Economic Crossroads of the East
Not far from the glitzy, hyper-developed shores of Dubai and Abu Dhabi lies the Sultanate of Oman, which is among the most tourist-friendly locales in the Middle East. Like most nations that border the Persian Gulf's vital shipping lanes, Oman's history includes periods of both independent prosperity and domination by a series of foreign powers. As a result, the modern state developed with a strong sense of nationhood, yet it remains diverse and tolerant of outsiders. Muscat, the capital and primary commercial center of Oman, is also one of the oldest urban locales in the region. Trade in exotic goods like frankincense, pearls, and dates has traditionally been the city's primary economic activity, and visitors will find no shortage of them as they wander through its large open-air markets. Sightseeing highlights include Jalali and Mirani, the remnants of former Portuguese forts, as well as the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the scenic beaches of Bandar Jissah.