIMI

Min. of Finance: QABOOS bin Said al-Said

Min. of Foreign Affairs: QABOOS bin Said al-Said

Min. of Health: Ali bin Muhammad bin MUSA, Dr.

Min. of Higher Education: RAWYA bint Saud al-Busaidi

Min. of Housing, Electricity, & Water: Khamis bin Mubarak bin Isa al-ALAWI

Min. of Information: Hamad bin Muhammad al-RASHIDI

Min. of Interior: SAUD bin Ibrahim al-Busaidi

Min. of Justice: Muhammad bin Abdallah bin Zahir al-HINAI

Min. of Labor: Juma bin Ali bin JUMA

Min. of Legal Affairs: Muhammad bin Ali bin Nasir al-ALAWI

Min. of National Economy: Ahmad bin Abd al-Nabi al-MAKKI

Min. of National Heritage & Culture: HAYTHIM bin Tariq al-Said

Min. of Oil & Gas: Muhammad bin Hamad bin Sayf al-RUMHI

Min. of Palace Affairs: ALI bin Hamud bin Ali al-Busaidi

Min. of Regional Municipalities, Environment, & Water Resources: Abdallah bin Muhammad bin Abdallah al-RUWAS

Min. of Social Development: SHARIFA bint Khalfan bin Nasser al-Yahya

Min. of Sports: Ali bin Masud bin Ali al-SUNAIDI

Min. of Tourism: Rajiha bint Abd al-Amir bin ALI

Min. of Transport & Telecommunications: Muhammad bin Abdallah bin Isa alHARTHI

Min. of State & Governor, Muscat: SAYID al-Mutasim bin Hamud al-Busaidi

Min. Responsible for Defense Affairs: BADR bin Saud bin Harib al-Busaidi

Min. Responsible for Foreign Affairs: Yusuf bin ALAWI bin Abdallah

Special Adviser to His Majesty: Salim bin Abdallah al-GHAZALI

Special Adviser to His Majesty for Culture: Abd al-Aziz bin Muhammad al-RUWAS

Special Adviser to His Majesty for Economic Planning Affairs: Muhammad bin ZUBAYR

Special Adviser to His Majesty for Environmental Affairs: SHABIB bin Taymur al-Said

Special Adviser to His Majesty for External Liaison: Umar bin Abd al-Munim alZAWAWI

Governor, Central Bank of Oman: QABOOS bin Said al-Said

Executive Pres., Central Bank of Oman: Hamud bin Sangur bin Hashim al-ZADJALI

Ambassador to the US: Hunaina bint Sultan bin Ahmad al-MUGHAIRI

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Fuad bin Mubarak al-HINAI

Oman maintains an embassy in the United States at 2535 Belmont Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/387-1980)

ECONOMY

When Oman declined as an entrepot for arms and slaves in the mid-19th century, much of its former prosperity was lost, and the economy turned almost exclusively to agriculture, camel and goat herding, fishing, and traditional handicrafts. Today, oil and gas fuel the economy, and revenues from petroleum products have enabled Oman’s dramatic development over the past 35 years.

Oil was first discovered in the interior near Fahud in the western desert in 1964. Petroleum Development (Oman) Ltd. (PDO) began production in August 1967. The Omani Government owns 60% of PDO, and foreign interests own 40% (Royal Dutch Shell owns 34%; the remaining 6% is owned by Compagnie Francaise des Petroles [Total] and Partex). In 1976, Oman’s oil production rose to 366,000 barrels per day (b/d) but declined gradually to about 285,000 b/d in late 1980 due to the depletion of recoverable reserves. From 1981 to 1986, Oman compensated for declining oil prices by increasing production levels to 600,000 b/d. With the collapse of oil prices in 1986, however, revenues dropped dramatically. Production was cut back temporarily in coordination with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)—of which Oman is not a member—and production levels again reached 600,000 b/d by mid-1987, which helped increase revenues. By 2000, production had climbed to more than 900,000 b/d; however, it has declined to roughly 750,000 b/d for 2006.

Natural gas reserves, which will increasingly provide the fuel for industrial projects in Sohar and power generation and desalination plants throughout the Sultanate, stand at 24 trillion cubic feet. A liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing plant located in Sur was opened in 2000, with production capacity of 6.6 million tons per year (tons/yr), as well as unsubstantial gas liquids, including condensates. The completion of the plant’s expansion in December 2005 has increased capacity to 10.3 million tons/yr.

Oman does not have the immense oil resources of some of its neighbors. Total proven reserves are about 4.8 billion barrels. Oman’s complex geology makes exploration and production an expensive challenge. Recent improvements in technology, however, have enhanced recovery.

Agriculture and fishing are the traditional way of life in Oman. Dates, grown extensively in the Batinah coastal plain and the highlands, make up most of the country’s agricultural exports. Coconut palms, wheat, and bananas also are grown, and cattle are raised in Dhofar. Other areas grow cereals and forage crops. Poultry production is steadily rising. Fish and shellfish exports totaled $104.7 million in 2004.

The government is undertaking many development projects to modernize the economy, improve the standard of living, and become a more active player in the global marketplace. Oman became a member of the World Trade Organization in October 2000, and continues to amend its financial and commercial practices to conform to international standards. Oman signed a Free Trade Agreement with the United States in January, 2006, and continues to pursue, through the Gulf Cooperation Council, free trade agreements with a number of other key trading partners, including the E.U. and India.

Increases in agriculture and especially fish production are believed possible with the application of modern technology. The Muscat capital area has both an international airport at Seeb and a deepwater port at Mina Qaboos. The large-scale modern container port at Salalah, capital of the Dhofar Governorate, continues to operate at near-capacity levels. The government in early 2004 approved a project worth over $250 million to add two berths and extend the breakwater at the port. Port expansion is underway at Mina Qaboos, and a large industrial and container port is under construction in Sohar. A national road network includes a $400 million highway linking the northern and southern regions. The government will also expand passenger and cargo capacity at its main international airports at Seeb (Muscat) and Salalah, and will construct new airports at Sohar, Ras al-Hadd, and Duqm. In an effort to diversify the economy, in the early 1980s, the government built a $200-million copper mining and refining plant at Sohar. Other large industrial projects underway or being considered include an 80,000 b/d oil refinery, a large petrochemical complex, fertilizer and methanol plants, an aluminum smelter, and two cement factories. Industrial zones at Rusayl, Sohar, and several other locations showcase the country’s modest light industries. Marble, limestone, and gypsum may prove commercially viable in the future.

The Omani government embarked on its seventh 5-year plan in 2006. In its efforts to reduce its dependence on oil and expatriate labor, the government projects significant increases in spending on industrial and tourism-related projects to foster income diversification, job creation for Omanis in the private sector, and development of Oman’s interior. Government programs offer soft loans and propose the building of new industrial estates in population centers outside the capital area. The government is giving greater emphasis to “Omanization” of the labor force, particularly in banking, hotels, and municipally sponsored shops benefiting from government subsidies. Currently, efforts are underway to liberalize investment opportunities in order to attract foreign capital.

Some of the largest budgetary outlays are in the areas of health services and basic education. The number of schools, hospitals, and clinics has risen exponentially since the accession of Sultan Qaboos in 1970.

U.S. firms face a small and highly competitive market dominated by trade with Japan and Britain and re-exports from the United Arab Emirates. The sale of U.S. products also is hampered by higher transportation costs and the lack of familiarity with Oman on the part of U.S. exporters. However, the traditional U.S. market in Oman, oil field supplies and services, should grow as the country’s major oil producer continues a major expansion of fields and wells. Major new U.S. investments in oil production, industry and tourism projects in 2005 totaled several billion dollars. Moreover, negotiations on the U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement (FTA) were successfully concluded in October 2005; the FTA was signed in January 2006 and awaits implementation. Once implemented, the FTA should provide further impetus to bilateral trade and investment.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

When Sultan Qaboos assumed power in 1970, Oman had limited contacts with the outside world, including neighboring Arab states. Only two countries, the United Kingdom and India, maintained a diplomatic presence in the country. A special treaty relationship permitted the United Kingdom close involvement in Oman’s civil and military affairs. Ties with the United Kingdom have remained very close under Sultan Qaboos.

Since 1970, Oman has pursued a moderate foreign policy and expanded its diplomatic relations dramatically. It supported the 1979 Camp David accords and was one of three Arab League states, along with Somalia and Sudan, which did not break relations with Egypt after the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty in 1979. During the Iran-Iraq war, Oman maintained diplomatic relations with both sides while strongly backing UN Security Council resolutions calling for an end to the war. Oman has developed close ties to its neighbors; it joined the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council when it was established in 1981.

Oman has traditionally supported Middle East peace initiatives, as it did those in 1983. In April 1994, Oman hosted the plenary meeting of the Water Working Group of the peace process, the first Gulf state to do so. From 1996-2000, Oman and Israel exchanged trade offices. Oman closed the Israeli Trade Office in October 2000 in the wake of public demonstrations against Israel at the start of the second intifada.

During the Cold War period, Oman avoided relations with communist countries because of the communist support for the insurgency in Dhofar. In recent years, Oman has undertaken diplomatic initiatives in the Central Asian republics, particularly in Kazakhstan, where it is involved in a joint oil pipeline project. In addition, Oman maintains good relations with Iran, and the two countries regularly exchange delegations. Oman is an active member in international and regional organizations, notably the Arab League and the GCC.

U.S.-OMANI RELATIONS

The United States has maintained relations with the Sultanate since the early years of American independence. A treaty of friendship and navigation, one of the first agreements of its kind with an Arab state, was concluded between the United States and Muscat in 1833. This treaty was replaced by the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights signed at Salalah on December 20, 1958.

A U.S. consulate was maintained in Muscat from 1880 until 1915. Thereafter, U.S. interests in Oman were handled by U.S. diplomats resident in other countries. In 1972, the U.S. ambassador in Kuwait was accredited also as the first U.S. ambassador to Oman, and the U.S. embassy, headed by a resident charge d’affaires, was opened. The first resident U.S. ambassador took up his post in July 1974. The Oman embassy was opened in Washington, DC, in 1973.

U.S.-Omani relations were deepened in 1980 by the conclusion of two important agreements. One provided access to Omani military facilities by U.S. forces under agreed-upon conditions. The other agreement established a Joint Commission for Economic and Technical Cooperation, located in Muscat, to provide U.S. economic assistance to Oman. The Joint Commission continued in existence until the mid-1990s. A Peace Corps program, which assisted Oman mainly in the fields of health and education, was initiated in 1973 and phased out in 1983. A team from the Federal Aviation Administration worked with Oman’s Civil Aviation Department on a reimbursable basis but was phased out in 1992.

In March 2005, the U.S. and Oman launched negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement that were successfully concluded in October, 2005. The FTA was signed on January 19, 2006, and is pending implementation.

In 1974 and April 1983, Sultan Qaboos made state visits to the United States. Vice President George H. Bush visited Oman in 1984 and 1986, and President Clinton visited briefly in March 2000. Vice President Cheney visited Oman in 2002 and 2005.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

MUSCAT (E) Address:; APO/FPO: APO AE 09890-3000; Phone: [968] 24-698-989; Fax: [968] 24-601-473; Workweek: SAT-WED/0800-1630; Website: www.usa.gov.om

AMB:Gary A Grappo
AMB OMS:Jan Wheeler
DCM:Alfred Fonteneau
POL:Eric Carlson
POL/ECO:Brian Grimm
CON:Bryce Isham
MGT:Edward Quinn
AFSA:Alex Fleming
CLO:Monica Milton
DAO:Mark A. Avery
ECO/COM:Brian M. Grimm
EEO:Kevin Rubesh
FMO:Douglas Sun
GSO:Alex Fleming
ICASS Chair:Robert Arbuckle
IMO:Karen A Finer
ISO:Kevin L Rubesh
ISSO:Kevin L Rubesh
LEGATT:Martin Reardon (res. Riyadh)
MLO:Thomas Milton
PAO:Robert Arbuckle
RAMC:FSC Bangkok
RSO:Ronald Campbell

Last Updated: 10/2/2006

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : November 3, 2006

Country Description: The Sultanate of Oman has a long and proud heritage, and is a land of great natural beauty on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula. With a population of 2.5 million, Oman has seen rapid economic and social development in the past three decades. As a monarchy governed by Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the country does not have political parties or a legislature, although a bicameral representative body provides the government with advice and reviews draft legislation. While Oman is traditionally Islamic and Islam is the state religion, Omanis have for centuries lived with people of other faiths. Non-Muslims are free to worship at churches and temples built on land donated by the Sultan. The economy is largely dependent on the production and export of oil and, increasingly, natural gas. Excellent tourist facilities are available in the major cities of Muscat, Salalah, Sohar, and Nizwa, and can increasingly be found elsewhere in the country. Travelers may wish to visit the Sultanate’s tourism website at: http://www.omantourism.gov.om for more information.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A valid passport and visa are required for entry into Oman. Omani embassies and consulates issue multiple-entry tourist and/or business visas valid for up to two years. Omani immigration officials at the port of entry determine the length of stay in Oman, which varies according to the purpose of travel. Alternatively, U.S. citizens may obtain a 30-day visa by presenting their U.S. passports on arrival at all Oman land, sea and air entry points. Note: The validity period of the applicant’s passport should not be less than six months. Adequate funds and proof of an onward/return ticket, though not required, are strongly recommended. The fee is Rial Omani 6.00 (approximately USD 16.00). This visa can only be extended for an extra 30 days; a completed extension application form and the fee of Rial Omani 6.00 (USD 16.00) should be submitted to the Directorate General of Passports and Residence, or to its branches at regional Royal Omani Police offices. Other categories of short-term visit/business/work contract visas are available, but these must be arranged in advance through an Omani sponsor. To obtain a visa or for details on entry and travel requirements, please contact the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, 2535 Belmont Road N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 387-1980/2. Evidence of yellow fever immunization is required if the traveler enters from an infected area. Visit the Embassy of Oman web site at: www.omani.info for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security: There have been no instances in which U.S. citizens or facilities in Oman have been subject to terrorist attacks. However, the Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests throughout the region. American citizens in Oman are urged to maintain a high level of security awareness. The State Department suggests that all Americans in Oman maintain an unpredictable schedule and vary travel routes whenever possible. Americans are also urged to treat mail or packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. Unusual mail or packages should be left unopened and reported to local authorities. U.S. citizens with security concerns are encouraged to contact local authorities and the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Muscat. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site, where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: The incidence of street crime is low in Oman; violent crime is rare by U.S. standards, but can occur. Crimes of opportunity remain the most likely to affect visitors. Visitors to Oman should, therefore, take normal precautions, such as avoiding travel in deserted or unfamiliar areas and after dark. Visitors should also protect personal property from theft. In particular, valuables and currency should not be left unsecured in hotel rooms. Common sense and caution are always the best methods for crime prevention.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: There are a number of modern medical facilities in Oman. Local medical treatment varies from quite good to inadequate, depending in large part on location. Many Western pharmaceuticals can be found in Oman. Hospital emergency treatment is available. Doctors and hospitals often expect cash payment for health services.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Oman is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road Conditions and Hazards: Road conditions, lighting, and traffic safety in cities and on major highways are good. The condition of rural roads varies from good to poor. Travel between cities, especially at night, may be dangerous due to poor or no lighting, wandering livestock, and speeding drivers. The safety of public transportation is generally good. Taxis, minivans, and small buses may swerve to the side of the road to pick up passengers with little notice or regard for other vehicles.

Local Laws and Practices: Traffic laws in Oman are strictly enforced. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is prohibited, and there are stringent penalties for violating this law. Seat belt use is required, and the use of non-hands-free cellular telephones while driving is prohibited. In the event of a traffic violation and fine, drivers should pay the fine as directed and should not attempt to pay or negotiate payment at the time of the traffic stop. In the event of an accident, the driver should not move the vehicle from the location of the accident until police grant permission; moving a vehicle may be interpreted as an admission of guilt.

The use of European-style traffic circles is prevalent in Oman. However, unlike European traffic practice, the driver on the inside lane always has priority. A driver flashing his/her high beams is generally asking for a chance to pass. Turning right on a red traffic signal is prohibited.

Visitors should not drive without a valid license. Short-term visitors in possession of a valid U.S. driver’s license may drive rental vehicles, but residents must have an Omani driver’s license. To obtain an Omani license, a U.S. citizen must have a U.S. license that has been valid for at least one year or must take a driving test. Visitors hiring rental cars should insure the vehicles adequately against death, injury and loss or damage. Residents may insure their vehicles outside the Sultanate; however, third party liability insurance must be purchased locally.

Emergency Services: A modern ambulance service using American equipment and staff trained in the U.S. was instituted in 2004, and has been assessed as very good. The service currently serves only certain urban locations in Oman, including the capital area, but is eventually expected to provide coverage for motor vehicle accident victims throughout the entire Sultanate. For all traffic-related emergencies, the Royal Omani Police can be contacted by dialing “9999.”

Visit the website of Oman’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.omantourism.gov.om/.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Oman as being in compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Oman’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Omani employers often ask that expatriate employees deposit their passports with the company as a condition of employment. Although customary, this practice is not required by Omani law. The U.S. Embassy in Muscat advises Americans to exercise caution on the issue of permitting an employer to hold their passports, since this can operate as a restraint on travel and could give undue leverage to the employer in a dispute. U.S. passports are the property of the U.S. government.

Islamic ideals provide the conservative foundation of Oman’s customs, laws and practices. Foreign visitors are expected to be sensitive to the Islamic culture, and not dress in a revealing or provocative style, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter-tops and shorts. Athletic clothing is worn in public only when the wearer is obviously engaged in athletic activity. Western bathing attire, however, is the norm at hotel pools and beaches.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Omani laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Oman are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Oman are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Oman. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy is located on Jamiat A’Duwal Al Arabiya Street, Al Khuwair Area (Shatti Al-Qurum), in the capital city of Muscat. The mailing address is: P.O. Box 202, Medinat Al Sultan Qaboos 115, Sultanate of Oman, telephone: (968) 24-698-989, fax: (968) 24-699-189. The Embassy’s e-mail address is: [email protected] state.gov, and its website address is: http://oman.usembassy.gov.

International Adoption : February 2007

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

General: The following is a guideline for U.S. citizens who are interested in adopting a child in Oman and applying for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States. Interested U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to contact U.S. consular officials in Oman before formalizing an adoption agreement to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed which will make it possible for the Embassy to issue a U.S. immigrant visa for the child.

Availability of Children for Adoption: To date, no Omani children have been adopted by American citizens.

Adoption Authority: The government office responsible for adoptions in Oman is the Ministry of Social Affairs. Please contact Ms. Batool Hassan, Deputy Director of the Office of Children’s and Women’s Affairs (968) 601-598.

Age and Civil Status Requirements: The Omani Government requires that individuals who wish to adopt Omani children must have Omani nationality and must be of the Muslim faith. Married couples are preferred but single women may also be eligible to adopt under special circumstances.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: All adoptions are processed by the Government of Oman.

Doctors: The U.S. Embassy maintains current lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Oman.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: A Oman child adopted by an American citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Embassy in the United States:
2535 Belmont Road, NW
Washington, DC 20008.
Tel. (202) 387-1980.

U.S. Embassy in Oman:
P.O. Box 202
Code 115 Madinat Al-Sultan Qaboos
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
Tel. (968) 698-989 X 216, 294, or 435.
Fax (968) 699-189.
E-mail: [email protected]

Additional Information: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Questions: Specific questions regarding adoption in Oman may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy Muscat, Oman. You may also contact the Office of Children’s Issues, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-2818, Tel: 1-888-407-4747 with specific questions.

International Parental Child Abduction : February 2007

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

General Information: Oman is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Oman and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. American citizens who travel to Oman are subject to the jurisdiction of Omani courts, as well as to the country’s laws and regulations. American citizens planning a trip to Oman with dual national children should bear this in mind.

Custody Disputes: When child custody disputes arise between parents of any religion, the custody decisions by Omani courts are based on Islamic (Shari’a) law. Custody cases can be very complex and are usually determined on a case-by-case basis. When making decisions regarding child custody matters, Omani courts consider the parents’ religion(s), place(s) of permanent residence, income, and the parents’ marital status.

Note: Omani law differentiates between custodianship and guardianship. Generally speaking, a custodian has been awarded custody of the child and is responsible for his/her upbringing including education and care. A guardian is responsible for the child’s financial support.

Omani courts do not, as a general rule, award custody of “dual national” (U.S./Omani) children to an American mother or father, even one who is Muslim. A fundamental consideration of awarding custody is the parent’s place(s) of permanent residence and degree of access to the children. Custody of very young children is generally granted to the mother as long as certain restrictive conditions are met. Once the children come of age (for males completion of their seventh year of age, for females the onset of puberty), the father can appeal for, and will usually be awarded, full custody provided certain restrictive conditions are met. If a father were unable or unfit to be custodian of his children, the court may give custody to another family member. Shari’a court judges have broad discretion in custody cases and often make exceptions to these general guidelines, particularly in cases in which a parent is from an influential family or has powerful connections in Oman.

Even when a mother is granted custody, the non-custodial father maintains a great deal of influence on the rearing of the children. In many cases, the father has been able to acquire legal custody of children against the wishes of the mother when she is unable or unwilling to meet certain conditions set by law for her to maintain her custodial rights. For example, if a mother refuses to give the father access to his child or attempts to leave Oman with the children without the court’s permission, a mother’s custody rights can be severed. The Omani court can sever a mother’s custody if it determines that the mother is incapable of safeguarding the child or of bringing the child up in accordance with the appropriate religious standards. Either parent can lose custody by re-marrying a party considered “unmarriageable,” or by residing in a home with people that might be “strangers.” However, the final decision is left to the discretion of the Shari’a court.

Shari’a law forbids the removal of children from Oman without first obtaining permission from the court. The U.S. Embassy cannot prevent the Omani government from arresting and either deporting or prosecuting an American citizen who violates Omani law.

Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in an Omani court should retain an attorney in Oman. The State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Oman maintain a list of attorneys willing to represent American clients. A copy of this list may be obtained by contacting either office. It is the responsibility of the prospective client to assess the capabilities of an attorney. The Embassy cannot recommend any specific attorney, and makes no claim as to the ability or the integrity of the attorneys on the list. The Embassy cannot pay for any legal expenses incurred.

Specific questions regarding child custody in Oman should be addressed to an Omani attorney or to the Embassy of Oman at:

Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman
2535 Belmont Road, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: (202) 387-1980
Fax: (202) 745-4933

Enforcement of Foreign Judgements: Custody orders and judgments of foreign courts are not enforceable in Oman if they potentially contradict or violate local laws and practices. For example, an order from a U.S. court granting custody to an American parent will not be honored in Oman if the parent intends to take the child to live outside Oman. Nor will Omani courts enforce U.S. court decrees ordering a parent in Oman to pay child support.

Visitation Rights: Non-custodial parents are generally entitled to visitation rights as determined by the Shari’a judge.

Dual Nationality: Dual nationality is not recognized by the Sultanate of Oman. Children of Omani fathers automatically acquire Omani citizenship at birth and must enter and leave the country on Omani passports even if they are entitled to hold the passport of another country. Omani women cannot transmit citizenship to their children.

Travel Restrictions: When a custody case is pending with the Shari’a court, children, regardless of their nationality, are generally subject to court-imposed travel restrictions. Either parent can request the court to restrict the travel of his/her minor children.

For more information, please read the International Parental Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov.

Criminal Remedies: For information on possible criminal remedies, please contact your local law enforcement authorities or the nearest office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Information is also available on the Internet at the web site of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org.

For further information on international parental child abduction, contact the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State at (202) 736-7000 or visit its web site on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov.

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Oman

Oman

Type of Government

An arid nation at the southeastern end of the Arabian peninsula, Oman—also known as the Sultanate of Oman—is a longstanding hereditary monarchy. Rapid economic and social changes since 1970 have been accompanied by a slower but equally persistent trend toward greater political participation. Highlights of this second trend include a 1996 royal decree, known as the Basic Law of the State, that created a bicameral, partially elected advisory body; in addition, voting rights were extended in 2003 to all citizens over the age of twenty-one. The king, or sultan, retains supreme legislative, judicial, and executive powers.

Background

The possession of ports along three major marine shipping channels (the Persian—or Arabian—Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Sea) has had a major influence on the history of the region of Oman. A center of the lucrative frankincense trade for centuries, the area attracted traders from Africa, Asia, and the Mediterranean. Following the arrival of Islam in the seventh century, the region of Oman managed to avoid the unwanted attentions of foreign powers until the arrival of the Portuguese around 1500. After roughly a century and a half of Portuguese rule, Britain, France, and Persia began to compete for influence. Shortly after Ahmad bin Said was elected imam , or leader, of Oman in 1744, the Persians were expelled. Ahmad bin Said’s dynasty persisted: The leader as of 2007, Qabus bin Said (1940–), is his direct descendant.

One of the major factors shaping Oman’s history has been the tension between the cities of the coast, notably the capital of Muscat, and the impoverished, sparsely populated interior. Muscat, a major port, has traditionally been the focus of foreign interest and investment, while the interior has been the domain of conservative tribal and religious leaders. By the second half of the nineteenth century, the imam’s authority was largely limited to the interior, while a separate institution, the sultanate of Muscat, controlled the capital. In 1920, under an agreement known as the Treaty of Seeb, the imam acknowledged the sovereignty of the sultan in return for the latter’s acceptance of the imam’s autonomy in matters limited to the interior. This arrangement lasted until 1954, when the reigning imam’s death sparked a violent power struggle between his successor and the reigning sultan (and father of the current sultan), Said bin Taymur (1910–1972). With the assistance of British troops, the sultan expelled his rival and abolished the office of imam.

Great Britain had been the dominant foreign power in the region since the late eighteenth century. For the most part, however, British administrators in the area preferred informal, indirect control to direct rule. It was, therefore, a protectorate rather than a colony. The ambiguity inherent in this relationship persisted even after the British explicitly acknowledged Omani independence in a 1951 treaty, with many Arab nations charging that continued British control of Omani resources, notably oil, rendered the treaty meaningless. These issues were not fully resolved until the country’s dramatic economic and social transformation under the current sultan.

In many ways, Oman’s modern history did not begin until 1970, when Sultan Qabus bin Said deposed his father and vowed to bring an end to the country’s severe isolation and poverty. When Qabus bin Said took power, the nation lacked electricity, telephone service, and running water, and there were only three schools. By diverting oil revenues from defense to social services, including universal access to education and health care, the sultan has overseen a remarkable social and economic transformation. Changes in the political system, however, have been slower to develop.

Government Structure

The current structure of government in Oman is a unique mix of traditional autocracy and progressive democracy. According to the most plausible explanation for this contradiction, Oman is still working to complete the transformation that began in 1970. While parts of the government have been updated, others have proved more resistant to change.

The sultan stands at the head of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and it is illegal to criticize him. The Council of Ministers, the sultan’s cabinet of handpicked administrators, provides him with direct access to the agencies that handle the government’s daily operations. Somewhat unusual is the presence of several regional administrators in addition to the heads of finance, education, health care, and other areas.

Laws are promulgated by royal decree. There is no elected body with the power to issue laws—the role of the bicameral Council of Oman is advisory only. Nevertheless, the Council has quickly become the most important outlet for the expression of public opinion. Its current bicameral structure dates from 1996, when the sultan established a new Council of State (known as Majlis al-Dawla) composed, as of 2006, of fifty-nine members appointed for renewable four-year terms. It now serves as the upper house. The lower house, known as the Consultative Council (or Majlis al-Shura), replaced an earlier body, the State Consultative Council (SCC), in 1991. Members of the SCC were appointed, but the Consultative Council has always been an elected body, and the gradual expansion of its electorate is the most prominent sign of the sultan’s stated desire to increase political participation.

At first the government restricted voting rights to 50,000 citizens of its own choosing; this number soon rose to 175,000. In 2002, however, the sultan granted the vote to all citizens, male and female, over the age of twenty-one, with the significant exception of police and military personnel. The council’s composition has changed as well, with the fifty-nine original members (one for each geographic district) now joined by twenty-four from the more populated districts. The chair of the council is an appointee of the sultan, who also reserves the right to invalidate election results. There are committees on a wide range of topics, and, as in the upper house, members are elected for renewable four-year terms.

Though both houses are advisory, they differ in their focus. The upper house investigates specific issues at the sultan’s request, studies and reports on larger issues like education, and writes preliminary drafts of laws for the sultan’s consideration. The lower house questions government employees on issues of mismanagement or corruption and drafts preliminary budget plans.

The participation of women in Omani politics stands in sharp contrast to the situation in neighboring states. For the 2003–2007 term, there were nine women in the upper house and two in the lower. Oman was the first Arab state in the region to allow women to run for office.

The nation’s legal system is a mixture of tribal law, Islamic law, European law, and royal decree. A Supreme Judicial Council handles judicial appointments, oversees criminal prosecutions, and advises the sultan on legal issues. There are no jury trials, and the sultan remains the court of last appeal.

Oman is divided for administrative purposes into five regions and three governorates; these are divided in turn into a total of fifty-nine districts. At the head of each district is a wali , an official appointed by the interior minister. Chief among a wali’s duties are public safety and tax collection. Governors appointed by the sultan and granted the rank of cabinet minister oversee the district leaders in the three governorates, which include many of the most densely populated districts.

Political Parties and Factions

There are no legal political parties in Oman. Omani society is more diverse than many outsiders assume, however, with several languages, ethnicities, and religions represented. Well over half a million foreign workers live in Oman, many from the Indian subcontinent; as noncitizens, though, their political influence is quite limited. More influential are the several hundred distinct tribal groups, many of whose leaders, particularly among the nomadic peoples of the nation’s rural interior, continue to adjudicate disputes and criminal offenses.

Despite the predominance of Islam, small Christian and Hindu groups do exist. The royal decree of 1996 specifically allows freedom of worship unless it interferes with maintaining civil order. More significant politically are the many Muslims whose religious views differ from those of the sultan. The sultan’s family belongs, as do many Omanis, to the Ibadi sect, a traditional, highly conservative group. There are many Sunnis as well, however, particularly in the northern desert regions; prominent among these are the members of the Wahhabi (or Salafi) sect, the predominant branch in neighboring Saudi Arabia. Most of the radical militants seeking to impose their brand of fundamental Islam across the region have been Wahhabis. While their influence in Oman has been relatively modest to date—and their numbers are quite small in proportion both to other Wahhabis and to Omanis generally—the organization and cohesiveness of the militants make them the most formidable of the sultan’s internal opponents.

Major Events

Oman’s densely populated coastal region of Dhofar, near the border with Yemen, was the center of a tribal rebellion between 1964 and 1975. Originally organized as the Dhofar Liberation Front, the rebels later joined an umbrella group known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arab Gulf. With considerable foreign aid, the sultan’s troops managed to quell the rebellion by the end of 1975.

Twenty-First Century

Omanis will face a number of challenges in the years ahead. The oil revenue that has sustained an ambitious program of social services will soon disappear as the nation’s remaining oil reserves are depleted. The government is eager to develop new industries to replace oil, but results to date have been mixed. Meanwhile, an ever-increasing demand for clean water is rapidly exhausting groundwater supplies, while many scientists believe global warming is worsening the oppressive heat waves for which Oman has long been notorious.

Radical Islamic fundamentalism poses a considerable threat to Oman’s peace and security. The nation’s close ties to the United States, highlighted by the U.S. military’s use of Oman as a base for U.S. operations in Iraq, have made Oman a prominent target for radical groups seeking to destabilize regimes they consider insufficiently Islamic. Though there is little indication to date that such groups enjoy widespread support in Oman, the arrest and conviction of dozens of Omani citizens in 2005 for antigovernment activity suggests that the problem is growing. Many observers worry, in particular, that the threat of Islamic fundamentalism may obstruct or even reverse the progress toward democracy that has distinguished the sultan’s rule for nearly forty years.

Ghubash, Hussein. Oman: The Islamic Democratic Tradition . London: Routledge, 2006.

Kechichian, Joseph A. Political Participation and Stability in the Sultanate of Oman . 2nd ed. Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Gulf Research Center, 2006.

Sultanate of Oman, Ministry of Information. “Government.” http://www.omanet.om/english/government/overview.asp?cat=gov (accessed May 8, 2007).

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Oman

Oman

  • Area: 82,031 sq mi (212,460 sq km) / World Rank: 84
  • Location: Northern and Eastern Hemispheres, in the Middle East, on the southeast edge of the Arabian Peninsula bordering the Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf, and Gulf of Oman, northeast of Yemen, east of Saudi Arabia, and southeast of the United Arab Emirates.
  • Coordinates: 21°00′N, 57°00′E
  • Borders: 854 mi (1,374 km) / Yemen, 179 mi (288 km); Saudi Arabia, 420 mi (676 km); United Arab Emirates, 255 mi (410 km)
  • Coastline: 1,300 mi (2,092 km)
  • Territorial Seas: 12 NM
  • Highest Point: Jabal Sham, 9,957 ft (3,035m)
  • Lowest Point: Sea level
  • Longest Distances: 604 mi (972 km) NE-SW; 319 mi (513 km) SE-NW
  • Longest River: There are no perennial rivers
  • Largest Lake: There are no perennial lakes
  • Natural Hazards: Sandstorms and dust storms, drought
  • Population: 2,622,198 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 136
  • Capital City: Masqat, on the northeastern coast of the Gulf of Oman
  • Largest City: Masqat, population 635,000 (2000 est.)

OVERVIEW

The sultanate of Oman is located in the extreme southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the north and west, Yemen to the southwest, the Gulf of Oman to the northeast, and the Arabian Sea to the southeast and east. Oman is mostly desert, but 15 percent is mountainous. Oman consists of four major regions: Musandam Peninsula, the Al Batinah coastal plain, Oman interior (mountain range/plateau), and Dhofar region. Furthest north is the tip of the Musandam Peninsula and the Ras Al-Jabal, a low mountain range. The fertile coastal plain, Al-Batinah, slopes to the foothills of the Western Hajar. The Al-Hajar Mountain range is the highest in eastern Arabia. The Dhofar (Zufar) region is a lush vegetated coastal plain giving rise to the Al-Qara Mountains. Owing to its climate and geography, Oman's most pressing issue is the maintenance of an adequate supply of water for domestic and agricultural use.

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS

Mountains

The Hajar (the Rock) mountains form two ranges: the Hajar al-Gharbi, or Western Hajar, and the Hajar al-Shargi, or Eastern Hajar. They are divided by the Wadi Sana'il, a valley that forms the traditional route between Masqat and the interior. The general elevation is about 4,000 ft (1,219 m) but the peaks of a high limestone massif known as the Jabal Akhdar (Green Mountain) lie between the western and eastern portions of the range rising to nearly 10,000 ft (3,048 m) above sea level in some places. Jabal Akhdar has a breadth from north to south varying from 6 to 25 mi (10 to 40 km) and a maximum height of 9,957 ft (3,035m) in Jabal Sham. The mountains of Al Hajar Ash Sharqi have a maximum elevation of 7,059 ft (2,152m). This is the only habitat in eastern Arabia above 6,658 ft (2,030m) in elevation. While these spectacular mountains form a breathtaking landscape of dramatic peaks and precipices, they also provide important protection for endemic and relict species of plants and animals, mostly of Indo-Iranian origin. Prior to 1961 little was known of the flora and fauna of Al Hajar's montane woodlands as inhospitable tribal politics and terrain limited scientific research.

Plateaus

The coastal plain blends into an area of hills, which in turn gives way to a plateau with an average height of about 300 m (1,000 ft). It is mostly stony and waterless, arable only at oases, extending to the sands of the Rub'al Khalj Desert. Inland, in the Al-Wusta region is the desert plateau, Jiddat al-Harasjs, encompassing the Al-Huqf Depression. It is here that the last sightings of the Arabian Oryx in the wild were recorded, whose numbers were depleted drastically by hunters. In 1974 the Arabian Oryx Reserve was established there.

INLAND WATERWAYS

Rivers

In the Hajar and its foothills a small number of wadis (gullies/watercourses) are found. However, there are no perennial rivers in Oman. Much of the water that flows in these temporary runoffs only flows during the wet season, and what does not make it to the sea is quickly evaporated.

THE COAST, ISLANDS, AND THE OCEAN

Oceans and Seas

Oman borders the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, the latter of which separates Arabia from the Middle East. Evidence based on comparison of the plant associations in the Al-Hajar range to those from southeastern Iran suggest migrations that in the past occurred when sea levels fell to 394 ft (120 m) below present levels, resulting in a land bridge between Asia and Arabia.

Major Islands

Along the Arabian Sea length of coast and separated from it by about 10 mi (16 km) is the barren island of Maşīrah. It is 40 mi (64 km) long, virtually uninhabited. More importantly, it contains the world's largest nesting population of loggerhead turtles, with between 23,000 and 30,000 females nesting each year.

The Coast and Beaches

The Batinah Plain runs 167 mi (270 km) in length between the foothills of the Hajar Mountains and the Gulf of Oman, varying in width from 2 to 19 mi (3 to 30 km). It is scored along its length by wadis (watercourses/gullies) from the mountains. The Batinah plain has inlets of water (khors) not infrequently containing mangrove stands creating significant habitats for birds. An extremely rugged area exists where two inlets, the Elphinstone and Malcom, cut into the coastline south of the Strait of Hormuz. Towering cliffs of 3,000 to 4,000 ft (914 to 1,219 km) enclose the Elphinstone in height. The coastline on the Arabian Sea is rather jagged and indented. Ra's al Hadd is the point sticking out into the ocean that separates the Gulf of Oman from the Arabian Sea. From this point the coast is rather straight going south until it cuts sharply in near Maşīrah Island to the Gulf of Maşīrah. The coastline then sweeps in and out forming two more bays, Şawqirah Bay and Khurjya Murjya Bay, before terminating at Cape Darbat 'Alj. The coast southward to Dhofar is particularly barren and forbidding.

CLIMATE AND VEGETATION

Temperature

Oman's climate is arid subtropical. However, the climate differs somewhat from one region to another. The interior is generally very hot, with temperatures reaching 129°F (54°C) in the hot season from May to October. The coastal areas are hot and humid from April to October. The prevailing summer wind, the Gharbi, makes the heat more oppressive. In the south, the Dhofar region has a more moderate climate.

Rainfall

Average annual precipitation is 2 to 4 in (5 to 10 cm), depending on the region and the prevailing summer wind. Annual rainfall in Masqat averages 4 in (10 cm), falling mostly in January. Dhofar is subject to the southwest monsoon, and rainfall up to 25 in (64 cm) has been recorded in the rainy season from late June to October. While mountain areas receive more plentiful rainfall, some parts of the coast, particularly near the island of Maşjrah, sometimes receive no rain at all within the course of a year. An unusual feature of Oman weather is an eastern coastal region characterized by dense fog. This region starts close to the Bar al-Hikman, opposite Maşjrah Island, and extends southward and inland 74 mi (120 km) over the stony plateau of the Jiddat Al-Harasjs, and continuing southward over the escarpment Mahrat Mountains of Dhofar and into Yemen. This is an area of little rainfall, but the dense fogs that can limit visibility to 33 ft (10m) are influenced by the southwest monsoon. The fog-affected escarpments of Dhofar are some of the most species-rich habitats in Oman.

Deserts

At the Sumail Gap the Sharqiya region begins. To the south are the isolated Wahiba Sands. Southeast lies the Jalaan, a vast sandy plain that stretches from the Arabian coast inland to meet the Wahiba Sands. Described as

Population Centers – Oman
(2000 POPULATION ESTIMATES)
Name Population
Masqat (Muscat) 635,000
Nizwa 100,000
SOURCE : "World Urbanization Prospects: The 2001 Revision," United Nations Population Division, and projections from United Nations Statistics Division.

"perfect specimens of a sand of sea" this small 5,792 sq mi (15,000 sq km) desert stretches for 112 mi (80 km) north to south and 50 mi (80 km) east to west. The Wahiba Sands are the largest areas of lithified sand dunes in the world. Surface dunes that can reach an impressive height of 328 ft (100 m) cover the region. Their variety and formation are considered representative of the desert's evolution over millions of years. The Dhahira area and the southern region (Dhofar) border the Rub'al Khalj (Empty Quarter). Dhahira is a semi-desert plain, sloping from the southern flanks of the Western Hajar into the Rub'al Khalj. Dhofar's border with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia runs through the Empty Quarter. Situated mainly in Saudi Arabia, the Rub'al Khalj is one of the largest sand deserts in the world. It covers an area of more than 250,000 sq mi (650,000 sq km) and extends to 744 mi by 310 mi (1,200 km by 500 km). It is one of the driest places on earth, receiving almost no rain at all.

HUMAN POPULATION

Traditional Omani society consisted of four categories: seafarers who fished and traded; agriculturists of the Batinah coast and the south, and those of the Interior who employ the aflaj (aqueduct) system of irrigation; the mountain people of Dhofar and the Musandam; and the Bedouin of the desert areas. In 2000 it was estimated that 84 percent of the population lived in urban areas. The area around Masqat and the Batinah Coast have more than half the population.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Oman does not have the vast oil reserves of some of its neighbors; although the outlook for further reserves is promising, Oman's complex geology makes exploration and production a challenge. Natural resources that are found in Oman and exploited are petroleum, natural gas, and copper. Much of the country's industry and trade is based on these substances. Situated on the Arabian Sea, Oman also has a sizable fishing economy. Asbestos, limestone, chromium, and gypsum can be found in Oman's mountains. In addition, Oman's location is a resource: it is strategically located on the Musandam Peninsula adjacent to the Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil, and thus derives income from controlling this trade route.

FURTHER READINGS

Advancing Women in Leadership. "Advancing Women." International Business and Career Community. http://www.advancingwomen.com/awl/spring99/awl_spring99.html (Accessed May 9, 2002).

Chatty, Dawn. Mobile Pastoralists: Development Planning and Social Change in Oman. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Evans, M.I. Important Bird Areas of the Middle East. Cambridge, U.K.: Birdlife International, 1994.

Jiddat Al Harasis 026. http://www.meteorites21.com/j_a_h026.htm (Accessed May 11, 2002).

Kay, Shirley. Enchanting Oman. Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Motivate Publishing, 1988.

Middle East & Islamic Studies Collection. http://www.library.cornell.edu/colldev/mideast/universi.htm (Accessed May 10, 2002).

Middle East and Jewish Studies. Women in the Middle East. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/mideast/cuvlm/women.html (Accessed May 9, 2002).

Ministry of Information. Sultanate of Oman. http://www.omanet.com/ (Accessed May 10, 2002).

NASA. Gemini Earth Photographs, Ar-Rub al-Kahli.http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-4203/phot01.htm (Accessed May 11, 2002).

Natural History of Oman & Arabia. http://www.oman.org/nath00.htm (Accessed May 10, 2002).

Newcombe, Ozzie. The Heritage of Oman: a Celebration in Photographs. Reading, Berkshire, U.K.: Garnet Publishing, 1995.

Oman Daily Observer. "Oman: People & Heritage." Oman: Oman Daily Observer, 1994.

GEO-FACT

There are many caverns in Oman. One of the largest in the world, Teyq Cave, is 820 feet (250m) deep and 10,595 cubic feet (300 m3) in size.

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Oman

Oman

At a Glance

Official Name: Sultanate of Oman

Continent: Asia (Middle East)

Area: 82,030 square miles (212,460 sq km)

Population: 2,466,645

Capital City: Muscat

Largest City: Muscat (350,000)

Unit of Money: Omani rial

Major Languages: Arabic (official), English

Literacy: 80%

Land Use: 5% pastures, 95% other

Natural Resources: Petroleum, copper, asbestos

Government: Monarchy

Defense: 1.82 billion

The Place

Oman is a small country on the Arabian peninsula in the Middle East with coastlines on the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea on the east.

Most of Oman is desert and mountains. The mountainous Musandam Peninsula is in northern Oman. Date palms grow in the fertile Al Batinah, which lies along the coast of the Gulf of Oman. Frankincense trees thrive in Dhofar in the south. Next to Al Batinah are the Al Hajar mountains. Mount Al-Akhdar—10,086 feet (3,074 m)—is the country's highest peak. The Rub' al Khali desert covers western Oman.

Temperatures in Oman can get quite hot. Summertime temperatures can rise as high as 130°F (54°C). Winters are mild with temperatures averaging 63°F (17°C). Oman averages 6 inches (15 cm) of rain a year. Dhofar sometimes receives as much as 25 inches (63.5 cm) of rain a year. Rare animal species, such as the Arabian oryx, Arabian leopard, mountain goat, and loggerhead turtle, are native to Oman.

The People

Nearly 90% of Oman's people are Arabs and almost all are Muslims. Other ethnic groups include Africans, Indians, Iranians, and Pakistanis.

Oman has a population density of 31 people per square mile (11 people per sq km). It has an average yearly population increase of 3.4%. The life expectancy is 71 years.

Omanis living in rural areas inhabit houses made of concrete blocks, wood and palm thatch, or dried mud or stone. Nomads live in tents. Many city dwellers live in 1-or 2-story houses with enclosed courtyards.

Most people living in coastal areas work on date palm plantations or fish for a living. Farmers in interior sections grow dates, fruit, and grain. People living in the city work in the petroleum industry or as government officials, laborers, merchants, or sailors.

The majority of Omani men wear white robes and turbans. Women usually wear long black dresses over their colorful clothes. Some women also wear black veils to cover their faces.

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Oman

OMAN

Compiled from the November 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.




Official Name:
Sultanate of Oman

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-OMANI RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE


Geography

Area: About 212,460 sq. km. (about the size of Kansas). It is bordered on the north by the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), on the northwest by Saudi Arabia, and on the southwest by the Republic of Yemen. The Omani coastline stretches 2,092 km.

Cities: Capital—Muscat. Other cities—Salalah Nizwa, Sohar, Sur.

Terrain: Mountains, plains, and arid plateau.

Climate: Hot, humid along the coast; hot, dry in the interior; summer monsoon in far south.


People

Nationality: Noun—Oman. Adjective—Omani.

Population: (2003 est.) 2.8 million.

Annual growth rate: (2002 est.) 2%.

Ethnic groups: Arab, Baluchi, East African (Zanzabari), South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi).

Religions: Ibadhi, 75%; Sunni Muslim, Shia Muslim, Hindu, Christian.

Languages: Arabic (official), English, Baluchi, Urdu, Swahili, Hindi and Indian dialects.

Education: Literacy—approx. 80% (total population).

Health: (2003) Infant mortality rate—-21.01/1,000. Life expectancy—72.5.

Work force: (920,000) Agriculture and fishing—50%.


Government

Type: Monarchy.

Constitution: On November 6, 1996, Sultan Qaboos issued a royal decree promulgating the Basic Law which, clarifies the royal succession, provides for a prime minister, bars ministers from holding interests in companies doing business with the government, establishes a bicameral legislature, and guarantees basic civil liberties for Omani citizens.

Branches: Executive—Sultan. Legislative—Majlis Al-Shura (Consultative Council). Judicial—Magistrate courts handle criminal cases; Shari'a (Islamic law) courts oversee family law.

Political parties: None.

Suffrage: Limited.

Administrative subdivisions: Eight administrative regions—Muscat, Al Batinah, Musandam, A'Dhahirah, A'Dakhliya, A'Shariqiya, Al Wusta, Dhofar Governorate. There are 59 districts (wilayats).


Economy

GDP: (2002)$20.3 billion.

Per capita GDP: $8,300.

Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, copper, marble, limestone, gypsum, chromium.

Agriculture and fisheries: 3.66% of GDP).

Agriculture: Products—dates, limes, bananas, mangoes, alfalfa, other fruits and vegetables. Fisheries—Kingfish, tuna, other fish, shrimp, lobster, abalone.

Industry: Types—crude petroleum (not including gas liquids) about 875,000 barrels per day; construction, petroleum refinery, copper mines and smelter, cement and various light industries.

Trade: (2002) Exports—$11.1 billion. Major markets—Japan (21%), China (14%), Thailand (12%), South Korea (19%), U.A.E. (9%). Imports—$5.4 billion: machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, food, livestock, lubricants. Major suppliers—U.A.E. 27%, Japan 17%, U.K. 7%, U.S. 7%, Germany 5%.




PEOPLE

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 expatriates live in Oman, most of whom are guest workers from South Asia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Philippines.


Since 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. In 1986, Oman's first university, Sultan Qaboos University, opened. Other post secondary institutions include a law school, technical college, banking institute, teachers training college, and health sciences institute. Some 200 scholarships are awarded each year for study abroad.


Nine private colleges exist, providing 2-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.




HISTORY

Oman adopted Islam in the seventh century A.D., during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. Ibadhism, a form of Islam distinct from Shiaism and the "Orthodox" schools of Sunnism, became the dominant religious sect in Oman by the eighth century A.D. Oman is the only country in the Islamic world with a majority Ibadhi population. Ibadhism is known for its "moderate conservatism." One distinguishing feature of Ibadhism is the choice of ruler by communal consensus and consent.


Contact with Europe was established in 1508, when the Portuguese conquered parts of Oman's coastal region. Portugal's influence predominated for more than a century, with only a short interruption by the Turks. Fortifications built during the Portuguese occupation can still be seen at Muscat.

Except for a period when Iran conquered Oman, Oman has basically been an independent nation. After the Portuguese were expelled in 1650 and while resisting Persian attempts to establish hegemony, the Sultan of Oman extended his conquests to Zan-zibar, other parts of the eastern coast of Africa, and portions of the southern Arabian Peninsula. During this period, political leadership shifted from the Ibadhi imams, who were elected religious leaders, to hereditary sultans who established their capital in Muscat. The Muscat rulers established trading posts on the Persian coast and also exercised a measure of control over the Makran coast (now Pakistan). By the early 19th century, Oman was the most powerful state in Arabia and on the East African coast.


Oman was the object of Franco-British rivalry throughout the 18th century. During the 19th century, Oman and the United Kingdom concluded several treaties of friendship and commerce. In 1908, the British entered into an agreement of friendship. Their traditional association was confirmed in 1951 through a new treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation by which the United Kingdom recognized the Sultanate of Oman as a fully independent state.


When Sultan Sa'id bin Sultan Al-Busaid died in 1856, his sons quarreled over his succession. As a result of this struggle, the empire—through the mediation of the British Government under the "Canning Award"—was divided in 1861 into two separate principalities—Zanzibar, with its East African dependencies, and Muscat and Oman. Zanzibar paid an annual subsidy to Muscat and Oman until its independence in early 1964.


During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the sultan in Muscat faced rebellion by members of the Ibadhi sect residing in the interior of Oman, centered around the town of Nizwa, who wanted to be ruled exclusively by their religious leader, the Imam of Oman. This conflict was resolved temporarily by the Treaty of Seeb, which granted the imam autonomous rule in the interior, while recognizing the nominal sovereignty of the sultan elsewhere.

The conflict flared up again in 1954, when the new imam led a sporadic 5-year rebellion against the sultan's efforts to extend government control into the interior. The insurgents were defeated in 1959 with British help. The sultan then terminated the Treaty of Seeb and eliminated the office of the imam. In the early 1960s, the imam, exiled to Saudi Arabia, obtained support from his hosts and other Arab governments, but this support ended in the 1980s.


In 1964, a separatist revolt began in Dhofar Province. Aided by communist and leftist governments such as the former South Yemen (People's Democratic Republic of Yemen), the rebels formed the Dhofar Liberation Front, which later merged with the Marxist-dominated Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arab Gulf (PFLOAG). The PFLOAG's declared intention was to overthrow all traditional Arab Gulf regimes. In mid-1974, PFLOAG shortened its name to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman (PFLO) and embarked on a political rather than a military approach to gain power in the other Gulf states, while continuing the guerrilla war in Dhofar.


Sultan Qaboos bin Sa'id assumed power on July 23, 1970, in a palace coup directed against his father, Sa'id bin Taymur, who later died in exile in London. The new sultan was confronted with insurgency in a country plagued by endemic disease, illiteracy, and poverty. One of the new sultan's first measures was to abolish many of his father's harsh restrictions, which had caused thousands of Omanis to leave the country, and to offer amnesty to opponents of the previous regime, many of whom returned to Oman. He also established a modern government structure and launched a major development program to upgrade educational and health facilities, build a modern infrastructure, and develop the country's natural resources.

In an effort to curb the Dhofar insurgency, Sultan Qaboos expanded and re-equipped the armed forces and granted amnesty to all surrendered rebels while vigorously prosecuting the war in Dhofar. He obtained direct military support from the U.K., Iran, and Jordan. By early 1975, the guerrillas were confined to a 50 square kilometer (20-sq. mi.) area near the Yemen border and shortly thereafter were defeated. As the war drew to a close, civil action programs were given priority throughout Dhofar and helped win the allegiance of the people. The PFLO threat diminished further with the establishment of diplomatic relations in October 1983 between South Yemen and Oman, and South Yemen subsequently lessened propaganda and subversive activities against Oman. In late-1987, Oman opened an embassy in Aden, South Yemen, and appointed its first resident ambassador to the country.

Since his accession in 1970, Sultan Qaboos has balanced tribal, regional, and ethnic interests in composing the national administration. The Council of Ministers, which functions as a cabinet, consists of 26 ministers, all directly appointed by Qaboos. The Majlis Al-Shura's (Consultative Council) mandate is to review legislation pertaining to economic development and social services prior to its becoming law. The Majlis Al-Shura may request ministers to appear before it. In September 2000, about 100,000 Omanimen and women elected 83 candidates, including two women, for seats in the Majlis Al-Shura. Further, in December 2000, Sultan Qaboos appointed the 48-member Majlis Al Dowla, or State Council, including five women, which acts as the upper chamber in Oman's bicameral representative body. In early 2003, Sultan Qaboos declared universal suffrage for the October 2003 Majlis al-Shura elections. Two women were elected to sit with 81 male colleagues in those elections, which were observed to be free and fair.


In November 1996, Sultan Qaboos presented his people with the "Basic Statutes of the State," Oman's first written "constitution." It guarantees various rights within the framework of Quranic and customary law. It partially resuscitated long dormant conflict-of-interest measures by banning cabinet ministers from being officers of public shareholding firms. Perhaps most importantly, the Basic Statutes provide rules for setting Sultan Qaboos' succession.


Oman is strategically located on the Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf, 35 miles directly opposite Iran. Oman is concerned with regional stability and security, given tensions in the region, the proximity of Iran and Iraq, and the potential threat of political Islam. Oman maintained its diplomatic relations with Iraq throughout the Gulf War while supporting the UN allies by sending a contingent of troops to join coalition forces and by opening up to prepositioning of weapons and supplies. In addition, since 1980 Oman and the U.S. have been parties to a military cooperation agreement, which was revised and renewed in 2000. Oman also has long been an active participant in efforts to achieve Middle East peace.


Following the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001, the Omani Government at all levels pledged and provided impressive support to the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism. Oman is a signatory of most UN-sponsored anti-terrorism treaties.




GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sultan Qaboos bin Sa'id rules with the aid of his ministers. His dynasty, the Al Sa'id, was founded about 250 years ago by Imam Ahmed bin Sa'id. The sultan is a direct descendant of the l9th century ruler, Sa'id bin Sultan, who first opened relations with the United States in 1833. The Sultanate has neither political parties nor legislature, although the bicameral representative bodies provide the government with advice.


Oman's judicial system traditionally has been based on the Shari'a—the Koranic laws and the oral teachings of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. Traditionally, Shari'a courts fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, Awqaf, and Islamic Affairs. Oman's first criminal code was not enacted until 1974. The current structure of the criminal court system was established in 1984 and consists of a magistrate court in the capital and four additional magistrate courts in Sohar, Sur, Salalah, and Nizwa. In the less-populated areas and among the nomadic bedouin, tribal custom often is the law.

Recent royal decrees have placed the entire court system—magistrates, commercial, shari'a and civil courts—under the control of the Ministry of Justice. An independent Office of the Public Prosecutor also has been created (formerly a part of the Royal Oman Police), and a supreme court is under formation. Regional court complexes are envisioned to house the various courts, including the courts of first instance for criminal cases and Shariah cases (family law and inheritance).


Administratively, the populated regions are divided into 59 districts (wilayats), presided over by governors (walis) responsible for settling local disputes, collecting taxes, and maintaining peace. Most wilayats are small; an exception is the wilayat of Dhofar, which comprises the whole province. The wali of Dhofar is an important government figure, holding cabinet rank, while other walis operate under the guidance of the Ministry of Interior.


In November 1991, Sultan Qaboos established the Majlis al—Shura (Consultative Council), which replaced the 10-year-old State Consultative Council, in an effort to systematize and broaden public participation in government. Representatives were chosen in the following manner: Local caucuses in each of the 59 districts sent forward the names of three nominees, whose credentials were reviewed by a cabinet committee. These names were then forwarded to the Sultan, who made the final selection. The Consultative Council serves as a conduit of information between the people and the government ministries. It is empowered to review drafts of economic and social legislation prepared by service ministries, such as communications and housing, and to provide recommendations. Service ministers also may be summoned before the Majlis to respond to representatives' questions. It has no authority in the areas of foreign affairs, defense, security, and finances.

Although Oman enjoys a high degree of internal stability, regional tensions in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf war and the Iran-Iraq war continue to necessitate large defense expenditures. In 2001, Oman budgeted $2.4 billion for defense—about 33% of its GDP. Oman maintains a small but professional and effective military, supplied mainly with British equipment in addition to items from the United States, France, and other countries. British officers, on loan or on contract to the Sultanate, help staff the armed forces, although a program of "Omanization " has steadily increased the proportion of Omani officers over the past several years.


After North and South Yemen merged in May 1990, Oman settled its border disputes with the new Republic of Yemen on October 1, 1992. The two neighbors have cooperative bilateral relations. Oman's borders with all neighbors are demarcated.


Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 4/14/03


Sultan: Said, QABOOS, bin Said Al

Special Representative for His Majesty the Sultan: Said, THUWAYNI, bin Shihab Al

Prime Minister: Said, QABOOS, bin Said Al

Dep. Prime Min. for Cabinet Affairs: Said, FAHD, bin Mahmud Al

Min. of the Royal Office: Mamari, Ali bin Majid al-, Gen.

Min. of Agriculture & Fisheries: Khalili, Salim bin Hilal bin Ali al-

Min. of Awqaf & Religious Affairs: Salimi, Abdallah bin Muhammad bin Abdallah al-

Min. of Civil Service: Azizi, Abd al-Aziz bin Matar al-

Min. of Commerce, Industry, & Minerals: Sultan, Maqbul bin Ali bin

Min. of Communications: Shamas, Suhail bin Mustahail

Min. of Defense: Said, QABOOS, bin Said Al

Min. of Defense Affairs: Busaidi, BADR, bin Saud bin Harib Al

Min. of Diwan of Royal Court: Busaidi, SAYF, bin Hamad bin Min. of Education: Busaidi, SAUD, bin Ibrahim bin Saud Al

Min. of Finance: Said, QABOOS, bin Said Al

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Said, QABOOS, bin Said Al

Min. of Health: Musa, Ali bin Muhammad bin, Dr.

Min. of Higher Education: Manthiri, Yahya bin Mahfudh al-

Min. of Housing, Electricity, & Water: Shamas, Suhail bin Mustahail al-

Min. of Information: Rashidi, Hamad bin Abdallah Muhsin al-

Min. of Interior: Busaidi, ALI, bin Hamud bin Ali Al

Min. of Justice: Hinai, Muhammad bin Abdallah bin Zahir al-

Min. of Legal Affairs: Alawi, Muhammad bin Ali bin Nasir al-

Min. of National Economy: Makki, Ahmad bin Abd al-Nabi al-

Min. of National Heritage & Culture: Said, FAYSAL, bin Ali Al

Min. of Oil & Gas: Rumhi, Muhammad bin Hamad bin Sayf al-

Min. of Regional Municipalities, Environment, & Water Resources: Alawi, Khamis bin Mubarak bin Isa al-, Dr.

Min. Responsible for Foreign Affairs: Alawi, bin Abdallah, Yusuf bin

Min. of Social Affairs, Labor & Vocational Training: Husni, Amir bin Shuwayn al-

Min. of State & Governor of Muscat:Busaidi, MUTASIM, bin Hamud bin Nasir Al

Min. of State & Governor of Dhofar: Qutaybi, Muhammad bin Ali al-

Min. of Transport & Communications: Mamari, Malik bin Sulayman al-

Min. of Water Resources: Aufi, Hamid Said al-, Lt. Gen.

Special Adv. to His Majesty: Ghazali, Salim bin Abdallah al-

Special Adv. to His Majesty for Culture: Ruwas, Abd al-Aziz bin Muhammad al-

Special Adv. to His Majesty for Economic Planning Affairs: Zubayr, Muhammad bin

Special Adv. to His Majesty for Environmental Affairs: Said, SHABIB, bin Taymur Al

Special Adv. to His Majesty for External Liaison: Zawawi, Umar bin Abd al-Munim al-

Adv. to the State: Busaidi, MUSALLAM, bin Ali Al

Adv. at the Diwan (Royal Court): Mashani, Salim bin Mustahail bin Ahmad al-

Pres. Majlis al-Dawlah (Council of State) (Upper House): Harthi, Hamud bin Abdallah al-

Pres. Majlis al-Shura (Advisory Council) (Lower House): Qutaybi, Abdallah Ali al-

Chmn., Central Bank: Said, QABOOS, bin Said Al

Executive Pres., Central Bank: Zadjali, Hamud bin Sangur Hashim

Ambassador to the US: Khussaiby, Muhammad bin Ali bin Thani al-

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Hinai, Fuad bin Mubarak al-



Oman maintains an embassy in the United States at 2535 Belmont Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/387-1980)




ECONOMY

When Oman declined as an entrepot for arms and slaves in the mid-19th century, much of its former prosperity was lost, and the economy turned almost exclusively to agriculture, camel and goat herding, fishing, and traditional handicrafts. Today, oil fuels the economy and revenues from petroleum products have enabled Oman's dramatic development over the past 30 years.


Oil was first discovered in the interior near Fahud in the western desert in 1964. Petroleum Development (Oman) Ltd. (PDO) began production in August 1967. The Omani Government owns 60% of PDO, and foreign interests own 40% (Royal Dutch Shell owns 34%; the remaining 6% is owned by Compagnie Francaise des Petroles [Total] and Partex). In 1976, Oman's oil production rose to 366,000 barrels per day (b/d) but declined gradually to about 285,000 b/d in late 1980 due to the depletion of recoverable reserves. From 1981 to 1986, Oman compensated for declining oil prices by increasing production levels to 600,000 b/d. With the collapse of oil prices in 1986, however, revenues dropped dramatically. Production was cut back temporarily in coordination with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and production levels again reached 600,000 b/d by mid-1987, which helped increase revenues. By 2000, production had climbed to more than 900,000 b/d, however it has declined to roughly 700,000 in 2003. Oman is not a member of OPEC.

Natural gas reserves, which will increasingly provide the fuel for power generation and desalination, stand at 18 trillion cubic feet. An LNG processing plant located in Sur was opened in 2000, with production capacity of 6.6 million tons/YR, as well as unsubstantial gas liquids, including condensates.


Oman does not have the immense oil resources of some of its neighbors. Nevertheless, in recent years, it has found more oil than it has produced, and total proven reserves rose to more than 5 billion barrels by the mid-1990s. Oman's complex geology makes exploration and production an expensive challenge. Recent improvements in technology, however, have enhanced recovery.


Agriculture and fishing are the traditional way of life in Oman. Dates and limes, grown extensively in the Batinah coastal plain and the highlands, make up most of the country's agricultural exports. Coconut palms, wheat, and bananas also are grown, and cattle are raised in Dhofar. Other areas grow cereals and forage crops. Poultry production is steadily rising. Fish and shellfish exports totaled $34 million in 2000.


The government is undertaking many development projects to modernize the economy, improve the standard of living, and become a more active player in the global market-place. Oman became a member of the World Trade Organization in October 2000, and continues to amend its financial and commercial practices to conform to international standards. Increases in agriculture and especially fish production are believed possible with the application of modern technology. The Muscat capital area has both an international airport at Seeb and a deepwater port at Min a Qaboos. The newly opened (1999), largescale modern container port at Salalah, capital of the Dhofar Governate, and a seaport at nearby Raysut were recently completed. A national road network includes a $400 million highway linking the northern and southern regions. In an effort to diversify the economy, in the early 1980s, the government built a $200-million copper mining and refining plant at Sohar. Other large industrial projects include an 80,000 b/d oil refinery and two cement factories. An industrial zone at Rusayl showcases the country's modest light industries. Marble, limestone, and gypsum may prove commercially viable in the future.


The Omani Government is implementing its sixth 5-year plan, launched in 2000, to reduce its dependence on oil and expatriate labor. The plan focuses on income diversification, job creation for Omanis in the private sector, and development of Oman's interior. Government programs offer soft loans and propose the building of new industrial estates in population centers outside the capital area. The government is giving greater emphasis to "Omanization" of the labor force, particularly in banking, hotels, and municipally sponsored shops benefiting from government subsidies. Currently, efforts are underway to liberalize investment opportunities in order to attract foreign capital.


Some of the largest budgetary outlays are in the areas of health services and basic education. The number of schools, hospitals, and clinics has risen exponentially since the accession of Sultan Qaboos in 1970.


U.S. firms face a small and highly competitive market dominated by trade with Japan and Britain and reexports from the United Arab Emirates. The sale of U.S. products also is hampered by higher transportation costs and the lack of familiarity with Oman on the part of U.S. exporters. However, the traditional U.S. market in Oman, oil field supplies and services, should grow as the country's major oil producer continues a major expansion of fields and wells.




FOREIGN RELATIONS

When Sultan Qaboos assumed power in 1970, Oman had limited contacts with the outside world, including neighboring Arab states. Only two countries, the United Kingdom and India, maintained a diplomatic presence in the country. A special treaty relationship permitted the United Kingdom close involvement in Oman's civil and military affairs. Ties with the United Kingdom have remained very close under Sultan Qaboos.


Since 1970, Oman has pursued a moderate foreign policy and expanded its diplomatic relations dramatically. It supported the 1979 Camp David accords and was one of three Arab League states, along with Somalia and Sudan, which did not break relations with Egypt after the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty in 1979. During the Persian Gulf crisis, Oman assisted the UN coalition effort. Oman has developed close ties to its neighbors; it joined the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council when it was established in 1980.


Oman has traditionally supported Middle East peace initiatives, as it did those in 1983. In April 1994, Oman hosted the plenary meeting of the Water Working Group of the peace process, the first Gulf state to do so. From 1996-2000, Oman and Israel exchanged trade offices. Oman closed the Israeli Trade Office in October 2000 in the wake of public demonstrations against Israel during the intifada.


During the Cold War period, Oman avoided relations with communist countries because of the communist support for the insurgency in Dhofar. In recent years, Oman has undertaken diplomatic initiatives in the Central Asian republics, particularly in Kazakhstan, where it is involved in a joint oil pipeline project. In addition, Oman maintains good relations with Iran, its northern neighbor, and the two countries regularly exchange delegations. Oman is an active member in international and regional organizations, notably the Arab League and the GCC.




U.S.-OMANI RELATIONS

The United States has maintained relations with the Sultanate since the early years of American independence. A treaty of friendship and navigation, one of the first agreements of its kind with an Arab state, was concluded between the United States and Muscat in 1833. This treaty was replaced by the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights signed at Salalah on December 20, 1958.


A U.S. consulate was maintained in Muscat from 1880 until 1915. Thereafter, U.S. interests in Oman were handled by U.S. diplomats resident in other countries. In 1972, the U.S. ambassador in Kuwait was accredited also as the first U.S. ambassador to Oman, and the U.S. embassy, headed by a resident charged'affaires, was opened. The first resident U.S. ambassador took up his post in July 1974. The Oman embassy was opened in Washington, DC, in 1973.


U.S.-Omani relations were deepened in 1980 by the conclusion of two important agreements. One provided access to Omani military facilities by U.S. forces under agreed-upon conditions. The other agreement established a Joint Commission for Economic and Technical Cooperation, located in Muscat, to provide U.S. economic assistance to Oman. The Joint Commission continued in existence until the mid-1990s. A Peace Corps program, which assisted Oman mainly in the fields of health and education, was initiated in 1973 and phased out in 1983. A team from the Federal Aviation Administration worked with Oman's Civil Aviation Department on a reimbursable basis but was phased out in 1992.


In 1974 and April 1983, Sultan Qaboos made state visits to the United States. Vice President George H. Bush visited Oman in 1984 and 1986, and President Clinton visited briefly in March 2000.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Muscat (E), P.O. Box 202, Code No. 115, Medinat Qaboos, Tel. [968] 698-989, after-hours Tel [968] 699-049; DAO Fax 699-779; ECA Fax 699-669; POL/ECO/COM Fax 604-316; OMC Fax 604-327; PAO Fax 699-771; Health Unit Fax 699-088. Workweek: Sat–Wed, 8 am to 4:30 pm. Embassy Website: www.usa.gov.om; Email: Embassy: [email protected]; POL/ECO/COM: [email protected]; CON: [email protected]; PAO: [email protected]

AMB: Richard L. Baltimore
AMB OMS: Jennifer S. Schaaf
DCM: Robert W. Dry
POL/ECO: Michael G. Snowden
POL/MIL: John F. Fleming
ECO/COM: Kevin D. Skillin
CON: Wesley W. Robertson
MGT: Vivian M. Lesh
RSO: Peter M. Riva
IMO: James B. Davidson
PAO: Tanya C. Anderson
DAO: COL William Clark, USAF
OMC: COL James Piner, USA
ECA: LTCOL David C. Frazee, USAF
ATO: Ronald P. Verdonk (res. Dubai)
FAA: Lynn Osmus (res. Brussels)
LEGATT: Wilfred Rattigan (res. Riyadh)
DEA: Jeff B. Stamm (res. Islamabad)



Last Modified: Thursday, November 20, 2003


TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet
September 18, 2002


Country Description: The Sultanate of Oman has a long and proud heritage, and it is a country of great natural beauty on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula. With a population of approximately 2.4 million, it is a monarchy that has developed rapidly in the past three decades. While Oman is a very traditional Islamic country and Islam is the state religion, Omanis have for centuries lived with people of other faiths. Non-Muslims are free to worship at churches and temples built on land donated by the Sultan. The economy is largely dependent on the production and export of oil. Tourist facilities are available in the capital area of Muscat, as well as in Salalah, Sohar, and Nizwa and increasingly are being expanded elsewhere in the country.


Entry and Exit Requirements: A valid passport and visa are required for entry into Oman. Omani embassies and consulates issue two-year, multipl e-entry tourist and/or business visas to qualified U.S. citizens. Optionally, U.S. citizens may obtain a 14-day non-extendible visa by presenting their regular U.S. passport on arrival at Muscat's Seeb International Airport. Adequate funds and proof of an onward/return ticket are required. Various other categories of short-term visit/business/work contract visas also are available, but these must be arranged in advance through an Omani sponsor. To obtain a visa or for details on entry and travel requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, 2535 Belmont Road N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 387-1980/2. Evidence of yellow fever immunization is required if the traveler enters from an infected area.


In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of the relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Dual Nationality: The Omani Government does not recognize dual nationality. Omani authorities usually confiscate the U.S. passports of U.S./Omani dual nationals. This does not constitute loss of U.S. citizenship, but should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Muscat. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.


Safety and Security: U.S. citizens in Oman are urged to maintain a high level of security awareness. The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests throughout the world. The State Department suggests that all Americans in Oman maintain an unpredictable schedule and vary travel routes whenever possible. Americans also are urged to treat mail from unfamiliar sources with suspicion and to avoid contact with any suspicious, unfamiliar objects. Suspicious objects should be reported to local authorities. U.S. citizens with security concerns are encouraged to contact local authorities and the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Muscat.


Crime: The incidence of street crime is low in Oman, and violent crimes are rare. Travelers to Oman should take normal precautions, such as avoiding travel in deserted areas and after dark. Travelers should also take normal precautions to protect their personal property from theft. In particular, valuables and currency should not be left unsecured in hotel rooms. Common sense and caution are always the best crime prevention.


The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.


U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.


Medical Facilities: Care and medicines are available in Oman. Local medical treatment varies in quality, however, and depending on location can be inadequate. While hospital emergency treatment is available, there is no ambulance service in Oman. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.


Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.


Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.


Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.


Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Oman is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.


Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside/Ambulance Assistance: Poor
(There is no ambulance service in Oman.)

Road conditions, lighting, and traffic safety in cities and on major highways are good. Travel between cities, especially at night, may be dangerous due to poor or no lighting, wandering livestock, and speeding drivers.


Local Traffic Laws: Observing traffic laws in Oman is a must. Seat belts are required, and the use of cellular telephones while driving is prohibited. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is strictly prohibited. There are stringent penalties for violation of these laws, particularly for driving under the influence of alcohol. In the event of a traffic violation and fine, drivers should pay the fine as directed and should not attempt to pay the fine or negotiate payment at the time of the traffic stop. In the event of an accident, the driver should not move the vehicle from the location of the accident until police grant permission; moving a vehicle is equivalent to an admission of guilt. The Royal Oman Police may be contacted at telephone 968-560-099


Licensing: Visitors should not drive without a valid license. Visitors in possession of a valid U.S. driver's license may drive rental vehicles, but residents must have an Omani driver's license. To obtain an Omani license, a U.S. citizen must have a U.S. license that has been valid for at least one year or must take a driving test.


Insurance: Visitors hiring rental cars are urged to insure the vehicles adequately against loss or damage. Residents may insure their vehicles outside the Sultanate; however, third party liability must be purchased locally.


Local Traffic Customs: The use of European-style traffic circles is prevalent in Oman. However, unlike European traffic practice, the driver on the inside lane always has priority.

A car flashing its high beams is generally asking for a chance to pass.


For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Omani driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Omani Office of Tourism of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry via the Internet at http://www.omanet.com.


Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Oman's civil aviation authority as category 1 — in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Oman's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.


The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.


Customs Regulations: Travelers entering Oman may not carry with them, or bring into the country in accompanied baggage, firearms, ammunition, or pornography; all are subject to seizure. A maximum of one bottle of liquor is permitted per non-Muslim adult. Unaccompanied baggage and shipments of household goods are also subject to inspection. Books, videotapes, and audiotapes may be reviewed prior to being released to the owner. A copy of the packing list is required to clear effects through customs. Travelers carrying prescription drugs should be in possession of the original prescription and a letter from their doctor detailing the use of the medicine. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Pets (dogs and cats) entering Oman require an import permit from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Department of Animal Health, before shipment. Application forms may be obtained from the Ministry by one's sponsor and must be submitted with a copy of the pet's rabies vaccination record and a veterinary health certificate. Vaccination certificates must be dated between one month and six months prior to arrival in Oman. Dogs and cats must be at least four months old to be allowed into Oman. Further, a second veterinary health certificate dated no more than one week prior to arrival of the pet into Oman is a requirement. Original rabies vaccination record and the veterinary health certificate must accompany the pet. Pets may be subjected to a six-month quarantine, if veterinary authorities are not satisfied with the health condition of the pet and/or certifications. Pets must be manifested as cargo on an airway bill when transported by air. Note: For importation of other pets (birds, fish, reptiles, etc.), please contact the Directorate of Animal Health at telephone: 968-696-300, ext. 1510/1513 or by fax at 968-694-465/696-271 for current information.


Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens are subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Omani laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Death sentences are possible for violators of Oman's drug laws. Visitors are additionally cautioned that it is illegal to use aggressive, obscene or abusive language or gestures in public. In accordance with Omani law, penalties for these offenses can range from deportation or fines to imprisonment. Civil charges may also be filed.

Special Circumstances: Omani employers often ask that expatriate employees deposit their passports with the company as a condition of employment. Although customary, this practice is not required by Omani law. The U.S. Embassy in Muscat advises Americans to exercise caution on the issue of permitting an employer to withhold your passport, since this can operate as a restraint on travel and could give undue leverage to the employer in a dispute.


Islamic ideals provide the conservative foundation of Oman's customs, laws and practices. Foreign visitors are expected to be sensitive to the Islamic culture, and not dress in a revealing or provocative style, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter tops and shorts. Athletic clothing is worn in public only when the wearer is obviously engaged in athletic activity. Western bathing attire, however, is the norm at hotel pools and beaches.


Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.


Embassy Location and Registration: U.S. citizens living in Oman are requested to register early after arrival at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and obtain updated information on travel and security within Oman. Visitors to Oman are likewise urged to register with the Embassy, especially during periods of regional tension. The workweek in Oman is Saturday through Wednesday. The U.S. Embassy in Oman is located on Jameat A'Duwal Al Arabiya Street, Al Khuwair Area (Shatti al-Qurum), in the capital city of Muscat. The mailing address is P.O. Box 202, Medinat Al Sultan Qaboos 115, Sultanate of Oman, telephone (968) 698-989, fax: (968) 699-189. The Embassy's e-mail address is [email protected], and its website is http://www.usa.gov.om.


International Parental Child Abduction

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, American Citizen Services. For more information, please read the Guarding Against International Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at travel.state.gov


General Information: Oman is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Oman and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. American citizens who travel to Oman are subject to the jurisdiction of Omani courts, as well as to the country's laws and regulations. American citizens planning a trip to Oman with dual national children should bear this in mind.


Custody Disputes: When child custody disputes arise between parents of any religion, the custody decisions by Omani courts are based on Islamic (Shari'a) law. Custody cases can be very complex and are usually determined on a case-by-case basis. When making decisions regarding child custody matters, Omani courts consider the parents' religion(s), place(s) of permanent residence, income, and the parents' marital status.


(Note: Omani law differentiates between custodianship and guardianship. Generally speaking, a custodian has been awarded custody of the child and is responsible for his/her upbringing including education and care. A guardian is responsible for the child's financial support.)


Omani courts do not, as a general rule, award custody of "dual national" (U.S./Omani) children to an American mother or father, even one who is Muslim. A fundamental consideration of awarding custody is the parent's place(s) of permanent residence and degree of access to the children. Custody of very young children is generally granted to the mother as long as certain restrictive conditions are met. Once the children come of age (for males completion of their seventh year of age, for females the onset of puberty), the father can appeal for, and will usually be awarded, full custody provided certain restrictive conditions are met. If a father were unable or unfit to be custodian of his children, the court may give custody to another family member. Shari'a court judges have broad discretion in custody cases and often make exceptions to these general guidelines, particularly in cases in which a parent is from an influential family or has powerful connections in Oman.

Even when a mother is granted custody, the non-custodial father maintains a great deal of influence on the rearing of the children. In many cases, the father has been able to acquire legal custody of children against the wishes of the mother when she is unable or unwilling to meet certain conditions set by law for her to maintain her custodial rights. For example, if a mother refuses to give the father access to his child or attempts to leave Oman with the children without the court's permission, a mother's custody rights can be severed. The Omani court can sever a mother's custody if it determines that the mother is incapable of safeguarding the child or of bringing the child up in accordance with the appropriate religious standards. Either parent can lose custody by re-marrying a party considered "unmarriageable," or by residing in a home with people that might be "strangers." However, the final decision is left to the discretion of the Shari'a court.


Shari'a law forbids the removal of children from Oman without first obtaining permission from the court. The U.S. Embassy cannot prevent the Omani government from arresting and either deporting or prosecuting an American citizen who violates Omani law.


Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in an Omani court should retain an attorney in Oman. The State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Oman maintain a list of attorneys willing to represent American clients. A copy of this list may be obtained by contacting either office. It is the responsibility of the prospective client to assess the capabilities of an attorney. The Embassy cannot recommend any specific attorney, and makes no claim as to the ability or the integrity of the attorneys on the list. The Embassy cannot pay for any legal expenses incurred.


U.S. Department of State
Office of Overseas Citizen Services
Washington, DC 20520
Phone: (202) 647-5225


U.S. Embassy Muscat

Consular Section
P.O. Box 202
Madinatal Sultan Qaboos 115
Sultanate of Oman
Telephone: [968] 698-989
Fax: [968] 699-189
Website: http://www.usa.gov.om
Consular Section: [email protected]


The workweek for the Embassy is Saturday through Wednesday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM.


Specific questions regarding child custody in Oman should be addressed to an Omani attorney or to the Embassy of Oman at:


Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman
2535 Belmont Road, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: (202) 387-1980
Fax: (202) 745-4933


Enforcement of Foreign Judgments: Custody orders and judgments of foreign courts are not enforceable in Oman if they potentially contradict or violate local laws and practices. For example, an order from a U.S. court granting custody to an American parent will not be honored in Oman if the parent intends to take the child to live outside Oman. Nor will Omani courts enforce U.S. court decrees ordering a parent in Oman to pay child support.

Visitation Rights: Non-custodial parents are generally entitled to visitation rights as determined by the Shari'a judge.


Dual Nationality: Dual nationality is not recognized by the Sultanate of Oman. Children of Omani fathers automatically acquire Omani citizenship at birth and must enter and leave the country on Omani passports even if they are entitled to hold the passport of another country. Omani women cannot transmit citizenship to their children.


Travel Restrictions: When a custody case is pending with the Shari'a court, children, regardless of their nationality, are generally subject to court-imposed travel restrictions. Either parent can request the court to restrict the travel of his/her minor children.

Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP): Separate from the two-parent signature requirement for U.S. passport issuance, parents may also request that their children's names be entered in the U.S. passport name-check system, also known as CPIAP. A parent or legal guardian can ask to be notified by the Department of State's Office of Children's Issues before a passport is issued to his/her minor child. The parent, legal guardian or the court of competent jurisdiction must submit a written request for entry of a child's name into the Passport Issuance Alert Program to the Office of Children's Issues. The CPIAP also provides denial of passport issuance if appropriate court orders are on file with the Office of Children's Issues. Although this system can be used to alert a parent or court when an application for a U.S. passport has been executed on behalf of a minor, it cannot be used to track the use of a passport. If there is a possibility that your child has another nationality you may want to contact the appropriate embassy or consulate directly to inquire about the possibility of denial of that country's passport. There is no requirement that foreign embassies adhere to U.S. regulations regarding issuance and denial of passports. For more information contact the office of Children's Issues at 202-312-9700. General passport information is also available on the Office of Children's Issues home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html.

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Oman

Oman

POPULATION 2,497,000
IBADI ISLAM 75 percent
OTHER (SUNNI AND SHIA ISLAM; HINDU) 25 percent

Country Overview

INTRODUCTION

Historically, politically, and geographically, Oman is the most isolated part of Arabia. Bordering to the west are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. The desert of the Empty Quarter serves as a land barrier to the north, but a 1,700-kilometer coastline along the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean enabled Oman to develop into a major maritime power until the nineteenth century. The mountainous interior, a stronghold of Ibadi Islam, is distinct from the more cosmopolitan culture of the coast. The southwestern region of Dhofar is culturally linked with the Hadramawt desert valley of southeastern Yemen and follows the Shafii legal school of Sunni Islam.

The Azd tribe of Oman voluntarily embraced Islam in 627 during the lifetime of the Prophet Mohammad. Azdis from Oman participated in the early Islamic conquests and settled in large numbers in the southern Iraqi garrison city of Basra, where they were prominent opponents of the Umayyad dynasty (661–750). One by-product of this opposition was the founding of the Ibadi sect, which spread rapidly through Oman. A main focus of Ibadism is the establishment of a government headed by a just "imam," a political and military leader and religious authority, selected by the leading men of the community for his piety. The struggle to establish and maintain such an imamate colors Omani history.

The majority of Omanis are Ibadi Muslims, with Sunni and Shiite Muslims, as well as Hindus, making up the rest of the population. The Hindus and many of the Shiites, especially the followers of the Agha Khan, are Indian immigrants. Ibadis are entirely Omani Arabs; Sunnis are particularly concentrated in the southwestern region of Dhofar; the Shiites are found mainly on the coast.

Omani society is essentially tribal. From the eighteenth century until recent decades, conflicts between two tribal federations—the Ghafiris, claiming north Arabian ancestry, and the Hinawis, claiming south Arabian ancestry—played an important part in Omani politics.

Arabic is the national language of Oman, but there are some small tribes thought to have lived in Oman before the Arabs, and they speak their own unique languages. These are the Qara ("Jibalis"), Mahra, Shera, and Batahira of the south; the Harasis of southeastern corner of the Empty Quarter; and the Kumazara of the Masandam peninsula.

RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

Islam is the official religion of Oman, and Ibadi scholarship and the study of the Ibadi heritage are actively promoted by the government of Sultan Qabus ibn Said. Nonetheless, Ibadis are known for their religious tolerance, and non-Ibadi Muslims are active at all levels of society and government. Hindus and Christians are free to build houses of worship and practice their religion.

Major Religion

IBADI ISLAM

DATE OF ORIGIN 700 c.e.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS 1,873,000

HISTORY

Jabir ibn Zayd, who originally came from Nizwa in Oman, was a prominent Ibadi leader in Basra in the seventh and early eighth centuries. He was exiled to southern Arabia around 700 c.e. and brought Ibadism to Oman, the only country where Ibadis form a majority. Oman's isolation led to its being favored as a base of Ibadi operations against the Umayyad caliphate by Jabir's successor, Abu Ubayda Muslim ibn Abi Karima.

Ibadism emerged from the Khariji sect, which broke with the main body of Muslims in 657 because they believed Muslim political leaders had failed to follow Islamic law and so should be considered apostates deserving death. The Khawarij (Kharijites) believed that any unrepentant, sinning Muslim ceased to be a believer. Such a person could be killed, his wives and children enslaved, and his property plundered. Whereas the Sunnis claimed that political leadership should be given to a member of the Prophet's tribe, the Quraysh, and the Shiites believed it must be given to the Prophet's cousin Ali and his descendants, the Khawarij said that the most pious person should be selected leader without regard to lineage. The Khawarij withdrew from the rest of the Muslim community and declared war against it. Eventually this form of Kharijism died out.

Ibadis share with the Khawarij rigorous moral standards for leaders, but they refrain from condemning sinning Muslims as apostates. Sinning Ibadi Muslims and non-Ibadi Muslims are to be seen not as kuffar shirk, or unbelieving polytheists, but as kuffar nima, people who are ungrateful for God's blessings. One should avoid "friendship" (wilaya) with such people, but this is really an inner attitude of "dissociation" (baraa), not overt hostility or avoidance of social contact. Ibadis strongly condemn Khariji violence toward Muslims of other sects, but they agree with them regarding the stipulations for leadership. A leader must be chosen on the basis of piety, and if he is unjust, he must be removed from power.

The first Ibadi imamate in Oman, established in 749, lasted only two years. The second imamate, established in 793, lasted 100 years. The collapse of the second imamate led to the first theoretical formulations of the nature of the Ibadi imamate. Centuries of political struggles yielded to the 500-year rule of the Nabahina in the twelfth century. The Portuguese arrived in the Persian Gulf in 1507 and seized a number of coastal towns of Oman, including Muscat, in order to control the strait of Hormuz. Their dominion was challenged by both internal rebellion and Ottoman attacks, but the Portuguese retained control of some cities until the mid-seventeenth century, and their forts can still be seen.

A new Ibadi imamate emerged with the founding of the Yarubi dynasty in 1615, which extended Omani rule in the Persian Gulf and East Africa. In 1753 power passed to the Bu Saidi dynasty, which continues to rule in Oman. Despite the theoretical separation of the imamate from considerations of lineage, imams have, in fact, typically been selected along dynastic lines or because of their descent from earlier imams. After 1804 the Bu Saidi rulers of Oman ceased to call themselves imams, and Ibadi centers in the al-Jabal al-Akhdar ("Green Mountain") region generally regarded these sultans as hostile to their religious principles.

Sayyid Said ibn Sultan (ruled 1806–56) transferred the capital of Oman to the East African island of Zanzibar in 1832. In the nineteenth century Zanzibar became a major center of Islamic scholarship. Omani settlements in East Africa resulted in the growth of Ibadi populations there, which diminished in strength due to conversion to Sunni Islam and, finally, the Zanzibar revolution of 1964. After Sayyid Said's death the domains of Zanzibar and Oman were divided among his sons.

In 1868 an Ibadi imamate movement, led by the great scholar Said ibn Khalfan al-Khalili, succeeded in overthrowing Sultan Salim and installing his cousin Azzan ibn Qays as imam. This imamate was overthrown by British power in early 1871, and Turki ibn Said was installed as sultan. A new imamate movement in 1913 succeeded in capturing the mountainous interior of Oman but not in overthrowing the sultan. In 1920 the British-facilitated Treaty of Sib recognized the separation of the domains of the sultan from the domains of the imam. This separation continued until December 1955, when all of Oman was united under the rule of Sultan Said ibn Taymur, who was replaced in a palace coup in 1970 by his son, the current sultan, Qabus ibn Said.

EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS

The first imam in Oman was al-Julanda ibn Masud (ruled c. 748–50). AlWarith ibn Kab al-Kharusi (ruled 795–808) was the first imam of the important clan of Bani Kharus and the first of many imams to take his oath of allegiance in the town of Nizwa, which for centuries was the most important center of Ibadi scholarship and fervor. Imam alSalt ibn Malik was forcibly removed from the imamate in 886 after a reign of more than 35 years by the scholar Musa ibn Musa ibn Ali al-Anbari, who replaced him with Rashid ibn al-Nazr. Al-Salt's deposition caused great turmoil and discord between the scholars of Nizwa and those of Rustaq. Rashid was in turn replaced in 890 by Azzan ibn Tamim al-Kharusi, but turmoil continued until 893, when Muhammad ibn Nur, acting on behalf of the Abbasid Caliph, al-Mutadid, invaded Oman, killed the imam, and subjected the people of Nizwa to plunder, tortures, and humiliation.

In the tenth century Oman was ravaged by the sectarian Qaramita (Carmathians), and civil war ensued. The next political leader of note was imam Nasir ibn Malik, founder of the Yarubi dynasty in 1624, which expelled Portuguese and Persians from Oman and heralded a new period of Omani expansion. The great leaders of the Bu Saidi dynasty in Oman include its founder, Ahmad ibn Said (1749–83) and his grandson, Said ibn Sultan (1806–56).

MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS

The written collection of hadith (Muhammad's sayings and deeds) that forms the backbone of Ibadi law is by the eighth-century scholar al-Rabi ibn Habib, who was originally from the Batina region of Oman, studied in Basra, and returned to Oman late in life. An important early theoretical discussion of the imamate is by the ninth-century scholar al-Salt ibn Khamis al-Kharusi al-Bahlawi ("Abu l-Muaththir"). Writings by Ibadis from North Africa—the Mzab valley of Algeria, the Tunisian island of Jerba, and the Jabal Nafus region of Libya—are used along with Omani writings. Perhaps the most influential Omani scholar is the tenth-century Abu Said al-Kudami, who elaborated the doctrines of friendship (wilaya) and dissociation (baraa) and their implications for the imamate.

The early nineteenth century brought a period of renewed scholarship, with such eminent figures as Abu Nabhan Jaid ibn Khamis al-Kharusi (1734–1822) and his son Nasir (1778–1847), who emigrated to Zanzibar in 1831 with Sayyid Said. Nasir's students included Jumayyil ibn Khalfan al-Sadi, author of Qamus al-sharia, a 90-volume compendium of Ibadi teaching that is only partially published, and Said ibn Khalfan al-Khalili, leader of the successful imamate movement of 1868–71. The Ibadi "renaissance" extended to the North African Ibadi community, where the most important scholar was the Algerian Muhammad ibn Yusuf Atfayyish (Atfiyash), whose brother visited Oman and whose works were published in Zanzibar. Likewise, Ibadis in North Africa read works by Omani scholars of the nineteenth century. Nur al-Din Abdallah ibn Humayd al-Salimi (1869–1914) is the most influential of all of Oman's modern scholars. A prolific author in law, theology, and history, he led the imamate movement of 1913.

Notable contemporary scholars include Salim ibn Hamad al-Harithi, mufti in the town of Mudhayrib, Sharqiyya province, as well as the Grand Mufti, Ahmad ibn Hamad al-Khalili. Originally from the island of Pemba in Zanzibar, the Grand Mufti has led the transformation of Ibadism toward rapprochement with Sunni Islam.

HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES

There are nearly ten thousand mosques in Oman. Traditional mosques in Oman had neither domes nor minarets. They were simple structures of mud and plaster with wooden beams and doors. Some mosques have old inscriptions recording important events. Mosques are built inside the forts found throughout Oman. Smaller mosques are sometimes built far from habitation as places of solitary devotion, and there are also small mosques for women.

Until the 1970s Ibadis in Oman did not gather for the Friday congregational prayer, believing this should be done only in traditional capital cities like Nizwa in the presence of a just Ibadi imam. Sultan Qabus decreed that Friday congregational prayer be observed in all towns. Places of prayer are also set aside specifically for the two feast-day prayers that end Ramadan (the Islamic month of fasting) and the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca).

In recent years mosques with domes, minarets, and beautiful inlaid decorations have been built. The most important is the Sultan Qabus Grand Mosque, opened in the Bawshar district of Muscat on 4 May 2001. With a space of 4,160,000 square meters, it can accommodate six thousand men in the main prayer room and seven hundred women in a separate room.

Ibadi Muslims do not build shrines to honor holy individuals, as do Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Consequently, saint's shrines are found only in the Sunni Dhofar region; these include the tomb in Mirbat of Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Alawi (d. 1161) and the purported tomb of Job in the mountains overlooking Salala.

WHAT IS SACRED?

Omanis do not venerate plants, animals, or relics, although certain plants and parts of animals may be used for traditional healing, along with verses and the various names of Allah found in the Koran, the holy book of Islam. The Koran is sacred and may be recited in its entirety in a formal gathering to thank God for good fortune or to ensure continued good fortune.

HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS

Muslims celebrate two main feasts: Id al-Fitr, which ends the month-long fast of Ramadan, and Id al-Adha, the sacrifice at the end of the Hajj. Both feasts are celebrated over a four-day period with special foods and include elaborate sword dances, singing, and firing of guns. In the non-Ibadi coastal areas, there is more dancing and playing of musical instruments. The Prophet's birthday and ascension through the heavens are also commemorated.

MODE OF DRESS

Ibadi Islam does not dictate the mode of dress among Omani men. All Omani men dress similarly, regardless of their religious or political status. They wear the dishdasha, an ankle-length white robe with long sleeves and no collar and with a tassel hanging from the right side of the neckline. Traditionally men wore a belt with a dagger (khanjar) that had an ornate, decorated sheath; men still wear this on formal occasions. On their heads they wear either a kumma, an embroidered flat-topped brimless cap, or a massar, a square cloth of cotton or wool with ornate patterns, which is folded into a triangle and tucked in like a turban. Non-Omanis may not wear Omani men's dress. Traditionally men did not trim or shave their beards, but today most do. Head hair is short.

Islamic law requires women to cover all of their body except their face and hands, but aside from that, women's dress varies according to region in Oman. It is often very colorful. Women in Muscat commonly wear baggy trousers gathered at the ankle, over which they drape a large tunic of the same pattern. In the Green Mountain region women wear tighter, heavier embroidered pants and tunics. Outdoors women usually wear a black overgarment (abaya) and headscarf. Traditionally they wore face or nose masks, but today these are seen mainly among the Bedouin women.

DIETARY PRACTICES

There are no Islamic dietary practices that are distinctive to Oman. Omanis follow the Islamic law that prohibits consumption of pork and alcohol and requires that animals be slaughtered in Islamic fashion. Rice is the foundation of most Omani meals, to which meat or fish is added. Dates, the main agricultural product, are much loved and come in many varieties.

RITUALS

Ibadi ritual practices do not differ significantly from those of Sunni Muslims: five daily prayers, with extra prayers at night during Ramadan, fasting during Ramadan, and participation in the pilgrimage to Mecca. Men usually pray in the mosque, while women pray at home. Traditionally Ibadi scholars were divided over the permissibility of performing the Friday congregational noon prayer under the reign of any but a just imam, but it is now normative for all Muslim townsmen to attend. Unlike Sunnis, Ibadis keep their arms down at their sides during the Koran recitation in salat and do not say amin ("amen") after the recitation of the Fatiha (the opening chapter of the Koran).

Nearly all Omanis marry. Islamic law allows a man to have up to four wives concurrently, although some Muslim countries have enforced stipulations to limit polygamy, and Tunisia and Turkey have outlawed it altogether. Polygamy is legal in Oman, but it is not common. Most marriages are arranged by family members, and customarily cousins are preferred over other candidates. As in Muslim societies in general, marriage is a civil contract accomplished through signing a contract before witnesses and payment of the mahr, a gift that theoretically goes to the bride, though in practice it often goes to her father. The secular features of weddings include festivities lasting several days, during which men and women celebrate separately. Weddings in the Ibadi interior are far less lavish than those of many Arab countries, or even of the Omani coast, and do not include display of the bloody sheet as proof of virginity, in contrast with many traditional Arab societies.

Omani burial customs do not differ from common Muslim custom. As soon as a person has died, the body is washed, perfumed, and prepared for burial, which should take place in daylight within 24 hours. There is no embalming. The body is wrapped in a white cotton shroud and buried in a shallow grave with unmarked stones noting the position of head and feet; the body is aligned north/south and turned on its side in the direction of Mecca. A close male relative or religious figure leads a prayer on behalf of the dead, and the congregation recites the Fatiha. The period of mourning and consolation varies in length, depending on the age, sex, and status of the deceased. When a man dies, his widow goes into mourning for a period of four months and ten days, after which she performs a ritual bath and returns to normal life.

RITES OF PASSAGE

There are no Islamic rites of passage that are unique to Oman. Boys are circumcised, but this ritual is not accompanied by great ceremony and may be done any time before puberty.

MEMBERSHIP

Ibadis are not particularly known for their missionary zeal, although they are pleased when non-Muslims embrace Islam. Most Ibadis today do not ascribe much importance to the differences between Ibadism and Sunni Islam. Ibadis and Sunnis pray together, intermarry, and share burial grounds. However, a strong distinction is maintained between them and the Shiites, with whom they do not pray or intermarry.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

Islamic teaching is very concerned with social justice, especially the care of the poor, orphans, and widows. Thanks to its oil revenues, Oman today is largely free of dire poverty. Nonetheless, charitable endowments and giving are highly valued both culturally and religiously. It is traditional to be especially generous with the less fortunate on the two feast days, and a portion of the animal sacrificed at the end of the Hajj must be shared with the poor.

Until the accession of Sultan Qabus to the throne in 1970, modernization was severely restricted in Oman. There were very few schools, roads, or hospitals. Sultan Qabus embarked on a rapid program of modernization, including the building of schools, hospitals, roads, and other infrastructural developments.

SOCIAL ASPECTS

Oman stands out among the countries of the Middle East for the cultural value placed on extreme politeness and self-control. There is a lack of open interpersonal conflict, and social conduct is marked by pervasive civility and tact. Divorce is rare because of the need to avoid the social entanglements that would ensue. Even co-wives who share a house feel pressured to present an appearance of harmony. Emotions are not expressed openly. Outright correction of others, even children, is rare, although all acts are scrutinized; individuals internalize the need for self-control. Behavior that is felt to be morally and personally repugnant, such as homosexual prostitution, is tolerated without any show of indignation. The Omani code of "honor," unlike most of the Middle East, precludes public expressions of one's worth or violence in defense of honor.

For Muslims, marriage is a sacred duty. Formerly, betrothals and weddings were made about the time of puberty, but in the cities many young people postpone marriage until they have completed their education.

Women in towns or villages were traditionally secluded and until recently were rarely educated beyond Koran schools for children. Today both girls and boys go to school in large numbers, although education is not compulsory; the sexes are taught separately. Classes at Sultan Qabus University, opened in 1986, are coeducational, although the library is partially segregated by sex, and cross-gender socializing is banned. Initially all fields were open to women, but in the early 1990s women were barred from the College of Engineering because engineering was seen as incompatible with cultural norms for women. By 1994 women comprised 20 percent of the government work force, mostly in education and health. A significant number of women were employed in the banking and hotel sectors, and about 1,500 women owned their own businesses. Many middle- and upper-class women are professionals, serving as lawyers, doctors, dentists, engineers, bankers, and university professors. The overwhelming majority of women are unpaid agricultural workers and are not counted in labor statistics, which place the percentage of women in the labor force at 8.6 percent.

As in most Arab countries, Omani men and women socialize separately. In Muscat today, however, families often socialize together, walking, picnicking, or playing soccer on the beach.

POLITICAL IMPACT

Ibadi Islam is actively promoted by the Omani government but in a manner that largely removes its sectarian dimensions and its traditional emphasis on the need to establish a just imamate. Islamic prayers and sermons often accompany public and military ceremonies, but politically sensitive issues are largely avoided. Preachers in mosques are under government surveillance and must adhere to parameters set by the government. There is little evidence of religiously fueled political opposition in Oman, although an alleged plot against the regime in 1994 was said to have been led by "Muslim militants," some of whom were sentenced to death, although the sultan later pardoned them.

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES

The most controversial issue in the Muslim world today is the role of women in society. The Basic Law of November 1996 declares Islam the official state religion and the Shariah (Islamic law) "the basis for legislation." Although codes have been adopted on commercial, criminal, labor, and tax matters, personal status remains unlegislated, so Islamic law is in effect: Husbands control their wive's ability to work and travel, and they hold unilateral rights to divorce; children belong to the husband's family, so a mother may lose them if she is divorced. The government bans socializing between women and unrelated men.

Sultan Qabus strongly promotes the education and economic participation of women in Omani society, but women are often encouraged to enter fields like social work and teaching, which are seen as consistent with traditional, nurturing female roles. A Directorate General of Women and Child Affairs, established in 1984, supervises the creation of branches of the Omani Women's Association, which teaches women literacy, hygiene, cooking, and housekeeping and provides nurseries.

Social identity is often dictated by tribal membership. In the past, tribal tensions and warfare were a constant feature of Omani society. Although this is no longer the case, the sultan must maintain a balance in his patronage of various tribes.

CULTURAL IMPACT

Ibadi religious practice favors simplicity and lack of ostentation. This has been reflected in the plain designs of traditional Ibadi mosques, although recent mosques sponsored by Sultan Qabus are elaborate, ornate monuments to power in the manner of other Muslim royalties. These newer mosques feature soaring minarets, domes, and elaborate inlaid geometric designs and arabesques, all features avoided in the past, although artistic representations of people or animals are still avoided.

Of all artistic endeavors, poetry is by far the most culturally valued and pervasive; traditional Muslim texts were often written in the form of poetry for easy memorization, and poems of a more literary character over-whelmingly express religious and political sentiments rather than love, in contrast to most Arab countries. Ibadis have not developed religiously oriented music, and in general singing, music, and dancing are culturally associated with the descendants of African slaves, although others might enjoy hearing it. There is a royal symphony orchestra, but it plays the classical music of the West. Popular Arab music of Egypt and other countries does not seem to play an important role in Omani cultural life.

Other Religions

The most prominent religious minorities in Oman are Sunni and Shiite Muslims, as well as Hindus. Sunnis and Shiites observe the same holidays as Ibadis, although Shiites also commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn (Ashura) in the first month of the lunar calendar. The Shiites have their own mosques and houses of assembly.

Sultan Qabus donated land to build three Hindu temples in the Muscat area and provided them with a cremation ground, despite Muslim aversion to cremation. Hindus celebrate their own festivals, such as Ganapathi, the birthday of the elephant-headed god Ganesh, and Diwali, the five-day festival of lights that marks the Hindu New Year. Hindus were the first non-Muslims to be accorded Omani citizenship, and some Indian Christians have also been naturalized. There are also at least eight churches serving Christians in Oman, who are all expatriates.

Valerie Hoffman

See Also Vol. 1: Hinduism, Islam, Shiism, Sunnism

Bibliography

Allen, Calvin H., Jr., and W. Lynn Rigsbee II. Oman under Qaboos: From Coup to Constitution, 1970–1996. London and Portland, Ore.: Frank Cass, 2000.

Barth, Fredrik. Sohar: Culture and Society in an Omani Town. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.

Chatty, Dawn. "Women Working in Oman: Individual Choice and Cultural Constraints." International Journal of Middle East Studies 32 (2000): 214–54.

Eickelman, Christine. Women and Community in Oman. New York: New York University Press, 1984.

Hoffman, Valerie J. "Ibadi Islam: An Introduction." Islamic Studies, Islam, Arabic, and Religion. University of Georgia. 25 June 2004. http://www.uga.edu/islam/ibadis.html.

Ochs, Peter J. Maverick Guide to Oman. Gretna, La.: Pelican Publishing, 1998.

Riphenburg, Carol J. Oman: Political Development in a Changing World. Westport, Conn., and London: Praeger, 1998.

Wikan, Unni. Behind the Veil in Arabia: Women in Oman. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.

Wilkinson, John C. The Imamate Tradition of Oman. Cambridge, London, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

——. Water and Tribal Settlement in South-East Arabia: A Study of the Aflaj of Oman. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977.

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Oman

OMAN

Compiled from the September 2004 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Sultanate of Oman


PROFILE

Geography

Area: About 212,460 sq. km. (about the size of Kansas). It is bordered on the north by the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), on the northwest by Saudi Arabia, and on the southwest by the Republic of Yemen. The Omani coastline stretches 2,092 km.

Cities: Capital—Muscat. Other cities—Salalah Nizwa, Sohar, Sur.

Terrain: Mountains, plains, and arid plateau.

Climate: Hot, humid along the coast; hot, dry in the interior; summer monsoon in far south.

People

Nationality: Noun—Oman. Adjective—Omani.

Population: (2003 census figures.) 2.33 million.

Annual growth rate: (2003 est.) 1.9%.

Ethnic groups: Arab, Baluchi, East African (Zanzabari), South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi).

Religions: Ibadhi, 65%; Sunni Muslim, Shia Muslim, Hindu, Christian.

Languages: Arabic (official), English, Baluchi, Urdu, Swahili, Hindi and Indian dialects.

Education: Literacy—approx. 80% (total population).

Health: (2003) Infant mortality rate—20.26/1,000. Life expectancy—72.85.

Work force: (920,000) Agriculture and fishing—50%.

Government

Type: Monarchy.

Constitution: On November 6, 1996, Sultan Qaboos issued a royal decree promulgating the Basic Statute which clarifies the royal succession, provides for a prime minister, bars ministers from holding interests in companies doing business with the government, establishes a bicameral parliament, and guarantees basic civil liberties for Omani citizens.

Branches: Executive—Sultan. Legislative—Majlis Al-Shura (Consultative Council). Judicial—Magistrate courts handle criminal cases; Shari'a (Islamic law) courts oversee family law.

Political parties: None.

Suffrage: Universal adult.

Administrative subdivisions: Eight administrative regions—Muscat, Al Batinah, Musandam, A'Dhahirah, A'Dakhliya, A'Shariqiya, Al Wusta, Dhofar Governorate. There are 59 districts (wilayats).

Economy

GDP: (2004) $21.58 billion (8.3 billion Omani rials).

Per capita GDP: $9,261.

Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, copper, marble, limestone, gypsum, chromium.

Agriculture and fisheries: (2.1% of GDP).

Agriculture: Products—dates, limes, bananas, mangoes, alfalfa, other fruits and vegetables. Fisheries—Kingfish, tuna, other fish, shrimp, lobster, abalone.

Industry: Types—crude petroleum (not including gas liquids) about 800,000 barrels per day; construction, petroleum refinery, copper mines and smelter, cement and various light industries.

Trade: (2002) Exports—$11.7 billion. Major markets—Japan (22.1%), China (15.2%), Thailand (12.6%), South Korea (19.9%), U.A.E. (9.4%). Imports—$5.7 billion: machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, food, livestock, lubricants. Major suppliers—U.A.E. 27.6%, Japan 16.7%, U.K. 7.4%, U.S. 6.9%, Germany 5%.


PEOPLE

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 expatriates live in Oman, most of whom are guest workers from South Asia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Philippines.

Since 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. In 1986, Oman's first university, Sultan Qaboos University, opened. Other post secondary institutions include a law school, technical college, banking institute, teachers training college, and health sciences institute. Some 200 scholarships are awarded each year for study abroad.

Nine private colleges exist, providing 2-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.


HISTORY

Oman adopted Islam in the seventh century A.D., during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. Ibadhism, a form of Islam distinct from Shiaism and the "Orthodox" schools of Sunnism, became the dominant religious sect in Oman by the eighth century A.D. Oman is the only country in the Islamic world with a majority Ibadhi population. Ibadhism is known for its "moderate conservatism." One distinguishing feature of Ibadhism is the choice of ruler by communal consensus and consent.

Contact with Europe was established in 1508, when the Portuguese conquered parts of Oman's coastal region. Portugal's influence predominated for more than a century. Fortifications built during the Portuguese occupation can still be seen at Muscat.

Except for a period when Persia conquered parts of Oman, Oman has been an independent nation. After the Portuguese were expelled in 1650 and while resisting Persian attempts to establish hegemony, the Sultan of Oman extended his conquests to Zanzibar, other parts of the eastern coast of Africa, and portions of the southern Arabian Peninsula. During this period, political leadership shifted from the Ibadhi imams, who were elected religious leaders, to hereditary sultans who established their capital in Muscat. The Muscat rulers established trading posts on the Persian coast and also exercised a measure of control over the Makran coast (now Pakistan). By the early 19th century, Oman was the most powerful state in Arabia and on the East African coast.

Oman was the object of Franco-British rivalry throughout the 18th century. During the 19th century, Oman and the United Kingdom concluded several treaties of friendship and commerce. In 1908, the British entered into an agreement of friendship. Their traditional association was confirmed in 1951 through a new treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation by which the United Kingdom recognized the Sultanate of Oman as a fully independent state.

When Sultan Sa'id bin Sultan Al-Busaid died in 1856, his sons quarreled over his succession. As a result of this struggle, the empire—through the mediation of the British Government under the "Canning Award"—was divided in 1861 into two separate principalities—Zanzibar, with its East African dependencies, and Muscat and Oman. Zanzibar paid an annual subsidy to Muscat and Oman until its independence in early 1964.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the sultan in Muscat faced rebellion by members of the Ibadhi sect residing in the interior of Oman, centered around the town of Nizwa, who wanted to be ruled exclusively by their religious leader, the Imam of Oman.

This conflict was resolved temporarily by the Treaty of Seeb in 1920, which granted the imam autonomous rule in the interior, while recognizing the sovereignty of the sultan elsewhere.

Following the discovery of oil in the interior, the conflict flared up again in 1954, when the new imam led a sporadic 5-year rebellion against the sultan's efforts to extend government control into the interior. The insurgents were defeated in 1959 with British help. The sultan then terminated the Treaty of Seeb and eliminated the office of the imam. In the early 1960s, the imam, exiled to Saudi Arabia, obtained support from his hosts and other Arab governments, but this support ended in the 1980s.

In 1964, a separatist revolt began in Dhofar Province. Aided by communist and leftist governments such as the former South Yemen (People's Democratic Republic of Yemen), the rebels formed the Dhofar Liberation Front, which later merged with the Marxist-dominated Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arab Gulf (PFLOAG). The PFLOAG's declared intention was to overthrow all traditional Arab Gulf regimes. In mid-1974, PFLOAG shortened its name to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman (PFLO) and embarked on a political rather than a military approach to gain power in the other Gulf states, while continuing the guerrilla war in Dhofar.

With the help of British advisors, Sultan Qaboos bin Sa'id assumed power on July 23, 1970, in a palace coup directed against his father, Sa'id bin Taymur, who later died in exile in London. The new sultan was confronted with insurgency in a country plagued by endemic disease, illiteracy, and poverty. One of the new sultan's first measures was to abolish many of his father's harsh restrictions, which had caused thousands of Omanis to leave the country, and to offer amnesty to opponents of the previous regime, many of whom returned to Oman. He also established a modern government structure and launched a major development program to upgrade educational and health facilities, build a modern infrastructure, and develop the country's natural resources.

In an effort to curb the Dhofar insurgency, Sultan Qaboos expanded and re-equipped the armed forces and granted amnesty to all surrendered rebels while vigorously prosecuting the war in Dhofar. He obtained direct military support from the U.K., Iran, and Jordan. By early 1975, the guerrillas were confined to a 50 square kilometer (20-sq. mi.) area near the Yemen border and shortly thereafter were defeated. As the war drew to a close, civil action programs were given priority throughout Dhofar and helped win the allegiance of the people. The PFLO threat diminished further with the establishment of diplomatic relations in October 1983 between South Yemen and Oman, and South Yemen subsequently lessened propaganda and subversive activities against Oman. In late-1987, Oman opened an embassy in Aden, South Yemen, and appointed its first resident ambassador to the country.

Since his accession in 1970, Sultan Qaboos has balanced tribal, regional, and ethnic interests in composing the national administration. The Council of Ministers, which functions as a cabinet, consists of 27 ministers, all directly appointed by Qaboos. The Majlis Al-Shura's (Consultative Council) mandate is to review legislation pertaining to economic development and social services prior to its becoming law. The Majlis Al-Shura may request ministers to appear before it. In early 2003, Sultan Qaboos declared universal suffrage for the October 2003 Majlis al-Shura elections. Two women were elected to sit with 81 male colleagues in those elections, which were observed to be free and fair. Roughly 194,000 Omani men and women, or 74 percent of eligible voters, participated in the elections. In 2003, Sultan Qaboos also expanded the Majlis Al-Dowla, or State Council, to 57 members from 53, including eight women. The State Council acts as the upper chamber in Oman's bicameral representative body.

In November 1996, Sultan Qaboos presented his people with the "Basic Statute of the State," Oman's first written "constitution." It guarantees various rights within the framework of Quranic and customary law. It partially resuscitated long dormant conflict-of-interest measures by banning cabinet ministers from being officers of public shareholding firms. Perhaps most importantly, the Basic Statute provides rules for setting Sultan Qaboos' succession.

Oman is strategically located on the Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf, 35 miles directly opposite Iran. Oman is concerned with regional stability and security, given tensions in the region, the proximity of Iran and Iraq, and the potential threat of political Islam. Oman maintained its diplomatic relations with Iraq throughout the Gulf War while supporting the UN allies by sending a contingent of troops to join coalition forces and by opening up to prepositioning of weapons and supplies. In addition, since 1980 Oman and the U.S. have been parties to a military cooperation agreement, which was revised and renewed in 2000. Oman also has long been an active participant in efforts to achieve Middle East peace.

Following the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001, the Omani Government at all levels pledged and provided impressive support to the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism. Oman is a signatory of most UN-sponsored anti-terrorism treaties.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sultan Qaboos bin Sa'id rules with the aid of his ministers. His dynasty, the Al Sa'id, was founded about 250 years ago by Imam Ahmed bin Sa'id. The sultan is a direct descendant of the 19th century ruler, Sa'id bin Sultan, who first opened relations with the United States in 1833. The Sultanate has neither political parties nor legislature, although the bicameral representative bodies provide the government with advice.

Oman's judicial system traditionally has been based on the Shari'a—the Quranic laws and the oral teachings of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. Traditionally, Shari'a courts fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, Awqaf, and Islamic Affairs. Oman's first criminal code was not enacted until 1974.

In 1999, royal decrees placed the entire court system—magistrates, commercial, shari'a and civil courts—under the control of the Ministry of Justice. An independent Office of the Public Prosecutor also has been created (formerly a part of the Royal Oman Police), and a supreme court is under formation. Regional court complexes are envisioned to house the various courts, including the courts of first instance for criminal cases and Shari'ah cases (family law and inheritance).

Administratively, the populated regions are divided into 59 districts (wilayats), presided over by governors (walis) responsible for settling local disputes, collecting taxes, and maintaining peace. Most wilayats are small; an exception is the wilayat of Dhofar, which comprises the whole province. The wali of Dhofar is an important government figure, holding cabinet rank, while other walis operate under the guidance of the Ministry of Interior.

In November 1991, Sultan Qaboos established the Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council), which replaced the 10-year-old State Consultative Council, in an effort to systematize and broaden public participation in government. Representatives were chosen in the following manner: Local caucuses in each of the 59 districts sent forward the names of three nominees, whose credentials were reviewed by a cabinet committee. These names were then forwarded to the Sultan, who made the final selection. The Consultative Council serves as a conduit of information between the people and the government ministries. It is empowered to review drafts of economic and social legislation prepared by service ministries, such as communications and housing, and to provide recommendations. Service ministers also may be summoned before the Majlis to respond to representatives' questions. It has no authority in the areas of foreign affairs, defense, security, and finances.

Although Oman enjoys a high degree of internal stability, regional tensions in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf war, the Iran-Iraq war, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom continue to necessitate large defense expenditures. In 2004, Oman allocated $2.53 billion for defense—about 28.4% of its total budget. Oman maintains a small but professional and effective military, supplied mainly with British equipment in addition to items from the United States, France, and other countries. British officers, on loan or on contract to the Sultanate, help staff the armed forces, although a program of "Omanization" has steadily increased the proportion of Omani officers over the past several years.

After North and South Yemen merged in May 1990, Oman settled its border disputes with the new Republic of Yemen on October 1, 1992. The two neighbors have cooperative bilateral relations. Oman's borders with all neighbors are demarcated, including a 2002 demarcation of the Oman-UAE border that was ratified in 2003.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 11/19/04

Sultan: Said , QABOOS bin Said Al
Special Representative for His Majesty the Sultan: Said , THUWAYNI bin Shihab Al
Prime Minister: Said , QABOOS bin Said Al
Dep. Prime Min. for Cabinet Affairs: Said , FAHD bin Mahmud Al
Min. of the Royal Office: Mamari , Ali bin Majid bin Musabagh al-, Gen.
Min. of Agriculture & Fisheries: Khalili , Salim bin Hilal bin Ali al-
Min. of Awqaf & Religious Affairs: Salimi , Abdallah bin Muhammad bin Abdallah al-
Min. of Civil Services: Miwali , Hili bin Khalid al-
Min. of Commerce, Industry, & Minerals: bin Sultan , Maqbul bin Ali bin
Min. of Communications: Shamas , Suhail bin Mustahail
Min. of Defense: Said , QABOOS bin Said Al
Min. of Diwan of Royal Court: Busaidi , SAYF bin Hamad Al
Min. of Education & Teaching: Salimi , Yahya bin Saud al-
Min. of Finance: Said , QABOOS bin Said Al
Min. of Health: bin Musa , Ali bin Muhammad bin, Dr.
Min. of Higher Education: Busaidi , Rawya bint Saud Al, Dr.
Min. of Housing, Electricity, & Water: Alawi , Khamis bin Mubarak bin Isa al-, Dr.
Min. of Information: Rashidi , Hamad bin Muhammad al-
Min. of Interior: Busaidi , Saud bin Brahim Al
Min. of Justice: Hinai , Muhammad bin Abdallah bin Zahir al-
Min. of Labor: bin Juma , Juma bin Ali
Min. of Legal Affairs: Alawi , Muhammad bin Ali bin Nasir al-
Min. of National Economy: Makki , Ahmad bin Abd al-Nabi al-
Min. of National Heritage & Culture: Said , Haythim bin Tariq Al
Min. of Oil & Gas: Rumhi , Muhammad bin Hamad bin Sayf al-
Min. of Palace Affairs: Busaidi , Ali bin Hamud bin Ali Al
Min. of Regional Municipalities, Environment, & Water Resources: Ruwas , Abddallah bin Muhammad bin Abdallah al-
Min. of Social Development: Husni , Amir bin Shuwayn al-
Min. of Tourism: bin Ali , Rajiha bint Abd al-Amir bin Ali
Min. of Transport & Telecommunications: Harthi , Muhammad bin Abdallah al-
Min. Responsible for Defense Affairs: Busaidi Badr bin Saud bin Harib al-
Min. Responsible for Foreign Affairs: Alawi bin Abdallah , Yusuf bin
Special Adv. to His Majesty: Ghazali , Salim bin Abdallah al-
Special Adv. to His Majesty for Culture: Ruwas , Abd al-Aziz bin Muhammad al-
Special Adv. to His Majesty for Economic Planning Affairs: Zubayr , Muhammad bin
Special Adv. to His Majesty for Environmental Affairs: Said , SHABIB bin Taymur Al
Special Adv. to His Majesty for External Liaison: Zawawi , Umar bin Abd al-Munim al-
Pres. Majlis al-Dawlah (Council of State) (Upper House): Manthiri , Yahya bin Mahfudh al-
Pres. Majlis al-Shura (Advisory Council) (Lower House): Qutaybi , Abdallah Ali al-
Governor, Central Bank: Said , QABOOS bin Said Al
Executive Pres., Central Bank: Zadjali , Hamud bin Sangur Hashim
Ambassador to the US: Khussaiby , Muhammad bin Ali bin Thani al-
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Hinai , Fuad bin Mubarak al-

Oman maintains an embassy in the United States at 2535 Belmont Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/387-1980)


ECONOMY

When Oman declined as an entrepot for arms and slaves in the mid-19th century, much of its former prosperity was lost, and the economy turned almost exclusively to agriculture, camel and goat herding, fishing, and traditional handicrafts. Today, oil fuels the economy and revenues from petroleum products have enabled Oman's dramatic development over the past 34 years.

Oil was first discovered in the interior near Fahud in the western desert in 1964. Petroleum Development (Oman) Ltd. (PDO) began production in August 1967. The Omani Government owns 60% of PDO, and foreign interests own 40% (Royal Dutch Shell owns 34%; the remaining 6% is owned by Compagnie Francaise des Petroles [Total] and Partex). In 1976, Oman's oil production rose to 366,000 barrels per day (b/d) but declined gradually to about 285,000 b/d in late 1980 due to the depletion of recoverable reserves. From 1981 to 1986, Oman compensated for declining oil prices by increasing production levels to 600,000 b/d. With the collapse of oil prices in 1986, however, revenues dropped dramatically. Production was cut back temporarily in coordination with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and production levels again reached 600,000 b/d by mid-1987, which helped increase revenues. By 2000, production had climbed to more than 900,000 b/d, however it declined to roughly 800,000 b/d in 2003. Oman is not a member of OPEC.

Natural gas reserves, which will increasingly provide the fuel for power generation and desalination, stand at 30 trillion cubic feet. An LNG processing plant located in Sur was opened in 2000, with production capacity of 6.6 million tons/yr, as well as unsubstantial gas liquids, including condensates. This plant is scheduled for expansion by the end of 2005, when total production capacity will reach 9.9 million tons/yr.

Oman does not have the immense oil resources of some of its neighbors. Total proven reserves are about 5.5 billion barrels. Oman's complex geology makes exploration and production an expensive challenge. Recent improvements in technology, however, have enhanced recovery.

Agriculture and fishing are the traditional way of life in Oman. Dates and limes, grown extensively in the Batinah coastal plain and the highlands, make up most of the country's agricultural exports. Coconut palms, wheat, and bananas also are grown, and cattle are raised in Dhofar. Other areas grow cereals and forage crops. Poultry production is steadily rising. Fish and shellfish exports totaled $78 million in 2003.

The government is undertaking many development projects to modernize the economy, improve the standard of living, and become a more active player in the global marketplace. Oman became a member of the World Trade Organization in October 2000, and continues to amend its financial and commercial practices to conform to international standards. Increases in agriculture and especially fish production are believed possible with the application of modern technology. The Muscat capital area has both an international airport at Seeb and a deepwater port at Mina Qaboos. The large-scale modern container port at Salalah, capital of the Dhofar Governate, continues to operate at near-capacity levels, and the government in early 2004 approved a project worth over $250 million to add two berths and extend the breakwater at the port. A national road network includes a $400 million highway linking the northern and southern regions. In an effort to diversify the economy, in the early 1980s, the government built a $200-million copper mining and refining plant at Sohar. Other large industrial projects underway or being considered include an 80,000 b/d oil refinery, a large petrochemical complex, fertilizer and methanol plants, an aluminum smelter, and two cement factories. Industrial zones at Rusayl, Sohar, and several other locations showcase the country's modest light industries. Marble, limestone, and gypsum may prove commercially viable in the future.

The Omani Government is implementing its sixth 5-year plan, launched in 2000, to reduce its dependence on oil and expatriate labor. The plan focuses on income diversification, job creation for Omanis in the private sector, and development of Oman's interior. Government programs offer soft loans and propose the building of new industrial estates in population centers outside the capital area. The government is giving greater emphasis to "Omanization" of the labor force, particularly in banking, hotels, and municipally sponsored shops benefiting from government subsidies. Currently, efforts are underway to liberalize investment opportunities in order to attract foreign capital.

Some of the largest budgetary outlays are in the areas of health services and basic education. The number of schools, hospitals, and clinics has risen exponentially since the accession of Sultan Qaboos in 1970.

U.S. firms face a small and highly competitive market dominated by trade with Japan and Britain and reexports from the United Arab Emirates. The sale of U.S. products also is hampered by higher transportation costs and the lack of familiarity with Oman on the part of U.S. exporters. However, the traditional U.S. market in Oman, oil field supplies and services, should grow as the country's major oil producer continues a major expansion of fields and wells.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

When Sultan Qaboos assumed power in 1970, Oman had limited contacts with the outside world, including neighboring Arab states. Only two countries, the United Kingdom and India, maintained a diplomatic presence in the country. A special treaty relationship permitted the United Kingdom close involvement in Oman's civil and military affairs. Ties with the United Kingdom have remained very close under Sultan Qaboos.

Since 1970, Oman has pursued a moderate foreign policy and expanded its diplomatic relations dramatically. It supported the 1979 Camp David accords and was one of three Arab League states, along with Somalia and Sudan, which did not break relations with Egypt after the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty in 1979. During the Persian Gulf crisis, Oman assisted the UN coalition effort. Oman has developed close ties to its neighbors; it joined the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council when it was established in 1980.

Oman has traditionally supported Middle East peace initiatives, as it did those in 1983. In April 1994, Oman hosted the plenary meeting of the Water Working Group of the peace process, the first Gulf state to do so. From 1996-2000, Oman and Israel exchanged trade offices. Oman closed the Israeli Trade Office in October 2000 in the wake of public demonstrations against Israel during the intifada.

During the Cold War period, Oman avoided relations with communist countries because of the communist support for the insurgency in Dhofar. In recent years, Oman has undertaken diplomatic initiatives in the Central Asian republics, particularly in Kazakhstan, where it is involved in a joint oil pipeline project. In addition, Oman maintains good relations with Iran, its northern neighbor, and the two countries regularly exchange delegations. Oman is an active member in international and regional organizations, notably the Arab League and the GCC.


U.S.-OMANI RELATIONS

The United States has maintained relations with the Sultanate since the early years of American independence. A treaty of friendship and navigation, one of the first agreements of its kind with an Arab state, was concluded between the United States and Muscat in 1833. This treaty was replaced by the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights signed at Salalah on December 20, 1958.

A U.S. consulate was maintained in Muscat from 1880 until 1915. Thereafter, U.S. interests in Oman were handled by U.S. diplomats resident in other countries. In 1972, the U.S. ambassador in Kuwait was accredited also as the first U.S. ambassador to Oman, and the U.S. embassy, headed by a resident charge d'affaires, was opened. The first resident U.S. ambassador took up his post in July 1974. The Oman embassy was opened in Washington, DC, in 1973.

U.S.-Omani relations were deepened in 1980 by the conclusion of two important agreements. One provided access to Omani military facilities by U.S. forces under agreed-upon conditions. The other agreement established a Joint Commission for Economic and Technical Cooperation, located in Muscat, to provide U.S. economic assistance to Oman. The Joint Commission continued in existence until the mid-1990s. A Peace Corps program, which assisted Oman mainly in the fields of health and education, was initiated in 1973 and phased out in 1983. A team from the Federal Aviation Administration worked with Oman's Civil Aviation Department on a reimbursable basis but was phased out in 1992.

In 1974 and April 1983, Sultan Qaboos made state visits to the United States. Vice President George H. Bush visited Oman in 1984 and 1986, and President Clinton visited briefly in March 2000.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

MUSCAT (E) Address: APO/FPO: APO AE 09890-3000; Phone: [968] 698-989; Fax: [968] 696-928; Workweek: SAT-WED/0800-1630; Website: www.usa.gov.om

AMB:Richard L. Baltimore III
AMB OMS:Jennifer Schaaf
DCM:William R. Stewart
POL:Michael G. Snowden
POL/ECO:Kevin D. SKillin
CON:Wesley W. Robertson
MGT:Vivian M. Lesh
DAO:Col. Mark Avery
ECO:Kevin D. Skillin
EEO:Kevin D. Skillin
FMO:Javier A. Araujo
GSO:Alex Fleming
ICASS Chair:Dennis Long
IMO:Karen A Finer
ISO:Kevin L Rubesh
ISSO:Timothy Hinman
LEGATT:Martin Reardon (res. Riyadh)
MLO:James Piner
PAO:Charles G. Cole
RAMC:FSC Bangkok
RSO:Peter M. Riva
Last Updated: 9/20/2004

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

August 6, 2004

Country Description: The Sultanate of Oman has a long and proud heritage, and is a country of great natural beauty on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula. With a population of 2.33 million, it is a country that has seen rapid economic and social development in the past three decades. While Oman is traditionally Islamic and Islam is the state religion, Omanis have for centuries lived with people of other faiths. Non-Muslims are free to worship at churches and temples built on land donated by the Sultan. The economy is largely dependent on the production and export of oil and, increasingly, natural gas. Excellent tourist facilities are available in the Capital area of Muscat, as well as in Salalah, Sohar, and Nizwa and are increasingly found elsewhere in the country. Travelers may wish to visit the Directorate General of Tourism's website at http://www.omantourism.gov.om for more information.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A valid passport and visa are required for entry into Oman. Omani embassies and consulates issue two-year, multiple-entry tourist and/or business visas to qualified U.S. citizens. Optionally, U.S. citizens may obtain a 30-day visa by presenting their U.S. passports on arrival at all Oman land, sea and air entry points. (Note: The validity period of the applicant's passport should not be less than six months.) Adequate funds and proof of an onward/return ticket are required. The fee is Rial Omani 6.000 (approximately USD 16.00). This visa can only be extended for an extra 30 days. A completed extension application form and a fee of Rial Omani 6.000 (USD 16.00) should be submitted to the Directorate General of Passports and Residence, or to its branches at regional Royal Oman Police offices.

Other categories of short-term visit/business/work contract visas are available, but these must be arranged in advance through an Omani sponsor. To obtain a visa or for details on entry and travel requirements, please contact the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, 2535 Belmont Road N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 387-1980/2. Evidence of yellow fever immunization is required if the traveler enters from an infected area.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at border points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of the relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Dual Nationality: The Omani Government does not recognize dual nationality. Omani authorities can confiscate the U.S. passports of U.S./Omani dual nationals. Should this occur, it should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Muscat. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs homepage on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov/travel/dualnationality.html for our Dual Nationality flyer.

Safety and Security: There have been no instances in which U.S. citizens or facilities in Oman have been subject to terrorist attacks. However, the Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests throughout the region. American citizens in Oman are urged to maintain a high level of security awareness. The State Department suggests that all Americans in Oman maintain an unpredictable schedule and vary travel routes whenever possible. Americans are also urged to treat mail or packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. Unusual mail or packages should be left unopened and reported to local authorities. U.S. citizens with security concerns are encouraged to contact local authorities and the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Muscat.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement, and other Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Although the incidence of crime is low in Oman, travelers to Oman should take normal precautions. Travelers should also protect personal property from theft. In particular, valuables and currency should not be left unsecured in hotel rooms. Common sense and caution are the best crime prevention. While violent crime is relatively rare in Oman, it does occur.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and to explain the process for transferring funds. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_pub_safetrip.html.

Medical Facilities: There are a number of medical facilities utilized by Westerners in Oman. Many (but by no means all) Western pharmaceuticals can be found in Oman. Local medical treatment varies from quite good to inadequate, depending in large part on location. While hospital emergency treatment is available, ambulance service has only begun in certain urban locations in Oman (see Traffic Safety and Road Conditions section below). Doctors and hospitals often expect cash payment for health services.

Medical Insurance: U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policies apply overseas and whether insurance companies will cover emergency expenses including medical evacuation. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs are inapplicable outside the United States. Many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including medical evacuations.

When choosing health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroa d consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Oman is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside/Ambulance Assistance: Poor

(Ambulance service has only begun in certain urban locations in Oman. A modern ambulance service using U.S. equipment and staff trained in the U.S. was instituted in 2004 and is eventually expected to provide coverage for motor accident victims throughout the entire Sultanate. That service is assessed as very good.)

Road conditions, lighting, and traffic safety in cities and on major highways are good. Travel between cities, especially at night, may be dangerous due to poor or no lighting, wandering livestock, and speeding drivers.

Local Traffic Laws: Traffic laws in Oman are strictly enforced. Seat belt use is required, and the use of cellular telephones while driving and driving while under the influence of alcohol are prohibited. There are stringent penalties for violation of these laws, particularly for driving under the influence of alcohol. In the event of a traffic violation and fine, drivers should pay the fine as directed and should not attempt to pay the fine or negotiate payment at the time of the traffic stop.

In the event of an accident, the driver should not move the vehicle from the location of the accident until police grant permission; moving a vehicle is equivalent to an admission of guilt. The Royal Oman Police may be contacted at telephone 968-560-099.

Driving: Visitors should not drive without a valid license. Short-term visitors in possession of a valid U.S. driver's license may drive rental vehicles, but residents must have an Omani driver's license. To obtain an Omani license, a U.S. citizen must have a U.S. license that has been valid for at least one year or must take a driving test.

Insurance: Visitors hiring rental cars should insure the vehicles adequately against death, injury and loss or damage. Residents may insure their vehicles outside the Sultanate; however, third party liability insurance must be purchased locally.

Local Traffic Customs: The use of European-style traffic circles is prevalent in Oman. However, unlike European traffic practice, the driver on the inside lane always has priority. A driver flashing his/her high beams is generally asking for a chance to pass. Turning right on a red light is prohibited.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_roadsafety.html. For specific information concerning Omani driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Omani Office of Tourism of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry via the Internet at http://www.omanet.com.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Oman's civil aviation authority as category 1—in compliance with international aviation safety. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

As a result of the August 23, 2000 crash of a Gulf Air flight in the Persian Gulf, DOD has recommended that military commands use air carriers other than Gulf Air for DOD official travel.

Customs Regulations: Travelers entering Oman may not carry with them, or bring into the country in accompanied baggage, firearms, ammunition, or pornography; all are subject to seizure. Unaccompanied baggage and shipments of household goods are also subject to inspection. Books, videotapes, and audiotapes may be reviewed prior to being released to the owner. A copy of the packing list is required to clear effects through customs. Travelers carrying prescription drugs should be in possession of the original prescription and a letter from their doctor detailing the use of the medicine. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. A maximum of one bottle of liquor is permitted per non-Muslim adult.

Pets (dogs and cats) entering Oman require an import permit from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Department of Animal Health, before shipment. Application forms may be obtained from the Ministry by one's sponsor and must be submitted with a copy of the pet's rabies vaccination record and a veterinary health certificate. Vaccination certificates must be dated between one month and six months prior to arrival in Oman. Dogs and cats must be at least four months old to be allowed into Oman. Further, a second veterinary health certificate dated no more than one week prior to arrival of the pet into Oman is required. The original rabies vaccination record and the veterinary health certificate must accompany the pet. Pets may be subjected to a six-month quarantine, if veterinary authorities are not satisfied with the health condition of the pet and/or certifications. Pets must be manifested as cargo on an airway bill when transported by air. Note: For importation of other pets (birds, fish, reptiles, etc.), please contact the Directorate of Animal Health at telephone: 968-696-300, ext. 1510/1513 or by fax at 968-694-465/696-271 for current information.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found at http://www.ustr.gov/reports/2003/special301.htm.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens are subject to that country's laws and regulations, which can differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Omani laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Death sentences are possible for violators of Oman's drug laws. Visitors are additionally cautioned that it is illegal to use aggressive, obscene or abusive language or gestures in public. In accordance with Omani law, penalties for these offenses can range from deportation or fines to imprisonment. Civil charges may also be filed.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

Special Circumstances: Omani employers often ask that expatriate employees deposit their passports with the company as a condition of employment. Although customary, this practice is not required by Omani law. The U.S. Embassy in Muscat advises Americans to exercise caution on the issue of permitting an employer to withhold their passports, since this can operate as a restraint on travel and could give undue leverage to the employer in a dispute. U.S. passports are the property of the U.S. government.

Islamic ideals provide the conservative foundation of Oman's customs, laws and practices. Foreign visitors are expected to be sensitive to the Islamic culture, and not dress in a revealing or provocative style, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter tops and shorts. Athletic clothing is worn in public only when the wearer is obviously engaged in athletic activity. Western bathing attire, however, is the norm at hotel pools and beaches.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/family/index.html or telephone Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Oman are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Oman. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, you'll make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact you in case of emergency.

The workweek in Oman is Saturday through Wednesday. The U.S. Embassy in Oman is located on Jameat A"Duwal Al Arabiya Street, Al Khuwair Area (Shatti al-Qurum), in the capital city of Muscat. The mailing address is P.O. Box 202, Medinat Al Sultan Qaboos 115, Sultanate of Oman, telephone (968) 698-989, fax: (968) 699-189. The Embassy's e-mail address is [email protected], and its website is http://www.usa.gov.om.

International Adoption

January 2005

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family

Disclaimer: The information in this circular relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

Please Note: Omani nationals who are Muslims must adopt Oman children.

Availability of Children for Adoption: To date, no Omani children have been adopted by American citizens.

Omani Adoption Authority: The government office responsible for adoptions in Oman is the Ministry of Social Affairs. Please contact Ms. Batool Hassan, Deputy Director of the Office of Children's and Women's Affairs (968) 601-598.

Age and Civil Status Requirements: The Omani Government requires that individuals who wish to adopt Omani children must have Omani nationality and must be of the Muslim faith. Married couples are preferred but single women may also be eligible to adopt under special circumstances.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: All adoptions are processed by the Government of Oman.

Doctors: The U.S. Embassy maintains current lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Oman.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: A Oman child adopted by an American citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family

Omani Embassy in the United States: 2535 Belmont Road, NW, Washington, DC 20008.; Tel. (202) 387-1980.

U.S. Embassy in Oman: P.O. Box 202; Code 115 Madinat Al-Sultan Qaboos; Muscat, Sultanate of Oman; Tel. (968) 698-989 X 216, 294, or 435.; Fax (968) 699-189; E-mail: [email protected]

Questions: Specific questions regarding adoption in Oman may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy Muscat, Oman. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-2818, Tel: 1-888-407-4747 with specific questions.

International Parental Child Abduction

January 2005

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Parental Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at travel.state.gov

Disclaimer: The information in this circular relating to the legal requirements of a specific foreign country is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to competent legal counsel.

General Information: Oman is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Oman and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. American citizens who travel to Oman are subject to the jurisdiction of Omani courts, as well as to the country's laws and regulations. American citizens planning a trip to Oman with dual national children should bear this in mind.

Custody Disputes: When child custody disputes arise between parents of any religion, the custody decisions by Omani courts are based on Islamic (Shari'a) law. Custody cases can be very complex and are usually determined on a case-by-case basis. When making decisions regarding child custody matters, Omani courts consider the parents' religion(s), place(s) of permanent residence, income, and the parents' marital status.

(Note: Omani law differentiates between custodianship and guardianship. Generally speaking, a custodian has been awarded custody of the child and is responsible for his/her upbringing including education and care. A guardian is responsible for the child's financial support.)

Omani courts do not, as a general rule, award custody of "dual national" (U.S./Omani) children to an American mother or father, even one who is Muslim. A fundamental consideration of awarding custody is the parent's place(s) of permanent residence and degree of access to the children. Custody of very young children is generally granted to the mother as long as certain restrictive conditions are met. Once the children come of age (for males completion of their seventh year of age, for females the onset of puberty), the father can appeal for, and will usually be awarded, full custody provided certain restrictive conditions are met. If a father were unable or unfit to be custodian of his children, the court may give custody to another family member. Shari'a court judges have broad discretion in custody cases and often make exceptions to these general guidelines, particularly in cases in which a parent is from an influential family or has powerful connections in Oman.

Even when a mother is granted custody, the non-custodial father maintains a great deal of influence on the rearing of the children. In many cases, the father has been able to acquire legal custody of children against the wishes of the mother when she is unable or unwilling to meet certain conditions set by law for her to maintain her custodial rights. For example, if a mother refuses to give the father access to his child or attempts to leave Oman with the children without the court's permission, a mother's custody rights can be severed.

The Omani court can sever a mother's custody if it determines that the mother is incapable of safeguarding the child or of bringing the child up in accordance with the appropriate religious standards. Either parent can lose custody by re-marrying a party considered "unmarriageable," or by residing in a home with people that might be "strangers." However, the final decision is left to the discretion of the Shari'a court.

Shari'a law forbids the removal of children from Oman without first obtaining permission from the court. The U.S. Embassy cannot prevent the Omani government from arresting and either deporting or prosecuting an American citizen who violates Omani law.

Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in an Omani court should retain an attorney in Oman. The State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Oman maintain a list of attorneys willing to represent American clients.

U.S. Department of State
Office of Overseas Citizen Services
Washington, DC 20520
Phone: (202) 647-5225

U.S. Embassy Muscat Consular Section
P.O. Box 202
Madinat al Sultan Qaboos 115
Sultanate of Oman
Telephone: [968] 698-989; Fax: [968] 699-189
Website: http://www.usa.gov.om
Consular Section:
[email protected]

The workweek for the Embassy is Saturday through Wednesday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM.

Specific questions regarding child custody in Oman should be addressed to an Omani attorney or to the Embassy of Oman at:

Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman
2535 Belmont Road, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: (202) 387-1980;
Fax: (202) 745-4933

Enforcement of Foreign Judgments: Custody orders and judgments of foreign courts are not enforceable in Oman if they potentially contradict or violate local laws and practices. For example, an order from a U.S. court granting custody to an American parent will not be honored in Oman if the parent intends to take the child to live outside Oman. Nor will Omani courts enforce U.S. court decrees ordering a parent in Oman to pay child support.

Visitation Rights: Non-custodial parents are generally entitled to visitation rights as determined by the Shari'ah judge.

Dual Nationality: Dual nationality is not recognized by the Sultanate of Oman. Children of Omani fathers automatically acquire Omani citizenship at birth and must enter and leave the country on Omani passports even if they are entitled to hold the passport of another country. Omani women cannot transmit citizenship to their children.

Travel Restrictions: When a custody case is pending with the Shari'a court, children, regardless of their nationality, are generally subject to court-imposed travel restrictions. Either parent can request the court to restrict the travel of his/her minor children.

Criminal Remedies: For information on possible criminal remedies, please contact your local law enforcement authorities or the nearest office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Information is also available on the Internet at the web site of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org.

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Oman

Oman

Located in the Arabian Gulf, Oman has an area of 212,460 square kilometers (81,715 square miles), with Muscat as its capital. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the Arabian Sea. In 2005 its population numbered just over 3 million people. Oman is mainly composed of desert and some mountains, which is reflected in its hot and dry weather.

Oman is a rich country; oil, natural gas, cement, and copper are among its chief exports. Its economic situation has improved with the rise in oil prices. Purchasing power parity (an indicator used to measure the power to buy the same commodities in different countries) is U.S.$8,300. Life expectancy is good, estimated to be seventy-three for the entire population (seventy for males and seventy-five for females). Oman is not very diverse religiously: Ibadhi Muslims account for 75 percent of the population while the rest are Sunni, Shi'a, and Hindu.

Oman received its independence from the Portuguese, who controlled Mascat, in 1650 and signed a treaty of friendship and protection with the British in 1798. From 1744 until 2004 several sultans of Bin Tamur have governed Oman. Qaboos ibn Sa'id Al Bu Sa'id (b. 1940) ousted his father from power in 1970 and remained in power in 2004. During his rule Sultan Qaboos has dominated the political life of Oman without challenge, except in 1970 when Marxists staged a rebellion that Qaboos quickly supressed, thereby reasserting his authority.

The government in Oman is a monarchy. The country does not have a constitution; it essentially follows a royal decree that describes the principal duties of the state and citizens' rights. The sultan, who is equivalent to a king, is the ruler of the country. He is the head of the state and the cabinet. A bicameral legislature serves at his directive. The upper house, Majilis al Dawla, is composed of forty-eight seats, all appointed by the sultan to provide advice. The lower chamber, Majlis el Shura, has eighty-three seats; its members are elected directly by the people. However, the power of the lower house remains very limited, given the strong control that the sultan exerts over the state as a whole. The citizens that elect members to the Majlis el Shura are chosen by the state; thus, the electoral process is not open to all citizens. According to one estimate by the U.S. Department of State, voter turnout for the 2000 election to the lower chamber was approximately 74 percent. The government of Oman has not reported any official results.

Oman's bureaucracy does not play an important role in the country's political life; Oman's bureaucrats do not intervene in the political life of the country. Moreover, the judiciary is a separate branch with different divisions and areas of specialization that do not directly affect the political climate of the country, and the sultan retains the right to intercede in cases, although during his rule, Sultan Qaboos has not intervened to refute any court decision. Oman does not have political parties; the main loyalties in the country fall along tribal lines.

In terms of human rights in Oman, there have been no public reports of religious prosecution in this multireligious society. Moreover, other human rights violations, including prosecution, torture, imprisonment, or forced disappearances, have not been reported. Freedom of speech is protected by royal decree, but the government does censor what it deems politically, culturally, and socially unsuitable.

See also: Shari'a.

bibliography

Allen, Calvin H. Oman Under Qaboos: From Coup to Constitution, 1970-–1996. Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2002.

The Economist. Pocket World in Figures. London: Profile Books, 2003.

Mohammed, Nadeya Sayed Ali. Population and Development of the Arab Gulf States: The Case of Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003.

"Oman." CIA World Factbook 2004. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2004. <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/nt.html>.

Peck, Malcolm C. "Eastern Arabian States: Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Oman." In The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa, 4th ed., ed. David E. Long and Bernard Reich. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2002.

Riphenburg, Carol J. Oman: Political Development in a Changing World. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998.

Risso, Patricia. Oman & Muscat: An Early Modern History. Beckenham, UK: Croom Helm, 1986.

U.S. Department of State. The Human Rights Report.<http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27935.htm>.

Mounah Abdel Samad

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Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.