When Sultan Qaboos bin Said took over the Persian Gulf nation of Oman in 1970, the country only had about six miles of paved roads. The former ruler, Sultan Said bin Taimur, Qaboos’ father, had been such an isolationist that he banned anything Western, including radios, sunglasses, and cars. Qaboos, however, pledged to develop Oman’s infrastructure using proceeds from oil sales.
Almost 50 years later, it’s clear that the sultan, now 75, accomplished his goal. Oman has around 18,000 miles of paved roads—all of them chock full of cars. In fact, Oman, and its capital city, Muscat, is known for its car culture. According to the 2012 Oman World Health Survey, more than eight in 10 Omani households own a car.