First contacts under the Ancient Regime
The first French-Omani contacts go back to the 1660’s, when the merchant ships from the Indies Company trading with the Persian Gulf put into Muscat’s port, one of the best trading places of the region.
Muscatis had just got rid of the Portuguese’s tutelage (1508-1649) and the Omani seaborne trade was experiencing a rapid expansion at the end of the 17th century and at the beginning of the 18th century.
From 1750, trade between France and Oman took a concrete turn, with a merchant traffic against a background Anglo-French-Dutch rivalry and conflict: for commercial needs as well as for those of the policing the seas, relationships increased between the Île de France (the current Mauritius), the Bourbon Island (today the Reunion) and Oman, with its dependencies on the Swahili coast of East Africa and Zanzibar.
In Muscat, the power of Imam Ahmed, founder of the Al Busaidi dynasty, had been strengthening since 1744. The city became the main warehouse and the first commercial port of the Gulf, while Oman consolidated its positions in East Africa. France therefore considered it advisable to institutionalise its relationships with this important partner. In 1775, permission was granted by Imam Ahmed to establish a trading post in Muscat, and, in 1786, France obtained the right from Sultan Hamid to appoint an official representative.