Seaside and souks in the Sultanate of Oman.
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Relatively undiscovered, Muscat is a bit of a hidden treasure. This serene port capital presides over the Gulf of Oman on the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula. It makes a princely pied-a-terre for your next break.
Muscat is a place where culture triumphs over flashiness. By royal decree, you’ll find few high-rises here – instead, the soaring Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the modern Royal Opera House make the city’s biggest statements. The local people are proud of their traditional culture, and men wear graceful, full length white dishdashas as they go about their daily lives at the Muttrah Souq and the city’s Corniche. Muscat’s modernisation has been unobtrusive – at first you might not notice it – though a glance at the city’s crop of luxury hotels will set you straight. After your fill of the city, head inland find cool wadis where the locals spend lazy weekends, into frankinsense forests, mountains peppered with forts (and luxury resorts) and to sand dunes that burn orange in the sunset. Travel far enough north and you’ll encounter Arabia’s Empty Quarter. Wahiba Sands are popular, and closer, alternative. British Airways operates flights to Muscat in winter – book your next winter sun holiday now.
Separated from the rest of Muscat by mountains, Old Muscat is a tiny, historic walled city dominated by government buildings – many of which, with their serene, symmetrical architecture and gorgeous horseshoe arches, are worth seeing from the outside even if you can’t go in. Two imposing forts, Al Mirani and Al Jalaili, stand guard above the grandiose ceremonial home of the Sultan – the Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace. You can visit the National Museum, which opened to the public in 2016 and tells a comprehensive history of Oman. If you want to stay near the area, check in at Al Bustan Palace – a Ritz-Carlton Hotel – it's set in a former palace.
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