After arriving on a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul, as we drove in from the airport to Muscat's Mutrah district to begin our Oman tour,it struck us that this city of 1.7 million was everything we'd expected as the capital of a wealthy Gulf sultanate in the 21st century - modern highways in perfect condition, lavish buildings, decorative lighting - in addition to the streetlights from the road which give way to the old houses with a European flair (Oman was occupied by the Portuguese, from the 15th to the mid-16th century), giving way to narrow streets and the inevitable souk. Not to mention museums, shopping centers, and luxury beach resorts.

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