His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said bin Taimur
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Qaboos bin Said Al Said (Arabic: قابوس بن سعيد آل سعيد, born 18 November 1940 is the Sultan of Oman. He rose to power after overthrowing his father, Said bin Taimur, in a palace coup in 1970. He is the 14th-generation descendant of the founder of the Al Bu Sa'idi dynasty. He is the longest serving Arab leader, having held the office since 1970.
Early life and education
Qaboos was born in Salalah in Dhofar on 18 November 1940. He is the only son of Sultan Said bin Taimur and Sheikha Mazoon al-Mashani.
He received his primary and secondary education at Salalah and Pune, India where he was the student of Shankar Dayal Sharma, the former President of India and was sent to a private educational establishment in England at age 16. At 20, he entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. After graduating from Sandhurst in September 1962, he joined the British Army and was posted to the 1st Battalion The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), serving with them in Germany for one year. He also held a staff appointment with the British Army.
After his military service, Qaboos studied local government subjects in England and then completed his education with a world tour chaperoned by Leslie Chauncy. Upon his return in 1966, he was placed under virtual house arrest in the Sultan's palace in Salalah by his father. Here he was kept isolated from government affairs, except for occasional briefings by his father's personal advisers. Qaboos studied Islam and the history of his country. His personal relationships were limited to a handpicked group of palace officials who were sons of his father's advisors and a few expatriate friends such as Tim Landon. Sultan Said said that he would not allow his son to be involved with the developing planning process, and Qaboos began to make known his desire for change — which was quietly supported by his expatriate visitors.
Rise to power
Qaboos acceded to the throne on 23 July 1970 following a successful coup against his father, with the aim of ending the country's isolation and using its oil revenue for modernization and development. He declared that the country would no longer be known as Muscat and Oman, but would change its name to "the Sultanate of Oman" in order to better reflect its political unity.
The coup was supported by the British, having been 'planned in London by MI6 and by civil servants at the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office' and sanctioned by the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson.
The first pressing problem that Qaboos bin Said faced as Sultan was an armed communist insurgency from South Yemen, the Dhofar Rebellion (1962–1976). The sultanate eventually defeated the incursion with help from the Shah of Iran, Jordanian troops sent from his friend King Hussein of Jordan, British Special Forces and the Royal Air Force.
Reign as Sultan
There were few rudiments of a modern state when Qaboos took power in July 1970. Oman was a poorly developed country, severely lacking in infrastructure, healthcare, and education, with only six kilometers of paved roads and a population dependent on subsistence farming and fishing. Qaboos modernized the country using oil revenues. Schools and hospitals were built, and a modern infrastructure was laid down, with hundreds of miles of new roads paved, a telecommunications network established, projects for a port and airport that had begun prior to his reign were completed and a second port was built, and electrification was achieved. The government also began to search for new water resources and built a desalination plant, and the government encouraged the growth of private enterprise, especially in development projects. Banks, hotels, insurance companies, and print media began to appear as the country developed economically. The Omani rial was established as the national currency, replacing the Indian rupee and Maria Theresa thaler. Later, additional ports were built, and universities were opened. Oman was transformed from an economic backwater to a modern country with a well-developed infrastructure. The political system which Qaboos established is that of an absolute monarchy. The Sultan's birthday, 18 November, is celebrated as Oman's national holiday. The first day of his reign, 23 July, is celebrated as Renaissance Day.
Oman has no system of checks and balances, and thus no separation of powers. All power is concentrated in the sultan, who is also chief of staff of the armed forces, Minister of Defence, Minister of Foreign Affairs and chairman of the Central Bank. All legislation since 1970 has been promulgated through royal decrees, including the 1996 Basic Law. The sultan appoints judges, and can grant pardons and commute sentences. The sultan's authority is inviolable and the sultan expects total subordination to his will.
In September 1995, he was involved in a car accident in Salalah just outside his palace, which claimed the life of one of his most prominent and influential ministers and his right-hand man, Qais Bin Abdul Munim Al Zawawi.
According to CBS News, June 19, 2011
Several protest leaders have been detained and released in rolling waves of arrests during the Arab Spring, and dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in the country is high. While disgruntlement amongst the populace is obvious, the extreme dearth of foreign press coverage and lack of general press freedom there leaves it unclear as to whether the protesters want the sultan to leave, or simply want their government to function better. Beyond the recent protests, there is concern about succession in the country, as there is no heir apparent or any clear legislation on who may be the next Sultan.
His closest advisors are reportedly security and intelligence professionals within the Palace Office, headed by General Sultan bin Mohammed al Numani.
Qaboos officially keeps Oman neutral, having contacts and normal relations with Iran while being an ally of western states like the United Kingdom and the United States.
Oman has more normal relations with Iran than Arab States of the Persian Gulf, and is careful to appear neutral and maintain a balance between the West and Iran. As a result, Oman has often acted as an intermediary between the United States and Iran.
Unlike the heads of other Arab States of the Persian Gulf, Qaboos has not publicly named an heir. This has become a particular relevant problem, after the sultan has spent eight months in Germany for medical treatment of an alleged cancer. Although Sultan Qaboos returned to Oman on 23 March 2015 and state officials as well as the Sultan himself have repeatedly tried to assure the population over his health, uncertainty still remains and the question of his succession is giving way to all sorts of speculations. Article 6 of the constitution says the royal family should choose a new sultan within three days of the position falling vacant. If the royal family council fails to agree, a letter containing a name penned by Sultan Qaboos should be opened in the presence of a defence council of military and security officials, supreme court chiefs, and heads of the two quasi-parliamentary advisory assemblies. Analysts see the rules as an elaborate means of sultan Qaboos securing his choice for successor without causing controversy by making it public during his lifetime.
Qaboos has no children; there are other male members of the Omani royal family including several paternal uncles and their families. Using primogeniture, the successor to Qaboos would appear to be the children of his late uncle, Sayyid Tariq bin Taimur Al Said, Oman's first prime minister before the sultan took over the position himself (and his former father-in-law). Oman watchers believe the top contenders to succeed Qaboos are three of Tariq's sons: Assad bin Tariq Al Said, the personal representative of the Sultan; Shihab bin Tariq, a retired naval commander; and Haytham bin Tariq, the Minister of Heritage and National Culture. First Deputy Prime Minister Fahd bin Mahmud al-Said, a distant cousin of the Sultan, and Taimur bin Assad, the son of Assad bin Tariq, are also mentioned as potential candidates. The problem is that none of the above seem to have the necessary capacities to rule Oman, since Sultan Qaboos, differently from the other Persian Gulf countries, has relied more on the business elite than on family members, who have been excluded from key positions, to secure his power over the country. His successor will have to strive to secure the same legitimacy that the current Sultan has managed to gain. Moreover, the question raises whether also the next successor will keep the same absolute power in his hands or whether he will decide to separate State powers, given that although Oman has been largely untouched by the 2011 Arab Spring, unrest has kept on sweeping through the country throughout 2012 and 2013.
He has financed the construction or maintenance of a number of mosques, notably the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, as well as the holy places of other religions.
Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation
Through a donation to UNESCO in the early 1990s, he funded the Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation, to afford recognition to outstanding contributions in the management or preservation of the environment. The prize has been awarded every two years since 1991
Qaboos is a Muslim of the Ibadi denomination, which has traditionally ruled Oman. Although Oman is predominantly Muslim, Qaboos has granted freedom of religion in the country since his reign and has financed the construction of four Catholic and Protestant churches in the country as well as Hindu temples.
Qaboos bin Said is an avid fan and promoter of classical music. His 120-member orchestra has a high reputation in the Middle East. The orchestra consists entirely of young Omanis who, since 1986, audition as children and grow up as members of the symphonic ensemble. They play locally and travel abroad with the sultan. Argentine composer Lalo Schifrin was commissioned to compose a work entitled Symphonic Impressions of Oman. The Sultan is particularly enthusiastic about the pipe organ. The Royal Opera House Muscat features the largest mobile pipe organ in the world, which has three specially made organ stops, named the "Royal Solo" in his honour. He was also a patron of local folk musician Salim Rashid Suri, making him a cultural consultant, in which role Suri wrote songs praising the Sultan and his family.
On 22 March 1976, Qaboos bin Said married his first cousin, Kamila, née Sayyida Nawwal bint Tariq Al Said (born 1951), daughter of Sayyid Tariq bin Taimur Al Said and his second wife, Sayyida Shawana bint Nasir Al Said. The marriage ended in divorce in 1979. She remarried in 2005. The marriage produced no heirs, and Qaboos bin Said has written documents naming the successor to his title.