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10 Things You Didn't Know About Oman

How much do you know about the country of Oman?

Oman is a country located in the southeastern region of the Arabian Peninsula and is bordered by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The country is officially known as the Sultanate of Oman and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Middle East. Here are some facts not commonly known to many people.

10. No athlete from Oman has ever won an Olympic medal.

Oman has participated in eight Summer Olympic Games with the country having its Olympic debut in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, United States. However, the Sultanate has yet to win an Olympic medal. Oman fronted the highest number of athletes during the 1984 Summer Olympic Games where 16 Omani athletes participated in the competition. The national Olympic committee in Oman is known as the Oman Olympic Committee.

9. It is the oldest independent state in the Arab world.

In its long history, Oman has been occupied by foreign powers who established protectorates or colonies in the Sultanate. The first European country to occupy and colonize Oman was Portugal which occupied the city of Muscat for 143 years between 1507 and 1650 when they were expelled by the Ottoman Empire which was later expelled by local Omani tribes. The country realized self-rule in 1741 making it the oldest independent state in the Arab World. In the 19th century, Britain unsuccessfully attempted to set up a colony in Oman. In contrast, the Sultanate established colonies along the East African coast stretching from Kenya’s northern coast to the north coast of Mozambique.

8. Oman has a very old tradition of ship-building.

Due to its prominence in marine trade over several centuries, Oman established a reputation of ship building. The city of Sur in eastern Oman was hugely popular in this regard. The city’s location made it an excellent place to monitor activities in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman. Ancient wooden ships such as the ghanjah and the sambuk were constructed in Sur and had the capability to navigate all the way to East Africa, China, and India. Many smaller vessels were also constructed in the city including dhows used in traditional domestic pearl fishing.

7. It is a very young country - almost half of its residents are under 15 years of age.

The total population of Oman is estimated to be over 4.5 million and about 2.08 million people are expatriates while over 2.46 million people are Omani citizens. The majority of the population resides in the coastal region with the Sultanate’s capital, Muscat, having over 630,000 people. The demographic composition of Oman shows that the Sultanate has a young population where 43% of the total population is under the age of 15.

6. It is home to the 25th largest collection of oil reserves in the world.

The total amount of confirmed oil reserves in Oman is estimated to be around 5.5 billion barrels, placing Oman as having the 25th largest oil reserves in the world. Oil is, therefore, the largest economic contributor in Oman accounting for 61% of all exports from the Sultanate. The average daily oil production in Oman is 930,000 barrels, a sharp increase from 714,800 barrels produced per day between 2000 and 2007. The exploration of oil, as well as the establishment of oil infrastructure, is conducted by Ministry of Oil and Gas of Oman. The oil is exported as crude oil or as numerous refined oil by-products.

5. However, it is not totally dependent on oil.

While Oman has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, the country’s economy is not entirely reliant on the natural resource. A global decline in oil prices in 1998 made the Omani government establish and implement policies necessary for the diversification of its economy. One of the most important economic drivers in Oman is tourism with the sector being the fastest growing industry. The government has set up heavily-funded marketing programs to attract foreign visitors to the country with the government placing TV advertisements on many major international media broadcasters. Another important sector of the economy is agriculture which accounts for 1% of all exports from Oman with dates, grains, and vegetables being the most popular agricultural export items.

4. Its coastline is over 3,000 km long.

The coastline of Oman stretches 3,165 kilometers from the Yemeni border from the southwest to the Strait of Hormuz in the northern edge of the country. The coastline is even with few indented areas and has numerous picturesque beaches.

3. Oman is an absolute monarchy.

Oman, like many Arab countries, has an absolute monarch government where the Sultan is the head of state and government and wields absolute judicial, executive, and legislative power. The seat of the Sultan is hereditary and is bestowed on the Crown Prince upon the demise of the seating Sultan. In his capacity as head of state, the Sultan is the sole Oman representative in international affairs and is charged with establishing and implementing the country’s foreign policy. On the other hand, as head of government, the Sultan is mandated to authorize, conduct, and supervise all internal government policies. The Sultan supervises all judicial matters with the Omani judicial system being subordinate to him. The current Sultan of Oman is Sultan Qaboos.

2. Its capital city, Muscat, is historically one of the most important ports on the Indian Ocean.

Muscat is the capital city of Oman and is also the country’s largest city with a population of 630,000 residents. The city has been crucial in the growth of Oman with the port city being among the most important ports in the region. Muscat’s dominance in the region in trade and commerce was first recorded by Greek geographer, Ptolemy in the 1st century CE. Muscat grew in influence and prosperity over many centuries and later became the seat of government of the Sultanate.

1. It's not a desert, but is instead home to lush, green, scenery.

Oman and the Middle East, in general, is synonymous with desert landscapes particularly due to the extensive Arabian Desert. While the desert landscape is true to some parts of Oman, it does not necessarily imply that the entire country is covered in desert. Northern Oman is home to the Al Hajar Mountains, which have the highest peaks in the country and create a tropic-like climate. The high altitude causes the surrounding region to receive the relatively high amount of rainfall which induces the growth of green vegetation.

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