Said ibn Taimur, 1932-70

Persian Gulf States Table of Contents

Between 1932 and 1970, Said ibn Taimur ruled Oman and impressed on it his own myopic vision. Said was an Anglophile who was compelled, in order to alleviate the country's debt, to integrate the interior with Oman and create an independent state. To create a financially independent state, he needed oil export revenues. But the acquiescence of the interior tribes was indispensable for exploration activities.

The dilemma materialized in 1954 when the PDO sent exploration teams to the interior. The move was interpreted by the tribal shaykhs as a violation of the 1920 Treaty of As Sib. This coincided with the death of Imam Muhammad ibn Abd Allah al Khalili, who had ruled the interior of the country, and the election in 1954 of a new imam, who led a breakaway movement seeking independence from coastal Oman. The new imam's brother solicited political and material support from Saudi Arabia and established a secessionist movement called the Omani Liberation Movement, with the goals of establishing an independent Omani state in the interior and forcing the withdrawal of foreign troops. The British intervened on behalf of the sultan and by 1959 reestablished the sultan's authority. The British abrogated the Treaty of As Sib and ended the office of imam.

After 1958 Said ibn Taimur established his residence at Al Hisn near Salalah, in Dhofar, where he remained permanently except for periodic visits to London. By retiring to the south from Muscat, Said ibn Taimur was not only more secure from assassination but was also no longer obligated to meet frequently with tribal shaykhs and distribute subsidies and thereby avoided depleting the treasury. He married Dhofari wives, one of whom bore him his only heir, Qabus ibn Said, and two daughters. Above all, Said ibn Taimur created his personal fiefdom and sought to arrest modernization by enforcing antiquated laws, public executions, and slavery of people of African descent. The isolation and xenophobia that he forced on the country and on Dhofar in particular left Oman grossly underdeveloped, despite increasing oil export revenues in the late 1960s.

Qabus ibn Said spent his early years isolated within the royal palace. At the instigation of his father's British advisers, Qabus ibn Said was permitted to go to Britain in 1958 for his education. He spent two years at a small private school, where he acquired mastery of the English language. In 1960 he was enrolled in the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, and, after graduating from a two-year course of study, served for several months with British units stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). After a world tour and studies in London, he returned to Oman in December 1964. His father, however, refused to entrust him with a responsible role in the government or military and instead sequestered him in the palace in Salalah. Qabus ibn Said's more cosmopolitan and progressive views were incompatible with his father's conservatism and isolationism, which Qabus ibn Said considered detrimental to the country's development. With the tacit endorsement of the British, who saw thirty-year-old Qabus ibn Said as an agreeable alternative, Qabus ibn Said and a number of alienated political elite overthrew Said ibn Taimur in a palace coup d'état on July 23, 1970. Said ibn Taimur withdrew to London, where he died in 1972.

More about the Government and Politics of Oman.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress