The Sultanate of Oman – An Overview

The Sultanate of Oman is located in the south-eastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula on the Indian Ocean.

oman empty quarterOman is mostly dominated by arid desert wilderness which stretches over the north-west border as the Rub’ Al Khali or Empty Quarter.

The Al Hajar mountain range exists in the North and the subtropical Dhofar mountain range in the South. It is here in the Dhofar Mountains that Oman receives most of its rainfall. The tail end of the Indian monsoon cloaks the mountains in a dense mist which turns the mountains and valleys green for a few months each year. oman dhofar mountainsThis is known as the Khareef and a festival celebrates its arrival each year. In some areas the vegetation persists throughout the year allowing rich ecosystems to persist.

Oman boasts a unique composition of habitats and species. The sands of the Rub Al Khali are home to the Sand Fox, Sand Hare and Sand Cat, as well as a collection of highly adapted reptiles and small mammal species. Historically the desert slopes of the Dhofar mountains were home to herds of Sand Gazelle and the Asiatic Cheetah, but unfortunately these no longer persist. In the Al Hajar Mountains conservation efforts focus on the endangered Arabian Tahr, which in the past would have been joined by populations of Nubian Ibex.

oman bruce's green pigeonIn the Dhofar Mountains the critically endangered Arabian Leopard has received a lot of conservation attention. Other large mammals in these mountains include Arabian Wolf, Striped Hyena, Caracal, Fox, Honey Badger, Jackal, Wildcat and Mongoose. Several endemic species of reptile and many invertebrate species are found in this subtropical refugium, confined to the North and South by desert and ocean, respectively.

Numerous species of bats, cetaceans, birds and fish fill the seas and skies of Oman and freshwater wetlands are of particular importance to migratory avifauna.

Homo sapiens colonised Oman from Africa, via the Gulf of Aden around 100,000 years ago. Africa was experiencing severe droughts and so humans were forced to move to new lands. Subsequently, the descendents of these settlers then colonised Europe and Asia.

oman muttrah harbourOman is perhaps most famous for its history and culture surrounding the Frankincense trade. Frankincense has been traded throughout North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula for the last 5000 years. The highest quality frankincense comes from the hills around Salalah, Dhofar. The settlement of Shisr (Lost City of Ubar) in Dhofar is thought to have been a hub for frankincense trade along the recently discovered frankincense trail.

oman salalah grand mosqueIn 1970 Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said ousted his father Sa’id bin Taymur and has ruled ever since. He is highly regarded by the Omani population and rightly so. He confronted the countries problems of disease, illiteracy and poverty. He established a modern government system and launched a program to upgrade educational and health facilities. He also oversaw military action against the Dhofar insurgency and established diplomatic relations in the southern region.  In 1987 Oman opened an embassy in South Yemen. Oman has maintained good relations with other Middle Eastern countries and extensive modernisation of the country has opened its doors to the outside world. The Anglo-Omani relationship is strong, both from a military and political perspective.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said has shown great foresight in the development of Oman and his attention to natural resource preservation will continue to provide for the country as tourism becomes increasingly popular.

See more articles on Oman

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