Destinations » Asia » Middle East »
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. Their original roots though are based on their geography as the people tended
to remain on the coast or in the desert. These coastal people lived off the seas
and later get involved in overseas trade. The desert dwellers, or the Bedouin remained
isolated in the deserts, only occasionally reaching the coasts.
In the region's early history these two groups differed little as they regularly
interacted. Those in the desert lived off primarily dates and camel's milk while
those on the coast had much of the same, plus some fish. 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 in their early history as the region
was home to the world's finest frankincense, an odor that still dominates the
markets of the country today.
In the 600s and 700s Islam arrived to Oman and 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.
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
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. Schools have been
expanded, healthcare is quickly growing, and infrastructure is today 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 thousands of years.
Learn More About Oman:
Map of Oman:
Start your trip to Oman with our free Travel Planner: