Over winter break my daughter and I traveled to Muscat, Oman for a week. Yes, a week. I took her to visit her dad's extended family. Oman is the green country below Saudi Arabia on the right. Muscat, the capital, is on the far right of the country.
Getting to Muscat is not easy (it's about 30 hours door-to-door). We drove from Santa Barbara, California to Los Angeles, flew Turkish Airlines from LA to Istanbul, Turkey (4 hour lay over), then flew from Istanbul to Muscat with a stop over in Bahrain!
Oman is an easy country for westerners to visit: about two thirds of the population is ex-pats (mostly Dutch and British) working for Shell Oil, Petroleum Development Organization, and various other businesses); women do not have to cover (yes, I cover my shoulders and knees out of respect); Oman is US-friendly; and the official languages are Arabic and English.
My ex-husband's family is very friendly, has interesting jobs, and they are welcoming when we visit. This is a photo of his dad's side of the family...
One of the highlights for us when we visit is the food. I don't know if you've eaten middle eastern food or Indian food, but all I can say is "Yummy!" Lots of sambusas, spring rolls, falafel, hummus, rice and veggies. The only problem with the food? They push it on you ALL THE TIME! Everyone wants to feed us, many times a day.
Oman has only been "modernized" since 1972 when Sultan Q'boos took over, but boy has he done a good job. Oman is the cleanest country I've ever been to, all the roads are wide, in great shape, there's tons of new construction, etc. Remember, they have oil money. No one pays taxes, there are no homeless, plots of land for a house cost about $1,200, medical care is free, and education care is free (in fact, they will pay for you to go to university overseas if your grades are good enough!).
The buildings do feel a bit totalitarian and there are huge posters/paintings of the Sultan everywhere. They are also really into large statues, which are all along the waterfront and on every round-about. They each represent something about Oman and its culture.
Our favorite part of the visit to Muscat is going to the souq (market) where we usually buy pashminas ($5) and some interesting Omani objects.