8 things to do in Muscat

Summer is over. Time to start searching for an escape to follow the sun.  What about going to Muscat?

Muscat is the Capital of the Sultanate of Oman. Oman is not Amman (Capital of Jordan).  It is part of the Gulf Countries. It is one of the best destination for diving.

The best months to visit Muscat are between October and April. The currency is Rial. One Omani Rial is currently equivalent to 2.6 dollars.

You don’t see common transportation although one of the locals told us that it exists but it is not used by Omanis. You can use taxis. Part of them have meters and others don’t. They are too expensive. So I would recommend that you rent a car since the petrol and the parking are relatively cheap.

Here are 8 things to do while visiting Muscat:

1- Go on a Safari Trip in Wahiba Sands Desert

Most of Oman is desert although it has a special nature comparing to its neighbors. Wahiba Sands is one of the beautiful destinations for Safari with its golden-stripped mountains, camels and Bedouins. It is a rival to the deserts of the other Gulf Countries and Wadi Rum.

Accessible through a Four wheel Drive only, visitors can either spend the day or the afternoon and watch an amazing sunset. They can also stay overnight and enjoy a special traditional experience in the desert.

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2- Visit Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Quietly imposing from the outside, this modern piece of art of the Islamic architecture was a gift to the nation from Sultan Qaboos to mark his 30th year of reign. The main prayer hall is impressive.

Visitors are required to dress modestly, covering arms and legs and avoiding tight clothing. Women must cover their hair. Abayas (long dresses) and scarves are available at the entrance if needed.

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3- Watch a show in the Royal Opera House Muscat

This beautiful Opera House was inaugurated in 2011. It was the second one in the Arab countries and the first one in the Gulf. It is classified as one of the most beautiful and technically advanced opera houses in the world, it can accommodate up to 1100 people.

They have a rich schedule that you can check ahead of time in order to live it fully or you can plan a simple guided visit without having to watch a show.

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4- Buy some traditional products at Souk Muttrah & visit Al Alam Palace

Souk Muttrah is known as one of the oldest marketplaces in the Arab world. It is located next to the Muscat harbor. It used to be the main market for Omanis in the 1960s when life was simpler. Tourists can find lots of souvenirs and local products there.

Al Alam Palace is the ceremonial palace of Sultan Qaboos of Oman located in Old Muscat. It is one of six royal residences and it has almost 200 years ago of history. It is not far from Souk Muttrah by car.

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5- Experience the Omani beach

One of the cute experiences in Muscat is to go on a dolphin watching trip. Go on a sunny day and grab your camera with you. You will think that you will only see a few but it was magical how numerous they were.

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You can as well enjoy doing some snorkeling. The water is clear and you can see several types of fishes. It is not exceptional but nice to try.

You can as well plan a trip to Al Dimaniyat Islands which is a natural reserve where the water is crystal clear and perfect for diving. The experience is special as you can see turtles. It was recommended by many but it was a bit expensive for two to go there as mostly private tours were offered. So unfortunately, we had to skip it. I’ve heard that mixed group offers are now available.

You can contact Sidab Sea Tours for more information.

6- Pamper yourself in the most luxurious resorts

Muscat has world-class luxury resorts that can be the right getaway to spend a pampered, relaxing long weekend. You can choose between Shangri-la, Al Bustan Ritz, Grand Hayat and Chedi. Each one is special. You can either book a long weekend or visit for a pool day (not available for all) or just have dinner at their amazing restaurants.

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You can always go for cheaper choices with very high quality of services like Intercontinental, Crown Plaza, Sheraton or Park Inn.

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7- Hike and swim in the Wadis

The word wadi means valley. They are famous outdoor attractions not far from Muscat where you can swim in the fresh water pools, hike and enjoy a barbecue. Some popular spots are Wadi Bani Khaled and Wadi Shab.

8- Try some national Omani dishes

Omanis have a special traditional cuisine. Like many Arab countries, you will find the traditions of dates, coffee, rice and grilled meat. But they have special national dishes that you should try like Shuwa, Malleh, Harees & Halwa.
Shuwa is prepared by slathering meat with a mixture of oil and dark spices. The meat is wrapped in banana leaves and stuffed into a bag made of woven palm branches, and cooked for 24 hours underground.
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Malleh is a dish made of shark and fish that were salted and cured, then re-hydrated with lime and onion.
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Harees is made from wheat mixed with meat, and is usually served with special sauce.
Halwa means dessert in Arabic. However, it is also the Omani sweets. It has a strong texture that is thicker than custard. It consists of sugar, honey, rose water, eggs, several Omani spices and nuts. It is usually served with coffee and dates. You can buy it from Barka Factory for Omani Halwa.
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Muscat has very good restaurants. Here are some addresses of Omani & International restaurants that we tried there:
  1. Costa shatti qurum (recommended for coffee at sunset)
  2. Beit el terki (One of the best sea food restaurants)
  3. Karjeen (Very special experience and ambiance)
  4. Bin Ateeq Restaurant for Omani Food (they have private rooms and you sit on the floor. You can eat by hands or ask for cutlery)
  5. Zahr el laymoun at al mouj

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Visiting Muscat for 4-5 days can be fair. But Oman has lots of other regions worth visiting:

  • Nizwa: The old capital known for historical tourism
  • Jabal el Akhdar
  • Jabal el Chames, the Omani Grand Canyon.
  • Salala: It is the one place in the region worth heading in summer. The temperature is almost 10 degrees lower but it can rain a lot. Because of the ocean, the brown mountains are thickly clothed in green.

 

Last but not least… Muscat might not be the most beautiful city I ever visited. But it is definitely a city that I will never forget. It has so much things to do. It has a respectful and very welcoming people. I will come back again to Oman.

Cheers to Adel our guide who made it memorable with all the stories he told us about the country, the exceptional safari tour and the Omani food that he recommended. I can provide his number in private.

Cheers to Daisy & Onida KHOURY who helped preparing this trip.

Cheers to Dalia my dearest friend in travel crime.

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