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Sub section- Overview   Stone Age   4000 BC   3000 BC   2000-1000 BC   Dawn of Islam   Oman's Rulers   Al Bu Said Dynasty   H.M. Sultan Qaboos

Looking at the phenomenal achievements that have been made in Oman over the last years, the multi-lane highways, modern hospitals, schools and universities, it is tempting to think of the Sultanate as a “new” country..

However, archaeologists have shown that civilisation flourished in the area of modern day Oman at least 5,000 years ago and probably before, albeit under a series of names, the best known being Majan or Megan, and Mezoun.

Oman's Names

Sumerian tablets refer to a country called Magan, a name thought to refer to Oman’s ancient copper mines.Mezoun is derived from the word “muzn”, which means abundant flowing water. The name we call the country by today, Oman, is believed to originate from the Arab tribes who migrated to its territory from the Uman region of Yemen. Many 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 routes to other parts of Arabia.

Advent of Islam

The Omanis were among the first people to embrace Islam voluntarily In around 630 AD when the Prophet Muhammed sent his envoy Amr ibn Al As to meet Jaifar and ‘Abd, the joint rulers of Oman at that time - to invite them to accept the faith. In accepting Islam, Oman became an Ibadhi state, ruled by an elected leader, the Imam.

During the early years of the Islamic mission Oman played a major role in the Wars of Apostasy that occurred after the death of Muhammad and also took part in the great Islamic conquests by land and sea in Iraq, Persia and beyond. However, its most prominent role in this respect was through its extensive trading and seafaring activities in East Africa, particularly during the19th century, when it propagated Islam in many of East Africa’s coastal regions, and certain areas of Central Africa. Omanis also carried the message of Islam with them to China and the Asian ports.

Middle Ages

By the Middle Ages, Oman had established itself as a prosperous seafaring nation, sending dhows from its great port at Sohar to trade with merchants in far flung destinations. It seems likely that at this time Sohar was one of the largest and most important cities in the Arab world.

The Ya'ruba and the expulsion of the Portuguese

In the early 16th century the powerful Portugese trading empire sought to extend its influence and reduce Oman’s control over the thriving Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean routes. Portugese troops invaded Oman and captured some of the coastal areas, occupying them for up to 150 years before being defeated by Sultan bin Saif Al Ya’rubi.

During the Ya’ruba period (1624 – 1744) Oman entered an era of prosperity at home and abroad, and many of the Sultanate’s historic buildings and forts date from this time. However, expansion ended when civil war erupted between rival Omani tribes over the election of a new Imam. Persian forces seized the opportunity to invade and some coastal areas found themselves under foreign occupation once again.

19th Century to today

No country since Persia has successfully invaded Oman which, by the 19th century was a sovereign power in its own right, expanding its territory across the Arabian Gulf and East Africa, where it controlled the island of Zanzibar. The country went on to establish political links with the other great powers of the time, including Britain, France, the Netherlands and the United States.However in the early part of the 20th century, Oman entered a period of decline and isolation.

The search for oil began in the 1920s when the D’Arcy Exploration Company, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, conducted a geological survey that proved unsuccessful. The Second World War and other events interrupted exploration until 1962 when the first successful well was drilled at Yibal, followed by other wells at Natih and Fahud. Oil production ona commercial scale began in 1967.When Sultan Qaboos came to power in 1970, Oman was almost as far removed from the modern, prosperous 21st century state we know today, as it is possible to get.

The country had only a few basic roads, a tiny number of schools and little in the way of medical care; its people were poor and disadvantaged. Many of Oman’s wealthy and educated had left the country to seek their fortunes abroad. One of the first challenges His Majesty faced was to reverse this “brain drain”, to encourage expatriate Omanis to return home and throw their weight behind the creation of a strong, educated, unified nation. This they did with enthusiasm, helping to build and develop the thriving, vibrant country that is modern day Oman.

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