How refreshing to have an opera house upstage its own productions. And how exciting to have an opera house that rivals the world’s grandest 19th-century houses yet is nestled in a well-kept secret of tourism that less than 50 years ago had just six miles of paved roads.

The Royal Opera House Muscat, an architectural triumph in Oman’s capital city—which is tucked between the Gulf of Oman and the Al Hajar Mountains, which features centuries-old terraced agriculture and off-the-grid hiking—is what you’d imagine an Aladdin-esque opera house to be if the art form had been part of the Arab world, say, 150 years ago. Its white stone towers and arabesque arches are stacked on layers that evoke a grand Middle Eastern medieval citadel crossed with a Byzantine McMansion—a modern-day La Scala or Palais Garnier with pure, in-your-face opera-house attitude.