When Did Oman Become a Country?

A panoramic view of Nizwa, Oman.
A panoramic view of Nizwa, Oman.

Oman is the oldest self-governing Arab state. The state used to be known as the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman, but the name was officially changed to Oman in 1970 by Sultan Qaboos bin Said. The country is located in the South-eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula and has an area of 119,500 square miles. The state is an absolute monarchy with Sultan Qaboos being the longest-serving monarch in the Middle East.

Historical Rule

The country dates back to about 100,000 years ago. In 2011 archaeologists discovered a site with stone tools that can be traced back to 106,000 years ago. Oman has been under many foreign rules due to its strategic position on trade routes. The Portuguese ruled Muscat from 1507 to 1650 and the Ottoman Empire from 1581 to 1588. The Yarubid Imamate took over Muscat in 1650, and the dynasty acquired most of the Portuguese colonies that were located in East Africa and majored in the slave trade. In 1719 Saif Bin Sultan II was nominated to take over power, but his candidacy led to a civil war between the major tribes of Ghafiri and Hinawi. The Ghafiri supported the sultan’s candidature while the Hinawi opposed it. In 1743, the Persians occupied Muscat with help from Saif who was later succeeded by Bal’arab bin Himyar. In 1749 revolution leader Ahmad bin Said al-Busaidi drove off the Persians from Muscat and later defeated Bal’arab to become the sultan of Muscat and the Imam of Oman.

Oman in the 19th Century

Al-Busaidi’s rule had its fair share of family rivalries as the other dynasties before it. Al-Busaidi expanded Oman rule by acquiring colonies along the East African coast and engaging in the slave trade. The colonies included Zanzibar Island, Zanj region which included Dares salaam and Mombasa, and Gwadar which is presently Pakistan. By the 19th century, Oman had risen to commercial power. Sultan Sa’id bin Sultan Al-Busaidi passed away in 1856, after that there was a power struggle between his two sons which led to the division of the sultanate into two in 1861. The division comprised Zanzibar along with the regions along the East African coast and Muscat and Oman. Separate entities in the past ruled Muscat and Oman. Muscat was the cosmopolitan area that was perceived as secular and was ruled by the sultan while Oman was ruled by an Imam and was referred to as Oman proper. Muscat is now the capital of Oman.

The Beginning of a New Era

The present monarch, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said took office in 1970 after a coup d'état which ousted his father from power. The sultan brought several changes to the Sultanate including the abolition of slavery, improvement of healthcare, education sector, and infrastructure. The sultan restored peace in the country and provided amnesty to rebels who surrendered, the residents who once fled the country came back. The sultan unveiled a constitution based on the Quran and the customary laws of the country in November 1996. Today Oman is ranked 70th in the global peace index, and it is one of the world’s most peaceful countries despite being in a region plagued with insecurity.


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