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The oldest independent state in the Arab world, Oman is one of the more traditional countries in the Gulf region and was, until the 1970s, one of the most isolated.

It is strategically placed at the mouth of the Gulf at south-east corner of the Arabian Peninsula and, in the 19th century, vied with Portugal and Britain for influence in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.

Oman is cautiously developing tourism, which was discouraged by previous rulers. The visa is valid for one month after entry. Most large hotels have clubs that offer various recreational activities; water sports are popular, but spear fishing has been prohibited as a conservation measure.

In 2003, about 630,000 foreign visitors arrived in Oman, of whom 26% came from Europe. There were 6,473 hotel rooms with 9,809 beds and an occupancy rate of 39%. Tourism expenditure receipts totaled $372 million that year. All travelers must have a valid passport and a visa. Visas are issued upon arrival at all entry points and can be used at anytime within six months of the issue date.


Oman’s great Islamic religious leader, whose followers are called Ibadhis, was ‘Abdallah bin Ibad (fl.8th century); many of his teachings are still followed in Oman. Ahmad ibn Sa’id (r.1741–83), founder of the present dynasty, freed Muscat from Persian rule. Sultan Qabus bin Sa’id (b.1940) has ruled Oman since his removal of Sa’id bin Taymur (1910–72), his father, in 1970.


Physically, Oman, except for the Dhofar (Zufar) region, consists of three divisions: a coastal plain, a mountain range, and a plateau. The coastal plain varies in width from 16 km (10 mi) to practically nothing near Muscat, where the hills descend abruptly to the sea. The highest point, Jabal Shams, is at 2,980 meters (9,777 ft) in the Al Jabal range of the north. The plateau has an average height of about 300 m (1,000 ft) and is mostly stony and waterless, extending to the sands of the Ar-Rub’ al-Khali. The coastline southward to Dhofar is barren and forbidding. From Salalah, a semicircular fertile plain extends to the foot of a steep line of hills, some 1,500 m (4,920 ft) high, and forms the edge of a stony plateau also extending to the sands of the Empty Quarter.

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