One of the most ancient states in the Arabian world Oman has for a long time been a hub for international traders to the region, although tourists are only just discovering the charms this unique territory has to offer. It walks a tightrope between Middle East and West, never slipping into the vulgar displays of oil wealth that have happened elsewhere in the region and always conscious of its cultural heritage.

Although traditional in appearance, in outlook and attitude Oman is very progressive. One of the most liberal societies in the Gulf, Omanis welcome international visitors with a mixture of curiosity and the warmth of traditional Islamic hospitality.

To a large measure this welcoming attitude has been encouraged by Sultan Qaboos' effort in shaking off Oman's reputation of being closed off to outsiders. The Sultan's enlightened rule has established Oman as one of the leading nations in the region and it's no surprise that many Westerners seeking a real taste of Arabia without foregoing the comforts of home are come to the region at the south-east tip of the peninsula.

From the northern coast of Oman with its capital Muscat to the shifting sands of the Wahibah, the high peaks of the Jebel Akhdar mountains, the deserted Empty Quarter and the fragrant and verdant southern Dhofar region, truly there is something for everyone here. The adventurous head for the wadis, including the two kilometre-deep chasm of the Wadi Nakhr, while the historically minded can explore the numerous forts that trace the history of settlement of the interior, the best of which can be found at the oasis of Nizwa. For sunseekers the beaches of the Oman southern coast are pristine strips of white sand that bake in a consistent 30 degrees plus, while urban thrill seekers will find a welcome in lively Muscat or more traditional Sur.

Everywhere there is the sense of discovery. High in the Jebel Akhdar you can think you're the first person to tread here, even though society has existed here since well before the pyramids were built, while in the deserts you truly are as isolated as anywhere on earth.



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