Oman was ruled by the Al Bu Sa’id for 250 years, and during this period the fortunes of the state varied considerably. But in July 1970, as a result of a palace coup, the state abruptly turned away from isolation and traditions of the past. The most obvious alteration was in the dramatic change in the outward appearance of the country, particularly as exemplified by the rejection of the long era of stagnation and the parallel emphasis on socio-economic development. In the political realm, however, the shifting balance of power and the rapid growth and diversification of the state’s administrative structure were based essentially on perennial themes in Omani politics. The interplay between four of these themes forms the basis of this study, first published in 1978. The role of the Sultan and the ruling family, the development of the administration, the exercise of tribal politics and the impact of external influences on the state are closely examined and the modifications they went in response to the various challenges of the twentieth century are discussed. The constant flux in the relative importance of each of these themes illustrates the fragile nature of the traditional Omani political system, for in the twentieth century the Al Bu Sa’id Sultanate found its precarious hold over the country challenged on a number of occasions. These challenges – ranging from the tribal and religious rebellion of 1913-20, to the Marxist-Leninist revolt in Dhufar – are also analysed in detail, together with the response of the Sultanate to their impact.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Oman and its People Part 1. Themes in Omani Politics 2. The Sultans and the Ruling Family 3. Development of the Administration 4. Tribal Politics 5. External Influences on Omani Politics Part 2. Challenges to the Sultanate 6. Imams, Tribes and the Changing Nature of Challenges 7. The Mountain Rebellions: al-Jabal al-Akhdar and Dhufar 8. Coup d’Etat of 1970 and Volte-Face Appendix A. Glossary Appendix B. Abridged Genealogy of the Al Sa’id Appendix C. Military Commanders in the Sultanate Appendix D. Genealogies of the Tamimas of Five Principal Tribes Appendix E. Letter of Accession of Sa’id Bin Taymur (1932) Appendix F. British Official Representation at Muscat Appendix G. Summaries of Sultanate Budgets, 1921-47