While neighboring oil-rich countries on the Arabian Peninsula are building skyscrapers and convention centers, Oman is erecting an opera house and planting desert gardens amid capital city Muscat’s white stone buildings. Many of Oman’s delights cater to the elite luxury traveler. The ritziest hotel in Muscat offers a helicopter landing pad out back. Pleasure yachts anchor off the coast--all this thanks to Sultan Qaboos, who sparked the country’s modern renaissance with his rise to power in 1970, adding scores of new schools and hospitals and increasing the miles of paved road from six to over 3,700.

Text: Amura ± Photo: Sandra Mancuso, Nartional Geographic, Panoramio, Costas Españolas.