Courtesy Reuters

The Sultanate of Oman has long been known for discretion in its affairs. Until 1970, the strategically placed country, the size of Colorado with two million people and 1,000 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea, was virtually cut off from the world. Ruled by an eccentric autocrat, Said bin Taymur, who tried to shut Oman off by, among other things, banning sunglasses and severely restricting education and foreign travel, Oman received few visitors other than British officers who had helped him suppress a series of rebellions in the interior in the 1950s.

Eager to develop his country and encouraged by the British who had educated him, Qabus bin Said, the sultan's only son, overthrew his father in a bloodless coup in 1970. Twenty-seven years later, Oman has been transformed. The country now has a modern infrastructure, spotless streets, and a highly professional military that devotes much of its

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  • Judith Miller, author of God Has Ninety-Nine Names: Reporting from a Militant Middle East, is a senior writer and former Cairo bureau chief for The New York Times.
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