Muscat is the modern capital of Oman and offers visitors a stunning combination of old and new. From the architectural masterpiece that is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, to its rugged mountain backdrop and breath-taking beaches, this city never fails to entertain and inspire.
There is an abundance of choice for visitors, from world-class shows at the Royal Opera House Muscat, to fine dining at one of the many restaurants scattered across the capital or shopping for traditional souvenirs at Muttrah Souq, one of the oldest in Arabia.
Museums, such as the Children’s Museum, Natural History Museum, National Museum or Bait Al Zubair welcome those who wish to delve deeper into the Sultanate’s rich natural and cultural history. For art lovers, there are a number of galleries showcasing modern Omani art.
As for activities, the capital region has almost endless possibilities. Whether it is snorkelling at the Daymaniyat Islands, trekking from Old Muscat to Muttrah, a guided city tour or a day trip to a nearby wadi, Muscat welcomes all to experience its unique charm.
PLACES TO SEE
Muttrah Souq and Fish Market
Located close to each other along Muttrah’s scenic corniche, Muttrah Souq and Fish Market are the highlights of this historic waterfront. Early each morning, local fishermen sell their fresh catch at the fish market and Muttrah Souq is the perfect place to barter for traditional silver jewellery, Frankincense, fabrics and many more unique souvenirs.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
This architectural masterpiece is Oman's pride and joy. Located in Al Ghubrah, the mosque is home to the world’s second largest hand-woven carpet as well as a one of the largest chandeliers in the world which is decorated with hundreds of Swarovski crystals. The mosque is open to the public from Saturday to Thursday between 8am and 11am and a dress code applies.
Bait Al Zubair
Once a private residence, the owner’s family have since turned Bait Al Zubair into a prominent landmark of Old Muscat. From art to photography and traditional artefacts from daily life, the museum is a must for everyone interested in learning more about the Sultanate’s heritage.
Al Alam Palace, Al Jalali and Al Mirani Forts
The ceremonial palace of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Al Alam Palace was rebuilt as a royal residence in 1972 and is located in the heart of Old Muscat. It is flanked on either side by the impressive twin Jalali and Mirani Forts originally built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Both of these majestic buildings are still in use, and although they are not open to the public, tourists can admire the architecture from the yard and at the gates.
Oman Natural History Museum
Located at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, the Oman Natural History Museum provides a fascinating insight into the geological heritage of the Sultanate and its impressive flora and fauna, with displays of mammals, insects and birds as well as a beautiful botanical garden outside.
Highlights include the Whale Room, which features the large skeleton of a sperm whale which washed up on Oman’s shores in the 1980s.
Royal Opera House Muscat
A beautiful example of modern Omani architecture, the Royal Opera House Muscat hosts world-class shows and brings artists from around the world to Oman, including ballet, operas, musicals and more. Luxury shopping and fine dining is available at the Opera Galleria next door.
Omani French Museum
Honouring the close relationship Oman and France have enjoyed for centuries, the Omani French Museum was established by His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos bin Said and former French President, the late François Mitterrand in 1992. It is housed in Bait Faransa, the former residence of a French consul in Old Muscat.
Ghalya's Museum of Modern Art
Ghalya's Museum of Modern Art is located along Muttrah’s beautiful waterfront – or corniche – and divided into three different exhibits: an old Omani house showcasing living in the Sultanate in the 1950s to 1970s, a museum highlighting Omani clothing and a modern art gallery.
Oman Oil and Gas Exhibition Centre
The Oman Oil and Gas Exhibition Centre highlights the journey of the discovery, extraction, and use of fossil fuels in Oman through interactive displays.
Established in 1995 under Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), the centre particularly appeals to visitors interested in learning about the oil and gas industry and how it has contributed to the growth of infrastructure throughout Oman.
The PDO planetarium lies adjacent to the centre and boasts a “full dome” digital system to teach kids and adults about astronomy in an engaging way.
Founded over a quarter of a century ago by royal decree, Amouage is a world-renowned luxury fragrance brand with origins in the Sultanate. In the Amouage Factory, visitors can get behind the scenes and garner an insight into the creation of some of the world’s most exclusive scents.
Hiking – Riyam Walk
Starting opposite Riyam park, the Riyam Walk begins with a steep climb at the end of which hikers are rewarded with spectacular views over the sea and surrounding area. The path gradually descends into an old abandoned village and takes you through to Muttrah, a great way of exploring the old part of Muscat first hand.
Snorkelling and Diving – Daymaniyat Islands
Located off the coast between Barka and Al Seeb, the Daymaniyat Islands are surrounded by turquoise waters that are perfect for snorkelling and diving. The islands are a protected area, home to endangered sea turtles, untouched coral reefs, and exotic fish.
This impressive stretch of sand is a local favourite with its clear waters and swaying palm trees. An array of water sports is on offer to visitors, including jet skiing, banana boating and parasailing, as well as snorkelling and scuba diving excursions. Along the popular coastal road, there are a wide range of restaurants and coffee shops that look out over the beach.
Majlis Al Jinn Cave – Salmah Plateau
One of the largest underground caves in the world, Majlis Al Jinn is a natural wonder located on the Salmah Plateau. In 2007, Austrian sky diver Felix Baumgartner based jumped into the cave, a distance of about 120 metres. Exploring this cave requires a special permission from the Ministry of Tourism Oman.