Sultanate of Oman
Head of state
Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, since 1970
The total land area of Oman is 309,500 square kilometres.
The country occupies the southeastern spur of the Arabian peninsula. It shares borders with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen and is a close neighbour of Iran. Oman also controls the Musandam exclave, a small peninsula separated by UAE territory that juts into the Strait of Hormuz.
Omans flag consists of three stripes white, red and green with a red bar on the hoist side containing the national emblem, a traditional khanjar (curved) dagger crossed by two swords.
The official language is Arabic, but English is widely used in business and official circles. Due to Omans historical ties to Asia and east Africa, Balochi, Swahili, Urdu and various Iranian and Semitic languages and dialects are also spoken.
Omans fast-growing population is estimated at between 3 million and 3.3 million. The country is racially mixed and many Omanis have links to Baluchistan and east Africa. Oman hosts more than a million foreign workers, mostly from the Asian subcontinent, Egypt and the Philippines.
Oman is four hours ahead of GMT. It does not adjust its clocks in the summer.
The Omani rial (RO) is pegged to the US dollar, with RO1 worth $2.60.
Internet country code
Omans gross domestic product (GDP) was $76.5bn in 2013, according to the World Bank.
The official working week was recently changed from Saturday-Wednesday to Sunday-Thursday, with government departments and ministries working from 7.30am to 2.30pm. Banks are open until noon or 2pm. Shops typically shut in the early afternoon and reopen at 4pm.
Islam is the state religion, with about half of Omanis following the Ibadi sect, which is distinct from the Sunni and Shia schools that predominate in other Gulf countries. The sultan is a member of the Ibadi community.
As well as a significant Sunni minority, there are also smaller Shia, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Christian and other communities. Omani law prohibits discrimination based on religion.
Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting. Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and smoking between dawn and dusk and office hours are curtailed for both the public and private sectors. Ramadan started in July in 2013 and moves forward by several weeks each year according to the Islamic lunar calendar.
The festivals of Eid al-Fitr, at the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, which follows the Hajj pilgrimage, are the main holiday periods.
Oman is hot and dry for most of the year, with summer temperatures averaging 33 degrees Celsius in Muscat and reaching as high as 50C in the arid interior. The exception is the fertile southern region of Dhofar, which has a monsoon climate and receives heavy rainfall and fogs between July and September.
While oil has been the driving force of the Omani economy for decades, supplies are dwindling. Proven recoverable reserves now stand at about 5.5 billion barrels.
The countrys natural gas reserves amounted to 33.5 trillion cubic feet at the end of 2012. However, most of the readily available resources have already been extracted. The government is looking at ways to develop more inaccessible deposits on a commercially viable basis.
Omani crude production has recovered marginally following a decade-long slump. Ouput rose to an average of 918,000 barrels a day in 2012 due to investment in enhanced oil recovery projects.