TRUCIAL OMAN: Battle for Buraimi

Ninety miles inland from the Persian Gulf, the oasis of Buraimi has slumbered for centuries. Its 8,000 inhabitants subsist on dates, camel meat and milk, and live in eight, mud-walled villages scorched by the gusts of the shamal. No one knows for certain to whom Buraimi belongs. Northward lies Trucial Oman, "protected" by the British; westward lies Saudi Arabia; all around is uncharted waste, so desolate that even the Arabs call it Rub al Khali, the Empty Quarter.

Over the centuries many marauders have come—the rulers of Oman, of Abu Dhabi, the Unitarians of Nejd (ancestors of modern Saudi Arabia)—briefly planted...

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