The most peaceful place in the Arab world is ruled by a gay sultan . At least that's the word on the street in Oman, where the childless and divorced sultan Qaboos bin Said bin Taimur Al Bu Saidi is a popular and successful ruler. The 68 year old monarch is the 14th Saidi Sultan of Oman, his family having been in charge continuously since 1749.
Despite all the talk of the sultan preferring men, he is widely regarded as a very manly fellow. He overthrew his unpopular father, whom he had been feuding with most of his adult life. Earlier, the Sultan went to the British military academy, Sandhurst, and served several years as an officer in a British infantry regiment. Upon taking the throne, he had to face a communist insurrection (fueled by Yemeni communists just across the border) and a rebellion in the south (Dhofar). While the Sultan's father was a reactionary, and a not very effective ruler, the son was quite the opposite. The Sultan reformed the government administration (including the military), mended political fences, and used his British Army contacts to get some help from the British SAS (similar to American Special Forces) to help deal with the most uncooperative of the rebels. He hired dozens of British officers and NCOs to improve the training and leadership of the Omani armed forces, and by the mid 1970s, the rebellions were defeated.
Since the Sultan has no children, he has secretly selected a heir, and given the name to a trusted aid, to be revealed when he dies. That choice may be overruled by a family council, but the Sultan is on good terms with most of his extended family and is keen to keep the dynasty going one way or another.
For the last three decades, the Sultanate has been one of the most peaceful and prosperous Arab states. With a land area larger than Britain, it has only 3.3 million people. The place is mostly desert. The Sultan has encouraged education, free enterprise and the rule of law (even though he is an absolute monarch). He has organized a 120 member symphony orchestra, one of the finest in the Middle East. This appalls some of his more religious subjects, because the orchestra has male and female musicians.
There is no terrorism in Oman. No al Qaeda, no religious violence. There are some Islamic conservatives, but even they do not dare threaten the popular monarch. This despite the fact that the Sultan has expressed an interest in working out a peace deal with Israel. Most other Arab rulers consider the Omani Sultan a bit odd, and don't consider him an example worth emulating.
[Via Strategy Page]