Sultanate of Oman
CAPITAL : Muscat (Masqat)
FLAG : The flag is red with a broad stripe of white at the upper fly and green at the lower fly. In the upper left corner, white crossed swords overlay a ceremonial dagger.
ANTHEM : Nashid as-Salaam as-Sutani (Sultan's National Anthem).
MONETARY UNIT : The Omani riyal ( RO ), established in November 1972, is a paper currency of 1,000 baizas. There are coins of 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, and 500 baizas, and notes of 100, 250, and 500 baizas (the last two being replaced by coins) and 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 riyals. RO 1 = $2.60417 (or $1 = RO 0.384) as of January 2003.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES : The metric system was adopted on 15 November 1974. The imperial and local system also are used.
HOLIDAYS : Accession of the Sultan, 23 July; National Day, 18 November; Sultan's Birthday, 19 November. Movable Muslim religious holidays include 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', and Milad an-Nabi.
TIME : 4 PM = noon GMT. Solar time also is observed.
There is frequent movement of workers between Oman and neighboring states. In 2000 there were 682,000 migrants living in Oman, primarily foreign laborers. The net migration rate was 1.7 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the immigration level as too high, but the emigration level as satisfactory.
The indigenous population is predominantly Arab except on the Batinah coast, where there is significant Baluchi, Iranian, and African representation, and in Muscat and Matrah, where there are Khojas and other Indians, Baluchis, and Pakistanis. Tribal groups are estimated to number over 200.
The official language is Arabic. Urdu, Baluchi, and several Indian dialects are also spoken, especially in the cities of Muscat and Matrah. English is taught as a second language.
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.
The nation is divided into six regions, two governates (Musandam, Dhofar) and 59 wilayats (districts), governed by walis, who are responsible to the Ministry of the Interior. The Governate of the Capital is responsible for the administration of Muscat.
On 7 October 1971, Oman gained membership in the UN; the nation belongs to ESCWA and all the nonregional specialized agencies except IAEA. Oman also participates in G-77, GCC, and the Arab League, as well as the Islamic Conference. Oman is a member of the WTO.
Forest coverage is less than 1%. The use of wood as the sole fuel and overgrazing by goats have depleted the forests of Oman, but the interior of the country is fairly well wooded. Oman imported $17.1 million in forest products during 2000.
By 1997, one national insurance firm, the Oman National Insurance Co. (SAOG), and around 17 foreign-owned firms were operating in Oman. Gross premiums for the Oman National Insurance Co. in 1995 were RO5.75 million. In 2001, $35 million in life insurance alone was written in Oman.
General import duties are 5% ad valorem on the CIF (cost, insurance, and freight) value of the good. There are a number of exempt goods, including many imports from GCC member states. Protective tariffs are levied seasonably on a number of fruits and vegetables.
In May 1973, Sultan Qabus approved the Law of People's Housing to make housing loans to needy Omanis. By 1985, 5,300 low-income units had been built. In 1989, 34% of all housing units were traditional Arabic houses, 30% were flats, and 27% were villas. Owners occupied 70% of all dwellings, 20% were rented, and 9% were provided by employers. In 2002, the government dsitributed 210,329 plots of land for residential development.
There is a Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Muscat. Among the social and cultural organizations are the Oman Women's Association, the Oman Cultural Club (for university graduates), the Omani National Organization for Scouts and Guides, the National Union of Oman Students, and the Omani Historical Association (open to non-Omanis).
Oman's great Islamic religious leader, whose followers are called Ibadhis, was 'Abdallah bin Ibad (fl.8th century); many of his teachings are still followed in Oman. Ahmad ibn Sa'id (r.1741–83), founder of the present dynasty, freed Muscat from Persian rule. Sultan Qabus bin Sa'id (b.1940) has ruled Oman since his removal of Sa'id bin Taymur (1910–72), his father, in 1970.
Oman has no territories or colonies.
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