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What Should I Know About Oman?

Many of Oman's ancient sites can be reached by camel trekking.
The clear waters of Oman's coastline are ideal for scuba diving.
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  • Written By: O. Wallace
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 July 2014
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Oman is a country located on the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia. It is 82,031 square miles (212,460 sq. kilometers) in size, approximately the size of the state of Kansas. It has about 1000 miles (1600 km) of coastline, and is bordered by the Arabian Sea on the southeast, Yemen to the southwest, Saudi Arabia on the west, the United Arab Emirates to the northwest and the Gulf of Oman on the north.

The 2006 population estimate of Oman was 3.1 million, and is primarily populated by Arab, Baluchi, South Asian and African ethnic groups. Not surprisingly, the official national language is Arabic, though many speak English as well.

The capital of Oman is Muscat, located on the Gulf of Oman to the north. The Omani Rial is the official monetary unit of Oman, and the country’s 2005 per capita GDP was approximately 13,400 US Dollars (USD). Its main industry is the production of crude oil, and oil refining, followed by natural gas production.

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The government of Oman is an absolute monarchy as of 2007, but since the end of the 20th century, strides have been made to include an elected body of government officials as well as to make the government more inclusive to all citizens. In 1971, Oman became a member of the United Nations and the Arab League. Women gained the right to serve in government in 1997, and in 2003, anyone over the age of 21 was given the right to vote. Prior to this, voting was granted to only a select few.

Oman was settled in the 9th century BCE by Arabs, with mass Islamic conversion in the 7th century CE. The country went through a period of Portuguese occupation in the 16th and 17th centuries before being seized by the Ottoman Empire. Subsequently, in the 18th century, Ahmad ibn Sa’id took control, and his descendants are still in power today.

The average daytime temperature in Muscat in the summer is approximately 109 degrees Fahrenheit (43 C) and in the winter, 77 F (25 C). Most tourists will find that visiting Oman between October and April is the most pleasant in terms of weather. Oman’s diverse geography is an attraction for tourists, with mountains, deserts and beaches offering something for everyone.

The nearly 1000 miles (1600 km) of coastline boast spectacular diving, game fishing, turtle watching and boating/sailing. For rock climbers, there are plenty of canyons and mountain peaks reaching 9800 feet (3000 meters) to explore. The desert offers adventure trekking as well as camel racing. Bull fighting is another popular pastime in Oman, though it is nothing like what is practiced in Spain.

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