Mountain villages clutched against canyon walls, clusters of dates weighing heavy in the plantation oases, a ribbon of sand blown across the dunes, a lone camel padding across the limitless interior - these are the kinds of images afforded by the beautiful and enigmatic country of Oman.
In years gone by, Oman was rich with copper and frankincense, and enjoyed an extensive East African empire. Then, in the early 20th century, a deeply conservative ruler, Sultan Said, chose deliberately to isolate the country from the modern world. His son, peace-loving Sultan Qaboos, assumed the throne in 1970 and that date now marks the beginning of the widely celebrated 'Renaissance' in which the country has been returned to an age of prosperity and progression.
What makes Oman's renaissance somewhat unique in the region is that the transformation has been conducted with great sensitivity towards traditional values - there are few high-rise buildings in the capital, Muscat; the country's heritage of forts (numbering over 2,000) are meticulously restored; ancient crafts like weaving are actively supported. Moreover, traditional Arabian values, such as hospitality and practical piety, are still in evidence making Oman somewhere to experience Islamic culture at its best