Useful Notes / Oman

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Oman (Arabic: عمان‎ ʻUmān), also known as Sultanate of Oman (Arabic: سلطنة عُمان‎ Salṭanat ʻUmān) is a Middle Eastern country in the eastern end of the Arabian peninsula, bordered by Saudi Arabia in the west, the United Arab Emirates in the northwest, the Indian Ocean in the east, and Yemen in the southwest. It has a population of 4.6 million as of 2017. The country is an absolute monarchy with Qaboos ibn Said Al Said as sultan for nearly 50 years and counting. The present Al Said dynasty came into power in 1744, having deposed the previous imam and the Afsharid Persian armies he summoned to quell their ascent.

Oman's location at the eastern end of the peninsula, separated from civilization to the west by the extremely arid and inhospitable Rub' al Khali desert, made access to the land difficult until the modern era. Most Omanis had better contact with people across the sea than they did with their fellow Arabs. Other than the desert, the Al Hajar Mountains allows the coastal plain respite from the hot interior. It is in this plain that the capital Muscat was built. In the past and even today, Oman is divided into two parts: Muscat and its surroundings, and the interior desert or "Oman proper". Before unification in 1820, these states were separate in politics and culture, only united under the common goal of distancing themselves from central authority under the banner of Ibadism. There is also Dhofar in the south, which had been a part of the Muscat Sultanate since the 18th century. Unlike the other two, Dhofar's culture is greatly influenced by Yemen, it being a part of the ancient Kingdom of Hadhramaut, one of the core parts of Greater Yemen.

The majority of Omanis practice a unique denomination of Islam called Ibadism. It is different from Sunni and Shia Islam and in fact predates the two, tracing its root to the Kharijite sect that arose during the First Fitna about 20 years after Muhammad's death. Unlike Sunnism and Shiism, Ibadism's main doctrine states that a caliph need not to be from the Quraysh tribe or even an Arab; however, he is held accountable for his actions and people have a right to depose him if they feel that he isn't doing his job. What separates Ibadism with Kharijites, however, is that they reject violence as a way to settle things; on top of multiple bloody rebellions against the Caliphate, the Kharijites also freely and recklessly indulged in the practice of takfir, i.e. branding people who did not accept their viewpoint as "infidels", making them closer to modern-day Wahhabism than anything else.

Pre-Islamic Oman's society is sparsely mentioned. The Achaemenids were known to have occupied the Strait of Hormuz and the Musandam peninsula as part of the Maka satrapy. The primary Arab tribe in the area is the Azd, which the current royal family is a part of. After integration to the Caliphate in 630, the Arab tribes of Oman followed Jabir ibn Zayd, who was born in Nizwa and established the longstanding Ibadi imamate in the Al Hajar mountains. He and his successors, while not going to the extent of the Kharijites' insurrection, were nevertheless opposed to the rule of the Banu Umayyad. The caliphs subsequently limited their sphere of influence to Oman only, although they still managed to preach beyond nevertheless; Tunisia's Djerba island, where Ibadi teachings still thrive, shows the extent of their expansion.

While Oman proper was controlled by the Ibadi imamate, coastal Oman continued to be claimed by foreign powers as it had been since the time of the Achaemenids. It was not until 1154 that native control was achieved with the Nabhani dynasty, who drove the Seljuk Turks out of the Arabian peninsula. Oman was noted to be the main producer of frankincense and and other incense products during this time. The Nabhani ruled until the Portuguese invasion of Muscat in 1515. They colonized the town in one way or another, repelling numerous native, Persian, and Ottoman attacks, until the Yaruba dynasty expelled them in 1650. The Yaruba dynasty wasn't satisfied with retaking Muscat, though; they followed the Portuguese to Tanzania's Zanzibar where they shelled them until it fell in 1698. An offshoot of Oman's dynasty was established in Zanzibar, which endured until the 20th century. From then on, Oman gained the reputation as a maritime power, frequently raiding European colonies in the Indian subcontinent and Africa and participating in the highly profitable slave trade.

The Yaruba fell to civil war and Afsharid intervention in 1742. Their position was taken by Ahmad ibn Said al Busaidi, who took the more secular title of sultan rather than imam upon coronation, a position still held by his descendants. Under Sultan ibn Ahmad, Oman's overseas colonies grew to include Gwadar in present-day Pakistan, which was sold to the latter only in 1958. His successor, Said ibn Sultan, consolidated Muscat and Oman proper under one banner. However, the decline of the slave trade combined with inter-fighting and European pressure led to the slow fracture of the empire. The Persian Gulf territories were claimed by the British under the Trucial States (later renaming themselves to the United Arab Emirates upon independence), while Zanzibar broke away, although they were still required to pay tribute to Muscat. On top of that, the more cosmopolitan society of Muscat clashed starkly with the conservative imamate despite their alleged unity. In 1892, Sultan Faisal ibn Turki accepted British suzerainty and military assistance to combat the imamate, and so Muscat and Oman officially became a protectorate of the British Empire until 1971.

The discovery of oil in the early 20th century greatly changed the Omani society. However, it also confronted the sultan with the imamate, as a large part of the oilfields were located within Oman proper. The last major rebellion of the imam started in 1954, with the imamate being covertly supported by Saudi Arabia, though Oman with British help defeated and extinguished the imamate completely. Another conflict came in the 1960s with the communist rebellion of Dhofar. Although it was once again won by the sultanate, it was certain that the country, then ruled by the highly isolationist Said ibn Timur, needed change. Said was deposed by his reform-minded son, Qaboos, in a bloodless coup supported by the British.

Oman has since become a relatively modern and pro-West Arab country. While it is a member of the Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council, Oman distances itself from the rather frivolous endeavors that fellow members tend to pursue by following a policy of strict neutrality; it has largely stayed out of the way of the numerous Arab-Israeli Conflicts, The Gulf War, The War on Terror, and the 2014 GCC intervention of Yemen, in spite of bordering the country in question. The Arab Spring, while not impacting the country seriously, brought questions about the country's over-dependence on foreign expatriates (about 45%, mostly Indians and Pakistanis, currently live in the country as of 2014). The sultan has promised to remedy the chronic unemployment problem by trying to recruit native Omani personnel to do jobs that foreign workers usually do.

A quirky thing about Oman's geography is its enclaves and exclaves. The Musandam peninsula is Omani territory, but it's separated from the mainland by the Fujairah and Sharjah emirates of the UAE. The second, an enclave called Madha, is located entirely within the Fujairah emirate. And Madha itself entirely surrounds the Nahwa enclave of the UAE. It isn't a huge problem, though, since Oman and the UAE are members of the GCC, which underscores free access between the members' territories (think of the European Union's Schengen Area).

The Omani flag http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/oman_flag_9982.png
The flag's white, red and green stripes symbolize peace and prosperity, battles against foreign invasions, and the Green Mountains and fertility, respectively. At the hoist side is a red column, recalling the country's former all-red flag before 1970. At the canton is the national emblem, which is also the family badge of the House of Al Said, Oman's current royal family, showing a pair of sheathed swords over a khanjar, a local dagger.

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