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origin of Oman's name is unclear. Numerous theories abound; some people claim
it was named after a historic ruler (of which, a few use the name), that it is named
after a historic valley on the Arabian Peninsula, or the country is named after
the city of Sohar, which the Greeks called "Omana" or "Omanon."
Today Oman is a seemingly isolated and unique country that tends to be forgotten
by the world, but their culture has a strong base in the international realm, although
their original roots are based on their lands. Historically, the Omani people tended
to remain on the coast or in the desert as survival was based on what could be found
on the lands and how creatively the people could get in surviving this harsh climate.
However, the coastal people had more options as they tended to live off the seas
and later got involved in overseas trade, which is when the international influence
In the region's early history the cultural differences between the desert-dwellers
and the people that lived along the coasts differed little as they regularly interacted.
Those in the desert primarily lived off of eating dates and camel's milk while
those on the coast had much of the same, plus some fish and other plants. This simple
lifestyle continued for years until trading began in the Persian Gulf and throughout
the Indian Ocean. Only the people along the coasts, especially those in the region
of Dhofar, had substantial trade routes and outside contact. Due to the region's
impressive frankincense, an odor that still dominates the markets of the country
today, the coastal people welcomed outside influences and people into their culture.
However, the desert dwellers, or the Bedouin remained isolated in the deserts, only
occasionally encountering these foreign influences.
In the 600s and 700s Islam arrived to Oman and this religion was adopted by the
people. This changed relatively little in the people's lives; the dietary restrictions
demanded by Islam didn't alter the historic diet, but mosques began to be built.
Although for the desert dwellers there were no mosques and their unruled and nomadic
lifestyle continued for centuries, although they did adopt Islam.
As trade expanded in the region's waters, the Sultans of Oman took over trade
in the region, beginning slowly in about 1000, but only peaking in the 1600-1800s.
They moved their capital to the island of Zanzibar (part of modern day Tanzania)
and they took control of the Indian Ocean's trade. Although this led to hundreds
of substantial changes, the two most striking were the large influx of people and
the wide accessibility of guns, which the desert dwellers quickly adopted and used
in their daily lives as warring in these regions continued.
Today in Oman there are people of every skin color as numerous Africans, Indians,
and even Europeans arrived in large numbers during this time. These people have
been incorporated into the local population and today are as authentically Omani
as anyone else.
In the late 1800s the Europeans took full control of the trade in the region and
Omani influence declined as they again turned inward. From this time until the 1970s
Oman's culture and lifestyle changed little as the Bedouin in the desert continued
to war and those people along the coasts lived under foreign rulers. This inward
momentum led to few changes as Oman's culture continued to remain fairly static
over the centuries.
In the 1970s Sultan Qaboos took over power in Oman and he immediately began to implement
changes. With the discovery of oil earlier in the century, he had the money to develop
the country, but by watching the neighboring Gulf States become global leaders and
immigrant destinations, he was careful how he implemented changes. Buildings were
given strict guidelines on their height, style, and location in order to maintain
their traditional architecture as tourism was, and continues to be, a revenue stream
that is not sought (although this authentic look and feel still attracts tourists).
Schools have been expanded, healthcare is quickly growing, and the country's
infrastructure is among the best in the world.
Today the daily lives of the people in Oman are becoming easier as these social
changes have led to vast improvements. However, the changes are intentionally being
made slowly as traditional architecture, foods, dress, and culture are guarded with
great pride. The people are quite educated, modern, and kind despite the fact that
the lands and people look as if they haven't changed in hundreds of years.
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