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Qaboos bin Said
Qaboos smiling
Qaboos bin Said Al Said
Preceded by Said bin Taimur
Succeeded by Haitham bin Tariq
Personal details
Born (1940-11-18)18 November 1940
Salalah, Muscat and Oman
Died 10 January 2020(2020-01-10) (aged 79)
Beit al-Baraka, Seeb, Oman[1]
Spouse(s) Sayyida Kamila (m. 1976–79)
Religion Ibadi Islam

Qaboos bin Said (Arabic language: قابوس بن سعيد‎, IPA: [qaː.buːs bin sa.ʕiːd ʔaːl sa.ʕiːd]; 18 November 1940[2] – 10 January 2020) was the Sultan of Oman from 23 July 1970 until his death. A fifteenth-generation descendant of the founder of the House of Al Said,[3] he was the longest-serving leader in the Middle East and Arab world at the time of his death.[4]

The only son of Sultan Said bin Taimur of Muscat and Oman, Qaboos was educated in England. After graduating from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he served briefly in the British Army. He returned to Oman in 1966 and was placed under virtual house arrest by his father. In 1970, Qaboos ascended to the Omani throne after overthrowing his father in a coup d'état, with British support. The country was subsequently re-named the Sultanate of Oman.

As Sultan, Qaboos implemented a policy of modernization and ended Oman's international isolation.[5] His reign saw a rise in living standards and development in the country, the abolition of slavery, the end of the Dhofar Rebellion and the promulgation of Oman's constitution. Suffering from poor health in later life, Qaboos died in 2020. He had no children so he named his cousin, Haitham bin Tariq, his heir.

Early life and education

Qaboos was born in Salalah in Dhofar on 18 November 1940 as an only son of Sultan Said bin Taimur and Sheikha Mazoon al-Mashani.[6][7]

He received his primary and secondary education at Salalah, and was sent to a private educational establishment at Bury St Edmunds in England at age 16.[8][9] 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.[10][11]

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.[10]

Political career

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.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]

Reign as Sultan

Sultan Qaboos meets with United States Vice President Dick Cheney during Cheney's visit to the Middle East in 2002.

There were few rudiments of a modern state when Qaboos took power in the 1970 Omani coup d'état.[10] Oman was a poorly developed country, severely lacking in infrastructure, healthcare, and education, with only six miles 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 kilometres 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 the 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.[16][17][18] In his first year in power, Qaboos also abolished slavery in Oman,[19] an act that remains one of his most important.

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.[20] The first day of his reign, 23 July, is celebrated as Renaissance Day.[21]

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.[22]

Qaboos' closest advisors were reportedly security and intelligence professionals within the Palace Office, headed by General Sultan bin Mohammed al Numani.[23]

2011 Omani protests

The much-talked-about 2011 Omani protests were a series of protests in the Persian Gulf country of Oman that occurred as part of the revolutionary wave popularly known as the "Arab Spring".[24]

The protesters demanded salary increases, lower living costs, the creation of more jobs and a reduction in corruption.[citation needed] Protests in Sohar, Oman's fifth-largest city, centered on the Globe Roundabout.[25] The Sultan's responses included the dismissal of a third of the governing cabinet.[26]

According to CBS News, 19 June 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.[27]

He did give token concession to protesters yet detained social media activists. In August 2014, The Omani writer and human rights defender Mohammed Alfazari, the founder and editor-in-chief of the e-magazine Mowatin "Citizen", disappeared after going to the police station in the Al-Qurum district of Muscat, only to be pardoned some time later.[28][11][29]

Sultan Qaboos meeting the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi in 2018.

Foreign policy

Under Qaboos, Oman fostered closer ties with Iran than other Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and was careful to appear neutral and maintain a balance between the West and Iran.[30] As a result, Oman often acted as an intermediary between the United States and Iran.[31][32] Qaboos helped mediate secret US-Iran talks in 2013 that led two years later to the international nuclear pact, from which the United States withdrew in 2018.[33]

In 2011, Qaboos facilitated the release of American hikers who were held by Iran, paying $1 million for their freedom.[34]

Oman did not join the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen against the Houthis in 2015, and did not take sides in a Gulf dispute that saw Saudi Arabia and its allies impose an embargo on Qatar in 2016.[9]

In October 2018, Qaboos invited Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Oman, a country that does not have official diplomatic ties with Israel. Netanyahu was the first Israeli prime minister to visit Oman since Shimon Peres in 1996.[35]


Qaboos 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.[36]

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.[37]

Personal life

Qaboos was a Muslim of the Ibadi denomination, which has traditionally ruled Oman. Although Oman is predominantly Muslim, Qaboos granted freedom of religion in the country and financed the construction of four Catholic and Protestant churches in the country as well as several Hindu temples.[38]

Qaboos bin Said was 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 traveled abroad with the sultan.[39] Argentine composer Lalo Schifrin was commissioned to compose a work entitled Symphonic Impressions of Oman.[40] The Sultan was particularly enthusiastic about the pipe organ.[41] 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.[42] 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.[43]

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.[44] She remarried in 2005.[45] The marriage produced no heirs, and Qaboos bin Said wrote secret documents naming the successor to his realm.[46] The Times described rumours throughout his life of "liaisons with elegant young European men".[47]

In September 1995, Qaboos 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, Qais Bin Abdul Munim Al Zawawi.[48]

Illness and death

From 2015, Qaboos suffered from colon cancer, for which he received treatment.[49][50] On 14 December 2019, he was reported to be terminal with a short time to live after his stay for medical treatment in UZ Leuven in Belgium and returned home because he wanted to die in his own country.[51][52] He died on 10 January 2020 at the age of 79. The following day, the government declared three days of national mourning and said the country's flag would be flown at half-staff for a period of 40 days.[53][54]

His funeral was held between 12 and 14 January 2020, in the presence of, amongst others, the following persons:

  • United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Emirate of Abu Dhabi
  • United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates
  • Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Emir of Kuwait
  • Jordan Abdullah II, King of Jordan
  • Japan Shinzō Abe, Prime Minister of Japan
  • United Kingdom Charles, Prince of Wales
  • United Kingdom Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
  • United Arab Emirates Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Emir of Fujairah
  • United Nations Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations
  • Arab League Samir Hosny, President of Arab League
  • Somalia Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, President of Somalia
  • Palestinian territories Mahmood Abbas, President of Palestine
  • Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain
  • France Emmanuel Macron, President of France
  • Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President of Germany
  • Italy Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of Italy
  • United States Mark Esper, United States Secretary of Defense
  • Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of Iran
  • Netherlands Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands
  • Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz, King of Saudi Arabia
  • Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar
  • Spain Felipe VI of Spain, King of Spain
  • Belgium Philippe of Belgium, King of Belgium


Unlike the heads of other Arab states of the Arabian Gulf, Qaboos did not publicly name an heir. 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.[55] Analysts saw the rules as an elaborate means of Sultan Qaboos securing his choice for successor without causing controversy by making it public during his lifetime, since it was considered unlikely that the royal family would be able to agree on a successor on its own.[55]

Qaboos had no children nor siblings; there are other male members of the Omani royal family including paternal uncles and their families. Using same-generation 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).[56] Oman watchers believed the top contenders to succeed Qaboos were three of Tariq's sons: Assad bin Tariq Al Said, Deputy Prime Minister[57] for International Relations and Cooperation[58] and the Sultan’s special representative; Shihab bin Tariq, a retired Royal Navy of Oman commander; and Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, the Minister of Heritage and National Culture.[55][59][60]

On 11 January 2020, Oman state TV said authorities had opened the letter by Sultan Qaboos bin Said naming his successor, announcing shortly that Haitham bin Tariq is the country’s ruling sultan.[61]

Military ranks

Qaboos held the following ranks:[62]

Foreign honours

Styles of
Sultan of Oman
Coat of arms of Oman.svg
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty

° means Royal Ark[62]


Name City Area Coordinates Features
Al Alam Palace[69] Muscat 2.0 km2 (0.77 sq mi) 23°36′52.86″N 58°35′43.90″E / 23.6146833°N 58.595528°E / 23.6146833; 58.595528

Super yachts

Name Length (m) Shipyard Year Description Photo
Fulk Al Salamah[70] 164 Mariotti 2016 Fulk Al Salamah 180322.jpg
Al Said 155[71] Lürssen 2007 Contains a helipad, an orchestra and swimming pool. Berthed most of the time in Mutrah port. Al-Said.jpg
Al Dhaferah[72] 136 Lürssen 1987 Former Fulk al Salamah Malaga2.jpg
Loaloat Al Behar[73] 103.85 Picchiotti 1982 Former Al Said
Zinat al Bihaar 61 Oman Royal Yacht Squadron[74] 1988 Luxury sailing yacht with world's largest sail built in Oman with imported engine from Siemens.
Al-Noores 33.5[75] K. Damen Netherlands 1982 Specialized tug boat for the other royal yachts.

See also


  1. Zacharias, Anna (11 January 2020). "Oman’s long night: from rumour to reality as a nation learns of Sultan Qaboos’ death". The National. Retrieved 14 January 2020. 
  2. Al Sa'id, Qaboos (1940–2020) – Personal history, Biographical highlights, Personal chronology, Influences and contributions, The world's perspective, Legacy Archived 24 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 14 July 2011.
  3. "Qaboos bin Said". Webster's Concise Encyclopedia. 1. New York: Gramercy Books. 1998. pp. 520. 
  4. "Can Oman's Stability Outlive Sultan Qaboos?". Retrieved 1 March 2017. 
  5. Proctor, Charlie. Buckingham Palace flag flies at half-mast following Omani royal death, Retrieved on 15 january 2020. "On his passing, The Queen said: 'He will be remembered for his wise leadership and his commitment to peace and understanding between nations and between faiths'" Archived on the Wayback Machine
  6. Serim (16 October 2014). "The Financial Troubles of Said bin Taimur" (in English). 
  7. Medhat, Gehad. "These Mosques in Oman Are an Architectural Wonder". 
  8. Tribute to His Majesty Archived 18 January 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Hubbard, Ben (10 January 2020). "Sultan Qaboos, Quiet Peacemaker Who Built Oman, Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2020. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Allen, Calvin H.; Rigsbee, W. Lynn (1 January 2000) (in en). Oman Under Qaboos: From Coup to Constitution, 1970–1996. Psychology Press. pp. 28–29, 34. ISBN 9780714650012. 
  11. "Prayers pour in for ill Oman Ruler Sultan Qaboos". 
  12. PROFILE-Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said Archived 6 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. (25 March 2011). Retrieved on 14 July 2011.
  13. "A History of Oman". 
  14. Cobain, Ian (2016). The History Thieves. London: Portobello Books. p. 87. ISBN 9781846275838. 
  15. "The Insurgency In Oman, 1962-1976". 
  16. "A Test for Oman and Its Sultan". 
  17. Oman: the Modernization of the Sultanate, Calvin H. Allen, Jr
  18. Oman: The Bradt Travel Guide, Diana Darke
  19. Suzanne Miers (2003). Slavery in the Twentieth Century: The Evolution of a Global Problem. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 347. ISBN 0-7591-0340-2. 
  20. "Rouhani felicitates Oman on National Day" (in en). 19 November 2019. 
  21. Wam. "UAE leaders greet Sultan of Oman on Renaissance Day" (in en). 
  22. "Country Report: Oman". Archived from the original on 28 December 2014. 
  23. Henderson, Simon (3 April 2017). "The Omani Succession Envelope, Please". "His closest advisors are security and intelligence professionals in the so-called Royal Office, headed by Gen. Sultan bin Mohammed al-Numani." 
  24. Oman budget gap rises to $658mn in Q1, spending up. Business Recorder. (10 July 2011). Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  25. Globe Roundabout – Sohar, Oman | The Middle East Channel Archived 11 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 28 March 2011.
  26. Nath, Ravindra. "Qaboos fires 10 ministers". 
  27. "The world's enduring dictators: Qaboos bin Said, Oman". 
  29. "Archived copy". 
  30. Slackman, Michael (16 May 2009). "Oman Navigates Between Iran and Arab Nations". The New York Times. 
  31. Gladstone, Rick (4 September 2013). "Iran’s President to Speak at the U.N.". 
  32. "A visit from the sultan". 
  33. "Oman's Sultan Qaboos dies, cousin Haitham named successor". 
  34. "Oman Played Pivotal Role In Americans' Release" (in en). 
  35. "Netanyahu makes historic visit to Oman". 
  36. "Prominent figures in Muslim philanthropy". 
  37. "Archived copy". 
  38. "Modi in Oman LIVE Updates: PM prays at Shiva temple in Muscat, visits Grand Mosque". 12 February 2018. 
  39. Trofimov, Yaroslavth (14 December 2001). "Oman has oil, but it had no orchestra". pp. A6. 
  40. [1] Archived 17 December 2005 at the Wayback Machine.
  41. "Carlo Curly & Mathis Music". Archived from the original on 16 December 2008. Retrieved 7 December 2006. 
  42. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 24 December 2014. . Times of Oman; "In the Eye of Beauty – An Ode to the Organ" 11 December 2014; retrieved 24 December 2014.
  43. Margaret Makepeace (26 November 2013). "The Singing Sailor – Salim Rashid Suri". Untold Lives Blog. British Library. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  44. Joseph A. Kechichian (17 December 2010). "Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed: A democrat visionary". Weekend Review. Gulf News. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  45. "oman9". Retrieved 12 July 2016. 
  46. Tennent, James (28 November 2015). "Who will take over from Sultan Qaboos, the Arab world's longest serving ruler?". 
  48. "Sultan Escapes Unhurt, Top Aide Killed In Car Accident". 
  49. "The sultanate of Oman is taking a kicking". The Economist. 8 July 2017. Retrieved 8 July 2017. 
  50. editor, Patrick Wintour Diplomatic (22 December 2019). "Oman readies baroque succession process as sultan's health worsens" (in en-GB). The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. 
  51. "Sultan wou terug naar zijn land om te sterven, maar groot deel van zijn gevolg blijft in Leuven". 
  52. WAM. "Oman's Sultan Qaboos in stable condition" (in en). 
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  55. 55.0 55.1 55.2 Dokoupil, Martin (24 May 2012). "Succession Question Fuels Uncertainty in Oman". Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  56. HH Prince Sayyid Tarik bin Taimur al-Said Archived 1 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 14 July 2011.
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  58. "oman9". 
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  61. "Oman names culture minister as successor to Sultan Qaboos". 11 January 2020. 
  62. 62.0 62.1 The Royal Ark, Oman genealogical details, p.9
  63. "Reply to a parliamentary question about the Decoration of Honour" (in German) (pdf). p. 1441. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  64. HM deserves much more than awards and medals Archived 25 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. Times of Oman (28 January 2007). Retrieved on 14 July 2011.
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  68. "1999 National Orders awards". Archived from the original on 12 October 2012. 
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  75. Motor Yacht – Al-Noores – K. Damen – Completed Superyachts on Superyacht Times .com. Retrieved on 14 July 2011.

External links

Qaboos bin Said
House of Al Said
Born: 18 November 1940 Died: 10 January 2020
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Said bin Taimur
Sultan of Oman
Succeeded by
Haitham bin Tariq

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