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Oman ( ), officially the Sultanate of Oman ( ), is an Arab country in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It borders the United Arab Emiratesmarker on the northwest, Saudi Arabiamarker on the west and Yemenmarker on the southwest.

The coast is formed by the Arabian Seamarker on the south and east and the Gulf of Omanmarker on the northeast. The country also contains Madhamarker, an exclave enclosed by the United Arab Emiratesmarker, and Musandammarker, an exclave also separated by Emirati territory.

History

Stone Age

Wattayah, located in the governorate of Muscat, is the oldest human settlement and dates back to the Stone Age, making it around 10,000 years old. Archaeological remains from different dates have been discovered here, the earliest representing the Stone Age, then the Heliocentric Age and finally, the Bronze Age. Findings have consisted of stone implements, animal bones, shells and fire hearths. The latter date back to 7615 BC and are the oldest signs of human settlement in the area.

Other discoveries include hand-moulded pottery bearing distinguishing pre-Bronze Age marks, heavy flint implements made from slivers of quartz, and sharp, pointed tools and scrapers.On a mountain rock-face in the same district, animal drawings have been discovered. Similar drawings have also been found in the Wadi Sahtan and Wadi Bani Kharus areas of Rustaq. These drawings consist of human figures carrying weapons and being confronted by wild animals. Siwan in Haima is another Stone Age location and some of the archaeological finds have included arrowheads, knives, chisels and circular stones which have been used to throw at animals.

Oman before Islam

Oman's NamesSumerian tablets refer to a country called Magan, a name thought to refer to Oman’s ancient copper mines. Mezoun is derived from the word muzn, which means abundant flowing water. The name we call the country by today, Oman, is believed to originate from the Arab tribes who migrated to its territory from the Uman region of Yemen. Many tribes settled in Oman making a living by fishing, herding or stock breeding and many present day Omani families are able to trace their ancestral routes to other parts of Arabia.

From the 6th century BC to the arrival of Islam in the 7th century AD, Oman was controlled and/or influenced by three Persian dynasties, the Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanids. Achaemenids in the 6th century BC controlled and influenced the Oman peninsula. This was most likely exerted from a coastal center such as Soharmarker. By about 250 B.C. the Parthian dynasty brought the Persian Gulfmarker under their control and extended their influence as far as Oman. Because they needed to control the Persian Gulfmarker trade route, the Parthians established garrisons in Oman. In the third century A.D. the Sasanids succeeded the Parthians and held the area until the rise of Islam four centuries later.

The arrival of Islam

On the advent of Islam, the religion reached Oman during the Islamic prophet Muhammad's lifetime. The conversion of Omanis is usually ascribed to Amr ibn al-As, who visited the region by the middle of the seventh century AD. The Omanis were among the first people to embrace Islam voluntarily In around 630 AD when the Muhammed sent his envoy Amr ibn Al As to meet Jaifar and ‘Abd - the joint rulers of Oman at that time - to invite them to accept the faith, but they refused and chased for betraying Islamic land.

After lossing the great chase and In accepting Islam, Oman became an Ibadhi state which is named after alkhoarej, ruled by an elected leader, the Imam. During the early years of the Islamic mission Oman played a major role in the Wars of Apostasy that occurred after the death of Muhammad and also took part in the great Islamic conquests by land and sea in Iraq, Persia and beyond. However, its most prominent role in this respect was through its extensive trading and seafaring activities in East Africa, particularly during the19th century, when it propagated Islam in many of East Africa’s coastal regions, and certain areas of Central Africa.

Omanis also carried the message of Islam with them to China and the Asian ports.Oman was ruled by Umayyads between 661-750, Abbasids between 750-931, 932-933 and 934-967, Qarmatians between 931-932 and between 933-934, Buyids between 967-1053, Seljuks of Kirman between 1053-1154.

The Portuguese settlement

The Portuguesemarker occupied Muscat for a 140-year period 1508–1648, arriving a decade after Vasco da Gama discovered the seaway to Indiamarker. In need of an outpost to protect their sea lanes, the Europeans built up and fortified the city, where remnants of their colonial architectural style still remain.

Rebellious tribes drove out the Portuguese, but were pushed out themselves about a century later 1741 by the leader of a Yemenimarker tribe leading a massive army from various other tribes, who began the current line of ruling sultans. A brief Persian invasion a few years later was the final time Oman would be ruled by a foreign power. Oman has been self governing ever since.

Oman and East African Empire

The Sultan's Palace buildings in Zanzibar which was once Oman's capital and residence of its Sultans.
In the 1690s Saif bin Sultan, the imam of Oman, pressed down the East African coast. A major obstacle was Fort Jesusmarker, housing the garrison of a Portuguese settlement at Mombasamarker. After a two-year siege, it fell to Saif in 1698.

Thereafter the Omanis easily ejected the Portuguesemarker from Zanzibarmarker and from all other coastal regions north of Mozambiquemarker. Zanzibar was a valuable property as the main slave market of the east African coast, and became an increasingly important part of the Omani empire, a fact reflected by the decision of the greatest 19th century sultan of Oman, Sa'id ibn Sultan, to make it from 1837 his main place of residence. Sa'id built impressive palaces and gardens in Zanzibar. He improved the island's economy by introducing cloves, sugar and indigo though at the same time he accepted a financial loss in cooperating with Britishmarker attempts to end Zanzibar's slave trade. The link with Oman was broken after his death in 1856.

Rivalry between his two sons was resolved, with the help of forceful British diplomacy, when one of them, Majid, succeeded to Zanzibar and to the many regions claimed by the family on the East African coast. The other, Thuwaini, inherited Muscat and Oman.

Dhofar rebellion

The Dhofar Rebellion was launched in the province of Dhofarmarker against the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman and Britainmarker from 1962 to 1975. It ended with intervention of Iranian Imperial ground forces and the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and defeat of the rebels, but the state of Oman had to be radically reformed and modernized to cope with the campaign.

Politics



Chief of state and government is the hereditary sultān, Qaboos bin Said Al Said who appoints a cabinet called the "Diwans" to assist him. In the early 1990s, the sultan instituted an elected advisory council, the Majlis ash-Shura, though few Omanis were eligible to vote.Universal suffrage for those over 21 was instituted on 4 October 2003. Over 190,000 people (74% of those registered) voted to elect the 84 seats.

Two women were elected to seats. The country today has three women ministers Rawiyah bint Saud al Busaidiyah - Minister of Higher Education, Sharifa bint Khalfan al Yahya'eyah - Minister of Social Development and Rajiha bint Abdulamir bin Ali al Lawati - Minister of Tourism.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.A State Consultative Council, established in 1981, consisted of 55 appointed representatives of government, the private sector, and regional interests.

Military

Oman's armed forces, including Royal Household troops foreign personnel numbered 41,700 in 2002. The army had 25,000 personnel equipped with over 100 main battle tanks and 37 Scorpion tanks. The air force of 4,100 operates 40 combat aircraft. The navy numbers 4,200 with 13 patrol and coastal combatants.

Paramilitary includes the Tribal Home Guard (Firqats) of 4,000 organized in small tribal teams, a police coast guard of 400, and a small police air wing. The elite Royal Household brigade, naval unit, and air unit number 6,400, including 2 special forces regiments.

In 2001 Oman spent $2.4 billion on defence or 12.2% of GDP. The greater number of the troops are mercenaries from the Mekran coast of Gwadarmarker, Pakistan which was under Omani rule until 1958.

Governorates and regions of Oman

The Sultanate is divided into nine governorates and regions. Each governorate consists of states share common cultures, habits, Arabic dialects, history, traditional clothing and traditional occupations.

The Governorate of Muscat is the most densely populated region in the Sultanate with a population of more than half a million. It is Oman's political, economic, and administrative center. Muscat is host to a balance between the traditional heritage of Omani society and the modern contemporary features. This preserves Oman’s historical and cultural identity while presenting Muscat's embrace of modernity.

The Governorate of Dhofarmarker is in the far south of the Sultanate and borders on the Wusta Region the east, the Arabian Seamarker to the south, the Republic of Yemenmarker to the west and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabiamarker to the north and north-west.

The Governorate of Musandammarker lies in extreme north of the Sultanate. It is separated from the rest of the Sultanate by a strip of United Arab Emiratesmarker land. It is distinguished for its strategic location, with a section of it known as Ras Musandam overlooking the international water passage called the Strait of Hormuzmarker.

It is worth noting that not the whole of the Strait is good for navigation. The part suitable for sea navigation falls within the territorial waters of the Sultanate, requiring Omanis to shoulder a large responsibility in organizing navigation in this Strait for centuries. The strategic importance of this Strait has increased recently, as it has become a crossing point for 90% of the Persian Gulf's oil shipped to all over the world.

The Governorate of Buraimimarker is situated in the northwest corner of the Sultanate, adjacent to the borders with United Arab Emiratesmarker . It has a number of historic forts and houses. Its main forts are al Khandaq, which has been adopted as the emblem of the Governorate , and Al Hillah Fort. Both these forts have recently been restored by the Ministry of National Heritage and Culture.

The Batinah Regionmarker occupies a coastal strip along the Gulf of Omanmarker from the state of Barkamarker in the south to Khatmat Malahah in the state of Shinasmarker to the north. The wide strip is enclosed by the Gulf of Omanmarker to the east and the foothills of the Al Hajar Mountainsmarker to the west.

The Ad Dhahirah Regionmarker is a semi desert plain which slopes from the southern foot of the Al Hajar towards the Empty Quartermarker. It is separated from A’Dakhliyah Region by Al Kur Mountain to the East; it joins the Empty Quartermarker from the West and Wusta Region from the south. state of Ibrimarker is distinguished for its unique location which joins the Sultanate with other areas in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Dakhiliah Regionmarker is rich in economic and natural resources and has numerous tourist attractions including forts, castles, towers, old residential quarters and historic mosques. The state of Nizwamarker has a famous and imposing fort, several old mosques and a traditional souq, while Bahla Fortmarker is one of the treasures of the human heritage. Misfah al Abriyeen in the state of al Hamramarker is a splendid example of a hanging village.

The Sharqiyah Regionmarker forms the northeast coast of Oman, on the Arabian Seamarker. It includes the edge of the Al Hajar mountains to the north, Wahibah Sand to the south and Dakhliah Region to the west.The city of Sur, a regional center and the most important cities in Sharqiyah, played a historical role in trade and navigation in the Indian Oceanmarker. It was also the most renowned city in the Arabian Peninsula for ship building in the last century. Besides marine activity and ship building, Sur has a number of tourist attractions such as caves. It is also well-known for its timber and textile industries and agriculture.

The Wusta Regionmarker is situated to the south of both Dakhliah and Dhahirahmarker Regions, at the east side it is linked to the Arabian Seamarker, at the west to the Empty Quartermarker and at the south to Governorate of Dhofarmarker. It includes a large central area of the Sultanate. It is distinguished for having a great number of oil wells.

Geography

Geography of Oman
Coastline 2,092 km
Bordering countries Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen


Desert landscape in Oman.
A vast gravel desert plain covers most of central Oman, with mountain ranges along the north (Al Hajar Mountainsmarker) and southeast coast, where the country's main cities are also located: the capital city Muscatmarker, Matrahmarker and Surmarker in the north, and Salalahmarker in the south.
Coast of Sur, Oman.
Oman's climate is hot and dry in the interior and humid along the coast. During past epochs Oman was covered by ocean. Fossilized shells exist in great numbers in areas of the desert away from the modern coastline.

The peninsula of Musandammarker (Musandem), which has a strategic location on the Strait of Hormuzmarker, is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emiratesmarker and is thus an exclave. The series of small towns known collectively as Dibbamarker are the gateway to the Musandam peninsula on land and the fishing villages of Musandam by sea. Boats may be hired at Khasab for trips into the Musandam peninsula by sea.

Oman has another exclave, inside UAE territory, known as Madhamarker. It is located halfway between the Musandam Peninsula and the rest of Oman. Belonging to Musandammarker governorate, it covers approximately 75 km² (29 sq mi). The boundary was settled in 1969. The north-east corner of Madha is closest to the Fujairahmarker road, barely 10 m (32.8 ft) away. Within the exclave is a UAE enclave called Nahwamarker, belonging to the Emirate of Sharjah. It is about 8 km(5 mi) on a dirt track west of the town of New Madha. It consists of about forty houses with its own clinic and telephone exchange.

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 Masirahmarker, 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 September.

Climate

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 monsoon rainfall in Dhofar and the mountains makes the growth there more luxuriant during summer. Coconut palms grow plentifully in Dhofar and Frankincense grows in the hills. Oleander and varieties of Acacia abound. The Al Hajar Mountainsmarker are a distinct ecoregion, the highest points in eastern Arabia with wildlife including the Arabian tahr.

Indigenous mammals include the Leopard, Hyena, Fox, Wolf, and Hare, Oryx and Ibex. Birds include the Vulture, Eagle, Stork, Bustard, Arabian Partridge, Bee Eater, Falcon and Sunbird.

Environment

Maintaining an adequate supply of water for agricultural and domestic use is Oman's most pressing environmental problem. The nation has limited renewable water resources, with 94% used in farming and 2% for industrial activity. Drinking water is available throughout the country, either piped or delivered. 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 Hormuzmarker and Gulf of Omanmarker is also a persistent problem.

In 2001, the nation had nine endangered species of mammals and five endangered types of bird. Nineteen plant species are also threatened with extinction. Decrees have been passed to protect endangered species, which include the Arabian Leopard, Arabian oryx, mountain gazelle, goitered gazelle, Arabian tahr, green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle and olive ridley turtle. In 2007 Oman's Arabian Oryx Sanctuary became the first site ever deleted from UNESCO's World Heritage list because of the government's decision to reduce the site to 10% of its former size.

Demographics

Demographics of Oman
Languages Arabic,English,Balochi and Swahili
Religion Islam
Ethnic groups Arab, South Asian and African
Life expectancy 73.13 years
The Ministry of Economy estimates that in mid 2006 the total population was 2.577 million. Of those, 1.844 million were Omanis. The population has grown from 2.018 million in the 1993 census to 2.340 million in the 2003 census.

In Oman, about 50% of the population lives in Muscatmarker and the Batinah coastal plainmarker northwest of the capital; about 200,000 live in the Dhofar (southern) region, and about 30,000 live in the remote Musandam Peninsulamarker on the Strait of Hormuzmarker.

Some 600,000 expatriates live in Oman, most of whom are guest workers from Pakistanmarker, Bangladeshmarker, Egyptmarker, Jordanmarker, Indiamarker and the Philippinesmarker.

Religion

Around 32% of the population consists of Ibadhi Muslims. Sunni Muslims of the Shafii rites constitute around 62% of the total. Imami Shias and the Zikri Shia Muslims form the remaining 6% of the population. While the Imami Shia are largely originate from Bahrainmarker, Iranmarker and the Ahsamarker province of Saudi Arabiamarker, Shi'a Muslims form a well-integrated community, concentrated in the capital area and along the northern coast.

The Government does not keep statistics on religious affiliation, but most citizens are either Ibadhi or Sunni Muslims. Ibadhism, a form of Islam distinct from Shi'ism and the "orthodox" schools of Sunnism, historically has been the country's dominant religious group, and the Sultan is a member of the Ibadhi community.

Non-Muslim religious communities individually constitute less than 5 percent of the population and include various groups of Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Sikhs, Baha'is, and Christians. Christian communities are centered in the major urban areas of Muscatmarker, Sohar, and Salalah and include Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and various Protestant congregations. These groups tend to organize along linguistic and ethnic lines. More than fifty different Christian groups, fellowships, and assemblies are active in the Muscat metropolitan area. The majority of non-Muslims are noncitizen immigrant workers from South Asia, although there are small communities of ethnic Indianmarker Hindus and Christians that have been naturalized.

Economy

Economy of Oman
Currency Omani Riyal (R$, OMR)
Fiscal year Calendar year
Central Bank Central Bank of Oman
Stock Market Muscat Stock Market
Omani citizens enjoy good living standards, but the future is uncertain with Oman's limited oil reserves. The other sources of income, agriculture and local industries, are small in comparison and count for less than 1% of the country's exports. Agriculture, often subsistence in its character, produces Dates, Limes, Grains and vegetables. Less than 1% of the country is under cultivation but, in general, food has to be imported. Industries contribute only with 4%, but there are governmental plans to increase this.

Oil production is extracted and processed by Petroleum Development Oman. In recent years, proven oil reserves have been holding approximately steady, although oil production has been decreasing. Oman has other mineral resources including Copper, Asbestos and Marble, but this is little exploited.

Oil and gas

Commercial export of oil began in 1967 and since Sultan Qaboos' accession to the throne in 1970, many more oil fields have been found and developed. In June 1999, PDO discovered a new oil field in southern Oman after drilling and testing three wells which demonstrated the commercial viability of the reservoir. This is the most significant find in five years.

Work is continuing on the RO 503.876 million ( US$1,300 million ) oil refinery project in Sohar, which was due to go into operation in 2006 with a 116,400 barrels a day refining capacity. In 2004, Oman Oil Refinery was supplied with about 78,200 barrels a day for refining, while PDO began using steam injection technology in several wells to increase their productivity. Oman's future economy is expected to depend on Sohar, which is growing very fast.

Since the slump in oil prices in 1998, Oman has made active plans to diversify its economy and is placing a greater emphasis on other areas of industry, such as tourism and natural gas. Oman's Basic Statute of the State expresses in Article 11 that, "The National Economy is based on justice and the principles of a free economy."

Mineral resources

Oman's mineral resources include chromite, dolomite, zinc, limestone, gypsum, silicon, copper, gold, cobalt and iron. Several industries have grown up around them as part of the national development process which, in turn, have boosted the minerals sector’s contribution to the nation’s GDP as well as providing jobs for Omanis.

Copper has been mined in Oman for thousands of years. The mineral sector’s operations include mining and quarrying. Several projects have recently been completed including: an economic feasibility study on silica ore in Wadi Buwa and Abutan in the Wusta Region, which confirmed that there were exploitable reserves of around 28 million tonnes at the two sites; a feasibility study on the production of magnesium metal from dolomite ore; a draft study on processing limestone derivatives; a project to produce geological maps of the Sharqiyah Region ; economic feasibility studies on the exploitation of gold and copper ores in the Ghaizeen area; a study on raw materials in the wilayats of Duqm and Sur for use in the Sultanate’s cement industry; and a study on the construction of a new minerals laboratory in Ghala in the Governorate of Muscat.

Industry

The industrial sector is a cornerstone of the Sultanate’s long-term (1996-2020) development strategy. Industry is not only one of the main sectors involved in diversifying the sources of national income and reducing dependence on oil; it is also capable of helping to meet Oman’s social development needs and generate greater added value for national resources by processing them into manufactured products.

The Seventh Five-Year Development Plan creates the conditions for an attractive investment climate. Under its strategy for the industrial sector the government also aims to develop the information technology and telecommunications industries. The Knowledge Oasis Muscatmarker complex has been set up and expanded, and Omani companies are developing their technological potential through collaboration with various Japanese and German institutions.

There is also an industrial estate in Soharmarker - where the Sultanate’s heavy industries are based - as well as other estates in Sur, Salalah, Nizwa and Buraimi. Natural gas is transported to the industrial estates in Sohar and Salalah, helping to promote expansion of those industries that depend on natural gas; the government grants these industries tax exemptions, as an incentive to encourage their expansion and development. By 2020 the industrial sector is expected to contribute 15% to the country’s GDP.

Development plans

Muscat)
The Omani economy has been radically transformed over a series of development plans beginning with the First Five­-year Plan (1976-1980). At Sultan Qaboos's instruction, a vision of Oman's economic future up to the year 2020 was set out at the end of the first phase of the country's develop­ment 1970-1995. Vision 2020, outlined the country's economic and social goals over the 25 years of the second phase of the development process (1996­-2020).

Oman 2020, held in June 1995, has developed the following aims with regard to securing Oman's future prosperity and growth:
  • To have economic and financial stability
  • To reshape the role of the Government in the economy and to broaden private sector participation
  • To diversify the economic base and sources of national income
  • To globalize the Omani economy
  • To upgrade the skills of the Omani workforce and develop human resources


A free-trade agreement with the United Statesmarker took effect 1 January 2009, eliminating tariff barriers on all consumer and industrial products. It also provides strong protections for foreign businesses investing in Oman.

Tourism

Al-Bustan Palace Hotel
Oman is known for its popular tourist attractions. Wadis, deserts, beaches, and mountains are areas which make Oman unique to its neighboring GCC nations (Wadis in particular). With a coastline of 1700 km, Oman offers some of the cleanest, most stunning beaches a visitor could hope to see. Few beaches are private, except some attached to the beach resort hotels, or those adjoining military or official property. Weekend picnics and barbecues are popular on the beach. Many coves are perfect for snorkelling and with fairly gentle shelves, are good for children.

Wadis are green, lush oases of palm trees, grasses, and flowering. Some wadis have year-round running water, with deep, cool pools in which it is quite safe to swim if the currents are slow.Falaj (pl. aflaaj) means a system for the distribution of water and is commonly used to describe the irrigation channel system downstream of the water's source.Some aflaaj in Oman were built more than 1,500 years ago, whilst others were built at the beginning of the 20th century. The genius of the Omani builders is evident in the way they tunnelled into the ground to a depth of dozens of metres in order to gain access to the groundwater. These channels were truly a miracle of engineering at a time when mechanical equipment was not available.

Forts and Castles are Oman's most striking cultural landmarks and, together with its towers and city walls, they have historically been used as defensive bastions or look-out points. Forts were often the seats of administrative and judicial authority. There are over 500 forts, castles and towers in Oman which has a coastline of 1,700 km, so they were needed to protect it from potential invaders. The architectural styles vary, being determined by the architects who built them or the periods in which they were built.

The traditional Arabic market place is called the souq and these are found in many of the towns throughout the Sultanate. One of the oldest preserved souqs in Oman is in Muttrah, on the Corniche. Gold and silver jewellery is found in abundance as well as numerous wooden carvings, ornaments and spices. Muttrah souq is a maze of pathways leading in and out of each other. 'Household' goods make up the bulk of the souq, but browsing through some of the smaller shops may result in a lucky find. Bargaining is a must, however. Gold and silver are well priced and mainly sold by weight. Good buys are silver khanjars (the traditional Omani dagger, worn by men) and incense burners. Today,the Capital area has a number of shopping malls, mainly situated in Qurum, but in recent times, spreading to the Al Khuwair area, which house a variety of shops, ranging from boutiques to chain stores. The largest mall in the country is the Muscat City Centre.

Other popular tourist activities include sand skiing in the desert, Scuba Diving, Rock Climbing/Trekking, Surfing & Sailing, Cave Exploration and Bull Fight/Camel Race.The Muscat Festival is usually held at the beginning of every year. During this event, traditional dances are held, temporary theme parks open, and concerts take place. Another popular event is The Khareef Festival, which is similar to Muscat Festival; however it is held in August in Salalahmarker, Dhofarmarker. During this latter event, mountains are packed as a result of the cool breeze weather during that period of time which rarely occurs in Muscat.

Labour

The estimated workforce was 920,000 in 2002. A large proportion of the population were still engaged in subsistence agriculture or fishing. The skilled local labour force is small, and many of the larger industries depend on foreign workers from Pakistanmarker, Bangladeshmarker, the Philippinesmarker, Indiamarker, and Sri Lankamarker — foreign laborers constituted over 80% of the modern-sector workforce in 1996.

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 labour-management committees in firms with more than 50 workers. These committees are not authorized to discuss conditions of employment, including hours and wages. The Labour 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 non-professional 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 working week is 40 to 45 hours long, while government officials have a 35-hour working week.

Inflation

As oil prices have risen to a record high, so has inflation. The government depends mostly on oil revenue, more than on tax returns from companies and other government-owned companies. The government is also Oman's largest employer, so the high interest that government gets increases the prices of food and construction equipment. The government did support the fuel prices so it doesn't increase the inflation and to make the price suitable for people on low wages.

In 2006, government employee salaries were increased by 15%, placing Oman in the category of high-medium income countries. and a year after increase employees' were also increased in salaries so, employees with low wages have a higher increase that may go up to 48% and employees who earn more get a lesser increase in their salaries which end at 5%.The minimum wage has been changed from 120 Rial a month to 140 Rials because of high records of inflation driven by high prices of oil.

Transport

Education

Before 1970, only three formal schools existed in the whole country with less than 1000 students receiving education in them. Since Sultan Qaboos came to power in 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. Today there are over 1000 state schools and about 650,000 students. In 1986, Oman's first university, Sultan Qaboos Universitymarker, 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.

Pre-university education in Oman has three stages: primary, preparatory, and secondary. Six years of primary schooling are followed by preparatory school. Academic results of the preparatory exams determine the type of secondary education the student will receive.

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.

The adult illiteracy rate was estimated at 28.1% for the year 2000 (males, 19.6%; females, 38.3%). In 1998, there were 411 primary schools with 313,516 students and 12,052 teachers. Student-to-teacher ratio stood at 26 to 1. In secondary schools in 1998, there were 12,436 teachers and 217,246 students. As of 1999, 65% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 59% of those eligible attended secondary school. In the same year, public expenditure on education was estimated at3.9% of GDP. 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 1998, all higher-level institutions had 1,307 teachers and 16,032 students.

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 1987–97, 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.

Meteorites

The central desert of Oman is an important source of meteorites for scientific analysis. Since 1999, search campaigns in Oman have provided about 20% of the world's meteorites. These include rare meteorites from Mars and the Moon. The meteorite accumulations in the gravelly central desert play an important role in increasing knowledge of conditions in the early solar system.

Health

As of 1999, there were an estimated 1.3 physicians and 2.2 hospital beds per 1,000 people. In 1993, 89% of the population had access to health care services. In 2000, 40% of the population had access to health care services. .

Culture

Although Arabic is Oman's official language, there are native speakers of different dialects, as well as Balochi (the language of the Baloch from western-Pakistanmarker, eastern Iranmarker), and southern Afghanistanmarker or offshoots of Southern Arabian, a Semitic language only distantly related to Arabic, but closely related to Semitic languages in Eritreamarker and Ethiopiamarker. Swahili and French are also widely spoken in the country due to the historical relations between Oman and Zanzibarmarker the two languages have been linked historically. The dominant indigenous language is a dialect of Arabic and the country has also adopted English as a second language. Almost all signs and writings appear in both Arabic and English. A significant number also speak Hindi, due to the influx of Indianmarker migrants during the late 1980s and the 1990s.

Oman is famous for its khanjar knives, which are curved daggers worn during holidays as part of ceremonial dress. Today traditional clothing is worn by most Omani men. They wear an ankle-length, collarless robe called a dishdasha that buttons at the neck with a tassel hanging down. Traditionally this tassel would be dipped in perfume. Today the tassel is merely a traditional part of the dishdasha.

Women wear hijabs and abayas. Some women cover their faces and hands, but most do not. The abaya is a traditional dress and it is currently having different styles. The Sultan has forbidden the covering of faces in public office. On holidays, such as Eid, the women wear traditional dress, which is often very brightly colored and consists of a mid-calf length tunic over pants.

A very important part of Omani culture is hospitality. If invited into an Omani house, a visitor is likely to be greeted with a bowl of dates, qahwa (coffee with cardamom - standard Arabic قهوة) and fruit. The coffee is served fairly weak in a small cup, which should be shaken after three servings to show that you have finished. The dates are in lieu of sugar. Halwa and other sweets are often given at celebrations such as Eids.

Food

The Omani people are well known for their hospitality and offers of refreshment. To be invited into someone's home will mean coffee kahwa, a strong, bitter drink flavoured with cardamom, and dates or halwa, a sticky sweet gelatinous substance which is made from brown sugar, eggs, honey and spices. It can be flavoured with many different ingredients, such as nuts, rosewater or even chocolate. Lokhemat is another accompaniment to coffee, which are balls of flour and yeast flavoured with cardamom and deep fried until golden then served with a sweet lime and cardamom syrup. The sweetness of this dish often counteracts the bitterness of the kahwa.

More substantial meals often have rice as the main ingredient, together with cooked meats. The main daily meal is usually eaten at midday, while the evening meal is lighter. Maqbous is a rice dish, tinged yellow with saffron and cooked over a spicy red or white meat. Aursia is a festival meal, served during celebrations, which consists of mashed rice flavoured with spices. Another popular festival meal is shuwa, which is meat cooked very slowly (sometimes for up to two days) in an underground clay oven. The meat becomes extremely tender and it is impregnated with spices and herbs before cooking to give it a very distinct taste. Fish is often used in main dishes too, and the kingfish is a popular ingredient. Mashuai is a meal comprising whole spit-roasted kingfish served with lemon rice. The rukhal bread is a thin, round bread originally baked over a fire made from palm leaves. It is eaten at any meal, typically served with Omani honey for breakfast or crumbled over curry for dinner.

Traditional Omani Food

It is fairly simple, but by using various marinades and impregnating meat with spices, the result is a mouth-watering concoction which stimulates the tastebuds. Chicken, fish and mutton are regularly used in dishes. A favourite drink is laban, a salty buttermilk. Yoghurt drinks, flavoured with cardamom and pistachio nuts are also very popular.

Although spices, herbs, onion, garlic and lime are liberally used in traditional Omani cuisine, unlike similar Asian food, it is not hot. Omani cuisine is also distinct from the indigenous foods of other Arab states of the Persian Gulf and even varies within the Sultanate's different regions. The differences between some of the dishes prepared in Salalah, in the south, and those prepared in Muscat, in the north, are so marked that it is difficult to find anything common between them. However, one delight that remains a symbol of Omani hospitality throughout the country are the ubiquitous dates, served with khawa, or Omani coffee. Khawa is prepared from freshly roasted ground coffee mixed with cardamom powder.

Special dishes are prepared for festive occasions. The Islamic world celebrates two main religious festivals - Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha. Eid Al Fitr is celebrated following the Holy Month of Ramadan when people complete their obligatory fasting for 30 days. Eid Al Adha is celebrated on completing the Haj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca, commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham. Dishes prepared during Ramadan are very seldom cooked on other occasions.

Food cooked on important occasions, such as Eid, is of an infinite variety. Omanis across the country serve an array of dishes. In Dhofar and Wusta, the festivities start with ruz al mudhroub, a dish made of cooked rice and served with fried fish, and maqdeed, special dried meat. In Muscat, Al Batinah, Dahira and Sharqiya regions, muqalab, a dish of tripe and pluck cooked with crushed or ground spices (cinnamon, cardamom, clove, back pepper, ginger, garlic and nutmeg), dominates the menu. Other dishes served during Eid festivities include arsia, a dish of lamb meat cooked with rice, and mishkak, skewered meat grilled on charcoal.

Lunch on the first day of Eid is usually harees, which is made from wheat mixed with meat. Lunch on the second day is mishkak, while on the third and last day, shuwa forms the whole day's meal.However, it is during Ramadan that one can experience Omani food at its best and two of the most popular traditional dishes served at Iftar, the breaking of the fast include sakhana, a thick, sweet soup made of wheat, date, molasses and milk and fatta, a meat and vegetable dish, mixed with khubz rakhal, thin Omani bread, made out of unleavened dough.

Shuwa is a typically Omani delicacy prepared only on very special occasions. Whole villages participate in the cooking of the dish which consists of a whole cow or goat roasted for up to two days in an special oven prepared in a pit dug in the ground.

The method of preparing shuwa is elaborate. The meat is marinated with red pepper, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom, garlic and vinegar and then wrapped in sacks made of dry banana or palm leaves. These sacks are then thrown into the smoldering oven, which is covered with a lid and sealed so that no smoke escapes. In some villages, the meat is cooked for 24 hours while in others it is believed that meat tastes better after 48 hours.

Everyday Omani cuisine includes a wide variety of soups - vegetable, lentil, lamb and chicken. Salads are also popular and are usually based around fresh vegetables, smoked eggplant, tuna fish, dried fish or watercress. Main course dishes are extensive and range from marak, a vegetable curry, to assorted kebabs, barbecued, grilled and curried meat, chicken and fish dishes.

Rice is used widely and is served in a variety of ways, from steamed to elaborate concoctions bursting with meat and vegetables. Breads rage from the plain to those flavoured with dates, sesame, thyme and garlic. For desert, Omani halwa, or sweatmeat, is a traditional favourite.

Male national dress

The national dress for Omani men is a simple, ankle-length, collarless gown with long sleeves called the dishdasha. Underneath the dishdasha, a plain piece of cloth covering the body is worn from the waist down. Omani men may wear a variety of head dresses. The mussar is a square of finely woven woollen or cotton fabric, wrapped and folded into a turban. Underneath this, the kummah, an intricately embroidered cap, is sometimes worn.

The shal, a long strip of cloth acting as a holder for the khanjar may be made from the same material as the mussar. Alternatively, the holder may be fashioned in the form of a belt made from leather and silver. On formal occasions, the dishdasha may be covered by a black or beige cloak, called a bisht. The embroidery edging the cloak is often in silver or gold thread and it is intricate in detail. Some men from traditional families carry a stick, which can have practical uses or is simply used as an accessory during formal events.

The Khanjar

The curved dagger, the khanjar is a distinguishing feature of the Omani personality as well as an important symbol of male elegance. It is traditionally worn at the waist.

The shape of the khanjar is always the same and is characterised by the curve of the blade and by the near right- angle bend of the sheath. Sheaths may vary from simple covers to ornate silver or gold-decorated pieces of great beauty and delicacy. In thepast the silver khanjars were made by melting down Marie Theresa silver coins.Different types of khanjar are named after the regions in which they are made and vary according to size, shape, type of metal and the overlay. The top of the handle of the most usual khanjar is flat but the "Saidi" type, which takes its name from the Ruling Family, has an ornate cross-shaped top. However, all possess certain common features and have the same components:

  • The hilt may be made of costly rhinoceros horn or substitutes such as sandalwood and marble.
  • The blade determines the value of the khanjar according to its strength and quality.
  • The sadr, or upper part of the sheath, is decorated with silver engraving,
  • The sheath, the most striking part of the khanjar madeup of lether, is worked with silver threads.


khanjars are supported on belts of locally made webbing, sometimes interwoven with silver thread or belts of leather covered by finely woven silver wire with handsome silver buckles, and a knife with an ornate handle of silver thread is often stuck into a simple leather pouch behind the sheath.

khanjars are worn on formal occasions and at feasts and holidays, and almost all Omani men boast one.

Once worn in self-defence, the khanjar is today both a fashion accessory and a prestige item much in demand.

Female national dress

Omani women have very colourful costumes which vary from region to region. The main components of a woman's outfit comprise a dress which is worn over trousers (sirwal) and the headdress, called the lihaf or hijab.The Baluchi dress is also common. It is worn by baluch women.There are numerous traditional styles of Omani costume seen in Muscat. However, there are three main types which show vibrant colours, embroidery and decorations. One style of costume is rather flowing and resembles that worn by the women of the Interior, while another is decorated with distinctive silver bands. The embroidery on these dresses can take around two months to complete.In the Dhofar region(محافظة ظفار), the dress is known as the "Abu Dhail" which means 'one with a tail'.

This dress is shorter at the front than at the rear and is made from luxurious velvet or cotton, shot with gold and silver embroidery, beads and sequins. It has a square neckline and is generally worn with a lightweight, cotton or silk sh'ela "head dress" which may also be sewn with pearls, sequins and sometimes small gold coins for special celebrations. Elaborate jewellery is often worn with this dress, around the head, neck, wrists, ankles, fingers and toes. Older ladies, originating from the desert and the mountains may do so.

Sport

Sports of Oman
Popular Sport Football, volleyball, hockey.
National Team Sports 5
National Clubs 48
Colors Red , White


The government aims to give young people a fully rounded education by providing activities and experience in the sporting, cultural, intellectual, social and scientific spheres, and to excel internationally in these areas and for this reason, in October 2004, the government created a Ministry of Sports Affairs to replace the General Organisation for Youth, Sports and Cultural Affairs.

The 2009 Gulf Cup of Nations, the 19th edition, took place in Muscat, Oman, from 4 January to 17 January 2009 and was won by Oman.

The International Olympic Committee awarded the former GOYSCA its prestigious prize for sporting excellence in recognition of its contributions to youth and sports and its efforts to promote the Olympic spirit and goals.

The Oman Olympic Committee played a major part in organizing the highly successful 2003 Olympic Days, which were of great benefit to the sports associations, clubs and young participants. The Football Association took part, along with the Handball, Basketball, Hockey, Volleyball, Athletics, Swimming, and Tennis Associations.In 2010 Muscat will host the 2010 Asian Beach Games for the first time.File:Oman_FA.png|_____ Oman F.A. _____

Challenges

Oman's political challenges are primarily around succession plans. The democratic institutions and processes are still in early development and have not experienced real power. There is some risk of destabilization by radicals backed by militant groups or other states.

Oman's Musandam peninsula is a strategic asset which may become contested in future. Strong military ties with the United Kingdom and the GCC countries helps maintain stability. The growing power of Iranmarker is not considered a concern due to the friendly and historical ties between the two countries.

The demographic challenges are, like in other GCC countries, that a large proportion of the population are non-citizens.

The economic challenge is over-dependence on oil. While this is a benefit during oil price spikes, it is a risk during downturns.

See also

References

  1. History of OMAN
  2. Oman Parliamentary Elections: Shura Council (pdf)
  3. Oman - Migration, Ethnic groups, Languages, Political parties, Local government, International cooperation, Forestry, Insurance
  4. http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/362
  5. Department of State
  6. Oman: proven oil reserves
  7. Chemical & Engineering News, 5 January 2009, "U.S.-Oman pact expands Free Trade", p. 18
  8. 4th Swiss Geoscience Meeting, Bern 2006. Meteorite accumulation surfaces in Oman: Main results of. Omani-Swiss meteorite search campaigns, 2001-2006. by Beda Hofmann et al.


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