Oman's capital was once a major trading centre controlled and influenced by the Portuguese. Those intrepid explores and traders are long gone. Today, visitors flock to Oman thanks to its azure air, towering desert mountains, and crystalline waters. Muscat itself is an Arabian fable sprung to life. Old 16th century forts guard the bay and the palace, while the vibrant souqs offer daggers, superb silver jewellery, and traditional crafts and costumes.