On January 10, 2020, the Arab World lost its longest-serving leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said. The news of his passing was disclosed by the Royal Court in an official statement.
Sultan Qaboos was revered in his country, Oman, for his progressive style of leadership and the developments that he brought to the nation over the years.
In the wider Middle East, meanwhile, he was known as a man of reason and a big believer in the power of dialog.
In a region with a highly complex geopolitical makeup, Qaboos was respected by all of Oman's neighbors, from Saudi Arabia to Iran.
Taking over from his father in 1970 in a bloodless coup, Sultan Qaboos steered Oman in a new direction. His political views were a far cry from what Oman had experienced under its previous ultraconservative rulers.
As oil revenue started to accumulate in the 1970s, he used the funds to modernize the country, raising standards of living among Omani people.
Between 1970 and 2020, Oman was transformed from a land barely touched by development to a high-GDP nation with a “very high" human development index (HDI), attracting expats from all over the world.
His rule, which stretched across half a century, was by-and-large free of any internal or external conflicts. Oman's only hassle, in the earlier years of Sultan Qaboos' reign, was with Marxist insurgent groups in the southern parts of country.
Despite being an absolute monarch, Sultan Qaboos often took into account the will of the people, which is perhaps why Oman was not hit hard by the wave of protests in the Arab world in 2011.
With regard to foreign affairs, he famously adopted a policy of neutrality in regional conflicts while maintaining diplomatic ties with all countries, which gave Oman an ideal footing to act as a well-trusted mediator.
The large number of condolence messages arriving from Oman's neighbors and world powers was a testament to the Sultan's successful diplomacy.
Some neighbors such as Qatar went so far as to observe three days of mourning. The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the Prince of Wales traveled to Muscat to attend the condolence ceremony. Sultan Qaboos attended the British military academy of Sandhurst in his younger years.
Many had been dreading the loss of the Sultan in recent years, especially as he did not have any children and had not publicly chosen an heir to the throne.
However, merely hours after his passing, a family council opened a sealed envelope containing the Sultan's final will, whereby he had named Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, his first cousin and Oman's former culture minister, as his successor.
The new Sultan shares many qualities of his predecessor, and the fact that he was proposed by Sultan Qaboos lends legitimacy to his rule according to Omani tradition.
Born in 1954 and an Oxford alumnus, Haitham bin Tariq is known to be an uncontroversial figure with moderate political views.
After being sworn in, Oman's new leader pledged to follow in the footsteps of Sultan Qaboos, maintaining friendly diplomatic ties with the region and the world while accelerating Oman's economic development.