The mid-haul destination dubbed the 'new Dubai' with its own tropical islands – and flights from £68 | The Sun

THE rise in popularity of Dubai as a holiday destination has been staggering.

Over the last 30 years or so, it has been transformed from a humble harbour city into an iconic futuristic hotspot at the top of every influencer's bucket list.

Now, other places nearby are trying to piggy back off Dubai's success, with plenty of them hoping to replicate its meteoric rise.

One such place is Muscat in Oman, which plenty of people are suggesting could be the "new Dubai".

It's a title that Travel Noire used when talking about the city's merits, saying it had plenty to offer visitors.

They wrote: "Located next to UAE on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman should not be overlooked.

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"Though it has been referred to as 'the new Dubai,' the country is a star in its own right with much to offer.

"Beautiful natural wonders, a deep-rooted history, incredible architecture and lively nightlife are a few reasons it is worth a visit."

Arguably Muscat's most famous attraction is Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which was named among the "best of the best" in the TripAdvisor traveller's choice awards this year.

It's the largest mosque in Oman, with a minaret standing nearly 300ft tall.

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According to Canvas Club Oman, it "captivates its visitors with the most beautiful unique and traditional architectural elements" and is home to the largest chandelier in the world.

It is 45ft high, weighs eight tons and is decorated with 600,000 Swarovski crystals.

Away from the glitz of the mosque and its chandelier is the Muttrah Souk, one of the oldest market places in the Arabian peninsula.

Visitors are encouraged to haggle for souvenirs, fabrics and antiques among the warren of alleyways.

They can also try the sweet masala tea sold from the coffeehouses by the market's entrance.

The influences on Muscat's culture and architecture extend into Europe, with two Portuguese forts still standing along the city's bay.

National Geographic compared them to sandcastles, saying they're worth visiting, even if tourists aren't able to go inside them.

They wrote: "The imposing Al Jalali and Al Mirani Forts were both built by the Portuguese colonists in the 1580s to protect their ships from attack.

"They're closed to the public but still guard Muscat bay and have a pleasing sandcastle quality to them."

One of the key reasons people like visiting Dubai is its beaches, with some amazing stretches of sandy shoreline extending out into the sea.

Muscat is no different, with several spots to relax and take in some sea air.

Lonely Planet said: "The country’s 3165km-long coastline is dotted with sun-bleached swaths of white sand, rocky beaches and pristine islands where turtles outnumber people and pods of dolphins swim alongside boats."

Arguably the best beach in the city is Qurum Beach, with one TripAdvisor review reading: "If you come to Oman and haven't been to Qurum beach, your visit has not been justified.

"Qurum is the most favourite beach in Oman for everyone."

However, for those looking for a more secluded experience, the Dimaniyat Islands might be a better option.

Situated off the coast of Muscat, visitors will require a 40-minute boat trip to get to there.

Those who venture out will be rewarded with some of the best snorkelling in the Middle East, alongside dolphins, turtles and stingrays off the coast of nine tropical islands.

Travel blog Live Like Its the Weekend wrote: "Most people would never guess that nine tropical islands with pristine turquoise water and tons of sea life exist just 40 minutes by boat from Muscat.

"I’ve snorkelled all over the world and I’ve never seen as many sea turtles all at once as I witnessed in the Dimaniyat Islands.

"It was truly one of the most magical experiences of all my travels and I hope you can experience something similar on your own trip."

Direct flights to Muscat are available from the UK, however indirect flights are a lot cheaper, with return routes available from around £180.

A one way flight to the city can be booked for as little as £68.

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