The British negotiated treaties with leaders of the Gulf sheikdoms in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The British provided protection to the small nations from their larger neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, in exchange for assistance in controlling piracy. The British were bound to the gulf by treaties and so remained in the region, but it was clear by the 1960s that they sought to reduce their expenses east of Suez.
The Al Said family rules in present-day Oman, owing their positions to tribal leadership.
In 1970, Qaboos bin Said Al Said ousted his father and has ruled as sultan ever since.
Qaboos ibn Said consolidated control over the interior and then sought regional assistance to quell a rebellion in Dhofar. Arab leaders and the Shah of Iran sent troops and the Dhofar rebellion ended in 1976. In 1977, the British vacated their bases at Masirah Island and Salalah, having assisted in defeating the left wing rebellion in Dhofar and securing a political order in Oman conducive to western interests.
Oman's extensive modernization effort has opened up the country and maintained its long-time relationship with the British. A moderate, independent foreign policy maintains generally good relations with all Middle Eastern countries.
The population has grown steadily, doubling between 1960 and the mid-nineties, from about 1,104,000 to 2,211,000. Oman has a very young population. About two-thirds of the workforce is non-Omani. As in many oil-rich nations of the Middle East, the Omanis hire workers from the poorer nations to perform the least desirable jobs. Some highly skilled personell are also brought in to accelerate infrastructure development.
Almost 85 percent of Omanis live in cities and towns, almost all the rest are settled in villages. There are, however, a few nomadic Bedouins.
Omani citizens enjoy free education through the university level. In only 30 years, elementary school attendance has grown from almost zero to 75%. Secondary school enrollment is almost 68 percent. Sultan Qaboos University in Ruwî, opened in 1986, now has over 4,000 students. There are also specialized educational institutions. Nation-wide, literacy is up to 40 percent, double the rate of thirty years ago.
Before the discovery and exploitation of oil and natural gas in the mid-1960s, Oman’s economy consisted mostly of agriculture, fishing, and traditional crafts. Oil revenues have made the leaders rich and increased their influence. Today, while Oman’s economy maintains a largely traditional sector based on agriculture, it also has a rapidly growing modern sector based on oil. Oil production in the mid-1990s accounted for almost half the country’s gross domestic product.