As the sunrise woke me, through the window of my room at the Shangri-La Al Husn Hotel, I got my first glimpse of Oman. The contrasting view of the beach below and the rocky Al Hajar mountains beyond was a fitting introduction to a journey that would take me all over the diverse terrains of this fascinating country.

Having arrived in darkness at 2.30am, I had seen little of Muscat, but now I was ready to explore the quaint seaside capital. Accompanied by Mohammed, a laid-back Omani youth who was to act as my driver and guide, I was excited to see the country through the eyes of a true local and he was keen to show me. Greeting me with a smile, and the warm welcome characteristic of his countrymen, he suggested we start with the vast Grand Mosque of Sultan Qaboos. Timing is key when visiting this iconic Omani landmark and, thanks to Mohammed’s insider knowledge, ours was perfect. We shared the passages and prayer halls, of a building that can accommodate up to 20,000 worshippers, with only a few others. The architects of the Grand Mosque were also responsible for the world-famous Royal Opera House, with its elegant marble exterior. Even if, like me, you are not stopping for a performance here, it’s worth taking a look around this beautiful building to witness its elaborate Arabesque design.

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