The capital of Oman shows itself in an authentic cultural light – but it is far less “glitzy” than some of its neighbors from the U.A.E. The mix of genuine Arab culture, quiet tourism and the varied nature with great beaches make the special charm of the city.
Here there is no real center in the classical sense, in which the life takes place. Rather, the restaurant and business districts, as well as the sights, extend over several areas. The most prominent are Old Muscat, which is surrounded by a city wall, two fortresses and the sea, and Muttrah with the harbor promenade and its traditional souq, whose alleys are divided according to the type of goods (spices, fabrics, fragrances, jewelry, …).
Tip 1: Sultan Palace Qasr al Alam
The official residence of the Sultan of the Kingdom of Oman is located in the city’s harbor. You cannot visit the building from the inside, but you will get a good impression by looking through the fence. The facade of the Qasr al Alam is decorated with mosaics and other fine details that reflect the preciousness of the building.
The Sultan’s Palace is located in the government quarter of the old city. Due to its location between the two forts of Muscat, it is formally protected. When the Qasr al Alam is illuminated in the evening, you will experience the official residence with a very special atmosphere.
Tip 2: Sultan Qaboos Mosque
The Sultan Qaboos Mosque is the central mosque in Oman and is one of the most famous and largest buildings of its kind in the world. The vision of Sultan Quaboos was to build the Sultan Qaboos Mosque, a main mosque for Oman, which would become the largest Friday mosque in the country.
Sultan Qaboos Mosque harmoniously combines different eras of Islamic tradition. The main entrance is through 3 archways and gives the visitor a view of the 91.5 meter high main minaret. Together with the 4 other minarets, each 45 meters high, at the corners of the Sultan Qaboos Mosque, it symbolizes the 5 pillars of Islam: confession, prayer, almsgiving, fasting and pilgrimage. The men’s prayer room of the Sultan Qaboos Mosque, measuring 61×71 meters, can accommodate around 6,600 worshippers. The showpiece is a 4,263-square-meter carpet that was painstakingly handmade in several individual pieces by 600 selected weavers over a period of 3 years with a total of more than 1.7 billion knots.
The Sultan Qaboos Mosque is the only mosque in Oman that can be entered by non-believers under certain conditions.
Tip 3: Mutrah Souk
The fragrant scent of incense wafts through the winding alleys of the Mutrah Souk, the traditional bazaar in the neighboring city of Muscat in the fairyland of Oman. As you stroll through the shopping paradise and soak up the typical Arabian atmosphere with all your senses, the merchants praise their shawls made of camel silk and cashmere: “You need Pashmina? Look here, very beautiful!”
The countless small stores sell gold and silver jewelry, colorful fabrics, oriental perfumes in fine bottles, antiques, spices and all sorts of kitschy souvenirs. The price of the goods depends on my own negotiating skills. Little by little, your bag fills up with great souvenirs like incense, joss sticks and dates.
The Mutrah Souk is the oldest bazaar in Oman. Its narrow, winding alleys seem like a giant maze where you can quickly get lost if you get too distracted by the colorful hustle and bustle. Although I often find the souk with its sometimes very pushy merchants loud and hectic, the romantic oriental charm remains.
Tip 4: Mutrah Corniche
At the gates of the souk is the Corniche, a very well-maintained waterfront promenade that runs for miles along the sea. It is the most important street and the pride of the inhabitants. In 2005 it was redesigned and spruced up.
Passing the luxurious private yacht of the Sultan, you can stroll here wonderfully in the sun and watch the white-clad Omanis sitting comfortably in the shade, playing chess and drinking coffee. There is no trace of hustle and bustle here.
To the right, the corniche is lined with magical whitewashed houses with flat roofs, lancet windows and cute balconies. They date from the 19th century and bear witness to Indian and Pakistani influences.
Before the construction of the Corniche, the houses stood directly on the beach. Cargo ships were unloaded in front of it and the goods were brought to the lowest floors of the houses. Families lived on the upper floors.
Tip 5: Royal Opera House Muscat
The Royal Opera House of Muscat is an architectural masterpiece with Italian marble, teak wood, arabesques and ornaments of real gold. It was designed by the same architect who designed the Great Mosque. It is one of the most beautiful Muscat sights.
The showpiece of the opera, besides the beautifully designed stage, is a huge organ, which is one of the largest musical instruments in the world. The opera hall can be visited only in the course of a guided tour.
Note the strict dress code, where sports shoes and jeans are not allowed. If necessary, you can also rent clothes. After visiting the opera, you can go shopping in the adjacent arcades of the Opera Gallery.