Muscat is the capital and largest metropolitan city of Oman, a confident, low-rise port city where the ancient and modern exist effortlessly side-by-side. When you set foot in Muscat, you'll be swept over by a feeling of love and exhilarating 'joie de vivre' as every inch of Muscat relates to its visitors an ancient tale of love between man and the Sea of Oman. You will see houses, gates, old markets, small shops, and winding roads redolent of authentic history, side by side with malls, shops, buildings, and streets stamped with modern architecture.
Muscat is surrounded by a wall on its southern and western sides. The wall, with its round towers, was built in 1625, while the mountains and the Gulf of Oman have remained its natural walls to the north and east. At the heart of Muscat, you will find AlQurm Beach, an area crowded with hotels, restaurants, cafes and shopping malls, which attracts many tourists and residents who are looking for recreation on a beach that provides public services. Along the beach there are many walkways and restaurants that offer various Omani, seafood and International meals and snacks.
Twin Forts (Al Mirani and Al Jalali Forts)
Muscat's buildings never rise more than 10 storey's - a longstanding decree by His Majesty the Sultan to ensure that the city's magnificent mountain backdrop is never overshadowed my man-made structures. Rather than skyscrapers, the twin forts of Al Mirani and Al Jalali - perched atop the headlands on either side of the harbor - have pride of place on Muscat's skyline. They represent just two of the many forts and watchtowers from centuries past which can be seen on the mountains surrounding the city.
Al Alam Palace
Al Alam Palace is the official residence of Oman's ruler, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. It rests between the twin forts of Al Mirani and Al Jalali, and features a unique, striking design that includes a stunning forecourt area. The palace sits right on the waterfront within the old city wall, parts of which have been lovingly restored. Contemporary travelers can pass freely through the gates into Old Muscat now and marvel at the fact that, until 1970, these gates were locked at sunset each day as had been customary for the last 5 centuries.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
The Sultan Qaboos Grand is a contemporary place of worship, serving as a spiritual landmark for modern Oman. It maintains a perfect balance between aesthetics, culture and Islamic tradition and pays tribute to Oman's civilizations through the ages. The mosque occupies a monumental site with the main prayer hall large enough for more than 6,000 worshippers, and a capacity of up to 20,000 on the grounds. In the interior, an 8-ton crystal chandelier hangs from the 50 meter high central dome. The hand-stitched carpet in the main prayer hall measures 70 x 60 meters and weighs over 21 tons.
Royal Opera House
Muscat's glittering new, world-class performing arts center is a physical representation of the Sultan's vision for the future of Oman's cultural heritage. This stunning building features an exquisite decorative design inspired by Middle Eastern tradition, and is the first of its kind on the Arabian Peninsula. It is in the heart of Muscat and showcases diverse artistic performances from Oman, the region and the world. It hosts opera, music, dance and family events. An unforgettable night out in Muscat.
Mutrah Souq is one of the oldest markets in Oman, dating back about 200 years. It provides an insight into a way of life which has remained largely unchanged through the centuries - stall holders still sell frankincense, silver jewelry, spices, fabrics, daggers, and Bedouin handicrafts in its many shop fronts. A visit to Mutrah Souq is a must-do on any visit to Muscat, as it is the most beautiful old market your eyes will ever see, with fragrances on the air and the sight of Omani men in their traditional clothes (dishdashas) sharing the news of the day over cups of traditional Arabic coffee (qahwa) making for a truly impressive cultural experience.
You cannot see Mutrah Souq from outside as it stretched deep within the city. The market starts at a gate facing the Sea of Oman and Mutrah Corniche, and ends with another gate in the city's old quarters that usually receive the majority of visitors coming from other Omani towns and villages. Mutrah Souq is a prototype of old Eastern markets, characterized by myriad of narrow winding alleys and roads lined by shops and roofed with wood.