Situated on the Arabian Peninsula, often amid Middle East chaos and turmoil, Oman manages to maintain a countenance of decorum and civility. Evading military clashes between its neighboring states, it implemented long-range plans for development and emergence. Much of the activity focuses on its capital city, Muscat.
Lying between the El Hajar Mountains and the Arabian Sea, Muscat serves as the seat of the country’s political, administrative and economic systems and home to a third of the country’s 4.5 million residents. With its proximity to the sensitive Strait of Hormuz, Muscat proved a historically important trading port in the Gulf of Oman, attracting foreign tradesmen and settlers who came to trade in fishing and agriculture. Persians, Spaniards and Ottomans were among overseas travelers to ancient Muscat, admired as “very elegant” by a 16th-century Portuguese writer.
Muscat’s sprawling 1,400 square miles divide into three principal urban areas: Muscat proper, the original settlement and now an enclave of restored historic homes and buildings; waterfront Mutrah, the harbor scene of shipping and cruise ship anchorages, upgrading to enhance its appeal to visiting tourists; and the commercial district centered in Ruwi, a cluster of high-rise apartments, office buildings and headquarters of international companies.
Ruled since the 18th century by the Al Said Dynasty, friction with imans of the interior destabilized the sultanate until 1970 when Qaboos bin Said, with assistance from the British, overthrew his father in a bloodless coup. Consolidating and renaming the region the Sultanate of Oman, Sultan Qaboos united tribal territories and launched programs to end the country’s isolation and to use oil revenues for modernization and development. Slavery was abolished, and freedom of religion was allowed.
To promote internal stability and to supplement expats and immigrants, in 1988 the country initiated Omanization. The local population is enlisted and trained to integrate into the workforce, expanding the economy and infrastructure. Companies are rewarded for increasing their quota levels toward the target goal of 72 percent local personnel. Five-year development plans initiated in 1976 resulted in the establishment of the petroleum industry; construction of the new shipping port Mina Qaboos; and new ministries for social services, health, education and the tourist industry. Oman emerged with a higher standard of living than that of neighboring countries.
AL BUSTAN PALACE, A RITZ-CARLTON HOTEL
Said to be one of the world’s finest hotels, this splendid urban resort was a favorite project of the late Sultan Qaboos.
Al Bustan Street, Quron Beach $$$$$
GRAND MILLENNIUM MUSCAT
Conveniently located in the heart of the city’s business and diplomatic district near the two great malls, this 5-star hotel offers a Zanta spa and meeting rooms with panoramic city views.
Dohat al Adab St. 133, Al Khuwair $$$
KEMPINSKI HOTEL MUSCAT
Arab and contemporary décor blend in this luxury 5-star beach resort with spa, tennis court and watersports on its threemile stunning coastline.
335 Street 6, Al Mouj $$$$
Situated within the impressive Royal Opera House complex, Al Angham features Omani culture and décor, dishes, motifs and silverware inspired by the Sultanate’s heritage.
463 Al Kharjiyah St., Royal Opera House $$$$
BAIT AL LUBAN
With views of the old port, the “house of Omani hospitality” serves traditional meals combining flavors from the early trading routes to East Africa and India.
Al Mina Street, Mutrah Corniche $$$$
Indian cooking — biryani, prawn curry, coconut rice — is the focus at this cozy and casual spot on the Corniche near the souk on Mutrah Harbor.
Way No. 08, Mutrah Corniche $$$
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