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Oman, officially the Sultanate of Oman (Arabic: سلْطنةُ عُمان Salṭanat(u) ʻUmān), is a country on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia and the oldest independent state in the Arab world. Located in a strategically important position at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the country shares land borders with the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest, and shares marine borders with Iran and Pakistan. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the southeast and the Gulf of Oman on the northeast. The Madha and Musandam exclaves are surrounded by the UAE on their land borders, with the Strait of Hormuz (which it shares with Iran) and the Gulf of Oman forming Musandam's coastal boundaries.
From the late 17th century, the Omani Sultanate was a powerful empire, vying with the Portuguese Empire and the British Empire for influence in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. At its peak in the 19th century, Omani influence or control extended across the Strait of Hormuz to modern-day Iran and Pakistan, and as far south as Zanzibar. When its power declined in the 20th century, the sultanate came under the influence of the United Kingdom. For over 300 years, the relations built between the two empires were based on mutual benefits. The UK recognized Oman's geographical importance as a trading hub that secured their trading lanes in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean and protected their empire in the Indian sub-continent. Historically, Muscat was the principal trading port of the Persian Gulf region. Muscat was also among the most important trading ports of the Indian Ocean.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said was the hereditary leader of the country, which is an absolute monarchy, from 1970 until his death on 10 January 2020. His cousin, Haitham bin Tariq, was named as the country's new ruler following his death.
Oman is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. It has sizeable oil reserves, ranking 25th globally. In 2010, the United Nations Development Programme ranked Oman as the most improved nation in the world in terms of development during the preceding 40 years. A significant portion of its economy involves tourism and trading fish, dates and other agricultural produce. Oman is categorized as a high-income economy and ranks as the 69th most peaceful country in the world according to the Global Peace Index.
Oman lies between latitudes 16° and 28° N, and longitudes 52° and 60° E. A vast gravel desert plain covers most of central Oman, with mountain ranges along the north (Al Hajar Mountains) and southeast coast (Qara or Dhofar Mountains), where the country's main cities are located: the capital city Muscat, Sohar and Sur in the north, and Salalah in the south. Oman's climate is hot and dry in the interior and humid along the coast. During past epochs, Oman was covered by ocean, as evidenced by the large numbers of fossilized shells found in areas of the desert away from the modern coastline.
The peninsula of Musandam (Musandem) exclave, which is strategically located on the Strait of Hormuz, is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. The series of small towns known collectively as Dibba are the gateway to the Musandam peninsula on land and the fishing villages of Musandam by sea, with boats available for hire at Khasab for trips into the Musandam peninsula by sea.
Oman's other exclave, inside UAE territory, known as Madha, located halfway between the Musandam Peninsula and the main body of Oman, is part of the Musandam governorate, covering approximately 75 km2 (29 sq mi). Madha's boundary was settled in 1969, with the north-east corner of Madha barely 10 m (32.8 ft) from the Fujairah road. Within the Madha exclave is a UAE enclave called Nahwa, belonging to the Emirate of Sharjah, situated about 8 km (5 mi) along a dirt track west of the town of New Madha, and consisting of about forty houses with a clinic and telephone exchange.
The central desert of Oman is an important source of meteorites for scientific analysis.
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