When it comes to holidaying and sightseeing in the exotic tourist hotspots around the world, Muscat is usually not there on the priority list of most travelers. Nevertheless, Muscat, the port capital of the Sultanate of Oman, steeped in history and cocooned in by desert and towering age-old mountains, always enchants the casual tourist. Muscat with its ancient forts, royal palaces, and numerous other places of historic interest, oozes an atavistic charm that will surely cast a spell on you.
Muscat is dotted with so many eye-catching tourist spots and fun places that you’ll have a hard time deciding which places to visit and which places to leave out during your trip. In this article, we have reviewed 10 tourism hotspots in Oman’s capital and the surrounding areas that will make it somewhat easier to plan your itinerary. Good luck and bon voyage to your armchair trip to Muscat.
The Mutrah Corniche is easily one of the most visited places in Muscat as the site allows one to get a good view of the fishing port. The promenade stretches for nearly 1.8 miles (3km) running parallel with the waterfront straddling the port. The boulevard experiences a high footfall throughout the year as tourists throng the walkway to take a stroll and gaze at the cornice of majestic mosques and spectacular buildings.
The entire stretch of Mutrah Corniche takes on a stunning and grandiose look at sunset with the golden sunlight casting striking silhouettes across fountains, hemispherical mountains, and the pavement, making the boardwalk an excellent hangout. Once you have had your fill of this most visited of tourist places in Muscat, you can stroll to the Mutrah Souq, one of Oman’s oldest markets. Besides window-shopping in the narrow and serpentine alleys of the market, you can also strike bargain deals for picking up traditional Omani pots, hookahs, perfumed oils, and much more.
Your Muscat trip would be incomplete without paying a visit to one of the largest mosques in Arabia-the spanking, extravagant, and swish Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. The grand mosque which was thrown open to the public in 2001 has scaled almost to the top of the most admired tourist places in Muscat listing. The entire mosque has been designed with painstaking care as its intricately designed façade and interiors mirror the high level of craftsmanship attained by the designers.
The prayer carpet on the floor of the mosque’s sanctum sanctorum (prayer hall) accentuating the décor of the interior, will definitely catch your attention. It took over 600 women nearly four years to create the carpet that blends traditional Isfahan, Kashan, Tabriz, and Persian embroidery styles, and has a mind-boggling 1, 700,000,000 loops. Sightseers and tourists will be awestruck when they look up at the towering chandelier in the prayer lobby.
The 14-metre tall chandelier when lighted up envelopes the entire environment, especially the sophisticated cerulean mosaic tiles in a riot of colors. Not only is the grand mosque the most splendid of Muscat’s structures but the only mosque that allows access to tourists, irrespective of their faith. In case you’re a non-Muslim tourist, you’ll be able to enter the mosque on any weekday, excepting Friday between 8.30 a.m. and 11.00 a.m.
If you’re looking for a secluded spot where you can relax with your family after an exhausting sightseeing spree then the Yiti Beach is an ideal hangout. As a tourist you can bet that the 28-km drive from Muscat city-center to the beach with miles and miles of sun-kissed sands is more impressive than reaching the destination. You’ll be able to make the most of me-time at the beach as the seashore remains practically empty for the better part of the day.
The place is extremely popular with picnickers and is also a recognized camping spot in Muscat because of its out-of-the-way location. Yiti Beach is one of the less-frequented seacoasts in Oman that offers ample opportunities for daytrip picnic, camping, swimming, and fishing. You can also amble down to a fishing hamlet situated close by for socializing with the locals who can offer you a detailed account of Oman’s maritime history.
The Royal Opera House is one of Muscat’s trendiest places attracting not only the locals but also travelers and visitors from around the world. Oman’s premier hub for music and arts, the Royal Opera House can compete with any opera in the world in magnificence and splendor. Muscat’s opera house is bound to entice you with its handcrafted ornaments, marble and gold interiors, and spectacular row of pillars.
The Royal Opera House can boast of having hosted the world’s most distinguished and illustrious conductors, musicians, instrumentalists, composers, and dramatists. The opera houses cultural markets, an art center, auditorium, and a theater, and bordered by landscaped gardens. The magnificent complex is one of Muscat’s newer edifices that can seat up to 11,500 spectators.
A privately owned and managed museum situated in old Muscat, Bait Al Zubair archives relics and artifacts representing Oman’s cultural, social, and military past. Opened to the public in 1998 by the Zubair family, the museum showcases the kin’s miscellaneous collection of classical Omani costumes, jewelry, and khanjars (daggers). The museum complex comprises of five structures, and bounded by a meticulously manicured lawn.
Once you’re through with a guided tour of the private museum, you can walk up to the gift shop to pick and choose from an exclusive collection of garments, trinkets, postcards, and handicrafts. Each floor of the four-storied museum houses a rich and diverse treasure trove of artifacts reflecting significant facets of Omani art, culture, and society through the ages.
For instance, the Bait Al Dalaleel displays relics and historical knickknacks that embody the urban and rustic lifestyles of Omanis in the last 100 hundred years.
Variously referred to as the Sultan Qaboos Palace or the Sultan’s Palace, the Al Alam Palace is one of the six imperial abodes of Sultan Qaboos in Muscat. Situated in the hub of old Muscat, Al Alam palace was constructed by Sultan Qaboos’s seventh great-grandfather, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said more than 200 years ago. The palace originally known as the Bait Al Alam was remodeled on a grand scale in 1972 to impart a touch of sweeping regality.
Al Alam Palace featuring an unmistakable Islamic architectural style is enclosed by lush green lawns and overlooks the Jalali and Mirani Forts and the Mutrah harbor. The palace is out of bounds for visitors but you are allowed to capture snapshots of the royal residence from outside.
The palace despite its minimalist design has an understated elegance that holds the onlookers in thrall. The sultan uses the palace exclusively for hosting royals and eminent visitors and holding official events and functions.
The Matrah Souq is another of Muscat’s famous places that witnesses the footfalls of tourists and vacationers all through the year. One of Arabia’s oldest and ancient markets sheltered underneath a contemporary timber rooftop, Matrah Souq attracts people from all over the world. The Souq or market originally served as an entrepôt where ships from far off lands brought in goods for collection and distribution.
The market has been so named as the stalls that sit cheek-by-jowl prevent sunrays from permeating through. Therefore shoppers as well as shopkeepers have to use lamplights to find their way in the market. You can find a judicious mix of traditional items including incenses like frankincense and myrrh, pottery, hookah pipes, Bedouin jewelry, shawls, scarves, and so on.
The narrow meandering lanes and alleys are lined with shops on both sides that deal in an astonishing range of items. The Souq has two distinct sections, one part called the ‘small market’ and the other known as ‘large market’. You might need a guide to go around the market or you could easily lose your way in the circuitous paths.
Situated at a height of nearly 2000m above sea level, Jebel Akhdar is definitely one of the most admired fun places in and around Muscat. You’ll simply love the ride as your vehicle winds its way up the mountainous track and be enamored of the surrounding scenery.
The mountain ranges are chiefly made up of layers of different types of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. Jebel Akhdar is renowned throughout the world mainly because of its pomegranates that tend to be extremely nutritious and juicy. Omanis concoct a non-alcoholic beverage from the pomegranate juice. You’ll also find other fruits such as apricots, walnuts, berries, and peaches in Jebel Akhdar.
If you’re an enthusiast of ravines, gorges, shallow riverbeds, and canyons, then you’ll instantly fall in love with Wadi Bani Khalid. The wadis of Oman are the equivalent of rocky ravines and chasms of North and South Americas, and other continents. Travelers, revelers, and holidaymakers flock to Wadi Bani Khalid chiefly because of its sprawling pools of sparkling emerald green water hemmed in by lofty date palm trees.
In sharp contrast to most other wadis in the sultanate, the water in the pools of Wadi Bani Khalid never dries up. If you so wish, you can hike to Wadi Bani Khalid from Muscat, and pamper yourself with a revitalizing swim once you reach your destination. While swimming, you can soak in the sights and sounds of the Hajar Mountains.
You can visit the Al Mirani Fort after your stopover at the Al Alam Palace as the stronghold lies close to the royal mansion. The Portuguese constructed the Al Mirani Fort in the 1500s, and quite ironically this citadel proved instrumental in the colonists’ fall from grace.
Do not miss trekking up to the Al Jalali Fort situated on the other end of the Al Alam Palace. Though we have reviewed only 10 popular tourist spots in Muscat, there are numerous other well-liked fun places in Oman’s capital city that you can include in your tour.