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Situated on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the Sultanate of Oman is bordered by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, and is across the Gulf of Oman from Iran and Pakistan.

As early as 5000 BC, the region now known as Dhofar, in southern Oman, was the center of a lucrative trade in frankincense, as the trees grew well in the area, and still do. In the ancient area, the country was known as Magan, Majan, Makan, and Mazoon.

Sometime in the 7th century AD, the people of Oman converted to Islam, and that has been the dominant religion since.

The Bani Nabhan dynasty controlled the region for about five hundred years. However, by the early 1500s, civil wars between the sultan's forces and tribal factions had weakened the country, leaving it vulnerable. The Portuguese waged a series of attacks against Oman's port cities, occupying its major ports by 1507. The Omanis managed to oust the Portuguese, but it took them about one hundred and fifty years. The Portuguese were interested only in Oman's ports, and had barely ventured into the interior of the country.

The Persians invaded Oman in 1737, but they were driven out just over a decade later, at which time the Al Said dynasty came into power. It continues to rule Oman today, although its internal affairs have been characterized by violent disputes, rebellions, and coup attempts. After deposing his father in 1970, Sultan Qaboos instituted a policy of modernization, increasing the government funding of healthcare, education, and public welfare. Slavery, long an institution in Oman, was outlawed in 1970. Over time, women were given the right to vote and to run for political office, and the Sultan appointed a female minister in 2004.

Criticism of the government continues to carry penalties, however. Criticism of the Sultan or the government is prohibited by law. Censorship and self censorship of the press are common, and the Omani people have limited access to information not approved by the Omani government. International monitors report that the practice of torture is widespread in Oman.

The Sultanate of Oman is an absolute monarchy. Elected and appointed official may serve in an advisory role but all power is in the hands of the Sultan. Its legal system includes Sharia law, particularly in family matters, divorce, and inheritance.

Oman's population is mostly Arab, although some of its native population have Baluchi or African origins. The government does not maintain statistics on religion but nearly all Omanis are Muslim, the Ibadi sect being the most common. Nearly all of the non-Muslims in Oman are foreign workers or expatriates.

The official language of Oman is Arabic, although English is taught in Omani schools and is a common language used in business.

Geographically, Oman is a large and diverse country. It has a long coastline, with mountain ranges along the north and southeastern coast, and a vast desert covers much of its central region.

Included in Oman is the peninsula of Musandam, on the Strait of Hormuz, which is separated from the main part of Oman by the United Arab Emirates, as well as a smaller enclave that includes Madha. Several islands are also part of Oman, the largest of which is Masirah.

Oman is a large country with a sparse population, so there are large tracts of Omani land without roads. Oman also has rich cave systems, some of which have not been explored.

In recent years, droughts have led to water shortages in large portions of Oman. This has become a significant problem in agriculture, but maintaining an adequate supply of water for domestic uses has also been difficult. Drinking water is available throughout the country, however.

The Omani government has a record in regard to its protection of the environment, particularly since the 1970s. In recent years, largely due to increased tourism along its coast, plastic and waste oil is being washed up on Oman's beaches. Despite heavy penalties, Oman's military has found it difficult to police its long coastline.

Although the Omani government has been encouraging tourism in recent years, Oman is an expensive country to visit, and accommodations and transportation options are limited outside of its capital city. It is a growing industry nevertheless, and expected to become one of the country's largest. Oman has a diverse environment and several tourist attractions and recreational opportunities, particularly for cultural tourism. As its tourist industry develops, the infrastructure for it can be expected to improve.

The focus of this category is on the Sultanate of Oman. Websites whose main topics are the country itself are appropriate for this category, whether hosted inside or outside of Oman. Omani businesses, organizations, and institutions are also on-topic.

 

 

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