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State structure

Oman is an Islamic absolutist monarchy with a sultan as head of state and absolute ruler. Attempts are being made to harmonise the old tribal structure with the modern administration, and this is working quite well. There are no political parties, no trade unions and no parliament. Laws and regulations are decreed by the sultan and, if necessary, unilaterally reversed. The Sultan is also the Minister of Defence and Finance and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The people of Oman accept this state of affairs, not least because of the country's economic prosperity and the turbulent developments in many other areas (see: education). The daily administration consists of ministers, state secretaries and special councils, all of whom are directly answerable to the sultan.

Oman consists of three governorates: Muscat, Dhofar and the Musandam peninsula. Oman is also divided into eight administrative regions, which are in turn divided into 59 districts (wilayat), roughly corresponding to the old tribal boundaries. The region is headed by a so-called "wali" appointed by the Sultan, who is accountable to the Minister of Interior.

Since 1991, there has been an advisory parliament of 83 members, the Majlis ash- Shura. The Sultan appoints a number of persons per district for a period of three years. Districts with fewer than 30,000 inhabitants have one representative and districts with more than 30,000 inhabitants have two representatives. Since 1995, women have also been allowed to sit in the assembly, and in 2004 the Shura Council actually had two women. Although it is compulsory for the Shura Council to be consulted on, for example, new laws, they only have an advisory role. Nevertheless, their opinion is increasingly valued, perhaps a harbinger of democratic developments.

The Sultan has no children, so there is no succession. What will happen after his death is still unclear, perhaps the sultanate will turn into a republic!

In March 2004, for the first time in Oman's history, a woman was appointed Minister with portfolio. It was Rawya bint Saud al-Bosaeidi, who became Minister of Higher Education. Since 2003, there had been a minister without portfolio. For the current political situation, see History section.


In the early 1970s, education in Oman at all levels was still in its infancy. Three primary schools for boys and a few Koranic schools, that was all. Today, there are about 1,000 primary schools for about 500,000 pupils and 500 schools for adults. After primary school there is secondary and preparatory higher education. There are also quite a few colleges and vocational schools. State education is free.

In 1980, the Sultan Qabous University was opened, where almost 4000 students now attend classes. It is remarkable that approximately 65% of the students are girls. This is because Sultan Qabous has demanded that a minimum of 50% of the university's students should be girls. The fact that there are now many more girls is mainly due to the very good study results they achieve. Moreover, girls and women have the right to education and do so in large numbers. Most subjects at university are taught in English.

Since 1971, 16 women's centres have provided adult education, teaching women reading and writing as well as health, nutrition, hygiene and birth control. About 3,000 students study abroad.

At present, about 40% of the adults are illiterate, 15% of the boys and about 20% of the girls. About half of the teaching staff are Omanis. Because of the great shortage of teachers, the rest have to be recruited from abroad, especially from Egypt.


Callan, L. / Oman & United Arab Emirates
Lonely Planet

Foster, L.M. / Oman
Children’s Press

Medani Elsayed, M. / Reishandboek Oman en de Verenigde Arabische Emiraten

Van Deuren, G. / Oman, Verenigde Arabische Emiraten

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info