Oman is the only country in the world whose name starts with the letter O, but most visitors to the country are attracted for reasons other than this distinction. It is probably the most conservative of all the Middle Eastern states but is also one of the most smartly led. Comparatively low revenue from oil has been put to good use, to build up an excellent social infrastructure. Centuries ago, it was an imperial power strong enough to rival the major European ones.
Muscat’s five-star hotels encourage tourists to enjoy the country’s great beaches, but we recommend packing up your beach gear for at least a week to see some of the country’s fascinating and beautiful sights. Nature has been delicately protected and in return awards some of the nicest scenery in the Middle East. Forts, remnants of the Portuguese occupation in the 16th and 17th centuries, can be found all over Oman and add a most distinctive flavor to the country’s attractions.
Wattayah, located in the governorate of Muscat, is the oldest known human settlement in the area and dates back to the Stone Age, making it around 5,000 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.
Achaemenid (6th to 4th century B.C.), an Iranian dynasty, controlled and/or influenced the Omani peninsula. This influential control was most likely exerted from a coastal center such as Sohar. From the third century B.C. to the arrival of Islam in the seventh century A.D., Oman was controlled by two other Iranian dynasties, the Parthians, and the Sassanids. During this period Oman’s administrative name was Mazun. By about 250 B.C., the Parthian dynasty brought the Persian Gulf under their control and extended their influence as far as Oman. Because they needed to control the Persian Gulf trade route, the Parthians established garrisons in Oman.
Oman adopted Islam in the 7th century A.D., during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). 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 occupied Muscat for a 140-year period 1508–1648, arriving a decade after Vasco da Gama discovered the seaway to India. 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.
Muscat and Oman was the object of Franco-British rivalry throughout the 18th century. During the 19th century, Muscat and Oman and the United Kingdom concluded several treaties of friendship and commerce. In 1908 the British entered into an agreement of friendship. Their traditional association was confirmed in 1951 through a new treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation by which the United Kingdom recognized the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman as a fully independent state.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the sultan in Muscat faced the rebellion by members of the Ibadi sect residing in the interior of Oman, centered around the town of Nizwa, who wanted to be ruled exclusively by their religious leader, the Imam of Oman. This conflict was resolved temporarily by the Treaty of Seeb, which granted the imam autonomous rule in the interior Imamate of Oman while recognizing the nominal sovereignty of the sultan elsewhere.
The Dhofar Rebellion was launched in the province of Dhofar against the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman and Britain from 1962 to 1975. As the radical-leaning rebellion threatened to overthrow the Sultan’s rule in Dhofar and produced disorder in other parts of Oman, Sultan Said bin Taimur was deposed by his son Qaboos bin Said, who introduced major social reforms to deprive the rebellion of popular support and modernized the state’s administration. The rebellion ended with the intervention of Iranian Imperial ground forces and major offensives by the expanded Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces.
In November 1996, Sultan Qaboos presented his people with the “Basic Statutes of the State,” Oman’s first written “constitution”. In September 2000, about 100,000 Omani men and women elected 83 candidates, including two women, to seats in the Majlis Al-Shura. In December 2000, Sultan Qaboos appointed the 48-member Majlis Al Dowla, or State Council, including five women, which acts as the upper chamber in Oman’s bicameral representative body.
Al Said’s extensive modernization program has opened the country to the outside world and has preserved a long-standing political and military relationship with the United Kingdom, the United States, and others.