Muscat, Oman

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Cruising to Muscat, Oman

A city fit for a Sultan

While its oil-rich neighbours may be stealing the limelight these days with their enormous skyscrapers and flashy lifestyles, Oman shines just as brightly when it comes to cultural heritage and fascinating attractions. And while the buildings may not be quite as tall as those you will find in the United Arab Emirates, the Omani capital is in fact the epicentre of what was once the most powerful empire in the Arabic world. As such, it has maintained a regal quality that simply can't be matched by its noisy neighbours.

Ever since the Portuguese first colonised the country in the 16th century, Oman has been at the heart of the eastern trade network, and went on to expand its influence throughout Asia. This glorious period in the nation's history is manifested in several of the majestic buildings on show in Oman, with the likes of the Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace - which is guarded by the Al Jalali and Al Mirani forts - being a great place to start if you're looking to relive some of Muscat's former glory.

More opulence can be found at the stunning Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which is the third largest Islamic place of worship in the world and is a real feast for the eyes.

Yet not all of Muscat's beauty is man-made, with the city being flanked by the enchanting Hajar Mountains on three sides and the Sea of Oman on the other. A stroll along the Corniche in Matrah - the port area - is a fantastic way to soak up the atmosphere of this intoxicating city, particularly as the sun is setting.

Matrah is also a top place for shopping, and is home to the Matrah Souq, where you'll find all manner of goods that have found their way to Muscat via the dizzying network of trade routes that connects North Africa to the Far East. Here, you can expect to find Indian textiles, Omani jewellery, golf artefacts and a range of local handicrafts, spices and more.

Muscat, Oman

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