Oman is a country that has experienced severe changes in the last century and often is an important mediator in Middle Eastern Politics, serving as a middleman between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Yet, the country which entered modernity and industrialization only in 1971 – yes, that’s just 47 years ago – is seldom present in Western media. In fact, many of my friends didn’t know Oman when I first told them I was heading there, and most of those who knew that such a country existed in “the East,” asked me if I wasn’t afraid of the terrorists living their.
I had to disappoint their expectations, as I wasn’t about to meet terrorists but very welcoming and friendly Omanis that actually knew much more about Germany and Europe than most of the latter seem to know about Oman. Therefore some quick facts about Oman: The country is the only one in the world where Ibadi Muslims are a majority of the citizens (about 40%, the rest being Sunnī or Shī’a), a very old distinct theological and legislative tradition of Islam whose origins date back to conflicts about political leadership under the third and fourth caliphs of Islam. In fact, many fundamentalist and radical Sunnīs and Shī’ites consider the Ibadis infidels.
The Omanis normally wear a white dishdasha and a colorful kumma as headwear, it’s actually by law the country’s citizens clothing. The monarch, Sultan Quaboos, overthrew his father in 1971, who blocked the economic modernization of the country by isolating Oman from international relations and trade. When the new Sultan took overtook the power in the Gulfstate, only a few kilometers of roads were existent, today a network of over 2000 km of roads is in operation. Also, the economy of the small state was modernized and is now heavily dependent from oil and gas. Still, Oman is the country in the Gulf with the least oil reserves, which results in the necessity of the intelligent use of soft power in politics. Due to the long isolation of the country, many traditions and the structures of the Omani society have largely preserved as well as the beautiful nature of the desert state.
Beautiful mountains, wadis, deserts and seasides await the traveler in this pearl of the desert.