Oman – poor or rich country?
Until 1970, Oman’s economy was quite backward and most of the people in the country were poor. Agriculture served as the basis of the economy and fishing on the coast.
Especially in the area around Dhofar, a sophisticated irrigation system made it possible to cultivate a lot, so that Oman was largely independent of imports from abroad – with one exception – rice. That had to be introduced. Otherwise one could even generate surpluses and export them to neighboring countries – above all the United Arab Emirates.
Discovery of petroleum
In the 1960s, oil was discovered in Oman, although not as much as in neighboring countries, but at least the “black gold” was slumbering in Oman as well. Natural gas was also found.
In 1970 the new sultan took over from his father and began to improve the situation through five-year plans. He also developed a vision of what the country should look like in 2020. With wise foresight, he did not want to make Oman dependent on oil alone, but rather to place the economy on different pillars. Thus, the country would not only be dependent on the prices on the world market. Because if these prices fall, so do the revenues.
In Oman, for example, port facilities were expanded in order to be able to ship mineral resources, but also products from agriculture or fishing. The country’s most important mineral resources include copper, magnesium, iron and tin.
Despite these attempts not to become dependent on oil (and natural gas) alone, the government’s greatest income comes from the sale and processing of the oil. Only in this way could other economic sectors be promoted and the generous social system (cf. everyday life in Oman) expanded.
Oman wants to attract tourists to the country
However, the focus is now on expanding tourism in order to bring money into the coffers. However, this is not a matter of mass tourism. It is more expensive and lavishly built 5-star hotels and shopping centers with which one would like to attract well-paying guests from neighboring countries or the United States.
Situation of the “guest workers” in Oman
When crude oil was discovered in the Arab countries, many skilled workers were hired from abroad who knew about working in the oil fields. These were well paid and lived largely prosperous lives. These were so-called “guest workers” because they only wanted to stay for a certain period of time and then return to their home countries. Today, many Arabs or Omanis in Oman also carry out such activities.
But the lower jobs from street sweepers to cleaning and domestic help to salespeople were mostly reserved for guest workers from countries such as India or Pakistan. While the guest workers from the West are largely doing well, the working conditions for the cheap workers from Asia are often bad.
How important is the family in Oman?
The family is very important in Oman, which is actually the case everywhere in Arab countries. So you will find there – as in the past with us in Europe too – many large families in which several generations live together. That means parents, grandparents, children, but also often aunts and uncles as well as cousins live in one house and look after each other.
Lots of children in the country
In rural Oman, the birth rate was (and still is) very high. Ten children in a family are not uncommon. In the city it looks different, there are far fewer children per family. But often all family members live under one roof. When young married couples get married, the whole family gathers in order to be able to pay for a wedding – which in Oman is celebrated with all pomp and splendor. And the young people then first live with the family until they can afford a house for themselves.
Marriages are often concluded within the family. It is not uncommon for cousins to marry and the family determines who marries whom. Weddings between friendly families are also not uncommon. But something is slowly changing here, there are now marriages between partners who fall in love and marry without the couple belonging to the same family.
The Islam allowed to marry four wives a man, but this rarely happens in everyday life. His job is then to provide for all of his wives, including his children, and that ends up being too expensive for most men.
A wedding is an important event
A wedding is celebrated with all splendor in Oman. For this, the family goes into debt if necessary. Music, dancing and plenty of food are part of it and a wedding can last for several days.
Many women take care of the household, but in Oman the education of girls is just as important as in other Arab countries. There are now more women than men studying at universities. Women in Oman also occupy important positions in business and politics. To speak of equality would be too much, however. For more information about Oman and Asia, please visit zipcodesexplorer.
What is a majilis?
Typical for Oman is a majilis, which means something like “place where you sit together”. One could freely translate this as “living room”. Friends can come to visit at any time without disturbing the family. By the way, guests are always entertained, given tea or coffee, fruit or the dates popular in Oman.
If you meet, you usually eat together. That is also typical, not only in Oman, but also in other Arab countries.
The role of women in Oman
While women are subject to many restrictions in the neighboring countries of Oman, such as Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, their situation in Oman is somewhat different. But here, too, there is still the imperative of veiling and no full legal equality.
Some things can be explained from tradition, but some things are sometimes difficult or impossible for us to understand. However, despite all the (also justified) criticism, we should never lose sight of the fact that, although we have political equality for women, women still have to live with disadvantages in everyday life.