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Geography, climate and population
The Sultanate of Oman occupies the south-eastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula and has a total area of 309 500 km2. It is bordered in the northwest by the United Arab Emirates, in the west by Saudi Arabia and in the southwest by Yemen. A detached area of Oman, separated from the rest of the country by the United Arab Emirates, lies at the tip of the Musandam Peninsula on the southern shore of the Strait of Hormuz. The country has a coastline of almost 3 165 km, from the Strait of Hormuz in the north to the borders of the Republic of Yemen in the southwest, overlooking three seas: the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.
Administratively the country comprises five regions (A Dakhiliyah, Al Batinah, Al Wusta, Ash Sharqiyah and Al Dhahirah) and four governorates (Muscat, Musandam, Dhofar and Al Buraymi). It can be divided into the following physiographic regions:
- The coastal plain. The most important parts are the Batinah Plain in the north, which is the principal agricultural area, and the Salalah Plain in the south. The elevation ranges between 0 near the sea to 500 metres further inland.
- The mountain ranges, which occupy 15 percent of the total area of the country. There is the mountain range that runs from Musandam in the north to the Ras Al-Hadd in the southeast. In the north close to the Batinah Plain is the Jebel Al Akhdar with a peak of 3 000 metres. Other mountains are located in the Dhofar province, in the extreme southern part of the country, with peaks from 1 000 to 2 500 metres.
- The internal regions. Between the coastal plain and the mountains in the north and south lie the internal regions, with elevations not exceeding 500 metres. This part covers 82 percent of the country with mainly desert, sand and gravel plains. It includes part of the Rubĺ al Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter or the Great Sandy Desert.
The soils are coarse textured (sandy or coarse loamy) with a high infiltration rate. The soil pH is moderately to strong alkaline and the organic matter is very low.
The cultivated area was 58 850 ha in 2004, of which 12 793 ha consisted of annual crops and 46 057 ha of permanent crops (Table 1). Oman counts five distinct agricultural regions. Going roughly from north to south, they include the Musandam Peninsula, the Batinah coast, the valleys and the high plateau of the eastern region, the interior oases, and the Dhofar region. Over half of the agricultural area is located on the Batinah Plain in the north covering about 4 percent of the area of the country.
Generally, the climate is considered to be arid and semi-arid but differs from one region to another. It is hot and humid during summer in the coastal areas and hot and dry in the interior regions with the exception of some higher lands and the southern Dhofar region, where the climate remains moderate throughout the year. Potential evaporation varies from 1 660 mm/year on the Salalah plain in the south to 2 200 mm/year in the interior. In the north and centre of Oman rainfall occurs during the winter, from November to April, while a seasonal summer monsoon, from June to September, occurs in the southern parts of the country (Dhofar) causing a temperature change. The volume of average annual rainfall of the country has been estimated at 19.25 km3, which is equal to 62 mm (Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources, 2005), varying from less than 20 mm in the internal desert regions to over 300 mm in the mountain areas.
The total population is 2.57 million (2005), of which around 21 percent is rural (Table 1). Population density is thus a little more than 8 inhabitants/km2. The annual demographic growth rate was estimated at 2.9 percent between 1990 and 2000 and 1 percent between 2000 and 2005.
In 2000, 82 percent of the population had access to improved drinking water sources (85 and 73 percent for urban and rural populations respectively). The sanitation coverage was 97 percent for the urban population in 2006.