Oman - Towards independence

Oman - Towards independence Last updated on Wednesday 14th April 2010

A constant presence in the history of Oman is the division between the country's inland and coastal areas. Since the tenth century, however, the coastal areas have almost always maintained their preeminence in both politics and economics.

In 1506 the first Europeans appeared in the Gulf and they were the Portuguese. They occupied Oman in 1507 and made Hormuz their base of operations. The country was treated by and large as a way station for Portuguese ships on the route to India. There are very few reminders of the Portuguese presence in the country, implying that Portuguese interest in Oman did not extend to much beyond protecting its supply lines.

In 1622, however, the Portuguese were driven out of Hormuz and made Muscat their main base in the region. They built up the town and fortified it (pictured), but in the end were unable to hold it. In 1650 the Omanis expelled them from the country and Oman's history as an independent state is generally reckoned from this date.

The expulsion of the Portuguese was the signal for Omani commercial power to expand throughout the Gulf and the Indian Ocean. The traders and merchants immediately began to consolidate their influence not only toward India but to the coast of East Africa as well.

The Omanis signed various mercantile treaties with the British, the French and the Dutch but through it all, they maintained their independence. And it was an independence which had a sound economic base unmatched by any other Arab sheikhs in the region.

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