The Omani empire

The Omani empire Last updated on Wednesday 14th April 2010

By the end of the 18th century, the Omanis were in control of an extensive empire. At its height in the 19th century, the empire ruled both Mombassa and Zanzibar and had trading posts much further down the African coast. (Oman's last colonial outpost -- Gwadar, on what is now the coast of Pakistan -- was not surrendered until September 1958, when Sultan Said bin Taimur allowed it to be re-integrated into Pakistan in return for a payment of £3 million.)

In 1749 the first ruler of the present dynasty (Al-Busaid) gained power and in 1786 the capital was formally moved from the interior to Muscat. About this same time, the Al-Busaid adopted the title of Sultan which continues to this day.

The heyday of the Omani Empire occurred in the mid-19th century under Sultan Said bin Sultan (ruled from 1804-1856). He was responsible for bringing Dhofar under the Omani flag and he also extended Omani influence and control quite a way down the East African coast. He had an army of 6500 men and a navy consisting of 15 ships.

When he died, the empire split in two: one son became the Sultan of Zanzibar and the other the Sultan of Muscat and Oman. In the very name of the latter, the perceived difference between the interests of the coast and those of the interior was acknowledged. In fact, they were regarded as two entities ruled by the same monarch -- though the writ of the ruler in Muscat sometimes did not extend very far into the interior.

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