The childless Sultan Qaboos, who used oil wealth to build the strategically placed nation into an important Gulf Arab player, has put in place a secretive succession process in an attempt to ensure stability, if only for the short term.
Amid calls for immediate US famine relief, or a cessation of US assistance to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, other experts say the military aid could be used as leverage to press for a political solution and more secure food delivery.
Arab leaders are gathered in Jordan, but the region's main movers and shakers – Iran, Russia, and Turkey – are absent, a telling sign that the Arab League's influence over events and its own citizens has waned.
Press reports say only 70 Saudi women are standing in municipal elections in December, and as few as one in twenty have registered to vote. Activists say a driving ban is among the hurdles facing women.
Ahmad Mughassil, a Saudi member of Hezbollah, was reportedly detained in Beirut and handed over to authorities in Saudi Arabia, but details remain fuzzy. A US court indictment named him as the architect of the 1996 Khobar Towers attack.