Oman, or Sultanate of Oman, a country in the Middle East, on the Arabian Peninsula in southwestern Asia. Until 1970 it was known as the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman. Oman fronts on the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman and is bordered inland by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. The tip of the Musandam Peninsula, at the entrance to the oil-rich Persian Gulf, is considered an integral part of Oman. Much of the sultanate's boundary with the United Arab Emirates is undefined, making an exact measurement of Oman's area impossible. The official estimate is 115,800 square miles (300,000 km2).
|Facts in brief about Oman|
|Official language: Arabic.|
|Official name: Saltanat Uman (Sultanate of Oman).|
|Area: 119,499 mi2 (309,500 km2). Greatest distances—north-south, 500 mi (805 km); east-west, 400 mi (644 km). Coastline—about 1,060 mi (1,700 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—Jabal Ash Sham, 9,957 ft (3,035 m) above sea level. Lowest—sea level.|
|Population: Current estimate—2,705,000; density, 23 per mi2 (9 per km2); distribution, 72 percent urban, 28 percent rural. 2003 census—2,340,815.|
|Chief products: Agriculture—alfalfa, bananas, coconuts, dates, limes, onions, pomegranates, tobacco, tomatoes, wheat. Fishing industry—sardines, cod, sharks. Mining—petroleum, natural gas, copper, chromite.|
|National anthem: "Nashid as-Salaam as-Sultani" ("Sultan's National Anthem").|
|Flag: Oman's flag has a vertical red stripe on the left and three horizontal stripes of white, red, and green. The national emblem, which features crossed swords and a dagger, appears at the top of the vertical stripe.|
|Money: Basic unit—Omani rial, or riyal. One thousand baizas equal one rial.|
Oman occupies arid land at the edge of the Rub al Khali, one of the driest and least explored deserts on earth. Much of the country consists of sandy plains that are all but uninhabited. The only mountainous area is in the north, where the Hajar ranges run from the Musandam Peninsula southeastward to the coastal city of Sur. Numerous peaks rise 5,000 to 7,000 feet (1,500 to 2,100 m) above sea level; the highest reaches more than 10,000 feet (3,000 m) in the Jabal al Akhdar, or Green Mountains, west of Muscat, the capital.
The largest coastal plain is the Batinah, a narrow strip of land between the Hajar and the Gulf of Oman. A smaller coastal plain, backed by a high, rugged plateau, runs along the Dhofar coast in the south. There are no permanent rivers, only wadis, which are streambeds that are dry most of the year. They occur mainly around the Hajar, in the Batinah, and in Dhofar and are the sites of most cities, towns, and cultivated areas.
Extremely hot weather prevails during most of the year, winter being the only relatively pleasant season. Temperatures often reach 110° to 120° F. (43° to 49° C.) and sometimes are higher. Along the coast the heat is made even more oppressive by high humidity. Little or no rain falls in Oman except in two areas: the Hajar and southern Dhofar. The Hajar ranges, especially the Jabal al Akhdar, receive 10 inches (250 mm) or more annually, mainly during winter; southern Dhofar, which benefits from the southwest summer monsoon, receives 25 to 30 inches (630 to 760 mm).
For centuries, most Omanis lived at the subsistence level. This situation began to change in the late 1960's, when large-scale petroleum production began. The country became heavily dependent on the oil industry for its prosperity and the government is now trying to diversify the economy.
Oman's basic currency unit is the Omani rial.
Agriculture supports more than half of the people. Crops include limes, bananas, wheat, coconuts, alfalfa, vegetables, and dates. Cattle are raised in Dhofar, and goats, sheep, and camels are raised throughout Oman. Commercial fishing is being developed. Manufacturing activities include petroleum refining, copper smelting, and the making of chemicals, cement, and processed foods. Petroleum and natural gas, produced mainly in the interior, are Oman's chief mineral resources. They account for more than 90 per cent of the exports and more than 40 per cent of the gross domestic product. Other minerals produced include copper and chromite.
Highways link most of Oman's principal cities. The chief port is at Matrah. Pipelines link oil-producing regions to terminals on the coast. Seeb International Airport, near Muscat, is the chief airport.
Oman's population is predominantly Arab. Iranians, Indians, Pakistanis, and East African blacks are numerous along the northeast coast. The largest urban area include Muscat, the capital and largest city, and the nearby port of Matrah.
The official language is Arabic. English is also used. Nearly all of the people are Muslims. Primary education begins at age six and lasts six years. Secondary education also lasts six years. The principal institution of higher learning is Sultan Qaboos University (founded 1985) at Muscat. The literacy rate is less than 25 per cent.
Oman is ruled by a sultan, who is an absolute monarch. He is advised by a cabinet of ministers, who carry out the operations of the government. Two councils, the 48-member Council of State and the 83-member Consultative Council, advise the sultan. The sultan appoints governors for the various districts. The legal system is based on Islamic law and tribal custom.