Changes are underway today in Oman, weaving old practices and new realities into a system that could provide the country with stability and prosperity into the next century. The prominent role of Sultan Qabus would lead one to believe that political decisions are top-down, but internal pressures cannot be ignored as a motivating factor in the formation of 'representative' institutions. Politically, Oman walked a tight line between the sultanic tradition of paternalism - centred on the absolute monarch - and internal pressures for greater participation in decision-making. What has in fact taken place has been the emergence of a quite distinctive political culture, assimilating elements of what is new and what is old into a mix quite unlike that found elsewhere. This blending of tribal values, sultanic tradition of paternalism, Ibadhi principle of consultation, and response to economic challenges is not complete, but a new political system is emerging.