A man takes a picture of the city from the Nizwa fort before the first stage of the 2018 cycling Tour of Oman from Nizwa to the Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat on February 13, 2017. / AFP / Philippe LOPEZ
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Surrounded by grey rocky mountains and the blue Sea of Oman, the city of Muscat feels like an oasis of calm in a region afflicted by a deepening sectarian conflict.The key to Oman's independence has been its ability to fend for itself financially. That might have to change if the government can't fix the economy soon. When Arabs boycotted Egypt for its 1978 peace deal with Israel, Oman maintained the ties.Like the rest of the Gulf, Oman's finances have been battered after crude oil prices started to decline in 2014 .On a visit to Oman last month, it was clear that the economy was very much on everybody's mind.State-run newspapers highlighted the government's ability to find jobs for over 20,000 Omanis in five months. For all the similarities with Gulf peers when it comes to economic challenges, Omanis are protective of what differentiates them from the rest of the region.
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