On the eastern point of the Arabian peninsula lies the Sultanate of Oman. From humble beginnings as a land of fisherman and shepherds, today's Oman has been revamped and revitalised in a cloud of golden desert sands and incense-soaked souks.
Often bypassed in favour of its glamourous neighbour, the United Arab Emirates, Oman is commonly referred to as the 'true Arabia' where Bedouin tradition, historic forts and desert dunes work to form one exotic package.
From glistening beaches along the gulf to sweeping sandy plains and bona fide oasis towns, a holiday in Oman will keep your senses stimulated all the way from Salalah to Shinas.
Oman's capital city, Muscat, has retained much of its charm from its former fishing village days, with a number of attractions in the region that date back even further. One of the most iconic sights is the 16th Century Fort Al Jalali, propped on a rocky mountain vista against the harbour, which guards the Qase Al Alam Royal Palace.
Inland from Muscat is the World Heritage-listed Bahla Fort at the base of the Djebel Akhdar highlands – a striking remnant from Bahla's days as an oasis, some 800 years ago.
Things to do in Oman extend well beyond fortifications, with several sites of historical, spiritual and archaeological significance, from the prophet's graves in Salalah to Dhofar's famed Frankincense Trail.
Omani cuisine is an aromatic blend of Arabic, Indian, Asian and European influences, with many restaurants in Oman careful to distinguish their traditional fare from benchmark Arab offerings.
Each of the country's 11 regions offer slightly varied tastes, but filling dishes of shawarma, kebabs or meze, bathed in colourful ground spices, never fail to satisfy. To drink, try a laban – a savoury yoghurt drink flavoured with pistachios and cardamom – or unwind with a masala chai tea.
If your holiday coincides with the holy month of Ramadan, you will notice Muslims abstain from eating and drinking. As a sign of respect, it's good practice to refrain from eating or drinking in public during the day as well.
Travelling along the Gulf of Oman towards Seeb brings you to a number of beachfront hotels, but Oman offers the full spectrum of accommodation choices from countrified desert retreats to inner-city 5-star stays.
Muscat city has a range of options for the budget conscious and those seeking a sleepover in style. Muscat itself is actually the amalgamation of three smaller towns – palatial Muscat proper, souk-central Muttrah and the commercial centre, Ruwi.
Towards the southern end of the coast you will find a selection of budget, mid-range and luxury hotels including the Hilton, Crowne Plaza and Marriott in Salalah, while Sohar, not too far from the UAE border, is an easy place to source a hotel for your Omani adventures in the north.
If you're up for a spot of shopping in Oman, your first port of call should be the local markets known as souks/souqs, where a dizzying array of spices, fresh produce, perfumes, fabrics and handcrafted goods fill the criss-crossing narrow laneways.
Ranking among the top shopping spots in the country is Muscat's Old Muttrah Souk, which has an enchanting ability to make the hours of the day disappear in a puff of frankincense, while Nizwa and Salalaha's souks are also great places to spend some time and your Omani Rial.
One of Oman's best buys is silver, with most marketplaces carrying a range of silver jewellery, rosewater holders, message boxes and the traditional, symbolic silver-sheathed daggers known as "khanjar".
Oman Like a Local
Omanis are fiercely proud of their country and incredibly welcoming to visitors, eager to share their culture with any who are interested. English is widely spoken in Oman, but learning a little Arabic will get you a long way.
Oman is an excellent launching point for further meandering through the Middle East, with unique options for intrepid of travellers including the towering Hajar mountains and the perpetual sands of the Rub' al Khali desert.
Rest easy in the knowledge that Oman is the one of the safest and most accessible countries in the Middle East – book your flights to Oman and be treated to an incredible Arabian experience from the moment you leave the runway.