A Rare Look Inside Oman

Oman feels like an oasis of calm in a region afflicted by a deepening sectarian conflict. Omanis slip into the nearest mosque to pray, not caring whether it’s run by Ibadis, Shiites or Sunnis. Civil service and military jobs are open for all. And the determination to preserve the country’s strong national identity is evident on the streets of Muscat. Rather than the glitz of glass and steel towers that define other Gulf metropolises, Muscat has low-rise beige villas with traditional arches and windows enclosed with carved wood latticework. Being neutral and independent has served the country well over the decades, making it a key conduit for trade and diplomacy in the turbulent Middle East. The problem is that it looks less viable as Oman succumbs to the all-too-familiar financial strains of countries reliant on petrodollars and the geopolitics of its location.

Photographs by Christopher Pike/Bloomberg

  

  

The traditional houses of the old city of Muscat are surrounded by mountains beside the harbor. Buildings in the capital have to incorporate elements of traditional architecture, part of Oman's determination to preserve a strong national identity.

  

  

  

Visitors walk through the Mutrah souq in Muscat. Oman’s finances have been battered after crude oil prices plunged in 2014, and tourism is one of five industries the government wants to help revive the economy.

  

  

  

Tourists visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat. The mosque is one of the capital's main attractions, which also include a national museum that opened in 2016 and the opera house, which was inaugurated in 2011. The site is open to non-Muslims as well.

  

  

  

Traditional houses, minarets and ancient ruins stand in the old city of Muscat. The sprawling capital has shunned the glass and steel towers that define other Gulf metropolises.

  

  

  

An Omani man kicks a soccer ball while taking part in a promotional event hosted by Oman Telecommunications Co. at the Muscat Grand Mall.

  

  

  

A traditional dhow rides anchor beside the 'Al Said' superyacht, owned by Sultan Qaboos, in Muscat harbor.

  

  

  

Tourists ride a jet ski through the water off Al Qurum beach area in Muscat. Watersports and tours are among the top activities enjoyed by tourists in Oman.

  

  

  

Women shop for walking sticks in the Mutrah souq in Muscat.

  

  

  

Oman boasts a new airport that opened in March—the paint and the carpets still smell fresh. The airport is expected to help the country's efforts to attract more tourists.

  

  

  

The royal seal adorns the entrance gates to the Al Alam Palace, a royal residence of Sultan Qaboos of Oman, in Muscat. The sultan has ruled Oman since 1970.

  

  

  

 A worker walks through the Al Mouj Muscat waterfront development.

  

  

  

Oman's Royal Opera House in Muscat opened in 2011. It was the first opera house to open in the Gulf and boasts concerts by world renowned orchestras.

  

  

  

The traditional houses of the old city sit surrounded by mountains in Muscat.

  

  

  

An Omani man sits on the beach to watch the sunset in the Shati Al Qurum district of Muscat.