Centered on its crescent-shaped natural harbor, Old Muscat is a world away from Muscat’s busier districts. As the old heart of the capital, this pristine enclave houses most of its historical treasures. Highlights include the 16th-century Al Jalili and Al Mirani Forts overlooking the bay; the ceremonial Al Alam Palace, traditional houses, and museums dedicated to Oman’s history and culture.
As Muscat’s most traditionally Arabian quarter, Old Muscat is a staple of all city sightseeing. See it on half- or full-day excursions that cover other Muscat sights such as Muttrah Souk; choose private tours that let you adjust your itinerary to spend more time here; or select combos that add activities like dolphin-watching cruises. Other choices include hop-on hop-off tours, dhow boat cruises that sail past the bay, and evening tours to see its illuminated sights.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Al Alam Palace and Portuguese forts are only viewable from the outside.
- Bring sun protection and bottled water if you’re sightseeing and strolling.
- Much of Old Muscat is wheelchair- and stroller-accessible.
- There are no public restrooms in the old city.
How to Get There
Just east of Muscat’s Muttrah neighborhood, Old Muscat is best-reached by cab, self-drive, hop-on hop-off buses, or sightseeing tours that include return transport. Drivers should follow Muscat’s Route 1 highway along Muttrah Corniche to the Muscat Gate Museum—an over-road fortification marking the site of the city’s original gates. Public buses regularly run from Muttrah Corniche to the Al Alam Palace.
When to Get There
Old Muscat is rarely crowded, so there’s no particularly good or bad time to visit. Tour and cruise groups often arrive late in the morning, so to explore at the quietest times, arrive in the early morning or late afternoon—either one will avoid Oman’s midday heat. The old city is especially magical at night, with its forts and Al Alam Palace ablaze with lights.
Museums in Old Muscat While you’re in Old Muscat, it’s worth checking out its museums. Most tours visit the Bait Al Zubair for insight into Omani culture, but spare time, too, for Oman’s National Museum: it’s stuffed with historical artifacts, including Bronze Age beehive tombs. Also often overlooked is the Muscat Gate Museum, whose terraces offer spectacular coastal views.
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