Status: Absolute Monarchy
Population: 3,694,755 (2021 est.)
Area: 118,340 sq. miles
Currency: 1000 Baizas = 1 Saidi Rial (after 1970). 1 Omani Rial = US $2.60
Muscat was a relatively unimportant village on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula until the Portuguese arrived in 1507. It became a Portuguese naval station. When Portugal lost Hormuz to the Persians in 1622, the Portuguese made Oman their fleet headquarters until they were driven out in 1650. Under Said bin Sultan (1797-1856) – who started ruling as a child in 1804 with the guidance of a regent – Oman became the greatest power on the peninsula. Its dominions spread down the African coast as far as Mombasa and Zanzibar and across the Red Sea to Baluchistan (Balochistan) in modern-day Pakistan.
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Said the Great’s death in 1856 created a succession crisis. Under British mediation, the sultan’s domains were divided. One of his 15 sons became sultan of Zanzibar and another, his third son, became sultan of Muscat and Oman. As Muscat’s power declined, the sultans drew closer to Great Britain. In 1891, Muscat and Oman became a British Protectorate. Although nominally united under the Sultan, the religious, nomadic tribes of the interior traditionally felt little kinship with the residents of the cosmopolitan port of Muscat. For much of this period, the Sultan governed the coast around Muscat while a tribal Imam controlled the interior from Nizwa.
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On May 1, 1864, the British opened the first post office in Muscat. Operated by the British East India Company, the office was assigned a distinctive number postmark, which was initially applied to stampless covers. Later, non-overprinted Indian stamps were placed in use. In 1868, a second post office was opened in Gwadur (now Gwadar), an Omani dependency on the coast of Balochistan (today, Pakistan).
Indian stamps remained in use until December 1947 with one exception. In 1944, 15 Indian stamps were specially overprinted for Muscat to mark the 200th anniversary of the al Said dynasty. Ten stamps also were issued for official use with the commemorative overprint.
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With the breakup of India in 1947, the post office in Muscat was temporarily transferred to Pakistani administration. Through a misunderstanding during the transition, the Muscat postmaster hand stamped his stock of stamps “Pakistan.” These unauthorized overprints were used for nine days. The shipment of Pakistani stamps arrived on December 29.
The Muscat Post Office operated from London between April 1, 1948 and until April 29, 1966. During this period, current British commemorative and definitive stamps overprinted in Indian currency were used. These so called “value only” surcharges were also used at various times at other British postal agencies in eastern Arabia. The post office in Gwadar continued to use Pakistani stamps until 1953 when it was ceded to Pakistan.
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Oman assumed its own postal administration on April 30, 1966. Its stamps were initially inscribed “Muscat and Oman.” On August 9, 1970, the Sultan proclaimed the name of the country to be “Sultanate of Oman.” Stamps issued after January 16, 1971, bear that inscription.
Labels inscribed “State of Oman” and “Oman Imamate State,” which appeared in the 1970s, supposedly from a rebel group in the south, do not appear to have had any postal validity.