Muscat, the capital of Oman, is a city of contrasts. One side faces the Gulf of Oman, while the other is backed by mountains and desert. Even the skyline is a heady mix of high-rises and souks, modern malls and ancient forts. Whether you visit to experience Oman's present or past, you'll find what you're looking for in Muscat.
To get your bearings on Omani history, pay a visit to the National Museum of the Sultanate of Oman. The museum's exhibits reach as far back as Oman's first human settlers and feature an impressive collection of prehistoric metal artefacts. The Muscat Gate Museum contains even more history, while its building, which occupies the city's original gate, is equally impressive. Some of the city's oldest structures are its four forts, whose towers often feature sweeping views of the mountains and harbour.
One of Muscat's most stunning monuments is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, complete with white marble floors, Persian carpets and a gold dome. Al Alam Palace and the all-white Royal Opera House feature equally mesmerising but more contemporary styles marked by grand staircases and simple archways. For a more old-fashioned scene, head to the Mutrah Souk, whose labyrinthine alleyways are still shaded by slabs of wood.
Muscat may be in the desert, but that doesn't mean there aren't plentiful opportunities to experience nature. From snorkelling in the Arabian Sea to lakeside picnicking in Qurum Natural Park and sailing a traditional dhow during sunset, there's more than one way to take in this historic city.