Middle East

Oman country profile

Map of Oman

The oldest independent state in the Arab world, Oman is one of the more traditional countries in the Gulf region and was, until the 1970s, one of the most isolated.

It is strategically placed at the mouth of the Gulf at the south-east corner of the Arabian Peninsula and, in the 19th century, vied with Portugal and Britain for influence in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.

The country has so far been spared the militant Islamist violence that has plagued some of its neighbours.

Oman has not been immune from the groundswell of political dissent in the region, however. Protests in 2011 demanding reforms were dispersed by riot police, and the government began a crackdown on internet criticism the following year.


Sultanate of Oman

Capital: Muscat

  • Population 2.9 million

  • Area 309,500 sq km (119,500 sq miles)

  • Major language Arabic

  • Major religion Islam

  • Life expectancy 71 years (men), 76 years (women)

  • Currency Rial

Getty Images


Head of state: Qaboos Bin Said Al Said

Image copyright Getty Images

Qaboos Bin Said Al Said has been Oman's sultan, prime minister and foreign minister since he seized power from his father, Said Bin Taimur, in 1970.

He also serves as the head of the defence and finance ministries.

His policies have proved popular in spite of the lack of a democratic government.

Under his rule, oil revenues have been used to develop the country's infrastructure.

Sultan Qaboos responded to a rare outbreak of discontent in 2011, following a wave of pro-democracy protests across the Arab world, by promising more jobs and benefits.


Image copyright Getty Images

The government operates the main broadcasters, and press freedom groups say that media censorship is widespread.

The internet is a medium for public debate, but online activists can be targeted by the authorities, says Reporters Without Borders.


Some key dates in Oman's history:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nizwa, pictured in 1957, was Oman's capital at one time

Oman profile

700s AD - Onset of Arab domination and the introduction of Islam.

1737 - Persians invade and are driven out in 1749, when the Al Bu Said dynasty comes to power, which continues to rule to this day.

1913 - Control of the country splits. The interior is ruled by Ibadite imams and the coastal areas by the sultan. Under a British-brokered agreement in 1920 the sultan recognises the autonomy of the interior. Sultan Said bin Taimur regains control of the interior in 1959.

1964 - Oil reserves are discovered; extraction begins in 1967.

1970 - The sultan is overthrown by his son in a bloodless coup. Sultan Qaboos bin Said begins a liberalisation and modernisation programme.

2002 - Sultan Qaboos extends voting rights to all citizens over the age of 21.

2011 - Protesters demand jobs and political reform. One demonstrator is shot dead by police. Sultan Qaboos reacts by promising jobs and benefits.

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