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Tue 14 Jan 2020 09:29 AM

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Who is the new Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq al-Said?

Oman woke up to some very sad news last weekend - the death of the longest serving Arab ruler His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said aged 79.

While the citizens and residents were mourning the loss of their beloved leader, they were also anxiously waiting for the sealed envelope, which contained his successor’s name to open.

So who is HM Haitham bin Tariq al-Said?

Well now he is the new ruler of Oman, but prior to this, he was the Sultanate’s Minister of Heritage and Culture and a cousin of the former ruler.

As culture minister, he was the driving force behind the restoration of many historical monuments in Oman.

The 65-year-old who once served in Oman's foreign ministry and is known to be a huge sports enthusiast, having been the head of Oman’s Football Association.

He also spearheaded Oman's 'Vision 2040' programme, a roadmap for social and economic reform for the country.

Sultan Haitham has had extensive experience in foreign relations and policies, which is what he mainly focussed on during his first speech as Sultan on Saturday.

“In terms of foreign policy, we will follow the path he followed: Embracing foreign policies based on peaceful coexistence among peoples and countries,” he said.

The main challenges that Sultan Haitham faces at this point is of boosting the economy when the region’s economic situation isn’t at its strongest and to maintain neutrality abroad—a foreign policy that has helped insulate the country from the region’s proxy wars and diplomatic spats.

How did they come to this decision?

Since former Sultan HM Sultan Qaboos was unmarried and didn’t have an heir, the succession was decided in a meeting of the royal family who opted to open a sealed letter he had prepared, detailing his preference.

For the people of Oman, both Omanis and expatriates alike, the new Sultan has got huge shoes to fill.

Qaboos is known and credited for establishing a modern government and using oil money to develop a country where, at the time, there were only 10km of paved roads 12 hospital beds, and three schools.

As ruler, he also sought to solidify ties with western allies and has acted as mediator between the west and Arab nations in times of conflict and otherwise.

During his reign, Qaboos also encouraged the greater involvement of women in roles in politics, business and sport, after allowing them to enter the workforce in the 1990s.

Sultan Qaboos’ greatest legacy, perhaps, will be the peaceful and stable Oman he has left behind.

(Source: Arabianbusiness.com YouTube channel)