Official name: Sultanate of Oman
Area: 212,460 square kilometers (82,031 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Jabal Sham (3,035 meters/9,957 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 4 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 972 kilometers (604 miles) from northeast to southwest; 513 kilometers (319 miles) from southeast to northwest
Land boundaries: 1,374 kilometers (854 miles) total boundary length; Yemen 288 kilometers (179 miles); Saudi Arabia 676 kilometers (420 miles); United Arab Emirates 410 kilometers (255 miles)
Coastline: 2,092 kilometers (1,300 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
The sultanate of Oman is located in the extreme southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula and is the second-largest country on the peninsula. It includes a small enclave at the tip of the Musandam Peninsula, on the Strait of Hormuz, that is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. With an area of 212,460 square kilometers (82,031 square miles), Oman is nearly as large as the state of Kansas.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Oman has no territories or dependencies.
Oman's climate is arid subtropical. The climate differs somewhat from one region to another, however. The interior is generally very hot, with temperatures reaching 54°C (129°F) in the hot season from May to October. The coastal areas are hot and humid from April to October. The prevailing summer wind, the Gharbi , makes the heat more oppressive. In the south, the Dhofar (Zufar) region has a more moderate climate.
Average annual precipitation is 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches), depending on the region and the prevailing summer wind. While the mountain areas receive more plentiful rainfall, some parts of the coast, particularly those areas near the island of Maşīrah, sometimes receive no rain at all. Yearly rainfall totals of up to 64 centimeters (25 inches) have been recorded in the rainy season from late June to October. An unusual feature of Oman's weather is that part of the eastern coast regularly has dense fog.
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
Oman has a diverse topography with a number of different regions and subregions. The major regions are the narrow Al Bātinah coastal plain to the north, bordering the Gulf of Oman; the Al Hajar mountain range that stretches south-eastward paralleling the northern coast; an interior plateau that stretches southwestward toward the desert; the Rub'al Khālī desert, which Oman shares with Saudi Arabia and Yemen; the barren plain of Jalaan, which borders the Arabian Sea on the east; and the southern Dhofar region, which includes both mountainous highlands and a fertile coastal strip that constitutes the southernmost part of Oman. In addition, Oman encompasses an isolated strip of land at the tip of the Musandem Peninsula.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Oman borders the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, the latter of which separates the Arabian Peninsula from the rest of the Middle East.
Sea Inlets and Straits
Inlets ( khors ) in the Al Bātinah plain often have stands of mangroves. An extremely rugged area exists where two inlets, the Elphin-stone and Malcom, cut into the coastline south of the Strait of Hormuz.
Islands and Archipelagos
Along the Arabian Sea coastline and separated from it by about 16 kilometers (10 miles) is the barren and virtually uninhabited island of Maşīrah,
The northern coastline is smooth, while the shore along the Arabian Sea is more jagged and indented, forming several bays and capes (including the Ra's al Hadd, which separates the Gulf of Oman from the Arabian Sea) and the Gulf of Maşīrah near Maşīrah Island.
6 INLAND LAKES
There are no lakes in Oman, but the country has two large areas of salt flats, one in the west-central region and another opposite Maşīrah Island, off the eastern coast.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
There are no perennial rivers in Oman. A small number of wadis (shallow watercourses) are found in the Al Hajar Mountains and their foothills, however.
Situated mainly in Saudi Arabia but occupying a portion of western Oman, the Rub'al Khālī, or Empty Quarter, is one of the largest sand deserts in the world and one of the driest places on earth. The Wahiba Sands, in Oman's interior, are the largest areas of lithified (changed into solid rock) sand dunes in the world. Its surface dunes can reach heights of 100 meters (328 feet).
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
The Al Bātinah coastal plain to the north, scored along its length by wadis , is cultivated with the aid of irrigation. The sandy plain of Jalaan to the east is barren and inhospitable, while the narrow coastal strip of the Dhofar region in the south is lush and fertile. The valleys and foothills immediately south of the Al Hajar Mountains are considered the country's heartland.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
The Al Hajar (the Rock) Mountains—the highest in the eastern part of the Arabian peninsula—form two ranges: the Hajar al-Gharbi, or Western Hajar, and the Hajar al-Shargi, or Eastern Hajar. They are divided by the Wadi Sanā'il, a valley that forms the traditional route between Masqat and the interior. The general elevation is about 4,000 feet (1,219 meters). In the southern Dhofar region, a semicircular band of mountains rises to around 1,500 meters (5,000 feet).
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
There are many caverns in Oman. One of the largest in the world, Teyq Cave, is 250 meters (820 feet) deep and 300 cubic meters (10,595 cubic feet) in volume.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
The foothills of the Al Hajar Mountains in the north give way to a plateau with an average height of about 300 meters (1,000 feet). It is mostly stony and waterless, arable only at oases, extending to the sands of the Rub'al Khālī Desert. In the central part of Oman, in the Al-Wusta region, this plateau narrows to the Jiddat al-Harāsīs, bordered by the Rub'al Khālī desert to the west and the plain of Jalaan to the east.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
There are three forts in Muscat that have remained essentially unchanged since the 1580s.
14 FURTHER READING
Chatty, Dawn. Mobile Pastoralists: Development Planning and Social Change in Oman. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.
Kay, Shirley. Enchanting Oman. Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Motivate Publishing, 1988.
Newcombe, Ozzie. The Heritage of Oman: A Celebration in Photographs. Reading, Berkshire, U.K.: Garnet Publishing, 1995.
Oman: People & Heritage. Oman: Oman Daily Observer, 1994.
Middle East & Islamic Studies Collection. http://www.library.cornell.edu/colldev/mideast/universi.htm (accessed March 10, 2003).
Ministry of Information: Sultanate of Oman. http://www.omanet.com/ (accessed March 10, 2003).
Natural History of Oman & Arabia. http://www.oman.org/nath00.htm (accessed May 10, 2003).