Sheltered amid impressive volcanic and limestone rock formations is the capital city Muscat, the capital of Oman, where low-rise buildings and villas are painted in shades of vanilla and ecru . At night, the lights of its most impressive structures--the Grand Mosque, the Royal Palace, and the Opera House--sparkle like diamonds. Proud of their rich Bedouin heritage, the Omanis possess a strong sense of identity, and are genuinely warm and welcoming.

Women and men are exquisitely dressed in hand-embroidered headdresses beautiful robes, the smell of frankincense is thick in the air, and the country's natural beauty-untouched coastline, wind-sculpted desert, dizzying, rocky mountains-are very accessible. Here are some reasons why you should start planning a trip to planning a trip to Oman now:

Your first stop should be the Bait Al Zubair Museum, where the privately owned collection of artifacts showcases highly specialized skills that have been passed down through the generations. You will see intricately carved swords, knives, jewelry, coins, and Bronze Age household items that defines Oman society. The most interesting are the traditional dress styles and accessories that show regional variations. Tour the Souk and the Corniche and you will meet men dressed in dishdashas, the elegant but simple long gown, and women in beautifully embroidered dresses and headscarves in bright colors.

Constructed of marble and Indian sandstone, the stunning Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque can accommodate some 20,000 worshippers within its musallas (prayer halls), courtyards, and passageways. You will hardly see anyone if you come early in the morning, to avoid the heat. The prayer hall features the world's second largest handwoven carpet, a single piece that includes classical Persian design traditions and took skilled artisans 4 years to produce. Wear modest attire and a headscarf. The mosque also rents abayas, a black robe-like garment that covers everything but the face, hands, and feet.

The Mountain of the Sun-- Jebel Shams, which is 3009m in height is Oman's highest mountain. It is best known for the view into the spectacularly deep Wadi Ghul beside it. The straight-sided Wadi Ghul is known locally as the Grand Canyon of Arabia, as it cleavages abruptly between the flat canyon rims, exposing vertical cliffs of 1000m and more. Before, there was nothing between a nervous driver and a plunge into the abyss. Now an iron railing at least points to the most sharp points along the track and a couple of car parks along the rim offers some of the best views into the canyon.