Oman is one of the most enchanting and welcoming countries in the Middle East. Although it has only opened up to tourism relatively recently, the Sultanate has much to offer visitors - from the spectacular Al-Hajar Mountains and the charming capital, Muscat, in the north of the country, to the lush southern region around Salalah.
Turreted forts and watchtowers form striking landmarks up and down the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea coastlines. More than 500 forts were built to protect the country from invaders, but nowadays the country is peaceful and accessible. The distinctive Omani curved daggers called khanjars worn on the belts of men in traditional dishdashas are purely decorative these days.
Oman retains a distinctly Arabian feel, in contrast to the modern metropolises in other parts of the region. Instead of glass and concrete, you'll find traditional whitewashed buildings and the beautiful domes and minarets of mosques - the result of the Sultan's strictly enforced ban on high-rise structures. Labyrinth souks are also waiting to be explored, colourful market places where exotic spices and local handicrafts are bought and sold.
Some of the region's best luxury hotels fringe the rugged Oman coastline. They've been built with their environment firmly in mind, as the sandy bays and warm waters are home to abundant bird and marine life. Oman has some of the most important sea turtle nesting beaches in the world.
Inland, rare Arabian Oryx roam the shifting sands of the Empty Quarter. This divine desert landscape is home to the Bedouin and extends into neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Its sands and people inspired the travels and writings of explorer Wilfred Thesiger and continue to inspire those who venture into Oman's interior on guided desert tours.