Oman has achieved a degree of equilibrium between its ancient Arabian culture and modernity. Not only is it one of the region’s most peaceful and prosperous countries, but it is also increasingly popular with travelers in search of dramatic scenery and insight into the region’s traditional way of life. Fifty years ago, Oman was still essentially a medieval kingdom. Today, its capital, Muscat, is a relaxed, contemporary metropolis of around 800,000 inhabitants. Old Muscat, home of Sultan Qaboos, is clustered around a bay at the eastern edge of the capital. There, the Mutrah Souq remains atmospheric in spite of an influx of cruise ship passengers. Landmarks of the interior include the imposing castle at Jabrin and the 17th-century fort and souk at Nizwa. The stark and dramatic Al Hajar Mountains run west to east across northern Oman, separating the coastal plain from a high desert plateau and rising to the 9,832-foot summit of Jebel Shams. Musandam is an enclave on the Strait of Hormuz, separated from the rest of Oman by the eastern coastline of the United Arab Emirates.