Although it was not until 1800 that a treaty was signed allowing “an English gentleman of respectability“ to live in Muscat as a representative of his country, the ties between the two nations go back much further. The 1800 document certainly used colourful and striking language. It said that, “the friendship between the two nations should endure till the end of time or until the sun and moon cease their revolving careers”.
So far this poetic language has proved justified. The friendship between the two nations has undoubtedly flourished and has grown immensely during the 40 years of the reign of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said leading the Omani nation. The 1800 treaty, which has captured the imagination of countless thousands of both Omanis and Britons to seal a bond of friendship over the years, does not however tell the whole story.
In 1646 the English East India Company signed a treaty giving them trading rights at Sohar, a very important harbour then as it is today. Now it has a vast industrial port complex with a Sohar Free Zone under construction. In 1890 a British Consulate was built in the centre of Muscat, which later became the British Embassy. The embassy has since moved to a larger and much more modern building in what has come to be known as the ‘the Embassies area’ near where the Diplomatic Club and other embassies are now situated.
In 1901 Muscat was brought into telegraphic communication with the rest of the world. This inevitably meant more contact and business with major trading powers such as Britain. Trade between Britain and it’s then colony, India, also increased. Oman, on the sea route between the two, thus saw more trade activity involving the two nations. The British were also useful to Oman in helping the Omanis to fight an attack of bubonic plague, which threatened the Sultanate.
During the early years of the reign of Sultan Qaboos bin Said Britain was a strong supporter of Oman, championing its right to a seat at the United Nations as an independent sovereign nation. From the early days of His Majesty’s rule to the present day trade, cultural and educational contacts have continued to flourish and grow.