Special feature Oman: Muscat, full of contrasts
Capital of the country since the 18th century, Mascate enjoys a spectacular location in a cavity of the Hajar mountains, facing the sapphire blue waters of the Gulf of Oman. Though today the town spreads out to the area of Seeb where the airport is found (25 miles away), the historical centre has not changed. Its sea front (home to the neighbourhood of Muttrah) is immediately recognisable by its mosque Al Jami, whose minaret and turquoise dome recall the Iranian mosques. Only a few floors high, the white houses have balconies covered in varnished tiles, supported by scarved wooden pillars. In Muscat, in between two rocky headlands guarded by forts, is found the official residence of Sultan Qabous.
Qalhat, Marco Polo's port of call
The 'white gold' harvest