Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman is undoubtedly a modern city and a tourist attraction, filled with some of the friendliest people in the world. Today it is a sought-after holiday spot for those travelers in search of all-year-round sunshine, clear diving waters and an authentic Arabian experience.
There are plenty of things to do around Muscat. All the buildings are kept short and painted in white or creamy color. The air traffic control tower at the airport happens to be the tallest building. Although there aren’t many must-see attractions in Muscat, there sure are numerous things to do here that will make your visit a really enjoyable and memorable one. The following are some of the places to visit and things to do whilst you are in Muscat:
• Discover Old Muscat – Old Muscat is a lot different from the rest of Muscat. Enclosed by water and dusty mountain, it is where some of the top tourist attractions can be found in Muscat. The National Museum, Al Alam Palace and the Muscat Gate Museum are all in Old Muscat and they are all at walkable distances.
• Al Alam/Sultan’s Palace – The Sultan’s palace that has been here for more than 2 centuries is one of the most recognized tourist attractions in Muscat. The palace is world famous for its unique colors of blue and gold! It stands at the end of a broad palm tree–lined avenue that leads to the National Museum. The palace, however is not open to the public.
• National Museum – Opposite to the Al Alam Palace and housed in a big awe-inspiring building is the National Museum, which was opened only recently in December 2015. You can learn about the history and culture of Oman by checking out the various items displayed here. There are several displays with information such as models of different forts, buildings styles and old boats. Massive screens and high-tech devices bring the artifacts to life.
• Muscat Gate Museum – Located above the gate to Old Muscat, the Muscat Gate Museum offers a good deal of information about the history of Oman, especially Muscat, explaining the various stages in the growth and development of the city. It has the original gates which were used up until 1970s to keep the looters and bad guys out.
• Al-Jalali Fort – Defending the entrance to the East harbor is the Al Jalali Fort, which was built in the 1580s, during the Portuguese occupation. As the fort can only be accessed via a steep flight of steps, it served as a prison for a couple of years. Today it functions as a museum of Omani heritage. For admission, you will have to apply to the Ministry of National Heritage and Culture, through the contact page on the ministry website.
• Mutrah Souq – The Mutrah souq is the main souq in Muscat and one of the most popular places to see in the city. The place is clean and neat, with the smell of incense, giving the ultimate souq atmosphere. Here you can find many traditional textile, jewelry and hardware stores as well as shops selling Omani and Indian artifacts. The main entry to the souq is via the corniche, opposite the pedestrian traffic lights. Although most shops accept cards, you can get better deals with cash. The souq is open in the morning and evening.
• Bait-Al-Baranda (Museum) – If you wish to learn more about Muscat, one of the best places to visit is the Bait-Al-Baranda museum. The museum gives its visitors the opportunity to learn about the history of Muscat from 750 million years ago to today, with the help of imaginative and interactive displays and exhibits. There is a ‘cut-and-paste’ dinosaur made using bones found in Al Khoud area of Muscat and also borrowed bones from international collections. You can also see a boat, folk arts and outfits and general information about the city.
• Al-Riyam Park – The Al-Riyam Park is loctaed at the Old Muscat end of Mutrah. There is a giant, ornamental incense burner from where you can get great views of the harbor. On weekends, the park hosts a small fun fair, which the local residents absolutely love.
• Qurum Beach – Muscat is blessed with a number of beaches and a good weather for visitors to enjoy their leisure time. This is a popular place for cruising on four wheels and for family picnics. Shatti Al Qurum Beach is located in a convenient location and it is a lovely place to take a dip. There is a nice strip here that has restaurants and cafes down 2817 Way.
• Royal Opera House – The Royal Opera House was constructed by the same architects who built the Grand Mosque. It finished construction in the year 2011. Located in Shatti Al Qurum, near the beach, it is one of the most beautiful places in Muscat. The understated exterior is a great contrast to the elegant interior of inlaid wood and arabesque designs. Even if you don’t intend to attend a show inside, it’s worth taking a look at the beauty of the building.
• Grand Mosque – The Grand Mosque is a stunning piece of modern Islamic architecture, gifted to the nation by Sultan Qaboos to mark his 30th year of reign. The mosque is huge and can accommodate 20,000 worshippers, including 750 women in a private musalla or prayer hall. The main prayer hall is breathtakingly stunning and is home to the second largest hand-loomed Iranian carpet in the world. It actually took 600 women four years to weave the amazing carpet! The Mosque is located near the airport and so you will probably see it on your way to and from the airport.
• Big Bus Tour – If you don’t wish to spend your money on taxis, which by the way are quite overpriced in Muscat, the easiest way to see all the tourist spots is to hop on one of Big Bus Muscat bus tours. The bus, which is air conditioned, stops at almost every spot mentioned here except the Grand Mosque. For those who are just visiting for a day, this is a great option.
If you are traveling to Oman, don’t miss your opportunity to visit Muscat as it is truly very different from the other parts of the country. In order to take in the energy and atmosphere of the city, you should stay here for at least two to three days. Muscat is an astounding, spacious, friendly and clean city that offers so many things when you visit. There are also many amazing wadis in the desert that you can visit if you have time.