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Country profile: Oman
language: Arabic Sultan, prime minister,
foreign minister: Qaboos Bin Said Al Said
Sultanate of Oman
only about 3% to GDP, but engages 37% of the
economically active population, mostly at a
subsistence level. The
potential for expanding agriculture in Oman is
good. Land use is determined primarily by the
availability of water. There is extensive
cultivation along the Batinah and Shumailiyah
coasts; in the interior, however, cultivation is
confined to areas near wadis, where water is
taken off by a system of water channels (fallaj).
The total area under cultivation is estimated to
be about 63,000 hectares (155,600 acres).
The principal agricultural product is the date,
at 135,000 tons in 1999. On the Baunah coast,
groves containing some 10 million date palm
trees form a strip 240-km (150-mi) long and
40-km (25-mi) wide. Fruits grown in Dhofar
include bananas, mangoes, and coconuts. Citrus
fruits (notably limes), nuts, melons, bananas,
coconuts, alfalfa, and tobacco are also grown.
Tomatoes, cabbages, eggplant, okra, and
cucumbers are important winter crops.
Frankincense is traditionally produced from
about 8,000 trees growing wild in Dhofar. Along
the Batinah coast, a wide variety of produce is
grown, including fruits, wheat, rice, and durra.
Agricultural exports were valued at $615.6
million in 2001, while agricultural imports
amounted to $1.3 billion that year.
The oldest independent state in the Arab world, Oman is one of the more traditional countries in the Gulf region and was, until the 1970s, one of the most isolated.
Occupying the south-east corner of the Arabian peninsula, it has a
strategically important position at the mouth of the Gulf.
At one time Oman had its own empire, which at its peak in the 19th century stretched down the east African coast and vied with Portugal and Britain for influence in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.
After deposing his father in 1970, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said opened up the country, embarked on economic reforms and boosted spending on health, education and welfare.
As with other Gulf nations, oil is the mainstay of the economy, providing a large chunk of GDP, but compared to its neighbours Oman is a modest producer. Agriculture and fishing are important sources of income.
Tourism, another source of revenue, is on the rise. Oman's attractions include a largely-untouched coastline, mountains, deserts and the burgeoning capital Muscat, with its forts, palaces and old walled city.
Most Omanis follow the Ibadi sect of Islam - the only remaining expression of Kharijism, which was created as a result of one of the first schisms within the religion.
The country has so far been spared the militant Islamist violence that has plagued some of its neighbours.
Sultan, prime minister, foreign minister: Qaboos Bin Said Al Said
Sultan Qaboos seized power in a coup against his father, Said Bin Taimur, in 1970.
Sultan Qaboos opened up Oman after years of isolationism
As sultan, he took on the role of prime minister and heads the foreign, defence and finance ministries.
His policies have proved popular in spite of the lack of a democratic government. He instigated the use of oil revenues to develop the country's infrastructure and modernised the government structure with the establishment of a Consultative Assembly in 1981, replaced by the Consultative Council - the majlis al-shura - in 1990 and the Council of State in 1997.
However, all important decisions are still made by the sultan.