Notes on the Geography of Oman
In the early 1980s, without a visa you couldn't even stand at the doorway of a plane stopped at Muscat, Oman's capital. The country is still a monarchy though more benevolent than it used to be, when a predecessor of Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said was said to rule with "patriarchal and despotic sway." The country still has no constitution, but it has a legislative apparatus and--wake up!--oil. Production began in 1967, just before Qaboos sent his reclusive father into exile. The oil's declining now--production from the major Yibal field has fallen from 250,000 barrels daily in 1997 to less than 100,000--but the country still produces almost a million barrels daily, uses about 50,000, and exports the rest. (Production is mostly in the hands of Petroleum Development Oman, 60% owned by the government and 34% owned by Shell.)
What a difference that income has made, along with Qaboos' decision to open his country to the outside world. You see it everywhere, not just in Muscat. Oman's population has quadrupled from about 550,000 in 1950 to about 2.2 million today, but unlike many countries with similarly rapid growth, Oman's life expectancy is 73 and infant mortality is about 20 per thousand, largely among the fifth of the country's people who do not live in cities. In addition, there are almost 600,000 non-Omanis who constitute two-thirds of the country's work force. Call it the Arabian Disease, but they are the workers who man the checkout counters and trim the roadside flowerbeds.
The pictures here come from a quick loop down from Dubai to Muscat, then west to Nizwa, up into Jebel Akhdar, and then north through Tanuf and Jibrin. There's a concluding group from the unbelievably rugged north coast of the Musandam Peninsula.
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