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Muscat, the official capital of Oman, is only a small part of a larger grouping of cities and towns strung some 40kms along the coast of the Gulf of Oman, which is known locally as the "Capital Area" or the "Muscat Municipality." Never much deeper than 3 or 4 kms, this string of towns forms a sort of necklace sandwiched between the sea to the north and a very rocky, primeval-looking range of barren mountains to the south. Despite its ceremonial position as capital, the neighbouring cities of Muttruh, with its superb corniche encirling a charming bay, and Ruwi, the traditional commercial centre of the area, are both much more important. A thriving and strategically located port of the Arabian peninsula in ancient times, Muscat is the capital of modern Oman. It has a somewhat medieval appearance with two old Portuguese forts, Jelali and Merani. These picturesque old structures co-exist with modern, commercial, and residential quarters of the neighbouring coastal towns, and lend the city an ambience all its own . The seaside, ceremonial palace of H.M.Sultan Qaboos Said, nestled between steep rocky hills, offers a spectacular sight, especially at night.

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