For centuries, most Omanis lived at the subsistence level. This situation began to change in the late 1960's, when large-scale petroleum production began. The country became heavily dependent on the oil industry for its prosperity and the government is now trying to diversify the economy.

Agriculture supports more than half of the people. Crops include limes, bananas, wheat, coconuts, vegetables, and dates. Cattle are raised in Dhofar, and goats, sheep, and camels are raised throughout Oman. Commercial fishing is being developed. Manufacturing activities include petroleum refining, copper smelting, and the making of chemicals, cement, and processed foods. Petroleum and natural gas, produced mainly in the interior, are Oman's chief mineral resources. Other minerals produced include copper and chromate.

Highways link most of Oman's principal cities. The chief port is at Matrah. Pipelines link oil-producing regions to terminals on the coast. Seeb International Airport, near Muscat, is the chief airport.


  People and Government


Oman's population is predominantly Arab. Iranians, Indians, Pakistanis, and East African blacks are numerous along the northeast coast. The largest urban area includes Muscat, the capital largest city, and the nearby port of Matrah.


Oman has a wide variety of climatic conditions as a result of the diverse geography. Although lying in the tropical region, the Sultanate is subject to seasonal changes like the more temperate zone of the world. During the winter it is cool and pleasant, but summer on the coast is hot and humid. The interior remains hot and dry, except for the mountains where temperatures can drop drastically at night.

The hottest months are June, July and August but on the southern coast of Dhofar the monsoons bring light but persistent rain, resulting in a cool and misty summer. Rainfall varies but in general remains sparse and irregular. In the south, most of the year's rainfall occurs during the summer monsoon months. In the north, the opposite occurs. Here most rain comes from occasional winter storms which descend out of the eastern Mediterranean during the months of January through March, depositing an annual average of 10 cm of rain on the capital area.