BREAKING: Sultan Qaboos of Oman dies at 79

Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said died on Friday evening, state media said early on Saturday, and a three-day period of national mourning was declared.

Qaboos had no children and had not publicly appointed a successor. A 1996 statute says the ruling family will choose a successor within three days of the throne becoming vacant.

If they fail to agree, a council of military and security officials, supreme court chiefs and heads of the two consultative assemblies will put in power the person whose name has been secretly written by the sultan in a sealed letter.

A three-day period of official mourning for the public and private sectors has been declared, state media said.

Who was Sultan Qaboos?

When Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed took over in 1970 after a bloodless coup against his father, Oman had only three schools, two hospitals and six kilometres of paved roads. Once in power, Qaboos embarked on modernising the Arabian Peninsula country, launching a series of ambitious schemes promoting education, healthcare, trade and road links that has drastically transformed life in the Sultanate.

Under him, schools spread across Oman, accommodating boys and girls alike. The country’s first university, which was named after Qaboos, was established in 1986. A fan of classic music, Qaboos opened in Muscat in October 2011 the Royal Oman Opera, the first opera house in the Gulf.

With revenues from oil discovered in Oman in late 1960s, Qaboos set up oil refineries, two main ports as well as fish processing plants. In the final years of his rule, he showed interest in diversifying the country’s oil-dependent economy by promoting other sources for national income, including tourism and investment.

Who will succeed Sultan Qaboos?

The ruling family council would select the new ruler within three days after the position becomes vacant, Should the council fail to reach a consensus, a sealed letter left behind by Qaboos would determine the successor.

The letter should be opened in the presence of senior military and security officials, heads of the Supreme Court, and presidents of the country’s two consultative bodies.

Qaboos is survived by several male cousins, who are eligible contenders for the throne. They include Assad Bin Tareq Al Saeed, a brother of Qaboos’ ex-wife, a personal representative of the Sultan and a Sandhurst graduate; Haitham Bin Tareq Al Saeed, an incumbent minister of heritage and national culture; and Shihab Bin Tareq Al Saeed, a royal adviser and an ex-naval commander.

The three are sons of Tariq Al Saeed, who was Oman’s first prime minister.

A fourth potential successor is Taimur Bin Assad, who was born in 1980, and is a senior official in Oman’s state Scientific Research Council, and represented the sultan on several occasions.