The region of Oman was incorporated into the Persian Empire in the 5th century BC. Arab tribes began to settle it in the first century CE. They became dominant in the 7th century and Ibadi Muslims established an imamate here in 1751.
In 1508, the main trading port, Muscat, was captured by the Portuguese, who held it until it was taken by the Ottomans in 1659. The Ottomans were driven out in 1741, when the present line of sultans was formed by Ahmad ibn Said.
Oman grew into a major power In the early 19th century with possessions from Baluchistan in the east to Zanzibar in the west. These were gradually lost and Oman became a British protectorate that lasted from 1891 to 1971.
In 1970, Qaboos bin Said al-Said ousted his father and has ruled as sultan ever since. His extensive modernization program has opened the country to the outside world and has preserved a longstanding political and military relationship with the UK. Oman's moderate, independent foreign policy has sought to maintain good relations with all Middle Eastern countries.
Military bases in Oman were used in 2001 by US forces involved in ground raids against Taliban forces in Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden. In 2003, the lower house of the advisory council was freely elected for the first time.
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Much of the road from Dubai crosses a sandy desert similar to the famous "Empty Quarter" south of here.
Sand gives way to mountains.
And finally we reach typical Omani scenery.
This great arch close to the airport marks the entrance to Greater Muscat that streches over 50 km of the Gulf of Oman coast.
Oil and gas revenues have transformed a strip of desert along the highway into a garden irrigated at great expense with desalinated sea water.
Even the bus stops along the highway testify to the limitless funds expended to beautify selected areas around the capital.
Allah also got his share as this impressive mosque indicates.
Here is another brand new mosque. There are many all over the place.
Muscat's bus station is in Ruwi, it can be seen to the right across Al-Jami street from the KFC fast food place. In the centre of this picture stands the Jami as Sultan Qaboos Mosque and he road to the left leads to Mutrah on the way to Old Muscat.
The Mutrah fort overlooking the bay testifies to the tumultuous past of the Arab tribes that settled the coast of Arabia.
Cruise ships carrying thousands of tourists tie up in the busy port of modern Mutrah. I stayed at the Al-Naseen Hotel (the tall building between two palm trees).
Mutrah has much to offer visiting tourists from jewellery in the gold souq to incense, spices and all kinds of goods and souvenirs in the general souq shown below.
This seems to be the shoe and leather goods corner.
Here are some visitors scurrying to find a good buy before they have to rejoin their boat.
This is the eastern entrance to the Mutrah souq.
A view of the port with a couple of dhows and a big cruise ship.
Oversized sculptures like this incense burner decorate roundabouts not only here but also in many Arab Gulf cities. This modern highway leads to Old Muscat, the actual capital and seat of government.
This modern gate gives access to a large area around the real Old Muscat.
The real Old Muscat was a rather small area behind these reconstructed walls. Entry was by Bab Al-Kabir seen at the end of the moat on the left of this picture.
Old Muscat was protected by the Al-Mirani Fort shown here and the Al-Jalali Fort across the bay behind the Emir's palace.
Here is the entrance to the sprawling Al-Alam Palace that can be seen better in the panorama below.
The buildings still under construction will enclose a triumphal avenue leading to the colourful but smallish palace entrance.
The Bandar Al-Rawdah marina shelters the luxury yatchs of the local elite and offers scuba diving services to the tourists.
Back in Mutrah I had the good fortune to meet the famous globetrotter David Stanley author of the South Pacific Handbook, the Tahiti-Polynesia Handbook, the Micronesia Handbook and other travel guides.
We enjoyed exchanging travel annecdotes but he left the next day for Salalah in Dhofar (Southern Oman) and I went to Nizwa before going to Bahrain via Kuwait.