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Sultanate of Muscat and Oman until 1970 (Oman)

Last modified: 2014-03-30 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: muscat | oman | sultanate of muscat and oman | imamate of oman | suhar | sultanate of suhar | plain (red) | text: arabic (white) |
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[Oman pre-1970] image by Joan-Francés Blanc
Flag abolished 17th December 1970

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Until the 19th century the Gulf emirates' monochrome red flags were undifferentiated, but then they added white borders, hoists, stripes, script, etc.. In 1820 the British asked Gulf Emirs who were friendly to them and entered into special treaty relationship with them to put white onto their traditional red Muslim flags. (...) That treaty was the 'truce' that changed the Pirate Coast to the Trucial Coast (or Trucial Oman as it was sometimes misleadingly called).
James Dignan, Josh Fruhlinger, Ed Haynes
and Ole Andersen, 1995-1997

Oman also used a pure red flag until 1970, when horizontal stripes of white and green have been added.
Željko Heimer
, 22 November 1995

The plain red flag was replaced by the four-coloured one when present Sultan Qaboos took the power, in 1970.
Joan-Francés Blanc
, 11 May 1998

Seems me that the Imamate used plain white flag. The Arabic inscription was added later in the flag of the "State of Oman".
Jaume Ollé
, 6 April 1998

Željko Heimer wrote, "Oman used a pure red flag until 1970", not explaining that there was no 'Oman' at that time. The name of the state with the red flag was 'Muscat and Oman'. Muscat had ruled Eastern Arabia, not Oman. Oman was the interior part, ruled by an Imam, who never ruled in Muscat. When they both cooperated the name was changed to 'Muscat and Oman', and after the defeat of the Imam, Sultan Qaboos changed the state's name to simply 'Oman'. It is important not to confuse both names, as the seafaring nation, once ruling Zanzibar, the Comoros and other islands, was Muscat and not Oman!
Ralf Stelter
, 17 April 1999

Ensign for Ships carrying Pilgrims to Mecca

[Ensign for Ships carrying Pilgrims to Mecca (Oman pre-1970)] image by Ivan Sache

According to P. Lux-Wurm, Les drapeaux de l'Islam [lux01], ships carrying pilgrims to Mecca were granted a special ensign with a green rectangle placed at fly. Lux-Wurm's book seems to be full of approximate, unverified, and very often utterly wrong vexillological information. In most cases, the flags shown have not been crosschecked in reference source books and other sources. I would advise to consider all flags shown in this book as 'to be confirmed elsewhere'.
Ivan Sache
, 8 May 2002

Imamate of Muscat and Oman 1868 to 1871

[Imamate of Oman 1868-1871] image by Chrystian Kretowicz, 7 February 2003

Since the year 750 CE Oman (or rather Muscat & Oman) was flew a plain red flag and did so until December 17, 1970, the beginning of QE (Sultan Qaboos Era). But there was a short period in Omani (or Muscatian) history when things were different. (Quoting from Dr. Whitney Smith article on Omani new flag - The Flag Bulletin XXXIV:6/167 November-December 1995):
"The 1866 assassination of Thuwaini, sultan of Muscat, allowed another member of the family, Azzam bin Qais, to seize power in Oman in 1868. Under his rule, which lasted until 1871, the country was considered an imamate rather than the sultanate since Azzam preferred the religious title which the rulers of Muscat had held since the first imam/sultan was elected in 750 CE (or AD). During those years, the plain white imamate flag served as the national flag of Muscat and Oman. The red flag was restored when Turki (Qaboos' great-great grandfather) came to power in 1871 and re-established his father's sultanate."
To add to the general confusion, Oman was an inland area of the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman and enjoyed considerable autonomy from Muscat flying the white flag of its imam since the separation of functions (imam's and sultan's) in 1724 until 1959 when things took a new direction and the State of Oman, hostile to Muscat, was declared and hoisted a refreshingly colorful flag (two colors) in place of previous plain ones. But that's the next story, a little later. On top of all of this, the Muscato-Omani fleet was flying in a period from 1844 to circa 1910 ...the French maritime ensign (with permission, of course) just to annoy the British. The last ones, not amused at this practice, forced the end to the charade around 1910 and all Muscato-Omani ships, from Zanzibar to Gwadar, were happily sailing again under the plain red ensign of the sultanate.
Chrystian Kretowicz, 7 February 2003

Imamate of Oman 1913-1957

[Imamate of Oman 1913-1957] image by Chrystian Kretowicz, 7 February 2003

The flag of the Imamate of Oman was in fact white with a red sword and above it a red inscription. This flag can be seen on coins etc. The flag was white in contrast to the red flag of Muscat. (...) Muscat had ruled Eastern Arabia, not Oman. Oman was the inner part, ruled by an Imam, who never ruled in Muscat. (...) The Imamate of Oman was not in "the interior of Oman", but it was in the interior of Eastern Arabia, surrounded in the north, east and south by the sultanate of Muscat. One could write, "the Imamate of Oman was a rarely-recognized state in the interior of what is today Oman".
Ralf Stelter
, 17 April 1999

According to a German text [from Flaggenmitteilungen ?] submitted by Jaume Ollé, "the Imamate of Oman formerly flew a white flag with a red inscription Victory of God and speedy fulfillment and thereunder a horizontal red sword."
John S. Ayer
, 11 September 1999

The Arabic is "nasr min-illah wa fatih qarib," which actually means "Victory is from God and conquest is near." This is the same motto contained on the flag of the ruler of Bahawalpur.
Joe McMillan, 8 February 2003

Sultanate of Suhar 1920-1932

[Suhar Sultanate 1920-1932 (Oman)] image by Jaume Ollé

This is one of my favourite country flags: the short lived sultanate of Suhar. In a letter from Nozomi Kariyasu the black and white image is labelled "flag attributed to Oman 1923-1943" (in this era Oman was composed by the sultanate of Muskat and the imamate of Oman). The Sib Treaty pushed Muscat under British protectorate and recognized the pre-eminency of the Sultan over the Iman. But I agree with Whitney Smith's opinion, who believes that the flag was the one of the Suhar sultanate. Around 1920, Sheik Ali Banu Bu Ali, a relative of the Muscat sultan, revolted in Suhar and proclaimed himself Sultan (of Oman?). Bu Ali was deposed by the British in 1932. The flag appear in charts attributed to Oman until 1943, but I believe that in fact it was out of use after 1932 and the charts only show a flag taken from an older chart... The name in the flags seems to be 'Oman' which discards the official name of Muscat. It is well known that the Imam's flag was plain white in these years.
Jaume Ollé
, 12 December 1999

It seems that someone, sometime made a mistake in writing 'Oman'. Oman is spelt 'ayin-mim-alif-nun' whereas the name on the flag is 'alif-waw-mim-alif-nun' which would be 'Auman'. You can compare the flag to the correct name as it appears on this image from an Omani official site.
Dov Gutterman
, 13 December 1999

A history of Muscat and Oman

1913 - Sultan Faisal died. Imam of Oman refuses to pay allegiance to the new sultan, Timur. Civil war follows.
1920 - Treaty of Sib. Sultan controls Muscat and the coastal areas. Imam in control of inland territory (capital: Nizwa) with increased autonomy, but lacks international recognition. 
1954 - New Imam, Ghalib bin Ali and his brother Talib seek international recognition and complete independence of Oman from Muscat. British troops subdued them somewhat, but Nasser's UAR give them full support. Conflict extends to Buraimi Oasis, taken by British on behalf of the Muscati sultan.
1959 - Imam's military defeat. Termination of Treaty of Sib. Increased efforts of Omani rebels, holding in the desert, for UN recognition of the State of Oman. Change of the flag. Realizing that outside world might interpret the white flag as a sign of surrender, the savvy Omanis add red sword (or dagger) and red Koranic inscription: "aid from God and prompt  victory" making it a bicolor flag.
1970 - Sultan Qaboos manages to take total control of Imam of Oman territory and moves to suppress the Dhofar revolt

Chrystian Kretowicz, 7 February 2003