Location: Middle East, bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of
Oman, and Persian Gulf, between Yemen and UAE
Geographic coordinates: 21 00 N, 57 00 E
Map references: Middle East
total: 212,460 sq km
land: 212,460 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Kansas
total: 1,374 km
border countries: Saudi Arabia 676 km, UAE 410 km, Yemen
Coastline: 2,092 km
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: dry desert; hot, humid along coast; hot, dry interior;
strong southwest summer monsoon (May to September) in far south
Terrain: vast central desert plain, rugged mountains in
north and south
lowest point: Arabian Sea 0 m
highest point: Jabal Shams 2,980 m
Natural resources: petroleum, copper, asbestos, some marble,
limestone, chromium, gypsum, natural gas
arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 5%
forests and woodland: 0%
other: 95% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 580 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: summer winds often raise large sandstorms
and dust storms in interior; periodic droughts
Environment - current issues: rising soil salinity; beach
pollution from oil spills; very limited natural fresh water resources
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification,
Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection,
Ship Pollution, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: strategic location on Musandam Peninsula
adjacent to Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude
Background: In 1970, QABOOS bin Said Al Said ousted his
father and has ruled as sultan ever since. His extensive modernization
program has opened the country to the outside world and has preserved
a long-standing political and military relationship with Britain.
Oman's moderate, independent foreign policy has sought to maintain
good relations with all Middle Eastern countries.
Formal Name: Sultanate of Oman.
Short Form: Oman.
Term for Citizens: Omani(s); adjectival form,
Size: About 212,000 square kilometers, although
Topography: Mostly desert; 15 percent land mountainous.
Four major regions: Musandam Peninsula, Al Batinah coastal plain,
Oman interior, and Dhofar region.
Climate: Hot and dry, except for Dhofar, which
has light monsoons.
Boundaries: Yemen and Saudi Arabia demarcated
borders with Oman in 1992.
Data as of January 1993
Oman -- Geography and Population
Oman is located in the
southeastern quarter of the Arabian Peninsula and, according to
official estimates, covers a total land area of approximately 300,000
square kilometers; foreign observer estimates, however, are about
212,000 square kilometers, roughly the size of the state of Kansas.
The land area is composed of varying topographic features: valleys
and desert account for 82 percent of the land mass; mountain ranges,
15 percent; and the coastal plain, 3 percent.
The sultanate is flanked by the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea,
and the Rub al Khali (Empty Quarter) of Saudi Arabia, all of which
contributed to Oman's isolation. Historically, the country's contacts
with the rest of the world were by sea, which not only provided
access to foreign lands but also linked the coastal towns of Oman.
The Rub al Khali, difficult to cross even with modern desert transport,
formed a barrier between the sultanate and the Arabian interior.
The Al Hajar Mountains, which form a belt between the coast and
the desert from the Musandam Peninsula (Ras Musandam) to the city
of Sur at Oman's easternmost point, formed another barrier. These
geographic barriers kept the interior of Oman free from foreign
military encroachments .
Natural features divide the country into seven distinct areas:
Ruus al Jibal, including the northern Musandam Peninsula; the Al
Batinah coastal plain; the Muscat-Matrah coastal area; the Oman
interior, comprising Al Jabal al Akhdar (Green Mountain), its foothills,
and desert fringes; the barren coastline south to Dhofar; Dhofar
region in the south; and the offshore island of Masirah.
The northernmost area, Ruus al Jibal, extends from the Musandam
Peninsula to the boundary with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at
Hisn al Diba. It borders the Strait of Hormuz, which links the Persian
Gulf with the Gulf of Oman, and is separated from the rest of the
sultanate by a strip of territory belonging to the UAE. This area
consists of low mountains forming the northernmost extremity of
the Al Hajar al Gharbi (Western Al Hajar) Mountains. Two inlets,
Elphinstone (Khawr ash Shamm) and Malcom (Ghubbat al Ghazirah),
cleave the coastline about onethird the distance from the Strait
of Hormuz and at one point are separated by only a few hundred meters
of land. The coastline is extremely rugged, and the Elphinstone
Inlet, sixteen kilometers long and surrounded by cliffs 1,000 to
1,250 meters high, has frequently been compared with fjords in Norway.
The UAE territory separating Ruus al Jibal from the rest of Oman
extends almost as far south as the coastal town of Shinas. A narrow,
well-populated coastal plain known as Al Batinah runs from the point
at which the sultanate is reentered to the town of As Sib, about
140 kilometers to the southeast. Across the plains, a number of
wadis, heavily populated in their upper courses, descend from the
Al Hajar al Gharbi Mountains to the south. A ribbon of oases, watered
by wells and underground channels (falaj), extends the
length of the plain, about ten kilometers inland.
South of As Sib, the coast changes character. For about 175 kilometers,
from As Sib to Ras al Hadd, it is barren and bounded by cliffs almost
its entire length; there is no cultivation and little habitation.
Although the deep water off this coast renders navigation relatively
easy, there are few natural harbors or safe anchorages. The two
best are at Muscat and Matrah, where natural harbors facilitated
the growth of cities centuries ago.
West of the coastal areas lies the tableland of central Oman. The
Al Hajar Mountains form two ranges: the Al Hajar al Gharbi Mountains
and the Al Hajar ash Sharqi (Eastern Al Hajar) Mountains. They are
divided by the Wadi Samail (the largest wadi in the mountain zone),
a valley that forms the traditional route between Muscat and the
interior. The general elevation is about 1,200 meters, but the peaks
of the high ridge known as Al Jabal al Akhdar (Green Mountain)--which
is considered a separate area but is actually part of the Al Hajar
al Gharbi Mountains--rise to more than 3,000 meters in some places.
Al Jabal al Akhdar is the only home of the Arabian tahr,
a unique species of wild goat. In the hope of saving this rare animal,
Sultan Qabus ibn Said has declared part of Al Jabal al Akhdar a
national park. Behind the Al Hajar al Gharbi Mountains are two inland
regions, Az Zahirah and inner Oman, separated by the lateral range
of the Rub al Khali. Adjoining the Al Hajar ash Sharqi Mountains
are the sandy regions of Ash Sharqiyah and Jalan, which also border
The desolate coastal tract from Jalan to Ras Naws has no specific
name. Low hills and wastelands meet the sea for long distances.
Midway along this coast and about fifteen kilometers offshore is
the barren island of Masirah. Stretching about seventy kilometers,
the island occupies a strategic location near the entry point to
the Gulf of Oman from the Arabian Sea. Because of its location,
it became the site of military facilities used first by the British
and then by the United States, following an access agreement signed
in 1980 by the United States and Oman.
Dhofar region extends from Ras ash Sharbatat to the border of Yemen.
Its exact northern limit has never been defined, but the territory
claimed by the sultan includes the Wadi Mughshin, about 240 kilometers
inland. The southwestern portion of the coastal plain of Dhofar
is regarded as one of the most beautiful in Arabia, and its capital,
Salalah, was the permanent residence of Sultan Said ibn Taimur Al
Said and the birthplace of the present sultan, Qabus ibn Said. The
highest peaks are about 1,000 meters. At their base lies a narrow,
pebbly desert adjoining the Rub al Khali to the north.
Data as of January 1993
With the exception of Dhofar region, which has a light monsoon
climate and receives cool winds from the Indian Ocean, the climate
of Oman is extremely hot and dry most of the year. Summer begins
in mid-April and lasts until October. The highest temperatures are
registered in the interior, where readings of more than 50°
C in the shade are common. On the Al Batinah plain, summer temperatures
seldom exceed 46° C, but, because of the low elevation, the
humidity may be as high as 90 percent. The mean summer temperature
in Muscat is 33° C, but the gharbi (literally, western),
a strong wind that blows from the Rub al Khali, can raise temperatures
from the towns on the Gulf of Oman by 6° C to 10° C. Winter
temperatures are mild and pleasant, ranging between 15° C and
Precipitation on the coasts and on the interior plains ranges from
twenty to 100 millimeters a year and falls during mid- and late
winter. Rainfall in the mountains, particularly over Al Jabal al
Akhdar, is much higher and may reach 700 millimeters. Because the
plateau of Al Jabal al Akhdar is porous limestone, rainfall seeps
quickly through it, and the vegetation, which might be expected
to be more lush, is meager. However, a huge reservoir under the
plateau provides springs for low-lying areas. In addition, an enormous
wadi channels water to these valleys, making the area agriculturally
productive in years of good rainfall. Dhofar, benefiting from a
southwest monsoon between June and September, receives heavier rainfall
and has constantly running streams, which make the region Oman's
most fertile area.
Data as of January 1993