Muscat, the capital of Oman, is a charming city where you’ll find stunning Arabic architecture, bustling souqs, and an ancient and hospitable culture. It is also a hotspot for both beach breaks, with more than 200 kilometres of pristine coastline, and for adventure holidays.
If Dubai’s glitz and glamour is not your cup of tea, then perhaps a trip to Muscat’s more austere streets could be the perfect compromise. The balance between tradition and modernity is well established – beautiful medieval forts, attention-grabbing palaces, awe-inspiring mosques, and enchanting markets exist side by side with modern malls and opulent resorts. However, Muscat is only the start, as you will find much to do and see outside the city walls. Many visitors choose to hike in the nearby Hajar Mountains, go horse riding and watch camel racing, or venture south into the wind-blown deserts of Wahiba Sands. Soak up culture, history and year-round sunshine when you book direct flights to Muscat.
Home to the Sultan of Oman, who gives his name to many government buildings and mosques, the walled city of Muscat is impressive. The imposing Al Mirani and Al Jalaili forts stand guard above the grandiose ceremonial home of the Sultan – the Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace – and while visitors are not allowed in the structures they are worth seeing. You will also find the National Museum of Oman, the Omani French Museum and the beautiful Muscat Gate in the area too. Not many people live here and it has a quiet, small town feel.
Muttrah is where you will find most of the markets, shops and traditional life in Muscat – it is the city’s old commercial neighbourhood. By far the most interesting part of the city, as the large docks and huge maze-like Muttrah Souq are still in business each day. You will find both local wares and imported goods from India and western African states – as historically Oman has been a great trading post. Search for great places to eat around the Corniche area, then relax in the Riyam Park or check out the fish and fruit market across the bay.
The new commercial centre of Muscat, Ruwi has the bustling streets you’ve come to expect in a major city. Cafés, shops and restaurants line the streets, and there’s a large number of Indian expats in Little India, so can you’ll find a great and cheap curry house in no time. There is a buzz to Ruwi that doesn’t happen in the rest of the city, with neon lights and car horns blaring, which reminds visitors they are in the capital. Also here are the only high-rise buildings in the city – still only small scale compared to Dubai’s skyscrapers.
This suburb of Muscat is where all the western expats like to frequent, with hotels (with bars), malls, decent restaurants, and a cinema. It also has the best public beach, the Shati Al-Qurm, which is dotted with beach shacks and opens onto the Gulf of Oman. There is a good golf course here for enthusiasts and the Al-Qurm park is well worth a visit to cool down in the sunshine. Stay at the Crowne Plaza Muscat to experience the relaxed Qurm lifestyle.