History of Oman


The Land of Frankincense
Oman is the ancient land of frankincense, the aromatic gum which in ancient times was more precious than gold. Dhofar, Oman's southernmost region, is one of the few places in the world where frankincense trees grow. Frankincense was crucial to the religious rites of almost every faith in the known world. The temples of Egypt, Jerusalem and Rome were all major consumers of frankincense. At the height of the trade, some 3000 tonnes of frankincense was exported annually through this region to different parts of the world. Pliny, writing in the 1st century AD, claimed that control of the frankincense trade had made the south Arabians one of the richest people in the world. Ubar, the centre of the frankincense trade, was recently discovered by the Transarabia Expedition, a team of American and British archaeologists supported by the Omani Government.

Islam comes to Oman
The northern part of what is now Oman became important in the first generation of the Islamic era. The tribes living there were converted to Islam in the mid-7th century and came under the rule of the Umayyads shortly thereafter. But the Ummayad rule over Oman did not last long. In the late 7th or early 8th century, Oman adopted the doctrines of Ibadi Islam. Around 746 AD Omani Ibadis overthrew the Ummayads and established their rule. Ever since, Oman has been ruled by rulers of the Ibadi faith.

The Europeans Come to Oman
The first Europeans to make their presence felt in the Gulf were the Portugese in 1506. A year later, they occupied Oman and made Hormuz their main base. But by 1622 they had been driven out of Hormuz and they relocated their base in Muscat. Their presence in Muscat proved to be short-lived as well. In 1650, the Portuguese were expelled from Muscat as well, making Oman the first nation in the Arab world to achieve this unique distinction of being an independent state.

Ever since, Oman has retained its independence which is a lot more than can be said of the rest of the Gulf countries. Far from being colonized, by the end of the 18th century Oman had its own far-flung empire. At its peak, Oman controlled both Mombasa and Zanzibar and operated trading posts even further down the African post. It also controlled portions of what are now India and Pakistan.

The Al Busaid Dynasty
In 1749, Ahmed Bin Said, the first ruler of the Al Busaid dynasty came to power. With maritime trade becoming more and more important to the Omani empire, he moved the capital from the interior to Muscat and also adopted the title of Sultan.

The Omani empire reached its peak in the mid-19th century under Sultan Said Bin Sultan who ruled from 1804 to 1856. He added Dhofar to his realm and pushed the Sultanate's control far down the East African coast. On his death, the empire was divided by two of his sons. One became the Sultan of Zanzibar while the other became the Sultan of Muscat and Oman. His successors continue to rule Oman to the present day.

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said
Oman's present ruler, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said ascended to the throne in 1970 and it is under his leadership that Oman has flourished in modern times. Despite modest oil resources, it has grown into a unified, modern nation with a well-developed infrastructure and a thriving economy.