The Weekly Getaway: You Must Get to Muscat
Nestled between the ocean and mountains is a city rich in history and hospitality. Muscat, the capital city of Oman, literally means safe anchorage. This port city boasts not only gorgeous natural beauty, but has a friendly local population, which makes it all the more appealing.
As I drive along the wide avenues, one by one idyllic palm trees pass by. Beyond them lie rows of white alabaster homes. Clean block-like structures, they look more like pillars that have stood there for ages as they contrast with the jagged mountainous landscape.
When it comes to combining the old and the new, Muscat seems to be stellar at it. To get a view of modern Islamic architecture there is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. It's exactly how you'd imagine a mosque to be with its massive marble courtyards, lush gardens, and groundskeepers outnumbering the worshippers.
Walking along the curved promenade in the old city, waves of seagulls come and go, greeting the visiting cruise ships. You’ll find many of them in the nearby Old Mutrah Souq is a labyrinth of traditional stalls. As of late, Muscat has become more of a tourist destination, especially due to the Royal Opera House. Built in 2011, many visitors come just solely see performances there.
Whether in a mosque or hotel, Muscat has plenty of archways, woodwork, and lush gardens.
The beaches are some of the best in the region, with fine dusty brown sand and deep blue waters. Even when the sky isn’t cloudless, the sea has a beautiful blue tone to it. The coast is dotted by many of the city’s five-star hotels, such as The Chedi Muscat and the Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa. The hotels are also where you’ll find some of the best restaurants specializing in seafood and local cuisine.
Exploring this Middle Eastern city was a treat. With a quiet mystery, and a humble quality about it, it’s easy to fine peace in today’s Muscat.
- Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque – the most well known mosque in Muscat. Visitors can walk through its high archways, lush gardens and massive marble courtyard.
- Old Mutrah Souq – located just off the Corniche Mutrah, its meandering tunnels are filled with vendors selling everything from spices and nuts to embroidered scarves and hats, among other souvenirs.
- Mohammed Al Ameen Mosque – one of the newer mosques, this structure beautifully combines woodwork and marble as it sits atop one of the highest vantage points in the city.
- Al Jalali Fort – this 16th century Portuguese fort used to be a prison, but has since been converted to a museum of Omani heritage.
- Royal Opera House Muscat – the arts and cultural heart of the city, this beautiful building showcases many international performances from September to May.
- The Chedi Muscat – a breathtakingly modern property with more than 20 acres situated on the coast.
- Al Bustan Palace, A Ritz Carlton Hotel – Formally a fortress like residence of the royal family, it has since been converted to a stately beachside hotel. It’s also the home of the newly opened Six Senses spa, which has a secluded ladies only beach.
- Shangri-la Baar Al Jissah Resort and Spa – also a fine gem along the coast, this hotel is more geared to adults hoping to relax and engage in water sports.
- Grand Hyatt Muscat – this family friendly hotel has more traditional ornate décor.
- Bait al Luban– if you are looking for traditional Omani cuisine, look no further than this gem.
- Kargeen Caffé – this restaurant also specializes in Middle Eastern and Mediterrean cusine while in traditional seating on the floor. Be sure to try their shuwa, a lamb dish wrapped in banana leaves
- The Beach – as its name suggests, this higher end restaurant is located on the beach. With fresh seafood, and sophisticated ambience, it is the best of what Muscat has to offer.