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Wadi Darbat near Salalah in the southern govenorate of Dhofar shows off its Khareef green. The Khareef, or monsoon, rolls into Dhofar in late July and hangs around until September. While monsoon season may not sound inviting, the Khareef brings light drizzle, mist and fog, not torrential rains, and the normally brown, thirsty landscape springs to life. While the rest of this desert country bakes in summer heat, Dhofar is a paradise of gentle temperatures and lush scenery.

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Jebel Shams in the Hajar range is the highest mountain in our mystery country and the range is the highest on the Arabian Peninsula. The Hajar range runs parallel to the northern coast of the country and crosses the northwestern boarder into the UAE.
The range separates a narrow coastal plain from desert.

 

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Local musicians and dancers entertain tourists at this desert camp in the Sharqiya Sands (aka Wahiba Sands after a resident tribe). The golden dunes of Sharqiya Sands are located between the cities of Muscat and Sur in our mystery country. This Arabian Peninsula country is modern and prosperous, with a down-to-earth appeal that contrasts sharply with its glitzy neighbor to the west. The country’s considerable natural endowments include long, unspoiled coast lines on the Arabian Sea, Arabian/Persian Gulf and the eponymous gulf, Shangri-La valleys and rugged wadis tucked into the grand Al Hajar Mountains off the northern coast, expansive desert and an annual, mist-induced pop-up jungle in the southern mountains.

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The lovely blue dome and minaret pictured belong to the Al Lawati Mosque in Muscat, the capital city of our mystery country. The mosque is a landmark in the Mutrah district of the city along the waterfront promenade or corniche. The Hajar Mountains provide a dramatic backdrop.

 

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At the Muttrah fish docks, fishermen unload the day’s catch to sell at the adjacent Muttrah Fish market. Many visitors to Muscat seeking an authentic experience, will rise with the sun  and spend an hour or so browsing the stalls here. It’s an opportunity to observe an important local economy at work and to mingle with friendly locals. With a great variety of fish and sea food, it’s visually interesting, if a bit smelly. 

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Mutrah Souk in the capital is one of the oldest traditional markets in our mystery country and a favorite stop for visitors. Near the main entrance, there are plenty of shops offering the standard trinkets, as well as quality local products for tourists.
Buy frankincense of the best quality here (and many other places around the country), a product exported from this country for thousands of years. To round out the set, you can also find gold and myrrh at the Mutrah Souk. For a more authentic experience, head deeper into the maze of alleys, where locals shop.

 

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The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is located in Muscat, the capital city of our mystery country. The grand dome and main minaret can be seen for miles and the minaret is the tallest structure in the city. A single-piece carpet covering over 45,000 square feet in the prayer hall was hand-woven with 1.7 billion knots and weighs 21 tons. The mosque’s central, Swarovski crystal chandelier is over 45 feet tall.

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