I came to Muscat, Oman, in November 2014. I had already made a list of places to travel in the coming days as it was a weekend (Friday and Saturday in Oman). Another thing about roaming around in Muscat on Friday is that most of the places operate only after 4 PM; since they have Friday Prayers to offer at the Mosque. Friday evening, my husband and I set out to Muttrah Souq, which is traditionally and culturally one of the oldest inhabited areas of Muscat.
Muttrah Souq is traditionally and culturally one of the oldest inhabited areas of Muscat.
1. This souq is the oldest market place in the Arab World. You can buy gold, silver, clothes and other arts and crafts. However, Frankincense, Myrrh and Omani Halwa (sweet dish made of dates and honey) are sold extensively in the Souq.
2. The Port Sultan Qaboos (named after His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said) and Muttrah Corniche forms the best place to have a wonderful evening walk.
3. Abutting the Muttrah Souq is a charming locality called Ruwi, which is the oldest residential area of Muscat.
4. One Saturday, we visited the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. It is one of the few mosques in the world, which allows Non-Muslims to visit (except Friday). One of the unique features is that the mosque is home to the world’s 2nd largest hand-woven carpet and 2nd biggest crystal chandelier.
It should be commended that Omanis have high religious tolerance and respect other religions. There is a 400-year-old Indian temple and a Catholic and Protestant Church which are peacefully co-existing in Muscat along with Mosques (series of videos can be found here).
It should be commended that Omanis have high religious tolerance and respect other religions.
5. One weekend, we visited Seeb Beach and Seeb Souq. Seeb is a modern extension to the old charm of Muscat which is the last point of Muscat City and where the International Airport is situated. Seeb Souq hosts modern malls, restaurants and shopping centres.
6. We went on a Coastal Cruise from Marina Bandar Al Rowdha. For 30 Omani Rials and the duration of 2.5 Hours, one can see the coastal wonders of Oman. The cruise visits the Al Bustan Palace (Ritz Carlton Hotel), Oman Parliament (Majlis Al Shura), Shangri La Hotel, Al Alam Palace (Sultan Qaboos Palace) and Mutrah Corniche. One day we also went on a Dhow Cruise (Dhow is a traditional fishing boat in Oman).
One can also hire a personal yacht at your comfort from the Muscat Yacht Club.
Facts about Muscat and Oman
- Official Country Name: Sultanate of Oman
- Country Code: 00968
- Time Zone: GMT + 4
- Currency: Omani Rial (OMR) divided into 1000 Baiza (Bz) (1 OMR = 0.39 USD)
- Dress Code: Decent Dress covering Knee and Shoulder for both Men and Women (Cover the head and hair while entering Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque along with full length dress)
- Weather: Hot and Humid between April to August. Rain and Moderate Cold from October to March. Best time to visit is October to March.
- Tropic of Cancer passes through the southern edge of the city.
- Commute within Muscat: Taxis are available in plenty. No Public Transportation System.
- Airports in Oman: Muscat, Sohar, Khasab and Salalah
- Inter City Bus Service: Available within Oman and to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah
- Dubai is about 450km from Muscat, Abu Dhabi is 500km from Muscat
Things that I’m yet to explore in the Muscat Region
7. Shatti Al Qurum Beach – The Main Beach of Muscat with high-end restaurants, hotels and shopping area.
8. Royal Opera House Muscat – The only Opera House in the Gulf Region where every Saturday there is a guided tour of the interiors from 8AM to 11AM.
9. Qurum Park – The largest lung space (green space) of Muscat with themed restaurants, amphitheatre, and an amusement park.
10. Bait Al Zubair – Museum of Natural History, Culture, Civilization and Tradition in Oman.
11. Al Mouj Marina and Wave Muscat – Private Golf Club and High End and Luxury Residential Villas and home to some of the best restaurants in Muscat.
Things I’m yet to explore in Oman
12. Nizwa – The first capital of Oman and the center for Islamic Learning and Culture and the home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aflaj System of Irrigation.
13. Misfah Old House – Traditional Bedouin House in the middle of large plantations outside of Nizwa
14. Al Hoota Caves – 2 Million Years Old Natural Cave made of Limestone near Nizwa
15. Jebel Shams and Jebel Akhdar – Jebel means Mountain, Shams means Rising Sun and Akhdar means Greenery. It is the highest mountain range in Oman and home to many renowned resorts and tourist destinations. Known for its Rose Plantations and Date Plantations.
16. Sohar – Ultra modern city with one of the largest shipping yards in the Arab World. The drive from Muscat to Sohar along the coast is one of the beautiful journeys in this part of the world.
17. Damaniyat Island – Comprising of nine inhabited islands which are famous for scuba diving and snorkeling.
18. Khasab – The capital of Musandam Governate is the place to relax on weekend. Home to some of the best fjords in the Arabian Peninsula, one can reach Khasab from Muscat in one of the fastest ferry systems in the world operated by National Ferries Company.
19. Desert Camps at Wahiba Sands – Unique experience of staying overnight in the midst of golden sand dunes and far away from civilization. Famous for dune bashing, Bedouin style living and camel rides.
20. Majlis Al Jinn – It is the second largest cave chamber in the world.
21. Sur and Bimmah Sink Hole – Home to the five species of sea turtles and the sinkhole is formed due to limestone erosion in the region.
22. Masirah Island – The largest island group in Oman and is home to pristine beaches and sand dunes.
23. Thumrait – Enroute to Salalah from Muscat, it is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Frankincense Trees. Between Adam and Thumrait, you have a vast desert for close to 700km length filled with oil rigs.
24. Salalah – Termed as the Jewel of Arabia, it is the only place in the Middle East which receives a rainy season. It was the second capital of Oman before Muscat and the birthplace of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. This is the place where the desert sands meet the greenery of the mountain region. Salalah is home to beautiful rivers and streams, waterfalls and is famous for the Magnetic Road and Al Mughsayl Blow Holes. Salalah also boasts a number of white sandy beaches and palm plantations.
So much to see and so little time.