Sultanate of Oman

Sultan: Qabus ibn Sa'id (1970)

Total area: 82,031 sq mi (212,460 sq km)1

Population (2010 est.): 2,967,717 (growth rate: 1.9%); birth rate: 23.9/1000; infant mortality rate: 16.8/1000; life expectancy: 74.1; density per sq mi: 15

Capital (2003 est.): Muscat, 797,000 (metro. area), 54,800 (city proper)

Monetary unit: Omani rial

National name: Saltanat Uman

Current government officials

Languages: Arabic (official), English, Baluchi, Urdu, Indian dialects

Ethnicity/race: Arab, Baluchi, South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi), African

Religions: Islam: Ibadhi 75%, Sunni, Shi'a; Hindu

National Holiday: Birthday of Sultan Qaboos, November 18

Literacy rate: 81.4% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2009 est.): $69.48 billion; per capita $23,900. Real growth rate: 2.7%. Inflation: 5.3%. Unemployment: 15% (2004 est.). Arable land: 0.2%. Agriculture: dates, limes, bananas, alfalfa, vegetables; camels, cattle; fish. Labor force: 920,000 (2002 est.); agriculture n.a., industry n.a., services n.a. Industries: crude oil production and refining, natural and liquefied natural gas (LNG) production; construction, cement, copper, steel, chemicals, optic fiber. Natural resources: petroleum, copper, asbestos, some marble, limestone, chromium, gypsum, natural gas. Exports: $29.34 billion (2009 est.): petroleum, reexports, fish, metals, textiles. Imports: $18.41 billion (2009 est.): machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, livestock, lubricants. Major trading partners: China, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, UAE, UK, Italy, Germany, U.S. (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 201,000 (1997); mobile cellular: 59,822 (1997). Radio broadcast stations: AM 3, FM 9, shortwave 2 (1999). Radios: 1.4 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 13 (plus 25 low-power repeaters) (1999). Televisions: 1.6 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000). Internet users: 120,000 (2002).

Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways: total: 34,965 km; paved: 9,673 km (including 550 km of expressways); unpaved: 25,292 km (2001). Ports and harbors: Matrah, Mina' al Fahl, Mina' Raysut. Airports: 139 (2002).

International disputes: boundary agreement signed and ratified with UAE in 2003 for entire border, including Oman's Musandam Peninsula and Al Madhah enclaves.

1. Excluding the Kuria Muria Islands.

Major sources and definitions

Flag of Oman


Oman is a 1,000-mile-long (1,700 km) coastal plain at the southeast tip of the Arabian Peninsula lying on the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. The country is the size of Kansas.


Absolute monarchy.


Arabs migrated to Oman from the 9th century BC onward, and conversion to Islam occurred in the 7th century AD Muscat, the capital of the geographical area known as Oman, was occupied by the Portuguese from 1508 to 1648. Then it fell to Ottoman Turks, but in 1741, Ahmad ibn Sa'id forced them out, and the descendants of Sultan Ahmad rule Oman today.

Ahmad expanded his empire to East Africa, and for a time the Omani capital was in Zanzibar. After 1861, however, Zanzibar fell from Omani control.

The sultans and imams of Oman clashed continuously throughout the 20th century until 1959, when the last Ibadi imam was evicted from the country. In a palace coup on July 23, 1970, the sultan, Sa'id bin Taimur, who had ruled since 1932, was overthrown by his son, Qabus ibn Sa'id, who promised to establish a modern government and use newfound oil wealth to aid the people of this very isolated state. Oman joined the Arab League and the United Nations in 1971.

A long border dispute with Yemen was resolved in Oct. 1992; in 1997, the countries agreed to new maps defining the border.

In 1997, Sultan Qabus granted women the right to be elected to the country's consultative body, the Shura Council (Majlis al-Shura). In 2003, the sultan extended voting rights to everyone over 21; previously, voters were selected from among the elite, and only about a quarter of the population was allowed to vote.

Political Unrest in the Middle East Spreads to Oman

Oman, typically a peaceful country, was rocked by protests that swept through the Middle East in early 2011. In late February, protesters took to the streets of Sohar, in the northeast, and demanded higher salaries, more employment opportunities, and political reform. Police moved in and fired rubber bullets at the demonstrators, reportedly killing two people. After the violence, Sultan Qabus promised to create 50,000 jobs and offered each person seeking employment about $390 per month.

See also Encyclopedia: Oman.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Oman
Ministry of National Economy

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