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The oldest independent state in the Arab world, Oman is one of the more traditional countries in the Gulf region and was, until the 1970s, one of the most isolated.
It is strategically placed at the mouth of the Gulf at south-east corner of the Arabian Peninsula and, in the 19th century, vied with Portugal and Britain for influence in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.
The country has so far been spared the militant Islamist violence that has plagued some of its neighbours.
Oman has not been immune from the groundswell of political dissent in the region, however. Protests in 2011 demanding reforms were dispersed by riot police, and the government began a crackdown on internet criticism the following year.