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Muscat Securities Market The Muscat Securities Market (MSM) was established by the Royal Decree (53/88) issued on 21 June 1988 to regulate and control the Omani securities market and to participate, effectively, with other organizations for setting up the infrastructure of the Sultanate's financial sector. After ten years of continuous growth there was a need for a better functioning of the Market. The MSM has been rerestructured by two Royal Decrees (80/98) and (82/98). The Royal Decree (80/98) dated November 9th 1998 which promulgated the new Capital Market Law provides for the establishment of two separate entities, an exchange, Muscat Securities Market (MSM) where all listed securities shall be traded and the Capital Market Authority(CMA) - the regulatory. The Exchange is a governmental entity, financially and administratively independent from the regulatory but subject to its supervision. Thus the securities industry in Oman was well established to enhance investors' confidence by developing and improving all the processes appertaining to the stock market. As a continuing process in the development of the securities market, the MSM has developed its regulations to provide information and financial data relating to the performance of the Market and all listed companies directly to investors through a highly advanced electronic trading system. This will not only ensure transparency of activities which is considered to be one of the main principles of a well organized market, but will support the market by encouraging investors to make the right investment decision at the right time. The Market has developed its existing mechanism of clearance and settlement by introducing a new mechanism for the sake of encouraging stable dealing in securities as well as providing a better environment that might help the flow of foreign investment to the Sultanate. The former settlement mechanism was involving only three parties in the clearance and settlement, MSM, Muscat Depository and Registration of Securities Co. (S.A.O.C) and the broker .The newly introduced settlement formula is through a Settlement Bank with a Settlement Guarantee Fund (SGF). SGF has been established with the contribution of all intermediary companies operating in the Market. It aims to guarantee continuation of settlement processes among intermediaries. Where any of the intermediaries is unable to provide the settlement amount SGF would transfer the deficit to the settlement bank on behalf of the intermediary and then collect the same from the intermediary, thus the settlement would be smoothly completed. Mission Statement of MSM Providing efficient and transparent investment environment. The Objectives of MSM The MSM has been established as a public organization with independent legal entity. It aims to encourage saving and improve investment awareness as well as protecting investors. The MSM targets to provide a better environment for investing funds in securities and to , consequently realize mutual benefit to national economy and investors. It also facilitates the trading of securities issued by joint stock companies as well as bonds issued by the government, commercial companies, investment fund’s units and any other domestic or foreign securities agreed upon by the Market. To achieve the above objectives the MSM shall undertake the following:- (a) Provide investment opportunities in securities in order to enhance the national economy. (b) Regulate dealings in securities and provide protection to investors from unfair and unsound dealings. (c) Provide a suitable environment for maintaining the counterbalance between supply and demand and the easy liquidation of funds invested in securities. (d) Apply the regulations, instructions and advanced electronic systems that guarantee the regular dealing in securities pursuant to the recognized international principles. (e) Improve the professional ethics and upgrading employees’ efficiency within the scope of securities industry. Organization Until recently, the MSM has filled many roles, regulating the market, organising the exchange, and acting as the central depository. Now, we are separating the Exchange and the Depository from the Regulator. These will now be three separate organisations, each with their own Board of Directors. The main reason for the restructuring is to separate and clarify the goals and functions of each organisation. This clarity of purpose should make each organisation more effective. This restructuring also will bring our market closer to international standards of practice, where the norm is to have an independent regulator which is the regulating authority over the exchanges, self-regulatory organisations, and market participants. The regulator has been renamed the Capital Market Authority. The Capital Market Authority is an independent regulator. It will regulate the Exchange and the Depository as well as the capital markets and their participants. The CMA's legal status will be similar to that of the SEC in the US, or the FSA in the UK. The Exchange has kept the name Muscat Securities Market. The Exchange will take on important self-regulatory functions over the brokers and the listed companies, in addition to continuing to run the exchange and serve its members. The MSM's status will be similar to that of the NYSE or NASDAQ in the US, or the LSE in the UK. The Depository is now the Muscat Depository & Securities Registration Company, SAOC. The Capital Market Authority The CMA is an independent regulatory authority, governed by its Board of Directors. The Chairman of the CMA Board of Directors is the Minister of Commerce & Industry. The other members of the Board of Directors are: A representative of the Ministry of National Economy, whose level must be at least that of an Under Secretary; The Executive President of the CMA; The Director General of the MSM; The Director General of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce & Industry; A representative of CBO, whose level must be at least that of a Director General; Three representatives from the Commercial Banks, Insurance companies and other SAOG companies, to be selected by the Minister of Commerce & Industry from a list of six candidates nominated by the Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The Company Compliance division will have two departments. The Listed Company Department's primary responsibilities will be prospectus approval and supervision of the SAOG companies. This department will work to assure higher standards for primary and secondary market disclosure by listed companies. Its responsibilities will include enforcing standards for annual and quarterly financial reports. It will also work to detect and deter malpractice and violations of law by the listed companies, such as misleading or fraudulent financial reporting, insider trading, and misuse of corporate funds. The Intermediary Company Department's primary responsibilities will be licensing and supervision over companies and licensed by CMA, such as brokers, dealers, investment managers, and investment companies. This department will work to assure higher standards of practice by these companies. It will also work to detect and deter malpractice and violations of law by, or involving, the intermediary companies. Since the Muscat Securities Market (MSM) and the Muscat Depository & Securities Registration Company (MDSRC) are independent entities the CMA, as the regulatory authority has the MSM & MDSRC Compliance division which will have two departments. The MSM & MDSRC department will be responsible for supervision and regulation over the MSM & MDSRC. The Market Surveillance department will undertake some market surveillance responsibilities. The Finance & Administration division will have two departments: Administration and Financial Affairs Department responsible for the day-to-day administration and financial aspects of the CMA; and the Human Resources Department whose responsibilities would include not only internal training and personnel affairs, but introduction of Training and Certificate Courses for the industry as whole. The Muscat Securities Market The MSM is an independent semi-governmental body, governed by its Board of Directors, but under the authority and supervision of the CMA.The Chairman of the MSM Board of Directors will be elected by the members of the Board of Directors. The members of the Board of Directors are: The Director General of the MSM A representative of the CMA A representative of the CBO Four directors elected by the members of the MSM. Of these directors, two must be elected to represent the brokerage companies; one to represent the listed companies, and 1 to represent the small investors. The Muscat Depository & Securities Registration Company, SAOC The MDSRC is a closed corporation, 60% owned by those members of the market who have contributed to its capital, and 40% owned by the Exchange. Its authorized capital is RO 2 million, of which RO 1 million has been issued. The MDSRC was incorporated in February of 1999. It has taken over the depository and transfer functions from the MSM. The MDSRC maintains, and continually updates, the records of share ownership as shares are bought and sold. As the central depository, it plays an essential role in ensuring efficient settlement of trades, and maintaining records of corporate actions. The MDSRC has the responsibility for monitoring limits on foreign investment. It keeps track of, and enforces pledges of shares as collateral. It also enforces any other legal restrictions on transfer and ownership, such as founders’ lock and ownership limits. It creates a variety of reports which assist in reconciliation and supervision. Facilities The MSM would like to invite foreign investors to consider the advantages of investing in Oman, and in companies listed on the MSM. There are no taxes on dividends or capital gains, and no limits on repatriation of profits. The Omani rial is a stable currency, freely convertible, and pegged to the US dollar. One Omani rial is equal to US$ 2.60. Both foreign institutions and foreign individuals are welcome to invest in Omani companies. When trading began in 1989, there were only 47 publicly listed companies. By January of 1998, there were 123 publicly listed companies and funds. Of these 56 were open to all foreign investors, normally up to a limit of 49% foreign ownership. 98 are open to GCC nationals. It is now a MSM requirement that all companies seeking listing must agree to be open to all foreign investors, up to at least 49%. This means that the majority of IPOs (Initial Public Offerings), are now open to foreign investors. Electronic Trading Electronic trading is the process of trading securities in an electronic environment, through the usage of a set of high technology system especially designed and developed for supporting stock exchanges. This system creates a suitable environment for different market entities to trade in listed companies via high technology computers regardless of their actual locations. Electronic Trading System also contributes to the continuous development of stock exchange by providing a fair and transparent market and by enabling full dissemination of information to all trading entities immediately. Goals of Electronic Trading Provide a fully integrated system that guarantees speed and accuracy while trading. Provide a fair and transparent market. Enable full and immediate dissemination of information. Improve market and brokers services via new techniques. Increase brokers ability to trade and create new investment opportunities. SALALAH PORT Set against the tranquil backdrop of passing time the vessels that brought about prosperity and growth is but an instance in Omani seafaring tradition that goes back to over 4000 years. Since time immemorial, Salalah's strategic location has given it a distinctive edge. Salalah's ideal geographical position is a clear advantage to the major shipping and trade lanes that remains incomparable in the region. Salalah not only provides convenient access to the Middle East but is also a suitable channel for the Sub-continent, Red Sea, Upper Gulf and the East African markets with over 1.6 billion consumers. Loaction Port Salalah is situated in the southern region of Oman, located 15 kms South of Salalah. Geographical Position Latitude: 16° 56 min. N Longitude: 054° 00 min E Load Line & Time Zone Load Line Zone: Tropical Time Zone: GMT + 4 Tidal Range & Flow Tidal range averages 1.0m to 2.0m however; during monsoon season (Jun to Aug) waves are up to 4.0 at max. Dock Water Density Density: 1.025. Weather Prevailing winds: Monsoon wind, direction 230 deg, speed max 15-20kn during the period of June to August. Temperatures: November to March: temperatures approx 24°C-34°C (cool evenings). March to May: Spring, temperatures approx high 20° to high 30°. June to August: Summer, temperatures vary between 20° to 30° due to the monsoon effect. General overview Port Salalah is the deepwater port in the southern region of Oman, which can accommodate large vessels up to 16m draft and is the main Container Transshipment Terminal of the region. The port offers a sheltered harbor protected by a breakwater. OMANISATION PROGRAMME In Oman, the Omanisation programme has been in operation since 1988, working toward replacing expatriates with trained Omani Personnel. by the end of 1999, the number of Omanis in government services exceeded the set target of 72%, and in most departments reached 86% of employees. The Ministry has also stipulated fixed Omanisation targets in six areas of the private sector. Most companies have registered Omanisation plans. Since April 1998 a 'green card' has been awarded to companies that meet their Omanisation targets and comply with the eligibility criteria fro labour relations. The names of these companies are published in the local press and they receive preferential treatment in their dealings with the Ministry. H. M. Sultan Qaboos to oversee Omanisation drive His Majesty Sultan Qaboos has underlined the growing need for collective efforts to boost Omanisation, saying he would personally follow up the implementation of the recommendations of the newly-created National Manpower Employment Forum. "Forums and studies usually tackle hypothetical issues but the subjects of this forum are realistic and the implementation of its recommendations will be possible only if there is a concerted effort from the government and the other sectors of the community", said Sultan Qaboos, while addressing at the royal camp in Ibri Walis, members of the State Council, the upper house of parliament, Majlis Al Shura, the lower house and dignitaries belonging to the Dhaihra region. Omanisation, a campaign meant not only to ensure job for each citizen but also to reduce dependence on expatriates in search of self-reliance in human resource, has become the government's top priority more than ever before since the recent address by the Omani leader to the joint house of parliament, devoted as it was to the national manpower development. The local media has been geared up to drive home the royal message to ensure a complete success of the campaign. Already, thousands of illegal workers have been sent back home to create room for citizens and more are leaving before the extended amnesty deadline expires by the end of this month. A similar move was initiated three years ago. Expatriates form more than one-fourth of the 2 million population, according to the first census held in 1993.The next one is due in late 2003. According to Oman Television, which broadcast the royal address in Ibri, Sultan Qaboos said he has watched some Proceedings of the forum on Omanisation on television and was impressed by the level of frankness pervading the atmosphere. "Without open discussions nothing could be achieved", he announced. A number of ministers, accompanying Sultan Qaboos on the tour, have come out with indepth working papers, pinpointing hurdles facing Omanisation and ways to remove them to meet the all-important objective. One of the main obstacles, as pointed out by Sheikh Amor bin Shuwain Al Hosni, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, was the presence of foreign top management which prefers expatriate workers, a clear hint that this top stratega needs to be 'Omanised.' Sultan Qaboos said the Omani youth constituted a large vital section of the society and no effort would be spared to ensure a bright,dignified future for them. At the same time, he exhorted the youth to work diligently and selflessly for the development of the country, as "work ,whatever its nature, is a virtue." He explained that citizens able to establish their own projects will not only benefit themselves but also their families and the whole community. "Failing to act and talking about obstacles and hurdles will lead to nowhere," he said. The Ministry has stipulated a fixed Omanisation ratio in six areas of the private sector. Transport, storage and communications are to have 60% Omanisation, finance; insurance and real estate 45%; industry 35%; hotels and restaurants 30%; wholesale or retail trading 20% and contracting 15%. The Omanisation Follow-up and Monitoring Committee The Omanisation Follow-up and Monitoring Committee, which comes under the Diwan of the Royal Court, was set up by Royal Decree No. 95/97. It is responsible for following up and monitoring plans and programmes to Omanise jobs in the public and private sectors. In this connection, its powers include helping to determine the national economy’s manpower needs, preparing investment and recruitment plans for the implementation of Omanisation policies in conjunction with the other competent authorities, and preparing progress reports on Omanisation in the public and private sectors. The Committee is chaired by His Excellency Abdul Alim bin Mustahail Rakhyut. Seven of its twelve members represent the government sector, while the remaining five represent the private sector. It is currently attempting to create a complete and accurate data base on the labour force in Oman, which will include information about Omanisation and ways of promoting it. The Committee submits its reports directly to His Majesty the Sultan via the Minister of the Diwan of Royal Court. Training & Omanisation In order to meet the training and Omanisation requirements of the banking sector, the Omani Institute of Bankers was established in 1983 and has since played a leading role in increasing the number of Omanis working in the sector. The Central Bank monitors the progress made by the commercial banks with Omanisation and in July 1995 issued a circular stipulating that by the year 2000, at least 75% of senior and middle management positions should be held by Omanis. In the clerical grades 95% of staff should be Omanised and 100% in all other grades. At the end of 1999, no less than 78.8% of all positions were held by Omanis which is a considerable achievement for the banking sector in general. Women made up 30% of the total. During 1999 the percentage of Omanis employed at senior and middle management levels went up from 76.7% to 78.8%. There was a slight increase in the clerical grade percentage to 98.7%, while the non-clerical grades had already reached 100% Omanisation in 1998. The banking sector currently employs 2,113 senior and middle managers supported by 4,757 other staff. The Ministry has issued a decision regulating tourist guides, who in future will be required to have a licence. This Ministerial decision aims at encouraging professionalism in the industry as well as providing career opportunities for Omanis who will be encouraged to learn foreign languages so as to replace foreign tour guides. In January 1996, a major step forward in the training of Omanis in the hotel industry came with the opening of the National Hospitality Institute (NHI). The Institute is a public company quoted on the Omani Stock exchange. In February 1997, the first batch of 55 male and female trainees, sponsored by the Vocational Training Authority, were awarded their first level certificates and were given on-the-job training in several hotels. In May 1999, the fourth batch of 95 trainees obtained their NVQs, bringing the number of Omanis trained by the Institute to around 450. Omanis now make up 37% of the 34,549 employees in the hotel and catering business, which exceeds the Omanisation target of 30% set by the Government. The NHI has also trained catering staff from the Sultan’s Armed Forces and has launched a two year tour guide course, which includes language training, safe driving, first aid and a knowledge of local history and geography. Sanad programme With the kind directions of H.M. Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, for the great importance of enhancing the role of Omani manpower in the development of the country and for the purpose of creating business opportunities for Omanis who are able to take interest in work, Sanad programme is established to work under the supervision of the Ministry of Manpower and execute the following duties: Sharing in finding work for Omani manpower. Encouraging and sponsoring the individual's initiatives and the self- employment projects. Sharing in qualifying individuals and preparing them for working in the market. Developing the individual projects and preparing the programmes and plans required for popularising them. Establishing nursery committee for supporting individuals interested in starting small projects. The Board of Directors duties are: Preparing annual plans for creating suitable jobs opportunities. Creating channels of direct communications between the parties concerned with qualification, training, financing and employing. Suggesting ways to develop the legal and administrative rules of self - employment. Evaluating the annual programmes of Sanad and deciding the requirements of developing and updating. Preparing the constitution and executive rules of the programme. The Executive Committee of Sanad Fund for supporting and developing small projects This committee is headed by H.E. Dr. Khamis bin Mubarak Al Alawi - Minister of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources. And the following members: The Executive Director of Sanad Programme. The General Manager of the Development Bank. The General Manager of Youth Projects Development Fund The General Manager of Intilaqaah project General Objectives of the Fund 1. Supporting the work-seekers (vocationals and craftsmen) by establishing individual and family self employment projects and by sharing in finding job opportunities for the manpower of different educational and vocational levels through developing the will towards work for those who are interested in investment as business owners. 2. Participating in spreading the individual initiatives and enhancing the efforts of self independence as a condition to achieve the everlasting development. 3. Supporting the developmental efforts by establishing productive and serviceable small projects as a main source of the national income. 4. Enlarging the base of private sector and businessmen. 5. Developing the small projects sector and suggesting the policies and mechanisms for realising them. 6. Participating effectively in the Omanisation plan in the private sector. 7. Mobilising the efforts for deepening the idea of free business and enhancing the initiatives for work and production in the minds of youth and Omani society. Targeted categories 1. Work seekers (male and female) including the fresh graduates who are interested in starting small projects managed by them. 2. Craftsmen who are interested in starting new productive or serviceable work for themselves. 3. Craftsmen and vocationals who are practising their work and interested in expanding it. Projects qualified to obtain small loans The targeted categories have more ability to decide the suitable projects. But there are some successful sectors if provided with technical and financial support such as: 1. Grocery shops (sale of food stuffs) 2. Vegetables and fruit shops 3. Sale and supply of electrical items 4. Sale of watches, masterpieces and gifts 5. Sale of ready-made garments 6. Sale of natural flowers 7. Delivery vehicles 8. Carwash 9. Internet café 10. Photography shops 11. Sale of fish 12. Butchery shops 13. Poultry shops 14. Home appliances maintenance 15. Sale and repair of tyres 16. Electrical installation, sale and supply of electrical items 17. Repair and maintenance of home cooling appliances 18. Painting of buildings 19. House furniture upholstery 20. Carpentry shops 21. Iron smithery shop (metal doors and windows) 22. Goldsmithery shops Basic conditions of the projects qualified for financing. Approval of the project is given if all or some of the following conditions are fulfilled: 1. The project should provide a new job opportunity. 2. The project should have suitable technical and economical benefits. 3. Local raw materials to be used in the project. 4. Products of the project should be of good quality and easy to market. 5. The modern technology to be used in the project. 6. The ability to continue and expand in the future. 7. The project should comply with the conditions and requirements of the environment preservation. 8. The project should satisfy the need for quality products at competitive prices. 9. Omanis working in the project should be 100 percent. General conditions 1. Age between 18 - 40 (Omani male or female) 2. Able to read and write well. 3. Not working at present. 4. Should be fully free for the project with an acknowledgement to be presented. 5. For the loans of sewing and designing clothes, a training certificate to be obtained. 6. Financing projects will be according to the fund rules. 7. Should have a personal guarantor (father, brother, sister….) 8. Should have a place for establishing the project (owned or rented). 9. Should have good reputation and behaviour. 10. Should have a real interest for establishing the project with ambition and insistence. 11. Should present two quotations for the prices of the machines and equipments of the project. 12. Copies of the identity card or passport to be presented. 13. Should present a feasibility study of the project showing the cash flow during the period of the loan. 14. Should present an acknowledgement to employ Omani manpower only. 15. Assets of the project will be mortgaged. 16. The commercial registration of the project will be mortgaged or present post dated cheques. 17. Should sign an abandonment to the fund regarding the project assets financed by the Fund. In case the borrower does not adhere to the conditions of the loan agreement, the Fund has the right to own these assets without referring to the borrower or any other judicial authority. 18. Should insure them against theft or fire. Loan amount and procedures of financing 1. The maximum amount of the loan is RO 5,000 per person. More than one person can participate in one project. 2. The loan will be given if it is approved as per the feasibility study and cash flow presented by the owner and approved by the Fund. 3. Oman Development Bank will give the loan amount after approval and recover it as per the Fund regulations. Way of settlement 1. Period of the loan settlement is seven years including one year as a grace period starting from the date of granting the loan. Settlement will be as monthly or quarterly or half yearly installments depending on the cash flow expected in the project study. 2. Interest will be 2% per annum to cover the administrative cost of the loan. But it is not subjected to the grace periods mentioned in article (4). During the grace period, it will be settled as quarterly installments. After this period, it will be settled alongwith the loan installments. 3. The borrower must present the guarantees required to cover the loan. These guarantees are all/some of the following: a. Mortgage the project assets. b. Mortgage the commercial registration of the project or by presenting post dated cheques for the installments. c. Signing an abandonment to the Fund regarding the project assets financed by the Fund. In case the borrower fails to adhere to the loan agreement, the Fund has the right to own these assets without referring to the borrower or any other judicial authority. d. The Fund will insure the project assets against theft and fire provided the insurance installments are deducted from the loan amount. e. The borrower has no right to use the loan amount for other purposes except for the purpose mentioned in the agreement. Mechanisms of technical support and follow up of the small projects. Sanad office in the governorates and regions will provide the technical and administrative support to the beneficiaries. They will be responsible for the following: Providing advice and consultancy services to the owners of the small projects regarding the activities to be practiced. This assistance will be provided through studies of the investment opportunities available in the new projects in the different regions of the Sultanate. 2. Field follow-up for the stages of executing the small projects and evaluating them after execution. 3. Organising short courses for training the owners regarding management, accounts, cost and marketing with the cooperation of the concerned parties in the public and private sectors. 4. Follow-up of the projects in order to be assured of quality whether they are goods or services. 5. Solving the problems and difficulties which may face these projects. 6. Discussing the best ways for marketing the products and suggesting the possibilities available inside or outside the Sultanate such as seminars and conferences coordinating with the Ministry of Commerce & Industry and Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry. 7. Supervising the field studies to decide the best projects which could be established in the different regions. 8. Periodical evaluation (social and economical) of the small projects and their effects on the targeted categories and the national economy in general. Oman’s Culture Oman's culture is based on the fundamental principles of Islam. The Omani people mainly follow the Ibhadi sect of Islam. Muslims are required to pray five times each day after the call to prayer by the Imam. Beautiful, ornate mosques are found throughout the Sultanate, but they are not open to non-Muslim visitors. The holy month of Ramadhan is a time of fasting and praying. Muslims are not allowed to smoke, eat or drink during daylight hours. Out of respect, non-Muslims staying in Oman observe the same principles in public. At sunset, the fast is broken with the Ifta feast, traditionally a light meal of dates and rice, which the whole family attends. The dress code is fairly liberal in Muscat, although decency is still expected. Women should wear, for example, tops with sleeves, and long skirts or trousers. Men are required to wear trousers and shirts with sleeves. Swimwear should be restricted to the beach or pools. Outside the capital area and into the Interior villages, dress should become more conservative. Regarding other religions, Oman is very tolerant and there are a number of churches and temples for worshippers of other faiths. Friday is the holy day of rest. Geographical Overview The Sultanate of Oman is located on the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula and has an area of approximately 309,500km2. It is bordered on the west by Saudi Arabia, to the northwest lie the United Arab Emirates and to the southwest is Yemen. The east coast meets with the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. The capital of Oman is Muscat, a cosmopolitan, but relaxed city, free from the hustle and bustle found in many of Arabia's other capital cities. In the south of the Sultanate, is Salalah, the administrative capital of the Dhofar region. Oman is a surprisingly green country, particularly in Dhofar, due to its location on the monsoon paths. Landscaping and beautification are priorities of the Municipalities, and gardens, parks and grassy knolls line the main highway. The countryside is varied, from rugged mountain ranges to desert sands, to green, lush wadis (riverbeds). The climate in Muscat is markedly different to that in Dhofar: during the winter, Muscat enjoys temperatures of, average, 300C, dropping to around 180 C at night. However, in the summer, Muscat bakes in 45-480 C, while Dhofar cools down in the light monsoon rain. The Omani people are friendly and welcoming to visitors. Although Arabic is their main language, English is spoken frequently and is often used as the lingua franca. Despite their relaxed air, the Omanis are quite conservative people and respect for their privacy and, in particular, their religion, should always be observed. Modesty is the keyword in how to dress. Women should wear loose, long garments, ensuring that their shoulders and knees are covered. Men should wear long trousers and tops with sleeves. Swimming costumes are fine for the beach or the pool. During the holy month of Ramadhan (from Nov 28, 2000, date approximate), all Muslims fast during the hours of daylight. Visitors to the country should remember that eating, drinking and smoking is not allowed in public at this time. Sultan Qaboos bin Said is Oman's ruler. He acceded to the throne in 1970 and in the space of 30 years has transformed his country into one which boasts modern and innovative healthcare, education, telecommunications networks and a stable economy. Although the Sultan has ultimate power in governing his country, the daily administration of the land is performed by various Ministries. The Sultan is a well-respected leader, both at home and in the international arenas. In recognition of his role in Middle East peace keeping, he was presented with the International Peace Award in 1988 by the National Council on US-Arab Relations. A visit to the Sultanate is sure to surprise and delight. Holidays can be as adventurous and energetic, or relaxed and uncomplicated as you choose. Muscat Region "Muscat is a city among the most important on the Sea of Arabia, having held this status and position from the 11th century AD up to its occupation by the Portuguese.", wrote Omani historian, Sheikh Salem bin Hamoud al Siabi. Muscat is divided into six wilayats and is Oman's financial and trade centre. Hamad bin Said took Muscat as Oman's capital from Rustaq between 1779 - 1792 and this has never since been contested. The shining prosperous city of today has amongst its successes: a major port, Mina Qaboos; Seeb International Airport and international airline Oman Air; its own stock market, the Muscat Securities Market; a TV and radio network, Oman TV and Radio; state-of-the-art hospitals; and superior educational establishments. However, this has not always been the case and prior to Sultan Qaboos' accession to the throne, the Oman of the early 20th century to 1970 told a very different story. Curfews were imposed on Muscat's denizens and everyone had to be within the city walls by sunset, when the cannons would fire their summons. Trades were carried out using antiquated tools and methods and cars were practically non-existent, as the road network was nothing but dirt tracks. Most people walked everywhere and a journey from Muscat City to Ruwi could take up to four hours. Today, under the leadership of His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos, Muscat has improved beyond recognition, but has never lost its pride in its heritage and culture. The capital area is a prime example of intelligent and aesthetic development, blending the ancient and modern. Muscat was known as the 'Governorate of the Capital' from 1960 - 1970. Under Royal Decree 30/1988, it came to be known as the 'Governorate of Muscat' and the wilayats of Muttrah, Seeb, Bausher, Al Amerat and Quriyat united to form the Muscat region. The wilayat of Muscat runs along the Gulf of Oman across a mountain range stretching from Bandar Najih to the village of Sifa on the borders of Quriyat. Muscat city was built at the outset of Arab migrations and the destruction of the Maa'rib Dam. According to Omani historian Ulema Nureddin al Salemi, Muscat was populated by Arab Omanis who were originally from Yemen. The forts of Al Jalali and Al Mirani are the capital's most prominent landmarks and were built in the 16th century AD. Years ago, Muscat was walled in. However, the wall is now replaced by a stone moat, which the Omanis call al hosn or the fortification. Parts of the original wall still remain in which are located the three main access gates to the city: Bab al Matha'eeb, the Greater Gate and the Lesser Gate. There are a number of beautiful beaches in the Muscat area, at Al Jissah, Al Khayran and Al Sifa. Fishing is one of the traditional occupations in Muscat along with sewing fishing nets, basket weaving, tree felling, herding and folk medicine, in particular, bone setting. Famous sites include His Majesty's colourful and elegant Al Alam Palace and Al Bustan Palace Hotel, a building of great eminence throughout the Arabian Peninsula. Each year, the Muscat Festival draws crowds of visitors to enjoy the exhibitions and events which the Muscat Municipality organises. This year, the festival will run from October 20 to November 16 with the theme, "Bridging Oman with the Cultures of the World". The main events will be held in the Shati A'Seeb Park, with other activities taking place in and around the Muscat district. Visitors will be treated to local and international folklore shows, children's and adults' theatre, poetry evenings, music concerts, modern and traditional fashion shows, painting and photography exhibitions and circus shows. For sports enthusiasts there will be beach and aquatic competitions, international cricket and hot air ballooning. There will also be a four-wheel drive adventure around Oman - "Quest for the Unknown". At the international food counter, culinary delights from over 20 countries will be available and the Omani Heritage Village will have displays of traditional Omani social and cultural activities. Timings and dates of events will be published in the local press. The wilayat of Seeb occupies a narrow strip of coastline along the Gulf of Oman for a distance of 50km. Seeb has a number of ancient monuments, but is perhaps distinguished by its modern landmarks situated on the large highway roundabouts, and the Seeb International Airport. The wilayat is famous for its bullfighting, which is a bloodless sport and does not involve injury to the animals. Spectators assemble at a venue outside the town and form a 'human chain'. Competitors race two bulls, the sport being umpired by one known as the 'Colonel'. The bull winning the race is feted throughout the wilayat and will often fetch a better price at market. Muttrah is home to Oman's ancient trading port and its modern counterpart, Mina Qaboos. The Muttrah Souq was originally the principal source of many diverse goods transported to the other markets in the country. The wilayat was once a particularly fertile spot, planted with date palms and watered by the afalaj (aqueducts) and sweet water wells. The crops were harvested to supply the visiting ships and the local population. Muttrah Fort is one of the most prominent of the 13 forts scattered about the area. It has six towers built by the Portuguese during their occupation and was the seat of government under the rule of Sultan Said bin Sultan al Busaidi. Sur Ruwi, one of the surrounding walls contains a gate within, which is believed to be Muscat's first access gate on the northern interior side. Muttrah has many public gardens and picnic areas, one of the most popular being Riyam Park, which is distinguished by its huge incense burner viewpoint, located at the top of a cliff. It also has three museums: the National Museum, Bait al Zubair and Bait al Falaj (the Armed Forces Museum). Traditional industries include: perfumery, weaving, textiles, silver and gold crafting and fishing. The area has a number of hotels, some of which are managed by international chains, such as Intercontinental and Sheraton. The wilayat of Bausher is situated between the sea and the mountains, southwest of Muttrah. Archaeological evidence indicates that Bausher has a history which dates back to 2000BC. The Battle of the Two Wastelands was fought here, when its army defeated that of the Omani Azd. The name Bausher seems to come from abu sharr meaning the 'iniquitous one', a direct reference to the great unrest which was witnessed here centuries ago. One of the most famous places in Bausher is the Bait Al Kebir (the Great House) which was owned by Thuria bint Mohammed bin Azan, a wonderful lady who was known throughout the area for her kind and generous deeds. It is now open to the public since restoration in 1992. Other tourist sites include the Ain Ghala spring, Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, Qurum Natural Park, Qurum beach, the Natural History Museum and the Children's Museum. Agriculture is Bausher's main livelihood and utilises the warm waters of the 43 afalaj in the area to irrigate the citrus fruit groves and date palm plantations. There are several 5-star hotels in the district, including the Intercontinental, Radisson SAS and Holiday Inn. Quriyat occupies a narrow strip of coastline along the Arabian Gulf. Its name comes from qariyat meaning 'villages'. The first settlers arrived in Quriyat before the emergence of Islam in Oman. Many of its inhabitants retain traditional customs, and pursue ancient crafts such as blacksmithing, saddlework, boat building, camel rearing and repairing firearms. The wilayat has extremely dramatic terrain, through which modern roads have been cut, with somewhat intimidating hairpin bends. Some villages are high up in the mountains and are completely inaccessible, except by plane. There are three strongholds in the area: Quriyat Fort, built around 200 years ago; Al Sahel fort on the coast; and Dagh Fort built during the Portuguese occupation. There are many natural beauty spots, both on the coast and inland. Wadi Daykah is a tranquil valley with fresh, clear running water, a favourite spot for locals and tourists alike. Bimma, Fans and Dhabbab are some of the pristine beaches to visit. Every variety of date palm grown in the Sultanate is found in the Quriyat district, together with groves of mango, citrus fruits, papayas, guavas, mulberries and lotus fruits. The wilayat of Al Amerat is situated south of Muttrah and southwest of Quriyat. In the past, it has been known as Al Fatah and Al Mutahadamat. There are a number of tourist sites here, such as Wadi Sireen Nature Reserve, Wadi al Meeh, Ghar Hadhadha Cave, Jebel Saqif and the Safah al Bab well at the foot of the mountain. Date plantations and mango groves are grown here and watered by the 61 afalaj. Local livelihoods include goat herding, weaving and red ochre quarrying. Brief History In the early part of 1920s, in the Arabian Gulf Region Organizations were set up in the various commercial centers. These organizations controlled markets and public buildings, improved trade and also pooled cultural and civic information. The exact date when a municipality came into existence in Muscat is not certain - some sources say 1924 while others say 1927. However, what is pertinent is the fact that since then a municipality existed, which carried out many different functions. It is very likely that initially the jurisdiction of the Municipality extended over Muscat and later, over Muscat and Muttrah. This is evident as in 1938 a department, which regulated the streets and houses in Muscat and Muttrah, was financed by the levy of one 'Anna' (the currency at that time) for every load that entered Muscat and Muttrah. Law of the Municipalities in the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman (1949) This law clearly defined the hierarchy and the powers and functions of each of the constituents in the hierarchical chain. Brief details are given below: (a) The High Authority acted on behalf of the Sultan. It supervised the Municipality with powers to appoint and dissolve the Municipality Committee, appoint and dismiss the President, the Administrator (Director of Municipality) and the employees. (b) The Municipality Committee. This body functioned as Municipal Council and supervised the running of the Municipality to include budget, accounts and annual reports to the high Authority. (c) The Executive Agency. This comprised of the Administrator and the employees of the Municipality. HISTORY From as early as 5000 BC, Oman has at various times played a prominent role in the history of both Arabia and the area beyond. The following are some key dates in Oman’s history: Prehistory: Evidence of isolated coastal and inland settlements. Graves at Ras al Hamra dated at 4th millennium BC. ca. 3000 - 2000 BC: Oman supplies Dilmun(Bahrain), Mesopotamia and Indus Valley with a range of raw materials including copper. ca. 2000 - 1000 BC: Copper boom declines. Persians occupy Oman and settle along the coast. Arrival of Arab tribes. ca. 1000 - 300 BC: Camels domesticated, falaj system introduced and rapid growth of agriculture. 300 BC - 226 AD: Peak of trading of frankincense from Sumhuran in Dhofar. 630: Conversion of Oman to Islam. 751: Julanda bin Masud elected first Imam 8th - 10th century: Arab trading and seafaring rapidly expands with Sohar at the center of maritime activities. 1250 - 1507: Island-state of Hurmuz establishes sovereignty over the coast of Oman. 1920: Agreement at Seeb between Sultan and Imam on respective spheres of control. 1952 - 1955: Buraimi conflict among Saudi Arabia, also Abu Dhabi and Oman. 1967: First commercial oil produced in Oman. 1970 - Today: Oman's Renaissance. Three decades of large-scale developments in infrastructure, health, education, communication, agriculture, fishing, mining, etc. Oman transformed from an almost medieval country into a modern fully equipped state, taking its rightful place among its neighbors and the rest of the world. The Council of Oman (Majlis Oman) Oman’s government is a bicameral system. The Basic Statute of the State provided for the establishment of The Council of Oman which was created by Royal Decree in 1997. It comprises the Majlis a’Shura (Consultative Council), whose members are elected by Omani citizens every three years, and the Majlis Al Dawla (State Council), whose members are appointed by the Sultan. The State Council (Majlis al Dawla) According to Sultan Qaboos, the State Council is "another powerful building block in the Omani social edifice, which reinforces its achievements and reaffirms the principles we have laid out." These principles established a Shura (consultation) process, inspired by Oman’s national heritage and values and the Islamic Sharia, that incorporates features of the modern age. Acting as an upper chamber, the State Council is central to Oman’s development goals. Appointed for their expertise at senior levels in various fields, State Council members represent a wide range of views and experiences. The Council examines the issues presented to it, preparing studies on development and solving problems, and promotes cohesion and unity. The State Council’s president and members are prominent members of the Omani community chosen for their expertise and seniority and appointed by Royal Decree. State Council members must be Omani nationals, aged 40 years and above, of high status and reputation and with appropriate practical experience. Membership is for three years and is renewable. The size of Council membership does not exceed that of the Majlis a’Shura. State Council members are drawn from: • former ministers • under-secretaries and those of equivalent rank • former ambassadors • former senior judges • retired senior officers • those of proven expertise in science, literature and culture • academic staff of universities, colleges and higher institutes • dignitaries and businessmen • people who have given distinguished service to the nation. Members of the State Council cannot be elected to the Consultative Council (Majlis a’Shura). Membership of the State Council is barred to those who remain in public office, apart from members working in science, literature and culture, or as academic staff. However, the Sultan can make exceptions to this rule. The State Council holds four ordinary sessions a year, although the president can convene extraordinary sessions if necessary. Royal Decree 86/97 defines the State Council’s powers. These include preparing studies to help to implement development plans and programmes, finding solutions to economic and social problems and proposing ways to encouraging investment, reforming the administration and improving performance. The Council has the power to review and revise draft laws prepared by ministries and government departments, and to propose draft amendments. The Council submits proposals and recommendations to His Majesty the Sultan or the Council of Ministers. The council president submits an annual report to the Sultan on its activities and deliberations. The current State Council’s 53 members include five women, reflecting Sultan Qaboos’ commitment to promoting Omani women to senior institutions, and his belief that women can and will contribute to the welfare of the nation. The Consultative Council (Majlis al-Shura) In December 1991, H.M. Sultan Qaboos inaugurated the Majlis al- Shura, the Consultative Council which complemented the Majlis al Dawla. There were two main factors behind establishing the Majlis al- Shura. First, Sultan Qaboos had recognised the success of the A'Shura 'prototype' in the Majlis al Dawla. Second, the Sultan had promised that he would present opportunities for the population to take greater responsibility for the reconstruction of their country and the safe-guarding of its development process. 59 members represented each of the wilayats in Oman and each one, with the exception of the President, is an elected member. The two vice-presidents are elected by the membership of the Council in a secret ballot. Due to increases in population, the original 59 members of the Council have now increased to 82 in order to serve those wilayats with a population of more than 30,000. The role of the Majlis al-Shura is to: Review all draft economic and social legislation, as prepared by the various Ministries and as laid down in the Five Year Plans. Put forward proposals as the Majlis sees fit in the domain of upgrading economic and social laws in the Sultanate. Voice opinions on issues of public policy which the government may bring before the Majlis and then make suitable proposals in this regard. Take part in the preparation of the country's development plans and monitor their execution within the framework of the State's general strategy and available resources. Participate in raising public awareness of the aims, tasks and priorities of development and the efforts being expended to achieve it so that the nature of the needs and aspirations of a region be known and the bonds between the people and government are strengthened. Participate in campaigns to preserve the environment and to protect it against pollutants. Review issues relating to public utilities and amenities and to suggest ways of upgrading and increasing the efficiency of these services. Examine obstacles which might stand in the way of trade and enterprise and to suggest suitable ways of overcoming such obstacles. Voice opinions on various other matters which Sultan Qaboos sees fit to bring before the assembly. All meetings of the Majlis al-Shura are held in private, but Oman Television now invites appearances from Ministers who having submitted their reports, are subjected to uninhibited and detailed questioning by Majlis members on the plans and policies of their respective offices. The public have welcomed this opportunity to witness frank debating which, in turn, helps to politically educate the population and to encourage them to participate in the growth of their country. Women are welcomed into the Majlis al-Shura and are invited to put forward their own names as nominees for membership of the assembly. His Majesty has recognised the fact that women play a valuable role in the development of the Sultanate and as 49% of the population are female, it is important that this half of the Omani people are included in its achievements and growth. The fourth term of the Majlis al-Shura (2001 – 2003) has contained some new developments: first, the electorate has been increased from 51,000 to 175,000 male and female citizens, a figure which represents around 25% of the Omani population aged 21 years and over. This change suggests that the Majlis’ Fifth term may open the door to free direct elections in which all citizens aged 21 and above will have the right to vote. The second development was that the number of women invited to vote was three times higher than it had been in the nominations for the Third term, and accounts for around 30% of the female population. Women formed no more than 10% in the previous elections. In theory, the amount of female votes should equal the amount of male voters. However, certain social factors in Omani society mean that this has not yet happened, particularly in the wilayats and regions outside Muscat.
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