This is the first full-length scholarly study of the history of the European discovery of Oman. Oman has always been known to travellers sailing between Europe and India or Persia. But it was its coast that was known. Greeks and Romans charted it, medieval merchants traded on it, and the Portuguese conquered its main towns in the early sixteenth century. After the Portuguese had been ejected in 1650, an independent Oman built an empire of its own, stretching round the Indian Ocean from India to Zanzibar.Muscat, the capital, was visited by western powers eager to obtain commercial concessions and political influence. Yet the interior, ruled by local tribes, was all but entirely unknown until the nineteenth century. Only then did a very few, mainly English, explorers venture inland and embark on the true discovery of Oman. But even that was sporadic. As long as there was a powerful ruler, the travellers were protected, but by the late nineteenth century the sultans in Muscat had lost control over the interior, and it was not until well into the twentieth century that western visitors could investigate the south and begin to chart the centre and the west. Oman was thus one of the last Arab countries to be fully discovered. Alastair Hamilton examines this process from the earliest times up to 1970 and discusses the ways in which the slowly growing knowledge of Oman was propagated in the West by travellers, missionaries, diplomats, artists and naturalists, and by those scholars who gradually uncovered the manuscripts and antiquities that allowed them to piece together the history of the area. The protagonists include Carsten Niebuhr, known for his expedition to Yemen; James Wellsted and the officers on the brig Palinurus, sent by the East India Company to survey the Omani coast from 1833 to 1846; James and Mabel Bent, indefatigable explorers of southern Arabia; Bertram Thomas, financial adviser to the sultan; and Wilfred Thesiger. --Book Jacket.