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Oman Culture, Geography and History
Oman’s colossal history (archaeological evidence suggests that parts of the country have been inhabited since the Stone Age) tracks from eras of remarkable prosperity and regional influence to self-imposed isolation, civil strife, foreign occupation and pretty much everything in between.
From as far back as 5000 BC, the land amassed great wealth due to its trade in frankincense, myrrh and, later on, copper. With this wealth, however, came foreign interest, and between the 6th century BC and the 7th century AD the country fell under the control of three Persian dynasties – the Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanids – before becoming totally enamoured with Islam. Introduced by Amr ibn al-As, a disciple of the Prophet Mohammed, the faith flourished under the Bani Nabhan dynasty for 500 years.
At the beginning of the 16th century, keen to exploit the disunity that had spread through the country and expand their own trade routes, the Portuguese arrived. Largely content with commanding coastal sentry points and building forts (many of which still stand), they made few ventures into the interior and, as a result, were eventually ousted by conspiring inland tribes. Oman then challenged the Portuguese in East Africa and West Asia and gained numerous coastal forts and a foothold in the lucrative slave and spice trades. This allowed Oman to rebuild its wealth to great success. The Al Said dynasty assumed power in 1749 and, despite centuries of interfamilial squabbling, still holds it today.
In July 1970, having ousted his father from power in a bloodless coup, Qaboos bin Said al Said dismissed the conservative isolationist policies that had characterised his father’s rule and set the country on course for modernisation and economic reform. Oman’s society has since found a balance of having a deep respect for tradition, a practical regard for technological progress and enviable health care and education systems.
Oman at a glance
- Muscat (population 350,000)
- 3.3 million
- (GMT+04:00) Abu Dhabi, Muscat
- Type C (European 2-pin), Type G (Irish/British 3-pin)
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