See and Do
One of the oldest preserved souqs in Oman, Muttrah is located on the corniche of the port. In its many small stalls and shops, visitors can try on gold and silver jewellery and traditional Omani embroidered caps. Stallkeepers seem to sell everything from all corners of the earth: traditional incense burners made out of metal, ceramic, or wood, and incense with the scent of sandalwood, frankincense, or rose are particularly evocative.
Huge conch shells gathered from the bottom of the sea, dried starfish, and packets of small shells make wonderful gifts for children. Colourful spice shops sell saffron, turmeric, chilli, and other condiments by the pound while other stores specialise in antiques such as silver khanjars or daggers, Bedouin jewellery, and wood carvings. Pay attention to where you are walking so you can find your way out of the maze.
Bait al Zubair and the Omani-French Museums
Bait al Zubair in Muscat old town is a private museum founded by the Zubair family. It boasts an excellent permanent collection of weaponry and Omani costumes and jewellery as well as changing exhibitions of art and photography related to Oman. In the grounds visitors can view an example of the falaj irrigation system, traditional Omani boats, and recreations of Omani homes and markets. An excellent museum for families. Al Saidyah St. Open: Mon-Thu & Sat-Sun 09h00-13h00 & 16h00-19h00. Admission: RO1, adults; 250 baisas, children. Tel: +968 24-736-688.
Elsewhere in the walled city you can visit the Omani-French Museum, a rather less interesting collection of documents and artefacts relating to the friendship between France and Oman, located in the original French embassy building. Qasr al Alam St. Open: Sat-Thu 09h00-13h00 & 17h00-19h00; Fri 17h00-19h00. Admission: 500 baisas, adults; 200 baisas, children. Tel: +968 24-736-613.
The Grand Mosque
The Sultan Qaboos' Grand Mosque opened in 2001 and is the largest building in the Sultanate of Oman. Visitors will first spot its four minarets and tiled dome as they drive on the main highway from Seeb Airport to Muscat. If you visit make special note of the handmade Persian carpet in the main prayer hall. Roughly 600 workers toiled for four years to make the 1700 million knots in the 70 by 60 metre rug - just one example of the attention lavished on the building.
Muscat's location on the Gulf of Oman makes it the perfect place for an ocean expedition. You can choose between various organised boat trips incorporating whale or dolphin spotting; sunset cruises along the coast line; or trips in traditional dhows, often with the opportunity to do some fishing while on board. The area is good for scuba diving or snorkelling. It's also worth looking into taking an expedition to one of the many small islands off the coast. Most hotels and local tour operators provide such tours.
Ruwi is the hub of Muscat, the centre for much of the modern business that has now made its home in the Omani capital. As well as being a business centre it has become the place of choice for up-and-coming Muscat citizens to meet. It also contains some of the best social spots in the city. There are a number of cultural attractions in this area, among them the National Museum, located near Abdulridha Mosque, which has a small but interesting collection of artefacts, including jewellery, traditional clothing and weapons, and ceramics from the region. Open: Sat-Wed 09h00-13h00. Admission: 500 baisas, adults; 200 baisas, children. Tel: +968 24-701-289.
Ruwi is also home to the Sultan's Armed Forces Museum. The museum is housed in a mid-19th century building built for the Sultan's pleasure but was taken up as headquarters for the Omani military. There are plenty of exhibits of weaponry and Oman's role in Middle Eastern politics. Bayt al Falaj fort. Open: 08h00-13h00. Admission: 500 baisas.