Not much is known about the earliest history of Oman, however, archaeological evidence has been able to shed some light on the past of this unique country. Items found in Al Wattih in the Muscat Governorate date back to around 10,000 years ago, suggesting that human beings settled there during the Stone Age, making it one of the first inhabited cities. The Achaemenid Empire, also known as the First Persian Empire, was an Iranian Empire that greatly influenced, and at times controlled the Omani Peninsula between the 6-4th centuries BC. From the 3rd century BC to the arrival of Islam in the 7th century AD, two other Iranian dynasties, the Parthians and the Sassanids, ruled Oman.
Omanis were among the first people to come in contact with, and accept Islam in the 7th century. A form of Islam known as Ibadhism became the dominant sect by the 8th century in Oman. Oman remains the only country in the Islamic world with a majority Ibadhi population. Ibadhism is known for its “moderate conservatism” and for choosing a leader based on communal consensus and consent.
The first contact with Europe happened early in the 16th century. The Portuguese were the first to arrive and quickly set about conquering parts of Oman’s coastal regions. The Portuguese needed an outpost to protect their sea lanes, as such, they built up and fortified the city of Muscat where they remained for 140 years between 1508-1648. The Portuguese were expelled in 1650 by religious tribes who would themselves be expelled a century later.
By the 1800s, the current line of Sultans was established. Except for a brief period of Persian invasions, Oman has remained an independent nation. Due to its isolation from other Arab countries because of the desert, Oman became an economic power in the early 1800s. They used their location in the Indian Ocean coupled with the seafaring knowledge acquired from their time under the Portuguese and were able to overtake other lands. The Sultan conquered Zanzibar and other portions of the eastern coast of Africa as well as parts of the Southern Arabian Peninsula. The British slowly brought about the end of the empire that Oman had built by the end of the 19th century.
Just as the empire was coming to an end abroad, the Sultan was facing problems at home. A rebellion was started by members of the Ibadhi sect who lived in Nizwa, a town in the interior of Oman. They did not want to be ruled by the Sultan, instead, they wanted to be ruled exclusively by their religious leader, the Imam. A temporary solution came about in 1920 with the Treaty of Seeb which allowed the Imam to have autonomous rule in the interior while recognising the Sultan elsewhere. However, the discovery of oil in the interior caused more problems in 1954. The Sultan wanted to extend his government’s control further into the interior and in response, the Imam launched a rebellion. The rebellion was put down with British help in 1959. As a result, the Treaty of Seeb was terminated and the office of Imam was eliminated.
In 1981, Oman was a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a political and economic union of the Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf. In this capacity, Oman has played a leading role in regional security. In 1996, the Sultan established the “Basic Statute of the State”, Oman’s first written constitution. The country has developed a moderate, independent foreign policy which strives to maintain good relations with all Middle Eastern countries. Today, Oman is opening its doors widely to international visitors and has set about expanding the tourism sector. The many unique and exciting attractions available in the country culminated in Lonely Planet listing Oman’s capital city, Muscat, second on their list of Top Ten Cities for 2012.
Oman Travel Information
At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy-to-navigate travel information section dedicated to Oman.
Learn about the history and culture of Oman, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Oman's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information, will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Oman for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our Oman tours today!
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