Oman feels like an oasis of calm in a region afflicted by a deepening sectarian conflict. Omanis slip into the nearest mosque to pray, not caring whether it’s run by Ibadis, Shiites or Sunnis. Civil service and military jobs are open for all. And the determination to preserve the country’s strong national identity is evident on the streets of Muscat. Rather than the glitz of glass and steel towers that define other Gulf metropolises, Muscat has low-rise beige villas with traditional arches and windows enclosed with carved wood latticework. Being neutral and independent has served the country well over the decades, making it a key conduit for trade and diplomacy in the turbulent Middle East. The problem is that it looks less viable as Oman succumbs to the all-too-familiar financial strains of countries reliant on petrodollars and the geopolitics of its location.