Muscat is truly an amazing city. It has many things to offer to its visitors that you shouldn’t miss out. Hence we collected the top 10 things to do in the beautiful Omani capital. If have only a short time there, it can be your useful guide. Check this out, here comes our Muscat Bucket List!
We have spent 3 days & 3 nights in Muscat this July. During this time we had the time to comfortably fulfil the below plan and visit some places even twice. Muscat is a big capital with long distances, so you definitely need a car to move around. Don’t be surprised if you need to drive 20-30 kms from one point to another, it’s completely normal there.
- 1 About Muscat
- 2 History of Muscat
- 3 Top things to do in Muscat
- 4 Where to eat in Muscat
- 5 Where to stay in Muscat
- 6 Best experiences in Muscat
Muscat is one of the cleanest and most modern capital that we have ever seen. Obviously, this is the most populated city in Oman. It was 1.4 million as of September 2018. The metropolitan area spans approximately 3,500 km2 and includes six provinces called wilayats.
The road system and all the infrastructures are very modern in Muscat, you will find several high-ways with multiple driving lanes crossing the city from every directions . It’s better to plan your trip ahead, as you can get lost within the options of highways and roads, which lanes to choose, while the speed is not slow.
- Tip: Download the most updated Omani map from Google Maps in order to be able to navigate even offline!
History of Muscat
Muscat was known since the early 1st century AD as an important trading port between the west and the east. Muscat was ruled by various indigenous tribes as well as foreign powers such as the Persians, the Portuguese Empire, the Iberian Union and the Ottoman Empire at various points in its history.
About the Portuguese Era
The Portuguese admiral Afonso de Albuquerque sailed to Muscat in 1507, in an attempt to establish trade relations. As he approached the harbour, his ships were fired on. He then decided to conquer Muscat. Most of the city burned to the ground during and after the fighting. The Portuguese maintained a hold on Muscat for over a century, despite challenges from Persia and a bombardment of the town by the Ottoman Turks in 1546. The Turks twice captured Muscat from the Portuguese, in the Capture of Muscat (1552) and 1581–88.
The election of Nasir bin Murshid Al-Ya’rubi as Imam of Oman in 1624 changed the balance of power again in the region, from the Persians and the Portuguese to local Omanis. Among the most important castles and forts in Muscat, the Al Jalali Fort and the Al-Mirani Fort are the most prominent buildings left by the Portuguese. Decisively, in 1650, a small but determined body of the Imam’s troops attacked the port at night, forcing an eventual Portuguese surrender on January 23, 1650.
The recent history of Muscat
During the second half of the 19th century, Muscat and Muttrah were attacked by tribes from the interior in 1895 and again in 1915. The conflicts among the disparate tribes of the interior, and with the Sultan of Muscat continued into the 1950s, and eventually escalated into the Dhofar Rebellion (1962). The rebellion forced the Sultan Said bin Taimur to seek the assistance of the British in quelling the uprisings from the interior. Due to a failed assassination attempt of April 26, 1966, Said bin Taimur had moved his residence from Muscat to Salalah. On July 23, 1970, Qaboos bin Said, son of the Sultan, staged a bloodless coup d’état in the Salalah palace with the assistance of the British, and took over as ruler.
With the assistance of the British, Qaboos bin Said put an end to the Dhofar uprising and consolidated disparate tribal territories. He renamed the country the Sultanate of Oman, in an attempt to end to the interior’s isolation from Muscat. Qaboos enlisted the services of capable Omanis to fill positions in his new government. New ministries for social services such as health and education were established. Since the ascension of Qaboos bin Said as Sultan of Oman in 1970, Muscat has experienced rapid infrastructural development that has led to the growth of a vibrant economy and a multi-ethnic society.
Top things to do in Muscat
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
In 1992, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the then Sultan of Oman, directed that his country should have a Grand Mosque. A competition for its design took place in 1993 and after a site was chosen at Bausher construction commenced in December 1994. Building work took six years and seven months. The newly built Grand Mosque was inaugurated by Sultan of Oman on May 4, 2001 to celebrate 30 years of his reign.
A major feature of the design of the interior is the prayer carpet which covers the floor of the prayer hall. It brings together the classical Persian Tabriz, Kashan and Isfahan design traditions. The chandelier above the praying hall is 14 metres tall. Since the mosque is 90 metres high, the chandler looks proportional, but it used to be the world’s largest chandelier, before being replaced in this respect by the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
The corridors seem like a secure wall surrounding the mosque’s building and meet through the five minarets that delineate the borders of the mosque’s location and symbolise the five pillars of Islam. The length of the north and south corridors is 240 metres each. These have been divided into halls, each containing a decoration and different patterns from a specific Islamic culture.
For non-muslim people the mosque can be visited only on Thursdays between 10-11 in the morning. You need to dress according to the required dress code and then you’re allowed to enter for free of charge. For more information about the most updated entry requirements visit their official website.
Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House Muscat is the leading arts and culture organization in the Sultanate of Oman. The vision of the Opera House is to serve as a centre of excellence in global cultural engagement. They strive to enrich lives through diverse artistic, cultural, and educational programs. The multidisciplinary work of Royal Opera House Muscat showcases rich and diverse artistic creations from Oman, the region, and the world. They provide a space for culture and socioeconomic development, promote cultural tourism. For their current visitor schedule and shows, visit their official website.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum of Oman is located at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture complex, Al Khuwair, opposite the Zawawi Mosque in Muscat.
The museum opened on 20 December 1985, and has detailed coverage of Oman’s flora and fauna, with displays on indigenous mammals, insects, and birds and botanical gardens. One of the highlights of the museum is the whale hall. It houses the huge skeleton of a Sperm Whale, which was washed up on the Omani coastline in the 1986. The museum contains marine and animal fossils and ancient mammals such as monkeys and elephants and stuffed animals.
Muscat Gate Museum
The Muscat Gate Museum is located on Al Saidiya Street, Old Muscat, actually in the gate. It opened in January 2001. The museum contains displays about Oman’s history from the Neolithic times to the present. It has a number of special exhibits on Muscat’s water springs, the ancient wells, underground channels, the souqs, houses, mosques, harbours and forts.
Al Alam – The Sultan’s Palace
Al Alam Palace is one of the six residences of the sultan. It has a history of over 200 years. They built it under the watch of Imam Sultan bin Ahmed, the 7th direct grandfather of Sultan Qaboos. The existing palace, which has a facade of gold and blue, was rebuilt as a royal residence in 1972. The inner grounds of the palace remain off-limits. But members of the public are fine to stop near the gates and take photographs. Al Alam Palace is next to the Mirani and Jalali Forts built in the 16th century by the Portuguese.
The Palace is for official functions and receives distinguished visitors. Its design is elegant and it features many highly polished marble surfaces. Though primarily a ceremonial palace, there is a guest villa at the palace with its own pool, spa and walled gardens.
Muscat Viewing Point
The Muscat Viewing Point we can find at the border of Muscat. It is on Google Maps so you can find it under the name “Muscat full view“. You need to climb up a bit, not more than 5 minutes walk up and you can enjoy the views on the complete Mutrah bay, the Sultan’s Palace & the Portuguese Fort.
Mutrah, the oldest neighbourhood of Muscat stretches along an attractive bay. We can find here the Mutrah Corniche with nicely renovated colonial buildings and more recently built mosques. It looks spectacular at sunset but is also amazing to walk along during the day.
This is one of the oldest markets in Oman, dating back about two hundred years. Its antiquity has perhaps increased the extent of its beauty, magic, and allure. They usually close it after lunch, so the best time to go is in the morning or late afternoon, early evening. You can buy there everything. Omani goods, souvenirs, clothes, food, nuts, parfums, gold and silver. You don’t need to ask, you can be sure that you will be offered by every stand to buy something and at every shop they will welcome you in. If you want to take pictures without being bothered by the sellers, you should go at lunchtime, when you can walk around more calmly.
Al Jalali Fort / Mutrah Fort
Al Jalali Fort, or Ash Sharqiya Fort, or Mutrah Fort, is in the harbour of Old Muscat. The fort was built by the Portuguese under Philip I of Portugal in the 1580s on an earlier Omani fortress to protect the harbour after Muscat had twice been sacked by Ottoman forces. It fell to Omani forces in 1650. During the civil wars between 1718 and 1747, the Persians captured the fort twice. They extensively rebuilt the fort later.
At times, Al Jalali served as a refuge or a jail for a member of the royal family. For much of the 20th century they used it as a Oman’s main prison, but this function ended in the 1970s. Then they restored it in 1983 and converted it into a private museum of Omani cultural history that is accessible only to dignitaries visiting the country. Exhibits include cannons, old muskets and matchlocks, maps, rugs and other artifacts.
Bait Al Zubair Museum
Bait Al Zubair is located on Al Saidiya Street, Old Muscat. The museum has an extensive collection of ancient weapons, including khanjar, equipments, and costumes. Most of which derive from the owner’s private collection. Outside the museum we can find a full-scale Omani village and souq.
Where to eat in Muscat
Muscat is rich in Indian, Thai & Middle-Eastern kitchens. So if you like these cuisines for sure you will be able to find nice restaurants to eat. If you are looking for Omani food, we would highly recommend Rozna Restaurant.
It was the best restaurant that we found in all Oman. We even celebrated Dani’s birthday here. Delicious food, lovely waiters and beautiful atmosphere. The restaurant itself is in a nicely renovated Omani castle.
Where to stay in Muscat
Carnelian by Glory Bower Hotels
We have stayed in Carnelian by Glory Bower Hotels and it was a very reasonable option for our money. They offer breakfast, dinner, and operate a rooftop swimming pool, too. The location is as well convenient. If you would like to book it, enter your arrival and check-out dates & click on the below link (Show prices).
Or if you prefer any other options, you can check the below selection.
Best experiences in Muscat
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