In 1970, HIS MAJESTY SULTAN QABOOS BIN SAID AL SAID ousted his father and has ruled as sultan ever since. His extensive modernization program has opened the country to the outside world and has preserved a long-standing political and military relationship with the UK. Oman's moderate, independent foreign policy has sought to maintain good relations with all Middle Eastern countries.
History of Oman
Little is known about Oman's pre-Islamic past but it is clear from recent archeological discoveries and research that early civilizations existed at least 5000 years ago.
Sumerian tablets refer to a country named "Magan" as a source of copper. It seems certain that they referred to Oman.Evidence from excavations near Sohar shows that the copper mining and smelting industry was well developed by the year 2000BC.
Frankincense from Dhofar, which was so important in the social religious life of ancient peoples also provides evidence of the existence of an early trading community. It is also clear that there were farming and fishing settlements from the earliest times.
The ancestors of present day Omanis are believed to have arrived in two waves of migration over a number of years, the first from Yemen and the second from northern Arabia at a time when various parts of the country were occupied by the Persians.
The call of the Prophet Mohammed to the Omanis to become Muslims altered the course of their history. It was in about 630 AD that Amr Ibn al-As arrived in Oman bearing a letter from the Prophet to Abd and Jaifar, the two sons of al-Julanda, who ruled Oman jointly. Having embraced Islam, they were instrumental in defeating the Persians.
The early Imamate in Oman arose out of a vision to create the true and ideal Muslim state. The first Ibadhi Imam, Julanda bin Mas'ud, was elected in 751 AD but he died in battle and it was not until 801 AD after a period of turmoil that Warith bin Kaab was elected. There then followed a period of peace, stability and prosperity lasting more than three hundred years.
Maritime trade flourished and Sohar became the greatest sea port in the Islamic world. As they traveled and traded, the Omanis spread the message of Islam, as well as Arab culture and language, reaching as far east as China.
Portuguese Occupation: In the early 16th century after the Portuguese under Vasco de Gama had discovered the sea route round the Cape of Good Hope to India, they occupied Muscat for a century and a half in order to dominate the trade which had until then been an Arab Monopoly. The Portuguese were expelled from Muscat in 1650 by Sultan bin Saif al-Yarubi.
The Ya'aruba Dynasty: Since the expulsion of the Portuguese no other foreign power has ever occupied Oman, apart from a brief period when the Persians made a partial occupation. The Ya'aruba Imams introduced a period of renaissance in Omani fortunes both at home and abroad, uniting the country and bringing prosperity. It was under the Ya'aruba dynasty that many of the imposing castles and beautiful buildings that have been restored recently, such as the fort at Nizwa and the Palace at Jabrin, were built.
Civil War: Unfortunately, on the death in 118 of the Imam, Sultan bin Saif II, civil war broke out over the election of his successor. Persian troops occupied Muttrah and Muscat but failed to take Sohar which was defended by Ahmad bin Said, who continued to fight the Persians and drive them from Oman after the civil war had ended.
The Al bu Said Dynasty In 1744 Ahmad bin Said, who was a man of outstanding personality and courage, was elected Imam. He faced a number of difficulties in reconciling the rival factions after the civil war, but he managed to build up the Omani navy into a power to be reckoned with, personally leading expeditions against pirates and driving the Persians out of Basra. When he died in 1783, his son Said was elected Imam but he was not popular, being replaced by his son Hamad, who had been de facto ruler in Muscat while his father remained in Rostaq. Hamad died suddenly in 1792 and his uncle, Sayyid Sultan bin Ahmed, assumed power until his death in 1804. He had exercised such tight control over Oman and trade in the Gulf that European powers dealt with him as the effective ruler of the country. Sayyid Sultan was succeeded by his son, Sayyid Said bin Sultan, who consolidated his father's achievements at home and abroad during his reign from 1804-1856. It was in this period that Oman reached its zenith as a regional power with possessions on both sides of the Gulf and in East Africa. Sayyid Said concentrated on developing his country's economy and commerce. He made Zanzibar his second capital and concluded agreements with the European powers, as well as sending a special envoy to the United States, making Oman the first Arab state to establish diplomatic relations with that country. Thereafter, however, there followed a period of decline and, at the time of the First World War, Oman's share of international commercial activities was very limited. Indeed, Oman remained largely isolated from the rest of the world until, in 1970, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos came to power. His Majesty's reign was the beginning of a bright new era that renewed Oman's historic glories and opened a new chapter of development, prosperity and social and economic progress.
The mountains of Jibal Dhofar, which rise to 1,000m, encircle the Salalah plain and stretch westwards into Yemen. Sailors have made landfall on this coast for thousands of years en route from Africa, the Red Sea, India and beyond.
The rugged terrain made communications very difficult and the population remains dominated by isolated communities of tribesmen. Following the resolution of the Dhofar rebellion in the early 1970s, a black-top road was built to the Yemen border. It is a highly impressive feat of civil engineering with switchbacks descending to a wadi bottom and up the other side of the valley a few kilometres west of Mughsail.
A branch of the Royal Family of Oman ruled Zanzibar, an island off the coast of East Africa, until 1964. The peoples have freely intermingled and African influences are particularly apparent in Dhofar, Oman's southern region, of which Salalah is the chief town.
The ruins of a port, Samhuram, known to have been in its hey day over 2,000 years ago lie on a promontory between two khawrs, or sea creeks, some 30 km east of Salalah. Locally and popularly known as the Queen of Sheba's Palace, Samhuram was important for the trade in frankincense.
Frankincense is a resin hardened from the sap of the frankincense tree, a very unprepossessing plant which grows only in southern Oman, parts of Somalia and India. Omani frankincense has the best quality and value.
Travelling westwards from Salalah, stunted trees are spotted easily by the roadside usually growing in wadis, but these are not usually reckoned as yielding good quality resin. Two main crops are taken each year.
Frankincense was used very widely in the ancient world and was prized as highly as gold. Thus the rulers of Dhofar were accounted very wealthy men.
This Phonecian inscription at Samhuram testifies to a cultured way of life.
Omanis still use frankincense widely, burning it on glowing charcoal to fumigate rooms and clothing, and blending it in local perfumes. Burning incense is auspicious. It is used to greet and say farewell to guests and at weddings and feasts. Go to Salalah souq to sample the different varieties. You can also buy frankincense and myrrh online from AdventureArabia and ArtGabir.
Incense being burnt in a traditional Dhofari incense burner as a sign of reverence at the tomb of Prophet Ayoub, which overlooks the Salalah plain.
Another old mosque just outside Taqah at the eastern end of the Salalah Plain has two distinctive onion-shaped domes.
Rosie, George and I are standing at the edge of a graveyard. Omani graves are marked by shattered fragments of rock, some of which may bear inscriptions.
The coastal fringe of Dhofar and Salalah is touched by the winds of the southwest monsoon between June and September. The surface winds encourage an upwelling of colder waters in the Indian Ocean which cool the over-lying moisture-laden air.
As this air is lifted over the Jibal Dhofar, the moisture condenses as thick fogs over the hills which support an annual resurgence of many herbs, grasses and trees in this summer season. Many of these plants have been used throughout history for their medicinal properties.
Salalah depends for its water supply on annual replenishment by the Khareef fogs. Groundwater travels fairly rapidly through the fractured limestone and either recharges the alluvial gravels under the plain or emerges in springs in the foothills, such as this one at Ayn Homran.
The people of the region have traditionally been nomadic pastoralists. Flocks of goats and sheep still roam the plain searching for forage. Cattle are kept at higher levels.
Camels are very common in Dhofar, regularly following the road to get to where they want. Amazing as it may seem, each camel has an owner even though they may wander over long distances.
The fog cools temperatures considerably, such that Salalah is a popular destination for Gulf visitors in the summer as a respite from the relentless heat. The phenomenon of this rain-bearing fog is known locally as the Khareef.
No vegetation grows in this wadi on the Salalah Plain, but the moisture-bearing winds of the Khareef green the hills in the distance.
The Whale's Mouth near Mughsail, west of Salalah. This view towards the sea looks down on the same wadi bed shown in the neighbouring picture.
A raging monsoon sea. Looking towards the Whale's Mouth from the shore at Mughsail.
Many of the visitors camp out on the plain north of Salalah, cooking on improvised barbecues. The municipality has been organizing a Khareef festival since 1952 to encourage this tourism.
The Marbat dance troupe performed many traditional dances at the finale of the Khareef festival in 1998.
This picture was taken by a staff photographer of the Oman Observer and was published in 1998.
1- Introduction 2
2- History of Oman 3
3- Civil War 5
4- The Omani people 7
5- Geography of oman 9
6- INDEX 12
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