Oman has long been coveted for its strategic location at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Portugal occupied the country for over 140 years; today Oman is controlled by a rich and powerful sultan. See the riches concentrated in the capital city and explore its varied terrain.
Muscat is Oman’s capital and the seat of the country’s sultan. The oceanfront city is packed with lavish projects ordered by Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said at the end of the 20th century. Visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, a Muslim house of worship with capacity for 20,000 people. Its prayer hall features one of the world’s largest Persian carpets. The blue-and-gold Sultan’s Palace and the Royal Opera House Muscat are as also impressive. For a contrast to these modern developments, head to the city’s eastern bay section to see ancient attractions like Mutrah Fort, a 16th-century Portuguese castle.
Enter the Hajar Mountains, a craggy chain of peaks lined with walled mountain villages. Visit the 17th-century Nizwa Fort or drive to the smaller 12th-century Bahla Fort. Jebel Shams, Oman’s highest mountain, lies just north. Hike up its slopes to look over the cavernous Wadi Ghul, known as Oman’s Grand Canyon.
Camp on sand dunes in one of Oman’s desert areas. The most accessible dunes lie in the A'Sharqiyah Sands along Oman’s east coast. Book an overnight voyage into this relatively compact 4,800-square-mile (12,500-square-kilometer) sandy desert. Extreme adventurers can join a trek into the Empty Quarter, one of the world’s largest deserts. While mostly contained in Saudi Arabia, this desert also covers Oman’s northern fringes.
Oman features a lengthy Arabian Sea coast, best enjoyed at the resort capital of Sur. Relax on Turtle Beach while watching turtles come ashore. Enjoy a swim in the blue-green pools at the bottom of Wadi Shab, a narrow gorge near the coast.
Book a flight to Muscat International Airport in Muscat to start your trip to Oman. Rent a car to move between mountains, deserts and coast.