Muscat, Oman

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With a skyline less vertically inclined than those of other Persian Gulf capitals, Muscat eschews nouveau riche trends by letting its architecture reflect the expansive natural landscapes and rich seafaring history of this port city. From the quiet elegance of earth-colored mountainside villas to the understated splendor of its grand mosque and newly built Royal Opera House, Muscat exudes self-assuredness, tranquility and stateliness. 

For visitors, Muscat’s seaside corniche is walkable and friendly, with great spots for traditional souk shopping and drinking Indian karak chai, an aromatic blend of black tea, milk, sugar and cardamom. Meanwhile, moving along the coast is a versatile parade of cruise ships, brightly colored cargo containers, small teal fishing boats, and traditional dhows carrying passengers out to dolphin-watch. Further inland, the downtown and its surrounding area offer numerous cultural museums, explorable forts, and modern restaurants.

In the early morning, the city’s background of craggy mountains appears brown, yellow and gold, and as the sun sets, the mountains are marked by Muscat’s many blue-and-white minarets and twinkling European streetlights. Whether it's day or night, the city’s constant is its people, distinguishable by both their relaxed demeanor and traditional black-and-white clothing. Muscat is a city of calm built on a harbor of possibilities, a trading route to the world.

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