The region of Muscat, in the northeast, dominated by the Al Hajar Mountains, parallel to the Gulf of Oman, is the most differentiated area of the country. The Gulf of Oman, the northwestern arm of the Arabian Sea, stretches from the end of Hormuz to the Persian Gulf.
One of its mountain ranges (Ajdar) has peaks that exceed 3,000 m in altitude. An arid plain, which occupies three-quarters of the country, extends from the northeast to the southwest, until it coincides with the mountains of the Zufar region.
Oman is a dry and arid country, whose humid zones are concentrated in the coastal strip. On the slopes of Al Hajar, the monsoons of the Indian Ocean are felt, both in the levels of rainfall (300 mm per year), and in the pleasant temperatures (36 ° C in winter).
Inland, in the Dhahira region, wadis, fountains and oases are common. Heading west, the lands become increasingly arid until reaching the Rub’al Jali desert. The presence of the Zufar mountains facilitates the rains and balances the temperatures.
In the territory there are no permanent channels of fresh water and acacias, very resistant to water scarcity, are the main form of vegetation. Although there are irrigated plantations, only 0.2% of the territory is suitable for cultivation.
According to Countryaah, the majority of the population of Oman is Arab, although there are also important communities of Iranians, Indians, Pakistanis (mainly Baloch), Bengalis and Africans (largely descendants of slaves). The first three come from an ancient emigration, which carried out mainly commercial activities and which constituted a privileged social caste. Westerners residing in Oman came with the oil companies and their numbers are small.
The official language is Arabic, but Baluchi and other languages of the Mahri group are also spoken. The Omanis are Muslims, the majority belonging to a fundamentalist sect, although 25% belong to the Sunni sect.
The difficult environmental conditions are reflected in a low population density and a very unequal distribution of it. The most densely populated areas are the coastal strip and the Muscat region, although Nazua, in the interior, is also an important center. The central desert areas are practically uninhabited. Vegetative growth is high and almost 50% of the residents are under 15 years of age.
Oman’s economy, like that of other countries in the region, is based on the production and export of oil, which in 1988 accounted for 88% of its total export earnings. In November of 1989, estimated oil reserves amounted to 4,200 million barrels. Gas, copper and marble represent other important mining resources in the country, which also has untapped deposits of coal and magnesium.
The manufacturing industry, concentrated in oil refining, contributed 45.4% to the Gross Domestic Product in 1988. The industrial sector in general experienced, between 1980 and 1987, an annual increase of 15.1%. 41% of the active population worked in the agricultural sector. The percentage of GDP relative to agriculture is 3.6%. Tomato, lime, and alfalfa, as well as melons, mangoes, bananas, papaya, garlic, and pickles, are the main subsistence agricultural crops. Between 1980 and 1987, agricultural production registered an average increase of 9.4%.
Oman is practically self-sufficient in energy matters. Natural gas is expected to meet domestic fuel needs and oil savings can be used for export.
Oman sells oil to Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and imports mainly machinery, transport equipment, food, live animals and basic manufactures from the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Great Britain.
A large part of the labor force that works in the country is foreign (250,000 people in 1988).
Oman is a member of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Arab Monetary Fund and the Islamic Development Bank. Oman was also one of the founding members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. It is not a member of OPEC(Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) or OPAEC (Organization of the Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries). However, it tends to respect OPEC’s production and pricing policy.
The rapid development of the economy in the 1970s, driven by high oil revenues, did not continue at the same pace in the 1980s due to falling oil prices, leading to some stagnation. In order to counteract this, the government launched successive plans that sought to diversify the economy and progressively reduce its dependence on oil exports. One of the last readjustments in this direction (1986 – 1990) focused its efforts on light industry, agriculture and fishing; one of its most ambitious goals is to reduce food imports.
A network of highways links the most important centers of the country. Only some villages in the mountains remain inaccessible by vehicle. Maritime communications are made through the port of Mina Qaboos, the largest in the country. In 1989 the reform of this port and the possible creation of a new one were announced.
Oman has two airports; Seeb International Airport and Salala International Airport.