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A trip to Muscat , Oman’s capital and largest city, is like stepping into the setting of an Arabian Nights tale. Here, lush palm trees, rather than shiny skyscrapers, define the landscape.
Much of Oman’s rich history is on display in Muscat, an exotic city full of old forts, palaces, museums and souqs. Stroll along its historic waterfront and let the cool breeze from the Indian Ocean surround you.
So book a flight to Muscat with Qatar Airways, to immerse yourself in true Arabesque ambiance.
Any trip to Muscat won’t be complete without visiting the Bait Al-Zubair Museum, which displays various artefacts from Omani history and culture. This private museum was once home to the Zubairs, one of Oman’s most prominent merchant families. For more cultural immersion, head for Al Mirani and Al Jalali Forts, which also have museums and are ideal locations for photo opportunities.
A 28-minute drive from Al Jalali Fort will take you to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. One of the largest mosques in the world, this majestic example of Islamic architecture can hold up to 20,000 worshippers. Inside, the walls are adorned with colourful mosaics, and the floor is covered with a single hand-woven carpet that took more than two years to complete.
Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace is home to Oman’s ruler and is about 24km away from the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. A trip to Muscat also provides scope for relaxation. Walk along the Corniche area of Mutrah Fort, where you can enjoy a glass of tea and a panoramic view of the city.
There are many activities on offer in Muscat, from trekking and dolphin-watching, to horseback-riding and scuba-diving. For the less adventurous, a stroll along the waterfront for a refreshing sulaimani (black tea) or halib (tea with milk) may be more in order.
Retail is a popular pastime in Oman and visiting the souqs offers an excellent opportunity to practice your haggling skills. There are lots of Indian tailors in Muscat, who can run you up a suit in cashmere or angora in no time.
Omani cuisine has been influenced by flavours from the Middle East, South Asia, and East Africa. This comes as no surprise as Muscat was once a popular port along the ancient spice route. Cardamom, cumin, cloves, black pepper, turmeric, nutmeg and coriander are just some of the spices that give Omani dishes their distinctive taste.
When in Muscat, sample some harees (savoury beef and wheat porridge) and qabuli (a rice pilaf with lamb meat). For dessert try some halwa (tapioca starch with dates and nuts), and wash it down with kahwa, a strong coffee flavoured with cardamom.
There are also plenty of restaurants serving Middle Eastern and international dishes. The Automatic specialises in Lebanese cuisine, and there are Pakistani and Indian eateries throughout the city.
If you’re looking for traditional crafts when you travel to Muscat, head for the Mutrah Souq, a maze of narrow, winding streets lined with all sorts of small outlets. It’s the best of its kind in the Gulf region, and contains many jewellery shops as well as craft stores.
The locals also like to shop in Sabco Centre, which features several medium-sized stores as well as smaller shops selling craft items. If you prefer not to haggle in the souq, visit the Omani Craftsman’s House for fixed-price items.
Essential facts about Muscat
Enjoy a hassle-free journey with all the information you need to know before your trip