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The Sultanate of Oman is one of the few "good news" stories to have emerged from the Middle East in recent memory. This book traces the narrative of a little-known and relatively stable Arab country whose history of independence, legacy of interaction with diverse cultures, and enlightened modern leadership have transformed it in less than fifty years from an isolated medieval-style potentate to a stable, dynamic, and largely optimistic country.
At the heart of this fascinating story is Oman’s sultan, Qaboos bin Sa’id, friend to both East and West, whose unique leadership style has resulted in both domestic and foreign policy achievements during more than four decades in office.
Exploring Oman from a historical perspective, Funsch examines how the country’s unique blend of tradition and modernization has enabled it to succeed while others in the region have failed. Accounts of the author’s own experiences with Oman’s transformation add rich layers of depth, texture, and personality to the narrative.




A “Good News” Story from the Middle East
This book examines the variety of factors that have transformed the Sultanate of Oman from a medieval potentate, a veritable terra incognita to the outside world, to a modern nation-state in less than two generations. It analyzes the dynamics that have enabled this ancient country to make a distinctive yet almost seamless transition from an isolated, stagnant backwater to a strategic regional power—without a corresponding loss of national identity. Although increasingly “modern,” Omanis adhere to a development model of their own invention, one that reflects their unique history and places a premium on independence and cultural authenticity rather than blindly embracing all that is Western.
Linda Pappas Funsch

Chapter 1. The Lure of Oman

The Sultanate of Oman, the oldest independent state in the Arab world, is a unique and enchanting land. Its history, including its modern history, is unlike that of any other country in the Middle East. Although it was occupied in 1507 by the Portuguese, it regained its political authority and went on not only to reassert its territorial integrity at home but also to exercise a broad sphere of influence across the globe.
Linda Pappas Funsch

Chapter 2. Setting the Stage: Oman Pre-1970

An appreciation of the history of Oman—one of the oldest independent nations on earth—is indispensable to understanding both Oman’s people and its modern policies. It is history, long remembered and routinely celebrated through oral tradition, the arts, and cultural tourism that is at the very heart of Oman’s collective identity, informing its domestic behavior and guiding its foreign relations. It is history, including victories, defeats, and lessons learned that renders Oman’s particular journey into modernity unique unto itself.
Linda Pappas Funsch

Chapter 3. Qaboos bin Said: Renaissance Man

The long history of Omani independence had prepared the country for its entry into the modern age. Now all that was necessary was the right leader to effect the country’s transition. That leader was Qaboos bin Said, a man who has come to personify a transformation so dramatic it can only be called a renaissance (nahda). Qaboos bin Said is by any measure an exceptional man. He has shepherded a country, formerly stagnant and suspended in time, into the twenty-first century. Oman is today a “good news” story, a story of success: stable, harmonious, and optimistic. This herculean task has been accomplished with courage and conviction, intelligence and vision.
Linda Pappas Funsch

Chapter 4. Creating a Civil Society

Upon assuming the leadership of Oman in 1970, Qaboos bin Said was confronted with a variety of challenges, not least of which was constructing a framework of institutions to provide for the health, education, and well-being of his countrymen. From the beginning of his reign, Sultan Qaboos invested considerable acumen and resources toward neutralizing disparate political factions throughout Oman. Having restored political stability in the country, he lifted the harsh restrictions on movement previously enforced throughout the land and promised a new era in the lives and fortunes of his people.
Linda Pappas Funsch

Chapter 5. Constructing a Modern Economy

Given the appalling social and economic conditions that existed in Oman in 1970, the progress that has been accomplished in a relatively short period of time is by any measure, both quantitatively and qualitatively, extraordinary. This was recognized in 2010 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which reported that between 1970 and 2010 Oman had the fastest progress of any country in the Human Development Index (HDI), with a quadrupling of gross enrollment and literacy rates and a twenty-seven-year increase in life expectancy.1
Linda Pappas Funsch

Chapter 6. Foreign Relations: A Policy of Mutual Respect

Oman’s geostrategic location, its extensive maritime history, and its particular blend of religious and societal attitudes have, to a considerable extent, shaped the sultanate’s relationships with other countries, both within the Gulf region and beyond. Viewed through the lens of history and culture, the independent foreign policy forged during the reign of Sultan Qaboos bin Said is wholly consistent with Oman’s past.
Linda Pappas Funsch

Chapter 7. Challenges and Opportunities in a New Century

Although the inventory of Oman’s achievements is impressive by any standard, the sultanate, by virtue of geography, is part of a volatile world, where instability is currently the norm. As such, it is far from immune from the historic convulsions that have swept through the Middle East in recent years, undermining the status quo and toppling regimes like so many dominos.
Linda Pappas Funsch


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