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Oman General Information

Fact Sheet
Middle East, southeastern tip of Arabian Peninsula.

Area
309,500 sq km (119,500 sq miles).

Population
3.2 million (CIA estimate 2007).

Population Density
10.3 per sq km.

Capital
Muscat. Population: 620,000 (census 2003).

Government
Sultanate since 1744.

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said

The Sultanate of Oman occupies the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula with almost 1,700km (1,062 miles) of coastline stretching along the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Gulf. It is bordered by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the west and the Republic of Yemen to the south. The United Arab Emirates lies to the northwest of Oman and to the east lies the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman.

Language
Arabic is the official language. English is widely spoken. Swahili is also spoken by Omani descendents from East Africa. German and French are spoken by some hotel staff while Urdu, Farsi, Hindi and Tagalog are widely spoken by Oman’s large expatriate workforce.

Religion
Predominantly Muslim, including Shi’ite Muslim, Sunni Muslim and facilities for the worship of other religions.

Time
GMT + 4.

Social Conventions
Shaking hands is the usual form of greeting. A small gift, either promoting your company or country, is well received. As far as dress is concerned, it is important that women dress modestly beyond the hotel grounds, ie long skirts or dresses (below the knee) with covered shoulders; men should wear trousers and shirts with sleeves. Tight-fitting clothes should be restricted to hotel restaurants to avoid giving offence although this is not strictly followed by some Westerners. Shorts should not be worn in public and beachwear is prohibited anywhere except the beach. Collecting seashells, abalone, corals, crayfish and turtle eggs is also prohibited. Dumping litter is forbidden. It is polite not to smoke in public, but generally no-smoking signs are posted where appropriate. Homosexual behaviour is illegal.

Photography: Visitors should ask permission before attempting to photograph people or their property. ‘No Photography’ signs exist in certain places and must be observed.

Electricity
220/240 volts AC, 50Hz.

Head of State
Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id since 1970.

Recent History
The current Sultan and his partially publicly elected government have been responsible for overseeing the country’s dramatic modernisation programme. When he came to power in 1970, Sultan Qaboos inherited a country that boasted only 10km of sealed road, two American-run missionary hospitals and no secondary schools. Today, good roads link nearly every town in the country, every region has modern healthcare facilities, and all Omani citizens are given free primary and secondary education. Oman has gained an international reputation for being a peaceful, settled nation, loyal to Arab neighbours whilst maintaining close, friendly ties with Western countries, particularly the UK.

Shopping Hours:
Shopping establishments are open from 9am to 1 pm and 4pm to 9 pm. Department stores, supermarkets and shopping complexes are open throughout the day during Ramadân from 9am to 10 pm, with a short lunch break all through the week, except Fridays. These timings could vary with different shops.



A brief history of Oman
Oman’s unique story reveals examples of great moral strength, courage, heroism, maritime skills, scholarship and hard work that have together moulded the Sultanate into its present form. By drawing our attention to the noble efforts of distinguished Omanis, historians have provided us with a deeper understanding of the great wealth of human experience that is at the foundation of modern Oman.

Wall inscriptions inside a cave in DhufarAn understanding of Oman’s place at the heart of the Middle East and its relationship with neighbouring countries is central to understanding the international position of Oman today as well as its internal dynamics.

Oman occupies the far south-eastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, its geographical boundaries clearly defined by nature from earliest times.

The earliest Stone Age settlement discovered in Oman is in the Wattaya district and dates back more than 10,000 years.

Babylon and Assyria were among the first empires to control the Asian land trade from the Arabian Gulf to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. Later the Persian Empire expanded to gain influence over a vast area and control the region’s trade.

The rule of the Imams in Oman began in the eighth century C.E. Ibn Masoud was elected as the The old renowned Port of Sur in glorious daysfirst imam in 751 and his reign lasted for four centuries until 1154. The Oman of the Imams was in the Nabhan period between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries AD; attempts to revive the Imamate in Oman were renewed in the fifteenth century but these attempts failed.

Between 1498 to 1507, after Portugal had occupied the trading ports of East Africa along with Aden, the Portuguese stranglehold, which lasted for more than a century and a half, was to fail because of Oman’s spirited resistance and the election of Imam Nasir bin Murshid to the Imamate in 1624 AD.

The Portuguese possessions in India suffered tremendously from the Omani strikes. Portuguese and Omanis engaged in bloody battles for the control of East Africa, until the entire East African shore from Mombassa to Kilwa fell under Omani control. In 1698 AD the Omanis conquered Mombassa and then entered Pemba, Zanzibar and Patta, Mozambique was the only country that resisted the Omani Arab fleet, and it stayed under Portuguese control until the twentieth centuryOman history is the gateway to its Modernity.

Despite repeated attempts from 1737-1744 AD, the Persian invasions were not to achieve their objective of subduing Oman because of the valiant resistance put up by the Omanis. Oman’s heroic resistance staved off the Persian invasion in that period and their ultimate victory is owing to the leadership of Ahmed bin Said Al-Busaidi who succeeded in ousting the Persians from Oman and was elected Imam in 1744 AD,

In 1970 His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Crowning Glory of Oman, inaugurated the renaissance and modern age of Oman



Geography of Oman
Oman is a country situated in Southwest Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, and Persian Gulf, between Yemen and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Sultanate of Oman occupies the south-eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula and lies between latitudes 16° 40' and 26° 20' north, and longitudes 51° 50' and 59° 40' east.

The total area is approximately 309,500 km2 and it is the third largest country in the Arabian Peninsula.

Oman’s coastline extends 3,165 km from the Strait of Hormuz in the north, to the borders of the Republic of Yemen in the south and shares its coast with three seas: the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. It also comprises a number of islands off the coast, among them the islands of Masirah, Halanyat and Salama.

The Sultanate borders the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the west, the United Arab Emirates in the northeast, the Republic of Yemen in the southwest, the Strait of Hormuz in the north and the Arabian Sea in the east. The Musandam Peninsula forms the country's northern tip. It is the only coast the Sultanate has on the Arabian Gulf and is just over 50 km south of the Islamic Republic of Iran across the Strait of Hormuz.





Regions
The Sultanate of Oman is administratively divided into four Governorates and five Regions:
 

Governorates Regions
  • Governorate of Muscat

  • Governorate of Dhofar

  • Governorate of Musandam

  • Governorate of Al Buraimi

  • Al Batinah Region

  • Al Dakhiliyah Region

  • Al Sharqiyah Region

  • Al Dhahira Region

  • Al Wusta Region


Each Governorate/Region is formed of Wilayats (totalling 61) which are further divided into Niyabats. Additionally, each Region has one or more Regional Centres totalling 12 overall.



Culture & Heritages
Culture
If you are someone who has an understanding and appreciation of history, arts, architecture and the structure of traditional societies and government, Oman is the place for you. You can experience Oman's sense of timelessness in the ancient interior city of Nizwa, the towns along the coast, the Capital itself and the southern city of Salalah. All are steeped in history and tradition.

The mosque of Asma'a Bint Abi-BakrThe Sultanate enjoys an unspoiled culture and traditional lifestyle in almost every aspect. Even in its modernity, Oman is distinctly Arab and offers the visitor a glimpse of many unique old-world wonders.

The Omani culture has its roots firmly in the Islamic religion. Oman developed its own particular form of Islam, called Ibadhism, after its founder, Abdullah ibn Ibadh who lived during the 7th century AD. Not all Omanis are Ibadhis however; there are also Sunni and Shi'a Muslims. Omanis are not only tolerant of the beliefs of different Muslim sects, they are also tolerant towards believers of other faiths, who are allowed to practise their religion in churches and temples.

Muslims are required to pray five times each day after the call to prayer by the Imam. Beautiful, ornate mosques are found throughout the Sultanate, but they are not open to non-Muslim visitors. The holy month of Ramadhan is a time of fasting and prayer. For around 29 to 30 days each Islamic year, Muslims refrain from smoking, eating and drinking during the hours of fasting (from sunrise to sunset). Ramadhan advances 10 to 11 days each year as it is governed by the lunar calendar. Out of respect, non-Muslim residents and visitors to the Sultanate are expected to observe the same principles in public.


Heritages
The legacy that has been passed from generation to generation, the art, the culture, the folklore and the craftsmanship have to be seen.An ancient sea-faring manuscript But there is much more in the heart of Oman to explore: the sense of respect for time, for people, and for nature. Come and sample a part of Oman's rich heritage, kept alive and unchanged for generations. It may help you understand tomorrow a little better.

For its size, Oman boasts an unprecedented number of UNESCO-classified World Heritage Sites including Bat-with its tombs dating back 3,000 years, the Fort of Bahla, and the fascinating Frankincense Route which commences from Dhofar and includes Al-Blaid, site of the ancient city of Zafar, Khawr Rawri, Shisr and Wadi Dukah.

Oman's heritage features a great sea-faring tradition, as one would expect from a country with 3,165 km of coastline.

Many museums and galleries around the secluded and historic harbours of Muscat and Muttrah illuminate the importance of the sea and, indeed, of water generally, throughout Oman's 5,000 year-old history.

Dress Code for Visitors:
The dress code is fairly liberal in Muscat, although decency is still expected. Women should wear, for example, tops with sleeves, and skirts covering the knees or trousers. Men are required to wear trousers and shirts with sleeves. Swimwear should be restricted to the beach or pools.


Handicrafts
Traditional Omani handicrafts were on the brink of extinction a few years ago but they have made a dramatic comeback with the encouragement from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage to preserve these skills. Traditionally handicrafts were practiced and passed on through generations over thousands of years.

To start with, the ubiquitous palm tree has provided more than dates for the natives- its leaves are used to make 'mukhraf'(a bag for collecting dates), baskets and intricately designed shoulder bags called 'murbah'.

The 'mansul' is a traditional cloak made from black goats hair and embroidered on the outside.

Silver jewellery has always been an important part of the traditional Omani attire. Necklaces, bracelets, ear rings, anklets, ear pendants, bangles and hair decorations are typical examples of this craft as well as the famous Khanjar (curved dagger), the national symbol of Oman. Nizwa is famous for the silver souq where you can find decorative jewellery and Khanjars.

Bahla is known as the centre for pottery where you can still find potters at their wheels throwing clay pots, jugs, urns, incense burners, and decorative items which are then fired in kilns. Styles consist of simple decoration with simple glazed designs or etching on the surface.

In the desert you will find colourful camel girth straps woven by the Bedouin women of Wahiba. These colourful straps sometimes incorporate intricate geometric patterns and are woven from camel, goat and sheep wool as well as (nowadays) imported fibres.

Wood carving is also popular in the coastal areas. One of the most obvious examples of these are the elaborate wooden doors of almost any domicile. The craft also lends itself to the design of chests, shelves, and miniature reproductions of dhows.


Where to buy
Abu Quais Decoration and trading Co
Location: Qurum 16,near Madinat Qaboos
Tel: 699956
Fax: 602404
Timings: Sat - Wed: 9am to 1pm, 4pm - 7pm,Thur: 9am - 01pm
Silver bracelets, napkin rings, art exhibitions by local artists, Omani handicrafts

Ajmal International Establishment
Locations:
Muscat: Al Harthy Complex, Qurm, Al Araimi Complex, Al Zakher Shopping Mall, Al Sahu Building, GO SM Seeb

Salalah: Marhoon Building, Salam Street, and Wadi Dhofar Club

Tel: 7031047 / 788664,
Fax: 787096
Timings: Sat-Thurs: 9am - 1pm, 4.30pm -10.30m, Fri evenings only
Perfumes, natural fragrances, Oudh, attars, perfume bottles, frankincense.

Capital Commercial Centre (CCC) Souq
Location: Qurum Tel: 563672
Fax: 564938
Timings: Sat-Thurs: 9am -1.30pm, 4pm - 11pm,Fri evenings only
Handicrafts only

Government Handicrafts outlet
Location: Ruwi Business district, near Sultan Qaboos Mosque
Timings: Sat-Wed: 7.30 am - 2.30 pm
Traditional and modern Omani weaving, pottery and handicrafts

National Trading Co LLC
Location: Al InshirahStreet, Madinat Qaboos near British Council
Tel: 601066
Fax: 696676
Timings: Sat-Wed 8am - 1pm, 3.30pm - 6.30pm,Thurs 8am -1pm
Restored Arabian and Asian furniture, all styles of chests, traditional doors, tables, Omani silver jewellery, weaponry, Omani tribal weaving, and mirrors.

Majlis Gallery (Division of National Trading)
Location: Villa 57,Street 44 Athaiba / Ghala
Tel: 501057
Fax: 501058
Timings: Sat-Thurs 9am - 8pm
Arabian and Colonial antiques, Omani chests, Silver jewellery, coffee tables, frankincense candles

Omani Heritage Gallery
Location: Jawaharat Al Shati Shopping Complex, Shati Al Qurm
Tel: 696974
Fax: 696568
Timings: Sat-Thurs 9.30 is - 1pm, 4pm - 8pm
Non-profit company selling authentic Omani handicrafts, tribal weaving, basketry, pottery, silver, embroidery, camel trappings, leather, frankincense, clothing, accessories and other souvenirs.

Raj Relics
Location: Al Ghubra, Behind Bahar Soap Factory
Tel: 593131
,Fax: 593131
Timings: Sat - Thurs: 8am - 12pm, 1m - 6pm,Fri: 2pm - 6pm
Antique and reproduction furniture, artifacts, Indian and Omani chests, brass, coppertware, Omani silver, antique doors, dining and coffee tables

Sabco Souq
Location: Qurum
Tel: 563943
Fax: 563539
Timings: Sat-Thurs: 9am to 1pm, 4pm - 10pm
Handicrafts, weaving, jewellery, perfumes, frankincense. Bargaining a must for best prices

Tamimah Gallery
Location: Muscat Old Town
Tel: 737683
Fax: 564837
Residence: 564837
By appointment only. Omani antiques, chests, weaponry, silver jewellery.

Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay
Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay