On Saturday, the family council opened the envelope to find the name of Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, 65, a cousin of the sultan who most recently served as Oman’s culture minister. He was elevated to sultan the same day.
In a televised speech, he vowed to honor Qaboos’s legacy.
“We will continue to assist in resolving disputes peacefully, Sultan Haitham said.
Qaboos came to power at age 29 in 1970 in a bloodless coup aided by the British against his father, putting himself at the helm of a poor, isolated nation locked in a civil war with rebels in the south.
Tapping the kingdom’s newfound oil wealth, Qaboos subdued the rebels with a combination of military force and development projects while building roads, hospitals, schools and other modern infrastructure across the country to improve life for his people. The effort was so successful that in 2010, the United Nations ranked Oman first in the world in advancement up the Human Development Index over the previous 40 years, ahead of China.
That made Qaboos a titanic figure in his country of 4.6 million, located on the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula and across the Strait of Hormuz from Iran. While sultan, he also held other offices at times, including prime minister, governor of the central bank and minister of finance, defense and foreign affairs.
The first day of his reign, July 23, is a holiday called Renaissance Day. His birthday, Nov. 18, is Oman’s National Day.
Although economic stagnation fueled by low oil prices marred his later years and his people’s political rights remained limited, Western diplomats marveled at the consistency of his foreign policy. In 2007, he spelled it out in a public statement.