Every 23 July in Oman is Renaissance Day, the commemoration of the accession of sitting Sultan Qaboos Bin Saed to the throne.
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Oman is an absolute monarchy, an Islamic sultanate in which all power is concentrated in the ruling sultan. Thus, the rise of a new sultan is of great significance. Qaboos’ rise is remembered by celebrating the first day of his long reign, which began in 1970. His reign is particularly important because he embarked Oman upon a modernisation program that has had far-reaching effects on the nation.
Sultan Qaboos stands in a long line of rulers from the Saidi dynasty, which reaches back 14 generations. He first became sultan in 1970 after deposing his father, Said bin Taimur, in a “palace coup.” His motive was to give Oman a “new beginning” or “renaissance,” which he immediately proceeded to do.
At the time, Oman had only three schools, two hospitals, and 10 kilometres of paved roads. Today, Oman has many modern highways, health clinics in all major cities, and more than a thousand schools. The driving force of these changes was Oman’s vast oil wealth, and the goal of it has been to end Oman’s relative isolation from the world.
At the beginning of his reign, Qaboos immediately changed the official name of his country from “the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman” to simply “the Sultanate of Oman” to promote national unity. That unity was soon tested when Communist guerrillas from Yemen spilled over the border and created the Dhofar Rebellion. Forces from Iran, Jordan, and the U.K. came to the aid of Oman to put the uprising down. Since then, Oman has maintained a policy of strict neutrality but has had much more normalised relations with Iran than other states on the Gulf.