Oman is an Arabian gem, crammed full of opulence, intrigue and still off the beaten track enough to feel like an adventure. With majestic palaces, bustling bazaars and stunning beaches, if you’ve got 24 hours to spare we’ve got just the itinerary for you. Our resident Middle East expert Tom has just returned with some amazing new insights and tips, all of which we’ve woven into this skip and a hop through Muscat. So whether you’ve got an extended stopover or are looking for an exotic weekend, Muscat is a dreamy desert destination waiting to be discovered.
THE GRAND MOSQUE
In 1992 Sultan Qaboos announced a competition to design a Grand Mosque for Muscat, the results were astounding. With a central dome towering 50 metres above the ground and a prayer hall that fits 6500 worshippers, The Grand Mosque is the focal point of Muscat and the perfect place to start your day. It’s the only mosque in Oman open to non-Muslims and gives a fascinating insight into the religious practices of the locals. Visit early to take in the peace of the mosque before the crowds arrive and remember this is an active place of worship so dress appropriately.
Tom’s tip is to make sure you look up at the ceiling and down to the floor as you wander through the halls, it is home to the world’s second biggest carpet and chandelier.
THE BUSTLING SOUQS
It’s time to pick up a bargain as you explore the pulsating souqs of Muscat. Widely believed to be one of the oldest markets in the Arab world, Mutrah Souq is jam packed with antiques, art and local handicrafts. Spend the rest of the morning wandering through the stalls, soaking up the atmosphere and picking up mementos of your trip. Originally made of mud and palm leaves the souk has been renovated to include modern day amenities but still retains its old world charm, particularly the animated traders who will happily barter with you over prices. Looking to take a piece of Oman home with you? Check out the ornate hookah pipes and framed khanjars, locally made decorative daggers.
LUNCH IN MUSCAT
If shopping makes you work up an appetite there is no shortage of local cafes and restaurants in Oman to fill the gap. For an atmospheric lunch we love Mumtaz Mahal, perched on the hillside overlooking Qurm Nature Reserve this really is dining with a view. This local favourite serves North Indian cuisine and gets very busy at weekends when diners line up to enjoy live sitar performances by candle light. For an unforgettable lunch order the snake coffee and prepare to be entertained, we won’t give it away but it involves fire…
HIT THE BEACH
Having taken in the culture, there’s no time to lose before exploring the natural beauty of Oman’s coastline. The journey here is almost as spectacular as the destination with sandy hills stretching out in front of you and the blue hues of the Arabian Sea in the distance. When you arrive at Qantab jump on a boat with a local fisherman and explore the more remote spots on the coast. Speed through natural rock formations and pick one of the many deserted beaches to spend your afternoon. Bring a good book and a towel and relax at the spot where the desert meets the sea, your own little slice of paradise.
THE ROYAL RESIDENCE
If you have managed to drag yourself away from the beach we have a treat in store for you. The ceremonial palace of Sultan Qaboos, Al Alam Palace has all the opulence you’d expect from Oman’s most important royal residence (there are six). Originally built over 200 years ago, the iconic gold and blue façade was added in 1972 and although you can’t enter the palace itself you can get a great view of it from the iron gates. Spend the late afternoon walking round the palace gardens at dusk, taking in the sight of the sun setting behind the iconic palace.
For the best in fine dining head to The Chedi, with its chandelier lit dining room, open kitchens and beautiful gardens. This award winning restaurant is second to none in Oman serving the best cuisine from the Middle East, the West, Asia and India. If you’re after a taste of Oman we suggest the hamour, a local white fish that is beautifully cooked and melts in your mouth. Whatever you do make sure you save some room for dessert, moreish macaroons, followed by a walk under the palm trees in the grounds. The perfect end to any evening in Muscat.
If all this has you inspired to visit Oman for yourself, contact us and we can take you there.