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Qaboos bin Said (1940–2020), peacemaking Sultan of Oman

Getty Images / Gamma-Rapho / Gilles BASSIGNAC

Pulled his country from poverty into the developed world and brokered international peace talks

Qaboos bin Said was the sultan of Oman, who built his country into a developed nation and became known as a peacemaker who helped mediate talks between countries including the U.S. and Iran. When Qaboos took power in 1970 after a bloodless coup against his father, Oman was an impoverished nation, far behind the developed world in education, health care, infrastructure, and other key areas. Qaboos used the country’s oil revenues to modernize it, building schools, hospitals, and roads and creating a thriving economy. As Sultan, Qaboos abolished slavery, gave women the vote, and began appointing women to ministry positions. He was the longest-serving leader in the Arab world.

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Died: January 10, 2020 (Who else died on January 10?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 79.


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Foreign policy: Qaboos began his reign by establishing diplomatic relations for a nation that had been isolated and poor under his father’s reign. He brought Oman to the Arab League and the United Nations, and he began helping other countries find their way to peaceful conversations. He was the first to arrange peace talks between Egypt and Israel in the 1970s, and he paved the way toward the 2013 international nuclear pact between the U.S. and Iran, which was dismantled five years later. Qaboos’ successor, Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, has pledged to continue Oman’s role in negotiating international peace talks.

Notable quote: “I go everywhere. I drive my own car. I usually like to drive in the first car of a convoy, because that way I can see more of my people and my country. And that’s what I live for, and that’s what I will die for.”

What people said about him: “As the longest-serving leader in the Middle East, Sultan Qaboos brought peace and prosperity to his country and was a friend to all. His unprecedented efforts to engage in dialogue and achieve peace in the region showed us the importance of listening to all viewpoints. Sultan Qaboos was a true friend and partner to the United States, working with nine different American presidents. We will honor his memory by continuing to strengthen the partnership between the United States and Oman.” —President Donald Trump

“Saddened at the demise of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos of Oman, a close friend of India. The world has lost a great leader and a statesman who worked tirelessly toward building peace in the region and around the world.” —Rashtrapati Bhavan, president of India

“He was a visionary and transformed Oman into a vibrant, modern state. Oman has lost a beloved leader and Pakistan a close, trusted friend.” —Imran Khan, prime minister of Pakistan

Full obituary: The New York Times

Related lives:

  • Kofi Annan (1938–2018), Nobel Peace Prize-winning secretary-general of the United Nations
  • Nelson Mandela (1918–2013), South African president ended apartheid
  • Benazir Bhutto (1953–2007), prime minister of Pakistan