Oman went to Islam early and became an
independent state in the 7th century. From the end of
the 17th century, the Omani conquered areas far down in
East Africa, which were held until the middle of the
19th century. In practice, in the late 18th century,
Oman was divided into two parts with a religious rule in
the interior and a secular base based in Musqat. At the
same time, Oman came under British control and became
formally independent only in 1951. Internal disputes
with foreign involvement contributed to Oman not
becoming a UN member until 1971.
Oman is probably mentioned for the first time on
Sumerian wedge writing boards from the 3000s before
Christ and it is clear that Roman geographers knew the
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Oman, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
The inhabitants joined the ibaditic outbreak of Islam
(see Religion) already during the first battles over who
would succeed Prophet Muhammad after his death in 632.
In the 7th century the area became independent under the
leadership of an imam. The kingdom was held together
despite invasion attempts by Arabs, Persians and
Indians, among others. In the 9th century, Suhar was one
of the largest cities in the Arab world with extensive
foreign trade and Omani seamen traveled all the way to
In 1507, Musqat was conquered by the Portuguese and
the coastal area was soon incorporated into Portugal's
commercial empire; it was not until 1650 that an Omani
army could expel the Portuguese. The Omanis then
extended their kingdom all the way to East Africa. By
1730, they had conquered the cities of Mogadishu in
present-day Somalia, Mombasa in present-day Kenya as
well as the present-day Tanzanian islands of Zanzibar
In 1749, Ahmed bin Said was elected imam and thus
founded the Said dynasty that governs Oman to this day.
In 1786, his grandson moved the capital from al-Rustaq
inland to Musqat on the coast. However, the tribes
inland did not accept the move but chose their own
imams. These competed for power with the ruler of Musqat,
who assumed the title of Sultan. Thus, in practice, two
kingdoms had emerged: one religious under the Imam
inland, the Imam, and one worldly under the Sultan of
Musqat, the Sultanate.
Oman ties with Britain
From the end of the 18th century, British influence
in the region increased and Britain came to serve as a
protective force for the Sultanate. Even today, Britain
and Oman have close relationships.
In 1829, the province of Dhofar in the southwest
became part of the Sultanate. After a succession dispute
at the death of the Sultan in 1856, however, the
Sultanate was divided: a son inherited the East African
part with the island of Zanzibar as a base; another
became the Sultan over Musqat.
The economy of the Sultanate Musqat deteriorated
sharply in the mid-19th century, partly because it lost
the East African possessions and partly because the
British banned the profitable slave trade. The Imamate
inland now saw his chance and conquered Musqat in 1868.
However, the Sultanate was re-established with British
aid, but between Musqat and the Imamate a state of war
prevailed until 1920.
When Said bin Taimur became the starvation in 1932,
the country entered a long period of backward pursuit
and isolation. He forbade his subjects to smoke, listen
to the radio, play drums and wear glasses. Contacts with
abroad were minimized. In the 1960s, Oman was still one
of the most isolated countries in the world.
After the Second World War, the strategic importance
of the Persian Gulf to Britain declined and in 1951,
London recognized the Sultanate as an independent
country. Three years later, a new imam was elected
inland, trying to establish a sovereign state and new
fighting broke out. With the help of British soldiers,
the Sultan took control of the entire country in 1959,
the imamat was incarcerated and the imam fled to Saudi
Arabia. Other Arab countries, however, supported the
imam, and the issue of Oman's membership in the UN was
delayed throughout the 1960s; only in 1971 could Oman
become a UN member.