The Omani capital hugs the coast of the Arabian Sea, framed by the Hajar Mountains. In stark contrast to its glitzy Gulf neighbours, it is a city of low-rise architecture, with a long history as a trading centre, at times ruled by Persian, Portuguese and Ottoman powers, and wielding influence over its own empire which stretched as far as Zanzibar in the 18th century. Muscat is a highly civilised city with comfortable hotels, interesting architecture, the fabulous Grand Mosque, traditional markets and souks, sandy beaches and opportunities for dolphin and turtle watching in the shimmering turquoise sea of the Gulf of Oman. Muscat’s Royal Opera House, opened in 2011, offers an interesting programme of opera, ballet and concerts.

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