Things to Do in Muscat
The Grand Mosque, an elegant modern construction in sandstone, draws on classic Arab styles and boasts a vast prayer carpet and a similarly outsized Swarovski crystal chandelier. The pick of the museums is probably Bait al-Baranda (“Verandah House”), which contains exhibits relating to the history, people and natural phenomena of Oman, housed in a renovated hundred-year old building. The seafront, or corniche, is a popular spot in the cool of the evening when the lights of the waterfront buildings are reflected in the placid waters.
Stretching over 125 miles (200 kilometers) from the Eastern Hajar Mountains to the Arabian Sea, the Wahiba Sands (also known as Sharqiyah or Sharqiya Sands) are Oman’s adventure playground. Named after the nomadic Wahiba Bedouin tribes, this desert region is known for its amber-colored sands and towering sand dunes, some standing up to 330 feet (100 meters) high.
Opened in 2011, the Royal Opera House Muscat is Oman’s premier cultural institution and one of its signature sights. Visitors come to attend operas, concerts, and shows; enjoy its upscale shopping and dining mall; and marvel at its stunning Arabesque and Italianate design.
Thought to be one of Arabia’s oldest marketplaces, Muttrah Souk is a maze of shop-crammed lanes and squares hidden off Muscat’s Muttrah waterfront. Open day and night, the souk lures travelers with its Arabian Nights atmosphere and outlets piled with Omani handicrafts, household goods, clothes, and spices.
The most-visited of Oman’s wadi, or river beds, Wadi Bani Khalid also is one of its easiest to access. Join locals at this picturesque oasis to swim in a string of natural aquamarine pools flanked by boulders and palms, and picnic along the rocky trails.
Occupying a waterfront spot on the harbor of Old Muscat, Al Alam Palace is the official ceremonial palace of the Sultan of Oman. Mushroom-shaped columns and a vivid gold-and-blue facade make it one of Muscat’s most arresting sights.
Situated in western Muscat, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is one of the city’s treasures. Built in 2001 on the orders of the late Sultan Qaboos, and the only Omani mosque open to non-Muslims, it’s impressive for its cream-marble courtyards, minarets, and prayer hall topped by a golden dome.
In 2012, the Amouage perfumery opened its Muscat factory to celebrate three decades of this niche luxury brand of fragrance. At the Amouage Factory and Visitors' Centre, discover the most expensive perfume in the world, which draws inspiration from the rich and colorful heritage of the Sultanate of Oman.
For shopping fanatics, the Amouage Factory is best enjoyed as part of an Arabian shopping trip and souq experience. Once at the perfume factory, a guide will explain how the perfumes are made by hand and you can watch as the bottles are filled and packaged by the small team who work here, perhaps even purchasing a bottle to take home for yourself. If visiting as part of a shopping and souq tour, you’ll then get to visit two modern shopping centers, before finishing up at the most popular and largest bazaar in Oman, the Muttrah Souq.
One of the two forts framing Old Muscat’s harbor—along with its sister, Al Mirani—Al Jalali is a defining sight of Oman’s capital. Built by the Portuguese in 1587, it served as a prison during the 20th century before being restored and becoming one of Muscat’s must-see landmarks.
Perched high above the western walls of Old Muscat harbor, Al Mirani Fort gazes across the Gulf of Oman and its sister fort—Al Jalali—rising from the opposite side. Constructed by the Portuguese in 1550, its crenelated towers and walls make it one of Muscat’s most photogenic sights.
Tucked into Old Muscat just east of the modern city, the Bait Al Zubair shines the spotlight on Oman’s history and heritage. The privately owned museum occupies three beautifully restored Omani houses and attracts visitors with displays of photos, weaponry, jewelry, and artifacts that provide insight into Omani life and history.
More Things to Do in Muscat
The most popular beach lining the coast of Oman, Qurum Beach is known for its soft golden sands, water activities, and restaurant scene. It is popular with families and active visitors with its long, flat paths for walking and jogging. Walking in the sand is also possible at low tide. Several beachside hotels are located on the beach, so many facilities as well as coffee shops, snack bars, shops, and cafes are available here. Many restaurants face the water and enjoy scenic views of the ocean.
The long stretch of sand sits next to the Qurum nature reserve, so the area keeps its natural feel. In addition to relaxing in the sun and sand, water sports such as beach volleyball, kite surfing, and swimming are popular here. Locals often come to this beach to make BBQ dinners, play soccer, and enjoy the evening ocean breezes.
Sweeping from Muttrah Fish Market in the west to Riyam Park in the east, Muttrah Corniche lines Muttrah Bay on Muscat’s coast. Backed by the craggy Al Hajar Mountains and home to Muttrah Souk and Muscat cruise port; this popular waterfront is Muscat’s oldest commercial center and its most scenic and vibrant spot.
Located in southwest Muscat, the Sultan’s Armed Forces Museum—SAF Museum for short—chronicles Oman’s military history and development. Housed in the restored Bait Al-Falaj Fort, it immerses guests in the story of the country’s forces from medieval to present times, with weaponry, uniform, and vehicle displays.
Muttrah (also written Mutrah) is a district and former fishing village in the Muscat province of Oman with a long history as a center of commerce in the region. Muttrah Souq, a traditional bazaar still operating today, is one of the oldest marketplaces in the world. Its history dates back to the age of sail, when Muttrah was an important trade location between India and China. Set against the backdrop of the Muttrah harbor, it is still a center for trading and shopping today both for locals and visitors. It is named “Al Dhalam” (‘darkness’ in Arabic) for its many crowded stalls and lanes where little sun hits. Housed under a timber roof, it maintains its traditional Arabic feel. A labyrinth of alleyways, spices, perfumes and stands, it is one of the most popular attractions to visit in Oman.
Stroll alongside the Port Sultan Qaboos (Port Muttrah), one of the main commercial ports of Oman. Barter for silks, precious metals, antiques, spices, incense or jewelry in the souk, stop for an Arabic coffee or a fresh fruit juice, explore the local fish market and be transported to both the past and present of the country’s culture.
Cupping a small bay on Muscat’s eastern fringes, Old Muscat is Oman’s original capital. Overlooking the Gulf of Oman and framed by rugged promontories and mountains, this old city is steeped in Arabian charm and offers many Muscat must-sees, including two Portuguese forts and the Sultan’s Al Alam Palace.
Set on the western headland of Muscat’s Muttrah district, Muscat Cruise Port—officially called Sultan of Qaboos Port—is one of the most scenic in the Middle East. As your ship arrives, you’ll enjoy stellar views of Muttrah’s mountain-backed corniche before disembarking just 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from its souks and attractions.
Converted from a 1930s house, this museum details the history of Oman and the Muscat region. Covering topics from the geology of the country and plate tectonics to Oman’s military and political history, a visit to Bait Al Baranda (translates to ‘villa with a verandah’) is a great way to get an overview of Omani culture and tradition.
Multimedia exhibits at the Bait Al Baranda museum include interactive screens and videos as well as a photo history and a variety of art and posters on display. There are models of and artifacts from ancient Oman. Tracing history back to prehistoric Oman, the exhibits tells of the country’s early Islamic period, Portuguese occupation and current dynasty. A presentation of bones found 10,000 years ago in the Al-Khoud area is particularly noteworthy. Contemporary art exhibitions are on display seasonally.
Run by the Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), the leading gas and oil company in Oman, the Exhibition Center contains both a museum and an adjacent planetarium. Developed in 1979 to showcase the wonders of the universe and the developments of modern science, it was renovated and developed into a full center in 1995.
The museum exhibits explain the geology and history behind the oil and natural gas industry with hands-on displays and activities. Information on Oman’s unique geology, as well as the story of oil in the country, is a highlight. Learn about the natural development of oil and natural gas, from underground formation over millions of years to the discovery, process, and modern day use. Explore interactive exhibits and mini-models with the science behind it all, and learn about alternative energy sources as well.
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