The Omani capital, Muscat, is known for its extravagance and style. Visit this city for an authentic Middle Eastern way of life
In recent times, Oman’s capital Muscat has delighted every traveller. Authentic Arabian aesthetic, mystical charm, souks, ancient citadels and the Arabian breeze are few of the experiences Muscat is known for. Let’s plan your itinerary.
Start your day witnessing dolphins in their natural habitat – the waters off Old Muscat are home to large numbers of bottlenose, common and spinner dolphins. Hire a boat at Marina Bandar and head to the blue waters of the Gulf of Oman, bordered by the Hajar Mountains. If lucky, you will find shoals of dolphins swimming along the boat or a lone spinner dolphin twirling around mid-air, showing off a perfect pirouette.
Once done seeing the water wonders, come back to the city to see some of its marvellous structures. The landmark of Muscat, the Grand Mosque of Sultan Qaboos, is a marvel in itself. Gifted by Sultan Qaboos to celebrate the 30th year of his reign, it can accommodate up to 20,000 worshippers. The main hall is done up with Turkish mosaic, Italian marble, French stained-glass windows and has a glittery 1,200-lamp chandelier. Have lunch in the nearby Bedouin-cultured garden of the Kargeen Caffe in Madinat Qaboos.
To know about the history and culture, head to the national museum: Bait Al-Zubair. Though it’s a privately funded enterprise, it serves as a repository for the diversity of Omani culture. You can learn about everything from Bedouin traditions to colonialism through its fine collection of household items, weapons and costumes. For dinner, try anything from prawn, Hamour, or chicken biryani from the nearby restaurants. Being a port city, fish is easily available here.
Head to the Mutrah Port early today to catch the first glimpse of fish being delivered to the market. Despite being the capital’s main port area, Mutrah feels more like a fishing village. Take a short walk along the bay and you will arrive in the old souk of Muscat. Housed between two towering, sandstone gates, the streets of this traditional market are sheltered from the sun with carved timber roofs and stained-glass domes. As you move inside the market, the fragrance of saffron, cardamom and dried lime imbues the air. Wander the streets and shop for scarves, silver and Omani halwa, a jelly-like sweet flecked with nuts and flavoured with rose.
For lunch, try the local delicacy shawarma. There are several shops selling this delicious street-food staple. Follow this with a walk to the Sultan’s Palace. A colonnade surrounded by palm trees and royal court buildings leads to the palace, which was built in 1972, but is not open to visitors. The nearby al-Mirani and al-Jalali Forts, both built in the 1580s during the Portuguese occupation of Muscat, are worth a visit.
The Royal Opera House is another state-of-the-art building that is perfectly aligned with the Arabic culture of Muscat. This world-class centre regularly hosts both local and internationally renowned troupes, including Russian ballets, Polish operas and American jazz orchestras. Take home some memories before you return again.
Words by : Will Hide