The capital is Masqat (Muscat); the adjacent town of Matrah is a leading port (combined population, estimate,200,000). The population is overwhelmingly Arab, but significant minorities of Indians, Pakistanis, and East Africans are found in the principal ports.
The majority of the population is Ibadhi Muslim; Sunni Muslims form the other major religious group. Arabic is the official language.
Women play a more active and visible role in society in Oman than in most of the Arabian peninsula, where the role of women is still restricted.
They have received encouragement and support from the government, which provides schooling and university education for girls on a par with that for boys, and has decreed that women should be given career opportunities and equal pay. In the capital many women now have jobs, especially with the government.
In the countryside women have always played an active role in the agricultural communities. For the most part Omani women are not veiled, although the women of some tribes still wear the burqa or face mask and black cloak, the abaya.
The majority of Omani women, however, wear very colourful clothes arranged in loose and flowing layers. The reds, oranges and ochre's of their gowns make a brilliant splash of colour in the old streets of the inland towns and in the fields and palm groves.
They are generally not self-effacing and may be willing to talk to strangers, once the ice has been broken. But they are deeply Muslim and should always be treated with deference and respect.
Although the freer, more active role of Omani women has been fostered by the present government, it is not a new phenomenon in Oman.