Oman is old Arabia, before oil magnates and princes built their glass towers and shopping malls with ski slopes in the desert. Its rich Bedouin heritage beats on in the heart of the surprisingly low-rise towns and cities and you're often surrounded by ancient and unexpected beauty - from the interiors of the Grand Mosque to the mountains, pristine coastline and the oceans of desert.
Oman does know how to do elegant opulence though, and the best places to stay in Oman range from the wonderfully traditional, to the spectacularly grand.
Oman was all but closed off from the world under the previous Sultan, who was exhaled in the 70s, and since its opened its doors it seems to have taken the best the world has to offer, improved education and medical services etc., without spoiling Omani traditions.
Muscat is the capital, a totally one-of-a-kind port city built by a proud, seafaring nation. Muscat shuns modern design even today, with many new buildings reflecting the traditional Arabia styles, and lending the city a low-rise elegance. It still relies heavily on its port, both for fishing and exports, but it's progressive too, with a brand new opera house attracting the best international acts.
Among Oman's popular visitor towns are Bahla, an oasis known for its pottery, fort and its living folklore and djinns - evil spirits, historic and conservative Nizwa, right in amongst Oman's highest mountains, colourful, tropical Salalah, with its monsoons and fruit plantations, and pretty Sur with its two forts, excellent beaches and long history of building dhows by hand.
Outside the towns and cities is the long stretch of coast, lined with beautiful white sandy beaches, edged in turquoise - which seem to be wonderfully warm all year round. You'll also find the Hajar mountains, highest on the Arabian peninsula and Jebel Shams, Oman's highest mountain, the Musandam Peninsula, a particularly spectacular coastline of deep, rocky inlets, dotted with small villages and wadis and of course the massive, rolling sands of Wahiba Sands and the desert. And a number of wonderful canyons of wadis.
If you're looking for a desert island experience, Oman offers Masirah Island, lined by almost deserted beaches which appeal to all sorts of interesting wildlife, but especially turtles - there are four species which breed here. The beaches are also home to a large number of wrecked dhows.
Muscat (Way No. 3215 .O. Box 964 Al Khuwair,)
Barefoot luxury in a 21 acre beach resort in Muscat. Classic contemporary rooms and suites with all the mod cons and sophisticated furnishings. Private beach, fantastic pool, eight restaurants to choose from, and a top of the range spa. Total pampering.
Dibba Bayeh, Oman
An award-winning beach resort in a remote coastal position. Absolute barefoot luxury in individual poolside sea-facing villas with private pools, spas, and gardens. Chic eco suites with light stone walls and wooden furnishings. Fantastic Ottolenghi style restaurant and direct access to the beach.
Ash Sharqiyah, Oman
A collection of Bedouin tents in the desert. Basic tents have rugs, wooden beds, and separate showers. Swimming pool, dining area, and plenty of desert activities (sand boarding, trekking, volley ball). A good choice for a team building exercise.
Al Bustan, Oman
Barefoot luxury with a private beach, a central lagoon, and premier restaurants. Elegant contemporary rooms and suites with all the mod cons, private balconies, sea-facing/lagoon views. Excellent spa facilities, diving spots, and pool areas. A superbly opulent beach holiday.
Overlooked by the Al Hajar Mountains, Alila's Oman property is an oasis of luxury amidst its rugged surrounds. Private villas with private pools allow for ultimate seclusion and enough space for families. Indulgent treatments can be sampled at the spa and delicious dishes at Juniper and Rose Lounge.