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Oman: Country Profile


Oman: Country Profile

Map of Oman

Basics on Oman:

Official country name: Sultanate of Oman
Area: 82,031 sq miles (212,460 sq km)
Population: 3.3 million, including more than half a million non-nationals, mostly South Asian (2008 est.)
Median age: 18.9
Ethnic Groups: Turks, 80 percent; Kurds, 20 percent
GDP and GDP per capita: $40 billion and $12,121

Government and Politics:

Oman is an absolute monarchy led by Sultan Quabous bin Said, who’s been in power since 1970, when he overthrew his father. Oman has no constitution and no political parties. The closest it has to a legislative branch is a Consultative Assembly divided into a 70-seat Majlis al-Dawla, or upper chamber, all of whose members are appointed by the sultan, and a lower chamber, the 84-seat Majlis al-Shura, whose members are elected by popular vote. Neither chamber has more than advisory powers. The country is divided into 41 political districts, each administered by a governor.

Religion in Oman:

Oman is dominated by the Ibadi form of Islam , a politically authoritarian but doctrinally mild sect established in Oman in the 7th century. Islam is the state religion. Thanks to the Ibadi tradition of tolerance, religious discrimination is rare to non-existent in Oman. Non-Muslim students can opt out of religious requirements, as can non-Muslim members of the military. Oman’s government encourages, to the point of sponsoring, interfaith dialogue. Nevertheless, Anti-Semitism in the media is not unheard of—including the depiction of stereotypical and negative images of Jews.

Oman's Economy :

Poor, isolated and subsisting mostly on fishing and agriculture, Oman now thrives on an economy driven by Oil, natural gas, copper, marble, limestone, gypsum and chromium. Sultan Qaboos has been modernizing the state since 1970, building roads, schools, hospitals, and plenty of affordable housing, along with some of the world’s strictest environmental regulations—all of which helped keep the economy growing at a steady clip.

Oman's Military:

About 15 percent of the world’s oil supply passes through the Strait of Hormuz, which Oman dominates on one side, while Iran dominates the other. Oman’s strategic position pushed the United States to develop close and expensive military ties with the sultanate. The U.S. has since supplied Oman with 12 F-16 fighters, sea-launched missiles, an early-warning network and aerial reconnaissance system. Oman’s military totals 34,000 troops. Oman’s navy has nine combat vessels and 68 patrol crafts. Other military suppliers include Britain and the United Arab Emirates .

Human Rights and the Media in Oman :

Instances of government abuse against individuals or the press are rare, but evident enough to provoke protest--and repressive measures by the government. In July 2005, poet and journalist Abdallah Al-Ryami was imprisoned for criticizing human rights violations in the country. Writers and journalists are censored. In 2004, Al-Raymi and writer Mohammed Al-Harthi, who had a weekly newspaper column, were banned from the official daily.


It isn;t until 1970 that Oman became a united country. That doesn't mean Omani character hasn't had its distinctive and irascible imprint on the southern Arab peninsula going back to about 1,000 B.C., when Omani seamen sailed and traded as far as India and Africa. Oman was a Persian domain until Arab Muslims from Medina took over. In 1507, Portugal subjugated Muscat, the capital, holding it for 150 years, followed by Ottoman Turks, then Britain, which held sway over the territory until 1970, beating back various insurgencies. Oman has quickly been modernizing and opening itself to liberalization since 1970.

Current Issues:

The U.S. State Department reports that "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 is a key U.S. ally in the region.
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