Foreigners, who were first allowed to enter Oman in 1987, find it to be a place of great natural beauty and a pleasant destination. The Sultanate is widely recognized as one of the more hospitable and friendly environments in the region for tourists and expatriates. While the country is Muslim and still innately conservative, the Sultan has sought to provide opportunities for women to play an active role in this changing society.
Oman is an absolute monarchy. It has no written constitution, no political parties and limited suffrage. The Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said rules by decree, with the help of a Council of Ministers and other advisors whom he appoints.
In November 1996, the Sultan announced the adoption of a Basic Law of the State that, among other things, clarifies the royal succession and guarantees basic civil liberties for Omani citizens. It also provides for a bicameral legislature, which consists of an upper chamber, the Majlis al-Dawla, with 48 members appointed by the monarch; and a lower chamber, the Majlis al-Shura, with 83 members elected by limited suffrage to three-year terms - however, the monarch has the authority to void election results and make final selections.
The Sultanate of Oman is divided into eight administrative regions, which are sub-divided into 59 districts (Wilayats), governed by a Wali (governor), who is responsible to the Ministry of Interior.
Although its economy is dominated by oil, Oman does not have the immense oil resources of some of its neighbors. In recent years, despite discoveries of new oil reserves and improvements in oil recovery technology, the government has focused on exploiting other, non-oil revenue sources, including agriculture and fishing, and Oman's other natural resources - natural gas, iron, copper, chromium, and coal. Establishing a strong educational and health infrastructure, employment, debt reduction, and protection of the environment are other government concerns.
Tourism is being encouraged by easing restrictions on visas and promoting Oman as destination for water sports and ecotourism.