For American travelers,Omanis an encouraging and reassuring place. An Arizona-size country in a strategic location at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, it is devoutly Islamic yet peaceful, prosperous and hospitable to Western visitors. On a recent trip, I strolled through the streets of the capital, Muscat; meandered along the narrow alleyways of its souk; and visited the hugeSultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. I never felt ill at ease, and I encountered nothing but friendliness and polite curiosity.

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