If you were to have visited Oman thirty years ago ... wait, hardly anyone traveled to Oman thirty years ago. As Oman opens to foreign visitors, the Middle Eastern country has earned a reputation as welcoming to Western tourists respectful of their culture. This trepidation has proven a huge boon to its nascent visitors. While Oman's northern neighbor the United Arab Emirates has focused on glitz and glamour -- building luxury manmade island resorts and indoor ski slopes -- Oman went for subtle and authentic. Oil has replaced frankincense as Oman's most famous export, and the accompanying cash has ensured Oman's infrastructure runs smoothly for visitors. In exotic Muscat
, Portuguese colonial architecture and ancient forts are kept in impeccable condition. From there, beach lovers and mountaineers can head out in any direction. Travel to Sur to catch some rays on some of the Middle East’s most undisturbed strips of sand, or venture into the seemingly uncharted Hajar Mountains to explore some Wadis (dry riverbeds) on a hike through Bedouin regions. If you prepare really, really well, taking a four-wheel-drive into the remote desert is an experience like no other.