Resting at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman has long been forgotten by the Western world, yet boasts of natural marine beauty and a rich history and pure culture.
The capital city of Muscat houses more than a quarter of the country’s population, 735,000 out of a mere 2.8 million. The main language spoken in Oman is Arabic, and the government is an absolute monarchy (and an Islamic state). The Sultan of Oman has ultimate authority but parliament also has some power as a legislature as well. Like most middle-eastern countries, its economy is mainly driven by oil, but agriculture, fishing, and tourism are all rapidly growing industries.
The climate of Oman is very hot and dry in the center, regularly reaching temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, but is humid by the coast of the Arabian Sea. The north is mostly covered by mountain ranges, and the center and southeast coast are largely desert. The country is bordered by Yemen to the southwest, Saudi Arabia to the northwest, and the UAE to the north. It is also bordered by the Gulf of Oman on the west.
In Oman’s early history, it was ruled by four different empires: the Persians, the Parthanids, the Achaemenids, and the Sassanids. Oman was one of the first countries to accept Islam, becoming an Ibadhi state in 630 AD. It was colonized by the Portuguese from 1507 to 1650, when they were driven out by rebels. After that Oman grew into its own empire, which in the early 19th century stretched from the Strait of Hormuz down the coast of Africa to what is now Tanzania. However, the empire lost power in the 20th century as the UK became a greater influence on the country.
The main attractions in Oman are its expansive, beautiful beaches. Many fjords filled with coral reefs line the waters of the coast, and diving to see them is a very popular activity. However, other attractions include whale watching in the North and deep sea fishing. Since Oman also has some of the oldest cities in the world, the tourism industry there is steadily growing, and desert tours around the country are offered as well.
Oman truly is a hidden gem of the Middle East. With its relative safety and high level of development, unknown yet wonderful natural beauty, and intriguing history, Oman is a very interesting country and a place that none of us should miss.