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Oman

Oman

definition : Oman

Oman ( ; ' ), officially the Sultanate of Oman''' ( ), is an Arab country on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Holding a strategically important position at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the country shares land borders with the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest, and shares marine borders with Iran and Pakistan. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the southeast and the Gulf of Oman on the northeast. The Madha and Musandam exclaves are surrounded by the UAE on their land borders, with the Strait of Hormuz (which it shares with Iran) and Gulf of Oman forming Musandam's coastal boundaries.

From the late 17th century, the Omani Sultanate was a powerful empire, vying with Portugal and Britain for influence in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. At its peak in the 19th century, Omani influence or control extended across the Strait of Hormuz to modern-day Iran and Pakistan, and as far south as Zanzibar (today part of Tanzania, also former capital). As its power declined in the 20th century, the sultanate came under the influence of the United Kingdom. Historically, Muscat was the principal trading port of the Persian Gulf region. Muscat was also among the most important trading ports of the Indian Ocean. Oman's official religion is Islam.

Oman is an absolute monarchy. and fourth-longest current reigning monarch in the world.

Oman has modest oil reserves, ranking 25th globally. Nevertheless, in 2010 the UNDP ranked Oman as the most improved nation in the world in terms of development during the preceding 40 years. A significant portion of its economy involves tourism and trade of fish, dates, and certain agricultural produce. This sets it apart from its neighbors' largely oil-dependent economies. Oman is categorized as a high-income economy and ranks as the 74th most peaceful country in the world according to the Global Peace Index.

== History ==

===Ancient history===

At Aybut Al Auwal, in the Dhofar Governorate of Oman, a site was discovered in 2011 containing more than 100 surface scatters of stone tools, belonging to a regionally specific African lithic industry –the late Nubian Complex– known previously only from the northeast and Horn of Africa. Two optically stimulated luminescence age estimates place the Arabian Nubian Complex at 106,000 years old. This supports the proposition that early human populations moved from Africa into Arabia during the Late Pleistocene.

Dereaze, located in the city of Ibri, is the oldest known human settlement in the area, dating back as many as 8,000 years to the Late Stone Age. Archaeological remains have been discovered here from the Stone Age and the Bronze Age. Findings have included stone implements, animal bones, shells and fire hearths, with the latter dating back to 7615 BC as the oldest signs of human settlement in the area. Other discoveries include hand-molded pottery bearing distinguishing pre-Bronze Age marks, heavy flint implements, pointed tools and scrapers.

Sumerian tablets refer to a country called Magan or Makan, a name believed to refer to Oman's ancient copper mines. Mazoon, another name used for the region, is derived from the word muzn, which means heavy clouds which carry abundant water. The present-day name of the country, Oman, is believed to originate from the Arab tribes who migrated to its territory from the Uman region of Yemen. Many such tribes settled in Oman, making a living by fishing, herding or stock breeding, and many present day Omani families are able to trace their ancestral roots to other parts of Arabia.

From the 6th century BC to the arrival of Islam in the 7th century AD, Oman was controlled and/or influenced by three Persian dynasties: the Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanids. A few scholars believe that in the 6th century BC, the Achaemenids exerted a strong degree of control over the Omani peninsula, most likely ruling from a coastal center such as Sohar. Central Oman has its own indigenous so-called Late Iron Age cultural assemblage, the Samad al-Shan.

By about 250 BC, the Parthian dynasty had brought the Persian Gulf under their control. They extended their influence as far as Oman, establishing garrisons there to exert control over the trade routes in the Persian Gulf. In the 3rd century AD, the Sassanids succeeded the Parthians and held the area until the rise of Islam, four centuries later. The conversion of the Omanis is usually ascribed to Amr ibn al-As, who was sent by the prophet Muhammad during the Expedition of Zaid ibn Haritha (Hisma).

===Portuguese colonization===

A decade after Vasco da Gama's successful voyage around the Cape of Good Hope and to India in 1497–98, the Portuguese arrived in Oman and occupied Muscat for a 143-year period, from 1507 to 1650. Their fortress still remains. In need of an outpost to protect their sea lanes, the Portuguese built up and fortified the city, where remnants of their colonial architectural style still exist. An Ottoman fleet captured Muscat in 1552, during the fight for control of the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

The Ottoman Turks captured Muscat from the Portuguese again between 1581–88. Rebellious tribes eventually drove out the Portuguese, but were themselves pushed out about a century later, in 1741, by the leader of an Omani tribe, who began the current line of ruling sultans. Except for a brief Persian invasion in the late 1740s, Oman has been self-governing ever since.

===18th and 19th centuries===

In the 1690s, Saif bin Sultan, the Imam of Oman, pressed down the Swahili Coast. A major obstacle to his progress was Fort Jesus, housing the garrison of a Portuguese settlement at Mombasa. After a two-year siege, the fort fell to bin Sultan in 1698. Thereafter the Omanis easily ejected the Portuguese from Zanzibar and from all other coastal regions north of Mozambique, with the help of the Somali. The Persians invaded Oman in 1737. They were driven out in 1749 when the Al Said dynasty came to power. It continues to rule Oman to this day.

Zanzibar was a valuable property as the main slave market of the Swahili Coast, and became an increasingly important part of the Omani empire, a fact reflected by the decision of the 19th century Imam of Muscat, Sa'id ibn Sultan, to make it his main place of residence in 1837. Sa'id built impressive palaces and gardens in Zanzibar. Rivalry between his two sons was resolved, with the help of forceful British diplomacy, when one of them, Majid, succeeded to Zanzibar and to the many regions claimed by the family on the Swahili Coast. The other son, Thuwaini, inherited Muscat and Oman. Zanzibar influences in the Comoros archipelago in the Indian Ocean indirectly introduced Omani customs to the Comorian culture. These influences include clothing traditions and wedding ceremonies.

In 1783, Oman's Seyyid Sultan, defeated ruler of Muscat, was granted sovereignty over Gwadar. This coastal city is located in the Makran region of what is now the far southwestern corner of Pakistan, near the present-day border of Iran, at the mouth of the Gulf of Oman. After regaining control of Muscat, this sovereignty was continued via an appointed wali ("governor").

The Al Hajar Mountains, of which the Jebel Akhdar is a part, separate the country into two distinct regions: the interior, known as Oman, and the coastal area dominated by the capital, Muscat. In 1913, control of the country split. The interior was ruled by Ibadite imams and the coastal areas by the sultan. Under the terms of the British-brokered Treaty of Seeb of 1920, the sultan recognised the autonomy of the interior. The Sultan of Muscat would be responsible for the external affairs of Oman.

===Reign of Sultan Said (1932–1970) ===

The rule of Sultan Said bin Taimur was characterised by a feudal and isolationist approach. Imam Ghalib Al Hinai was the elected Imam of the Imamate of Oman in May 1954. Relations between the Sultan of Muscat, Said bin Taimur, and Imam Ghalib Al Hinai were ruptured over a dispute concerning the right to grant oil concessions. A subsidiary of the Iraq Petroleum Company was intensely interested in some promising geological formations near Fahud. Under the terms of the 1920 treaty of Seeb, the Sultan claimed all dealings with the oil company as his prerogative. The Imam, on the other hand, claimed that since the oil was in his territory, anything dealing with it was an internal matter. Talib's forces retreated to the inaccessible Jebel Akhdar. In 1955, the exclave coastal Makran strip acceded to Pakistan and was made a district of its Balochistan province, while Gwadar was not included in Makran then. On 8 September 1958, Pakistan purchased the Gwadar enclave from Oman for US$3 million. Gwadar then became a tehsil in the Makran district.

Oil reserves were discovered in 1964 and extraction began in 1967. In the Dhofar Rebellion, which began in 1965, leftist forces were pitted against government troops. As the rebellion threatened to overthrow the Sultan's rule in Dhofar, Sultan Said bin Taimur was deposed in a bloodless coup (1970) by his son Qaboos bin Said, who expanded the Sultan of Oman's Armed Forces, modernised the state's administration and introduced social reforms. The uprising was finally put down in 1975 with the help of forces from Iran, Jordan, Pakistan and the British Royal Air Force, army and Special Air Service.

===Reign of Sultan Qaboos (from 1970)=== After deposing his father in 1970, Sultan Qaboos opened up the country, embarked on economic reforms, and followed a policy of modernisation marked by increased spending on health, education and welfare. Slavery was outlawed in 1970 as well. Despite these changes, there was little change to the actual political makeup of the government. The Sultan continued to rule by decree. Nearly 100 suspected Islamists were arrested in 2005 and 31 people were convicted of trying to overthrow the government. They were ultimately pardoned in June of the same year.

== Geography ==

Oman lies between latitudes 16° and 28° N, and longitudes 52° and 60° E. A vast gravel desert plain covers most of central Oman, with mountain ranges along the north (Al Hajar Mountains) and southeast coast (Qara or Dhofar Mountains), where the country's main cities are also located: the capital city Muscat, Sohar and Sur in the north, and Salalah in the south. Oman's climate is hot and dry in the interior and humid along the coast. During past epochs, Oman was covered by ocean, witnessed by the large numbers of fossilized shells existing in areas of the desert away from the modern coastline.

The peninsula of Musandam (Musandem) exclave, which has a strategic location on the Strait of Hormuz, is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. The series of small towns known collectively as Dibba are the gateway to the Musandam peninsula on land and the fishing villages of Musandam by sea, with boats available for hire at Khasab for trips into the Musandam peninsula by sea. Oman's other exclave, inside UAE territory, known as Madha, located halfway between the Musandam Peninsula and the main body of Oman, The central desert of Oman is an important source of meteorites for scientific analysis.

===Climate===

Like the rest of the Persian Gulf, Oman generally has one of the hottest climates in the world — with summer temperatures in Muscat and northern Oman averaging to . Oman receives little rainfall, with annual rainfall in Muscat averaging , falling mostly in January. In the south, the Dhofar Mountains area near Salalah has a tropical-like climate and receives seasonal rainfall from late June to late September as a result of monsoon winds from the Indian Ocean, leaving the summer air saturated with cool moisture and heavy fog. Summer temperatures in Salalah range from to — relatively cool compared to northern Oman.

The mountain areas receive more rainfall, and annual rainfall on the higher parts of the Jabal Akhdar probably exceeds . Low temperatures in the mountainous areas result in snow cover once every few years. Some parts of the coast, particularly near the island of Masirah, sometimes receive no rain at all within the course of a year. The climate generally is very hot, with temperatures reaching around (peak) in the hot season, from May to September.

===Flora and fauna===

Desert shrub and desert grass, common to southern Arabia, are found in Oman, but vegetation is sparse in the interior plateau, which is largely gravel desert. The greater monsoon rainfall in Dhofar and the mountains makes the growth there more luxuriant during summer; coconut palms grow plentifully in the coastal plains of Dhofar and frankincense is produced in the hills, with abundant oleander and varieties of acacia. The Al Hajar Mountains are a distinct ecoregion, the highest points in eastern Arabia with wildlife including the Arabian tahr.

Indigenous mammals include the leopard, hyena, fox, wolf, hare, oryx, and ibex. Birds include the vulture, eagle, stork, bustard, Arabian partridge, bee eater, falcon, and sunbird. In 2001, Oman had nine endangered species of mammals, five endangered types of birds, and nineteen threatened plant species. Decrees have been passed to protect endangered species, including the Arabian leopard, Arabian oryx, mountain gazelle, goitered gazelle, Arabian tahr, green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, and olive ridley turtle. However, the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary is the first site ever to be deleted from UNESCO's World Heritage List, due to the government's decision to reduce the site to 10% of its former size so that the remainder could be opened to oil prospectors.

In recent years, Oman has become one of newer hot spots for whale watching, highlighting the critically endangered Arabian humpback whale, the most isolated and only non-migratory population in the world, sperm whales, and pygmy blue whales.

===Environmental issues=== Drought and limited rainfall contribute to shortages in the nation's water supply. Maintaining an adequate supply of water for agricultural and domestic use is one of Oman's most pressing environmental problems, with limited renewable water resources. 94% of available water is used in farming and 2% for industrial activity, with the majority sourced from fossil water in the desert areas and spring water in hills and mountains.

Drinking water is available throughout Oman, either piped or delivered. The soil in coastal plains, such as Salalah, have shown increased levels of salinity, due to over exploitation of ground water and encroachment by seawater on the water table. Pollution of beaches and other coastal areas by oil tanker traffic through the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman is also a persistent concern.

Local and national entities have noted unethical treatment of animals in Oman. In particular, stray dogs (and to a lesser extent, stray cats) are often the victims of torture, abuse or neglect. Currently, the only approved method of decreasing the stray dog population is shooting by police officers. Because of Islamic misgivings towards dogs, dogs are often stoned or beaten to death by neighborhood teens or adults. The Oman government has refused to implement a spay and neuter program or create any animal shelters in the country. Cats, while seen as more acceptable than dogs, are viewed as pests and frequently die of starvation or illness.

== Politics ==

Oman is an absolute monarchy in which all legislative, executive, and judiciary power ultimately rests in the hands of the hereditary Sultan. Freedom House has routinely rated the country "Not Free".

Sultan Qaboos is the head of state and also directly controls the foreign affairs and defence portfolios. The sultan has absolute power and issues laws by decree. Sultan Qaboos is the longest-serving ruler in the Middle East.

===Legal system=== Oman is an absolute monarchy ruled by Sultan Qaboos. The judiciary branch is subordinate to the Sultan. According to Oman's constitution, Sharia law is one of the sources of legislation. Sharia court departments within the civil court system are responsible for family-law matters, such as divorce and inheritance.

Oman has no system of checks and balances, and thus no separation of powers. All power is concentrated in the Sultan, The Basic Statute of the State is supposedly the cornerstone of the Omani legal system and it operates as a constitution for the country. The Basic Statute was issued in 1996 and thus far has only been amended once, in 2011, in response to protests.

Though Oman’s legal code theoretically protects civil liberties and personal freedoms, both are regularly ignored by the regime. The 84 members of the Consultative Council are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms, but the Sultan makes the final selections and can negotiate the election results. The last elections were held on October 2011. Oman's national anthem, As-Salam as-Sultani is dedicated to Sultan Qaboos.

===Human rights===

Oman is an absolute monarchy by male primogeniture. The present Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said is the hereditary leader of the country since 1970.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Oman. The practice of torture is widespread in Oman state penal institutions and has become the state's typical reaction to independent political expression. Torture methods in use in Oman include mock execution, beating, hooding, solitary confinement, subjection to extremes of temperature and to constant noise, abuse and humiliation. Censorship and self-censorship are a constant factor. Access to news and information can be problematic: journalists have to be content with news compiled by the official news agency on some issues. The Ministry of Interior requires Omani citizens to obtain permission to marry foreigners (except nationals of GCC countries); permission is not automatically granted. His whereabouts and condition remain unknown. Omani authorities refuse to acknowledge his detention. The actor has been subjected to a forced disappearance, his whereabouts and condition remain unknown. In 2011, the Philippines government determined that out of all the countries in the Middle East, only Oman and Israel qualify as safe for Filipino migrants. In 2012, it was reported that every 6 days, an Indian migrant in Oman commits suicide. There has been a campaign urging authorities to check the migrant suicide rate. In the 2014 Global Slavery Index, Oman is ranked #45 due to 26,000 people in slavery. The descendants of servant tribes and slaves are victims of widespread discrimination. WikiLeaks disclosed US diplomatic cables which state that Oman helped free British sailors captured by Iran's navy in 2007. The same cables also portray the Omani government as wishing to maintain cordial relations with Iran, and as having consistently resisted US diplomatic pressure to adopt a sterner stance.

=== Military ===

Oman's military manpower totalled 44,100 in 2006, including 25,000 men in the army, 4,200 sailors in the navy, and an air force with 4,100 personnel. The Royal Household maintained 5,000 Guards, 1,000 in Special Forces, 150 sailors in the Royal Yacht fleet, and 250 pilots and ground personnel in the Royal Flight squadrons. Oman also maintains a modestly sized paramilitary force of 4,400 men.

The Royal Army of Oman had 25,000 active personnel in 2006, plus a small contingent of Royal Household troops. Despite a comparative large military spending, it has been relatively slow to modernize its forces. Oman has a relatively limited number of tanks, including 6 M60A1, 73 M60A3, and 38 Challenger 2 main battle tanks, as well as 37 aging Scorpion light tanks. In 2010 Oman spent US$4.074 billion on military expenditures, 8.5% of the gross domestic product. The sultanate has a long history of association with the British military and defence industry. According to SIPRI, Oman was the 23rd largest arms importer from 2012-2016.

===Administrative divisions===

The Sultanate is administratively divided into eleven governorates. Governorates are, in turn, divided into 60 wilayats. * Ad Dakhiliyah * Ad Dhahirah * Al Batinah North * Al Batinah South * Al Buraimi * Al Wusta * Ash Sharqiyah North * Ash Sharqiyah South * Dhofar * Muscat * Musandam

== Economy ==

Oman's Basic Statute of the State expresses in Article 11 that the "national economy is based on justice and the principles of a free economy."

A free-trade agreement with the United States took effect 1 January 2009, eliminated tariff barriers on all consumer and industrial products, and also provided strong protections for foreign businesses investing in Oman. Tourism, another source of Oman's revenue, is on the rise.

Oman's foreign workers send an estimated US$30 billion annually to their home states in Asia and Africa, more than half of them earning a monthly wage of less than US$400. The largest foreign community is from the south Indian states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and from Maharashtra, Gujarat and the Punjab, representing more than half of entire workforce in Oman. Salaries for overseas workers are known to be less than for Omani nationals, though still from two to five times higher than for the equivalent job in India. The Ministry of Oil and Gas is responsible for all oil and gas infrastructure and projects in Oman. Following the 1970s energy crisis, Oman doubled their oil output between 1979 and 1985.

Between 2000 and 2007, production fell by more than 26%, from 972,000 to 714,800 barrels per day. Production has recovered to 816,000 barrels in 2009, and 930,000 barrels per day in 2012. The World Travel & Tourism Council stated that Oman is the fastest growing tourism destination in the Middle East.

Oman has one of the most diverse environments in the Middle East with various tourist attractions and is particularly well known for cultural tourism. The capital of Oman was named the second best city to visit in the world in 2012 by the travel guide publisher Lonely Planet. Muscat also was chosen as the Capital of Arab Tourism of 2012.

== Demographics ==

, Oman's population is over 4 million, with 2.23 million Omani nationals and 1.76 million expatriates. The total fertility rate in 2011 was estimated at 3.70. Oman has a very young population, with 43 percent of its inhabitants under the age of 15. Nearly 50 percent of the population lives in Muscat and the Batinah coastal plain northwest of the capital. Omani people are predominantly Arab, Baluchi, South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi), and African ethnic groups. and encompasses three major identities: Consequently, the third identity is generally seen to be more open and tolerant towards others,

===Languages===

Arabic is the official language of Oman. It belongs to the Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic family. Baluchi (Southern Baluchi) is widely spoken in Oman. Endangered indigenous languages in Oman include Kumzari, Bathari, Harsusi, Hobyot, Jibbali and Mehri. Omani Sign Language is the language of the deaf community. Oman was also the first Arab country in the Persian Gulf to have German taught as a second language.

According to the CIA, besides Arabic, English, Baluchi (Southern Baluchi), Urdu, and various Indian languages are the main languages spoken in Oman. A significant number of residents also speak Urdu, due to the influx of Pakistani migrants during the late 1980s and 1990s. Additionally, Swahili is widely spoken in the country due to the historical relations between Oman and Zanzibar. The relatively recent and artificial nature of the state in Oman makes it difficult to describe a national culture;

In March 2016 archaeologists working off Al Hallaniyah Island identified a shipwreck believed to be that of the Esmeralda from Vasco da Gama's 1502–1503 fleet. The wreck was initially discovered in 1998. Later underwater excavations took place between 2013 and 2015 through a partnership between the Oman Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Bluewater Recoveries Ltd., a shipwreck recovery company. The vessel was identified through such artifacts as a "Portuguese coin minted for trade with India (one of only two coins of this type known to exist) and stone cannonballs engraved with what appear to be the initials of Vincente Sodré, da Gama's maternal uncle and the commander of the Esmeralda."

===Dress===

The male national dress in Oman consists of the dishdasha, a simple, ankle-length, collarless gown with long sleeves. Underneath the dishdasha, men wear a plain, wide strip of cloth wrapped around the body from the waist down. The most noted regional differences in dishdasha designs are the style with which they are embroidered, which varies according to age group.

Omani women wear eye-catching national costumes, with distinctive regional variations. All costumes incorporate vivid colours and vibrant embroidery and decorations. In the past, the choice of colours reflected a tribe's tradition. The Omani women's traditional costume comprises several garments: the kandoorah, which is a long tunic whose sleeves or radoon are adorned with hand-stitched embroidery of various designs. The dishdasha is worn over a pair of loose fitting trousers, tight at the ankles, known as a sirwal. Women also wear a head shawl most commonly referred to as the lihaf. Women wear hijab, and though some women cover their faces and hands, most do not. The Sultan has forbidden the covering of faces in public office. In 1985, Sultan Qaboos founded the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra, an act attributed to his love for classical music. Instead of engaging foreign musicians, he decided to establish an orchestra made up of Omanis. On 1 July 1987 at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel's Oman Auditorium the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra gave its inaugural concert.

The cinema of Oman is very small, there being only one Omani film Al-Boom (2006) .Oman Arab Cinema Company LLC is the single largest motion picture exhibitor chain in Oman. It belongs to the Jawad Sultan Group of Companies, which has a history spanning more than 40 years in the Sultanate of Oman. In popular music, a seven-minute music video about Oman went viral, achieving 500,000 view on YouTube within 10 days of being released on YouTube in November 2015. The a cappella production features three of the region's most popular talents: Kahliji musician Al Wasmi, Omani poet Mazin Al-Haddabi and actress Buthaina Al Raisi.

===Media=== Sultanate of Oman Television began broadcasting for the first time from Muscat on 17 November 1974 and separately from Salalah on 25 November 1975. On 1 June 1979, the two stations at Muscat and Salalah linked by satellite to form a unified broadcasting service. In order to overcome the natural obstacles created by the mountainous terrain, a network of stations spread across the country in both populated and remote areas transmit Oman TV's broadcasts.

Oman has fewer restrictions on independent media than its neighbors Saudi Arabia or Yemen. The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders ranked the country 125th out of 180 countries on its [https://rsf.org/en/ranking 2016 World Press Freedom Index], one spot below Zimbabwe. However, in 2016, the government drew international criticism for closing the newspaper Azamn and arresting three journalists after a report about corruption in the country's judiciary.

===Food===

Omani cuisine is diverse and has been influenced by many cultures. Omanis usually eat their main daily meal at midday, while the evening meal is lighter. During Ramadan, dinner is served after the Taraweeh prayers, sometimes as late as 11 pm. However these dinner timings differ according to each family – for instance, some families would choose to eat right after maghrib prayers and have dessert after taraweeh.

Arsia, a festival meal served during celebrations, consists of mashed rice and meat (sometimes chicken). Another popular festival meal, shuwa, consists of meat cooked very slowly (sometimes for up to 2 days) in an underground clay-oven. The meat becomes extremely tender and it is infused with spices and herbs before cooking to give it a very distinct taste. Fish is often used in main dishes too, and the kingfish is a popular ingredient. Mashuai is a meal consisting of a whole spit-roasted kingfish served with lemon rice.

Rukhal bread is a thin, round bread originally baked over a fire made from palm leaves. It is eaten at any meal, typically served with Omani honey for breakfast or crumbled over curry for dinner. Chicken, fish, and lamb or mutton are regularly used in dishes. The Omani halwa is a very popular sweet, basically consisting of cooked raw sugar with nuts. There are many different flavors, the most popular ones being the black halwa (original) and the saffron halwa. Halwa is considered as a symbol of Omani hospitality, and is traditionally served with coffee. As is the case with most Arab States of the Persian Gulf, alcohol is only available to non-Muslims, alcohol is sold in many hotels and a few restaurants.

===Sports===

In October 2004, the Omani government set up a Ministry of Sports Affairs to replace the General Organization for youth, sports and cultural affairs. The 2009 Gulf Cup of Nations, the 19th edition, took place in Muscat, from 4 to 17 January 2009 and was won by the Omani national football team.

Oman's traditional sports are dhow racing, horse racing, camel racing, bull fighting and falconry. Association football, basketball, waterskiing and sandboarding are among the sports that have emerged quickly and gained popularity among the younger generation. The International Olympic Committee awarded the former GOYSCA its prestigious prize for Sporting excellence in recognition of its contributions to youth and sports and its efforts to promote the Olympic spirit and goals.

The Oman Olympic Committee played a major part in organizing the highly successful 2003 Olympic Days, which were of great benefit to the sports associations, clubs and young participants. The football association took part, along with the handball, basketball, rugby union, hockey, volleyball, athletics, swimming, and tennis associations. In 2010 Muscat hosted the 2010 Asian Beach Games.

Oman also hosts tennis tournaments in different age divisions each year. The Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex stadium contains a 50-meter swimming pool which is used for international tournaments from different schools in different countries. The Tour of Oman, a professional cycling 6-day stage race, takes place in February. Oman hosted the Asian 2011 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup qualifiers, where 11 teams competed for three spots at the FIFA World Cup. Oman hosted the Men's and Women's 2012 Beach Handball World Championships at the Millennium Resort in Mussanah, from 8 to 13 July. Oman has competed repeatedly for a position in the FIFA World Cup, but have yet qualified to compete in the tournament.

Oman, along with Fujairah in the UAE, are the only regions in the Middle East that have a variant of bullfighting, known as 'bull-butting', organized within their territories. Al-Batena area in Oman is specifically prominent for such events. It involves two bulls of the Brahman breed pitted against one another and as the name implies, they engage in a forceful barrage of headbutts. The first one to collapse or concede its ground is declared the loser. Most bull-butting matches are short affairs and last for less than 5 minutes. The origins of bull-butting in Oman remain unknown, but many locals believe it was brought to Oman by the Moors of Spanish origin. Yet others say it has a direct connection with Portugal, which colonized the Omani coastline for nearly two centuries.

In Cricket, Oman qualified for the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 by securing sixth place in 2015 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier. They have also been granted T20I status as they were among the top six teams in the qualifiers.

== Education ==

The adult literacy rate in 2010 was 86.9%. Before 1970, only three formal schools existed in the entire country, with fewer than 1,000 students. Since Sultan Qaboos' ascension to power in 1970, the government has given high priority to education in order to develop a domestic work force, which the government considers a vital factor in the country's economic and social progress. Today, there are over 1,000 state schools and about 650,000 students.

Oman's first university, Sultan Qaboos University, opened in 1986. The University of Nizwa is one of the fastest growing universities in Oman. Other post-secondary institutions in Oman include the Higher College of Technology and its six branches, six colleges of applied sciences (including a teacher's training college), a college of banking and financial studies, an institute of Sharia sciences, and several nursing institutes. Some 200 scholarships are awarded each year for study abroad.

According to the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, the top-ranking universities in the country are Sultan Qaboos University (1678th worldwide), the Dhofar University (6011th) and the University of Nizwa (6093rd).

== Health ==

Life expectancy at birth in Oman was estimated to be 76.1 years in 2010.

== See also == * Outline of Oman * Index of Oman-related articles * Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said al Said * Archaeology of Oman

== Notes ==

== References ==

== External links ==

* [http://www.omantourism.gov.om/ Ministry of Tourism] (official government website). * [http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/428217/Oman Oman] Encyclopædia Britannica * [http://www.omanet.om/ Ministry of Information] (official government website). * * * * [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14654150 Oman] from the BBC News. * * [http://www.ifs.du.edu/ifs/frm_CountryProfile.aspx?Country=OM Key Development Forecasts for Oman] from International Futures.

Category:Arabian Peninsula Category:Arabic-speaking countries and territories Category:Islamic states Category:Member states of the Arab League Category:Member states of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf Category:Member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Category:Member states of the United Nations Category:Middle Eastern countries Category:Near Eastern countries Category:States and territories established in 751 Category:Sultanates Category:750s establishments in Asia Category:Countries in Asia

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