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The Arab tribes in Oman adopted Islam during the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad (c.570–632) and forced the Persian colonizers to leave.Since then, Oman has generally remained an independent Arab and Ibadi/Sunni Muslim entity. The Omani national identity has evolved from its predominant Arab language and culture, its tribal organization, and Islam.Northern Oman is separated from southern Dhofar by several hundred miles of desert, which results in the cultural distinctiveness of the Dhofaris. Oman's only census (1993) revealed a total population of 2 million, of which 1.5 million were Omanis. Census figures were not broken down into ethnic or linguistic categories, although it can be estimated that several hundred thousand Omanis were of Baluchi origin.About half the Omani population belongs to the Ibadi sect of Islam and a similar number belong to mainstream Sunni Islam.Pork does not exist in the Omani diet as it is prohibited by Islam.The evening meal is generally very light, sometimes consisting only of fruit or bread and tea. A variety of Indian restaurants are found throughout the country.Deaths are similarly marked by gendered use of space, with only men attending the actual burial of a body. The main meal of the day is in early to mid-afternoon.It is generally a large dish of rice with a thin sauce often based on tomato or tomato paste and meat or fish.
Seas to the north and east and deserts to west and south have served to isolate the country from the outside world.At the same time, Oman's presence on the Indian Ocean has fostered a long maritime tradition which has enriched the culture through the settlement of many Baluchis (the Indo-Iranian people of Baluchistan) along the northern coast and the interaction with East African cultures.Traditionally, Oman's capital was located in the interior but Muscat (Masqat), now the principal seaport, has served as the capital since the beginning of the nineteenth century.Earlier architectural styles found in the towns and interior cities of Oman, such as Nizwa, Ibri, Ibra, and Bahla, reflected a pared down and simpler cultural expression and use of space that was consistent with Ibadism, a relatively austere form of Islam.Private residences reflect the culture's concern for gendered space.