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June 2007

United Arab Emirates, 2005

United Arab Emirates, 2005

Oman, officially named Sultanate of Oman, covers a land area of 309,500 sq. km., slightly smaller than Kansas. Located in the Middle East, the country of Oman is bordered on the north by the United Arab Emirates, on the northwest by Saudi Arabia, and on the southwest by the Republic of Yemen. The Omani coastline stretches 3,165 km., bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, and Persian Gulf. The northern tip of Oman, called the Musandam Peninsula, is strategically located on the Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf and a vital transit point for world crude oil. Muscat is the capital city; other cities include Salalah, Nizwa, Sohar, and Sur. About 55% of the population lives in Muscat and the Batinah coastal plain northwest of the capital; about 215,000 live in the southern region of Dhofar, and about 30,000 live in the remote Musandam Peninsula. Some 660,000 expatriates live in Oman, most of whom are guest workers from South Asia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Philippines.

The major ethnic groups include Arab, Baluchi, East African (Zanzabari), and South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi). Arabic is the official language; other major languages are English, Baluchi, Urdu, Swahili, and Indian dialects. The major religion is Ibadhi Muslim (75%), other religions include Sunni Muslim, Shi'a Muslim, and Hindu (25%).

The terrain consists of central desert plains and rugged mountains in the north and south regions. The climate is hot and humid along the coast and hot and dry in the interior; there are strong summer monsoons in the far south. The summer winds often raise large sandstorms and dust storms in the interior. Oman’s natural resources include oil, natural gas, copper, marble, limestone, gypsum, and chromium. Rising soil salinity and increased beach pollution from oil spills contribute to the fact that there are very limited natural fresh water resources.

Oman’s government is a hereditary monarchy; Qaboos bin Sa'id Al Said, the monarch, is both the chief of state, or sultan, and head of government, or prime minister. Oman’s legislative branch, Majlis Oman, is bicameral. Oman is comprised of eight administrative regions: Muscat Governorate, Al Batinah, Musandam Governorate, Al Dhahirah, Al Dakhliya, Al Shariqiya, Al Wusta, and Dhofar Governorate; there are 60 districts called wilayats.

Oman’s economy is heavily reliant on oil revenues, which account for about 75 percent of the country’s export earnings and 40 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). During 2006, Oman’s real GDP grew at an estimated rate of 4.2 percent, down from 5.7 percent in 2005. The slowdown in economic growth occurred largely as a result of declining oil production in Oman. To help offset these declines, the government has devoted considerable resources to new exploration and production activities, enhanced oil recovery projects, and introduced policies aimed at diversifying the country’s economy away from the oil sector. The development of natural gas reserves in Oman is a central part of this effort, and natural gas production is likely to expand considerably during the next several years. All of Oman’s domestic energy consumption is supplied by natural gas and oil, reflecting the country’s relative abundance of oil and natural gas reserves.

During the 2007 North Indian Ocean tropical cyclone season, the cyclone Gonu made landfall on Oman (June 5), with at least 15 fatalities. This is the strongest cyclone on record to hit the Arabian Sea; most storms in this area are smaller and dissipate quickly.

For more information on tropical cyclone Gonu, go to this link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/
natural_hazards_v2.php3?img_id=14288.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes; Dept. of Engery, Energy Analysis Brief, 5/2007; 10/2006; 4/2007