Oman Travel Tips - Oman History and Government, General Information of Culture, History, Currency, lifestyle and Climate of Oman

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Oman Travel Tips History & Government

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Oman History and Government

History: Archaeological excavations have recently shown that much of the civilisation in Oman predates the Arab period. The region embraced Islam during the lifetime of the Prophet. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the sultans of Muscat were often powerful figures in Arabia and East Africa, who often came into conflict with the colonial powers in the region, particularly the Portuguese, who first settled in the 16th century, in an attempt to protect their eastern trade routes. Close ties have been maintained with Britain since 1798, when a treaty of friendship was concluded. The country was known as Muscat and Oman until 1970.

British influence remains strong but the number of British advisers occupying key positions in Omani government departments – substantial during the early days of the present regime, headed by the hereditary ruler, Sultan Qaboos – has steadily declined and is now limited to a handful of advisers in key posts. During the early years of his reign, which began in 1970, Sultan Qaboos’ overriding priority was to deal with an insurgency in the western part of his kingdom, conducted by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman (PFLO) with the backing of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen; since unified with North Yemen).

The defeat of the insurgents served to increase both domestic and foreign pressure on Qaboos to introduce democratic reforms. A series of incremental measures have been introduced to modernise and liberalise this previously autocratic regime. Two consultative assemblies, the Majlis as-Shura (which evolved from the old Consultative Assembly) and the more recently formed Majlis al-Dawlah, were originally groomed to assume the functions of a bicameral parliament at the turn of the millennium. This has not happened, nor is it likely to do so for the foreseeable future. The two Majlis have some influence over domestic affairs – and the franchise that elects them has been steadily expanded to include all men and women over the age of 21 – but no say in foreign and defence matters. The most recent poll for the Majlis as-Shura in November 2003 registered little change in its make-up: no formal political parties are allowed but supporters of the Sultan are in the majority.

Relations with Oman’s immediate neighbours have been cordial, especially with Yemen, since the end of the PFLO insurgency and the unification of Yemen itself. In recent years, Omani concerns have been focused further afield. In 1981, Oman was a founder member of the Gulf Co-operation Council and has played a leading role in promoting its increasing involvement in regional security issues. The country’s strategic importance to the West has been underlined throughout the last two decades as it has been used as a staging post for Anglo-American military, naval and air operations during the Iran-Iraq War, the counter-invasion of Kuwait and, in more recent times, both the assaults on Afghanistan and Iraq.

In 1994, Oman was the first Gulf state to establish official relations with Israel. Since 1998, it has also developed good relations with Iran, now extending as far as mutual security co-operation in the Gulf.

Government: Legislative power is held by the Sultan who is Head of State and wields executive power as Prime Minister with the aid of a Council of Ministers. There is no legislature as such. The Council of Oman functions as an advisory body and is comprised of the 82-member Majlis as-Shura (Consultative Council) and the 41-member Majlis al-Dawlah (Council of State). Members of both are appointed by the Sultan. in the case of the Majlis as-Shura, the selection is made from 700-odd candidates elected from each vilayat (district).

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Oman Travel Tips - General Information of Culture, History, Currency, lifestyle and Climate of Oman