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A network of small castles extend eastward along ancient trade routes from Amman, the capital city of our mystery country. They are important examples of early Islamic architecture, built in 7th and 8th centuries by Umayyad caliphs. Although they are collectively referred to as castles, they include forts, towers, baths and caravanserai. Built in the early Islamic period, when figurative art was common, some of the castles shelter lovely frescos of dancing-girls, hunting parties, assembled rulers and cavorting animals. Later, depictions of humans and animals was discouraged in Islamic art. Qasr Kharana, about 40 miles east of Amman.

 

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5 Things To Do In Muscat, Oman

Royal Opera House of Muscat
This is a magnificent building, inside and out. If you’re able to catch a performance there, we’re thrilled for you and a bit envious. If not, we highly recommend a taking a tour. The monumental proportions, sublime design and state of the art technology are testament to the high value Sultan Qaboos places on the arts. He’s a big fan of classical music himself but he had the opera house built for the people of Oman and visitors. Besides world-class performances, the opera house offers arts education programs, lectures and workshops.

Al Alam Palace
This is the ceremonial palace of the sultan of Oman. It’s not open to the public but it’s easily accessible for photos and visual consideration from the front and back. It’s a very unique piece of architecture, especially the central building, which I found kind of obnoxious initially, to be honest. But the more I look at it, the more I love it. It was completed in 1972, which explains a lot. The modern, organic Islamic style is whimsical and flamboyant in the most friendly way. I love it even more now than I did when I started writing this paragraph.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Another awesome building, outside it’s all cool, serene elegance, with gleaming marble surfaces and pearly arches. Inside, the exposed timber ceilings are warm and earthy, while heavenly multitudes seem to open out to infinity in the massive central dome. Modestly dressed non-Muslims are welcome.

Stroll the Corniche
The Muttrah Corniche pedestrian promenade rambles for about 3km along the sea wall in the Muttrah district of Muscat. If you avoid the midday heat, it’s bustling with locals and visitors and is the perfect vantage from which to take in harbor sights on one side and the pretty sea-front avenue backed by the craggy Hajar mountains and old Portuguese watch towers on the other side. From the corniche you can access the fish market, best in the early morning, and the adjacent fruit and vegetable market and down the way is the Muttrah Souk. You’ll find benches, a park and fountains along the corniche.

Muttrah Corniche, Old Muscat, Oman

Muttrah Corniche, Old Muscat, Oman

Muttrah Souk
This, the oldest market in Oman, is a must, whether or not you’re a shopper. The streets closest to the corniche are pretty touristy but if you persevere into the maze you’ll find a feast of authentic shops. Some good buys are gold, silver and frankincense. Be sure to bargain. The souk closes from about 1-5pm each day and it especially bustles with locals in the evenings.

Read more about Oman here.
See more pictures of Oman here and here.
See our tours to Oman here.

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Taroudant is an authentic Berber market town, smaller and more low-key than our mystery country’s more popular destinations, Marrakech and Fez. It’s located in the gorgeous Souss Valley in the south of the country, framed by the High Atlas Mountains to the north and the Anti Atlas to the south. Atlantic beaches are just an hour away.The walls around Taroudant are the most intact in the country. You will meet few tourists here, if any.

 

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Pergamum in Turkey

Temple of Trajan, Pergamum, Turkey

Temple of Trajan, Pergamum, Turkey

Pergamum is an ancient Greco-Roman city in western Turkey, about 15 miles from the Aegean coast, 60 miles from Izmir, the closest airport, 110 miles from Ephesus, and about 320 miles from Istanbul. The modern town on the site is Bergama.

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This stretch of the Kidron Valley lies between Mount Moriah and the Mount of Olives in one of the world’s holiest cities. The valley continues eastward about 20 miles to the Dead Sea. The valley and adjacent slopes have been burial grounds for thousands of years due to their association with End Times in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

 

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