Sur, Oman © Andries Oudshoorn
The second largest country in the Middle East, Oman occupies the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Its topography is varied and dramatic, with rocky mountains and deep water inlets in the north, rolling dunes and salt flats in the central interior, verdant green hills in the southern Dhofar province, and a coastline stretching thousands of miles with magnificent beaches and cosy coves.
In fact, the main reason people travel to Oman is the astounding beauty of the natural landscape. The dramatic coastline of Masirah Island, the rolling sand dunes of the vast Wahiba Sands desert, the prehistoric fossils in the valleys around Buraimi, and the rugged Hajar Mountains are all unforgettable experiences on any Oman holiday.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said has realised that tourism is an integral part of his modernisation programme, but thus far it is the wealthy who are being urged to bring their holiday funds to spend in Oman. Sightseeing and activities are mainly restricted to Muscat and the southern town of Salalah, famed for its seafood, frankincense trees and the ruins of the palace of the Queen of Sheba. Accommodation is offered mainly in luxury resort hotels.
Making responsible use of oil revenue, Muscat has taken on the veneer of a prosperous modern Arab city without losing its old world charm and heritage. It features forts, palaces and other historic sites of interest to visitors, as well as an exciting traditional souq (bazaar) and some stunning long sandy beaches like Qurum, Bandar Al-Jissah and Yeti.