Welcome to this daily feature running all this week, giving you the essentials on 7 must-sees in Muscat – the capital of Oman, and a fabulous destination for an exotic trip.
Muscat is a proper old working Arabian capital. Oman has not enjoyed the enormous oil and gas revenues of its neighbouring countries, and for me, its inhabitants feel more down to earth than in some Middle Eastern cities. And largely, Oman has taken a moderate and lead peace-making role in the politics of the Gulf region. It is a beautiful and safe country to travel to, and around.
Muscat people are very friendly and the majority speak English sufficiently that you’ll get by just fine, if necessary, as a tourist with zero Arabic. Omani food and architecture are a wonderful mix of pure Arabian, with influences from places like Zanzibar that once formed part of Oman’s empire.
For an Arab country, Oman is also relatively relaxed about dress, so there’s no need for women to wear headscarves other than if visiting a mosque, and bikinis etc. can be worn on hotel beaches. For women, shorts and a loose T-shirt are better on a public beach to avoid unwanted attention (so much the same as anywhere else then!). Otherwise, and although not essential, in public areas for both sexes it is generally more polite to dress moderately (ie. cover cleavage, arms to the elbow, and legs to the knee).
If you had just two days in the wonderful, atmospheric capital city Muscat, then the places I’m covering in pictures this week are 7 that are worth not missing. Here’s number 1!:
1. The Mutrah Corniche
The Mutrah Corniche – the coastal road in the heart of Muscat – runs around Port Sultan Qaboos, one of the most important ports in Oman.
You could say the Corniche is downtown Muscat. It overlooks beautiful mountainous rocky formations, and Omanis use it for strolling, shopping, picnics and dining out in its cafés and restaurants. So you should too!
It includes mosques, several ancient buildings and the Mutrah Souq (also a top 7 must-see coming later this week). It is a wonderful spot for sitting contemplatively with a beautiful view and listening to the melodic Islamic call to prayer echoing across the bay (via loudspeaker!) from a minaret.
Wooden dhows, the traditional Omani trading vessel, are now used for fishing, and are dotted all along the coastline by the Corniche. It’s also possible to take a ride in one.
My tip is to visit the Corniche both in the cool of the morning, and then again in the evening, to soak up the difference in atmosphere and colour between the bustle of the working day, and the fun and chill-out feel of the night.
Click individual photos to enlarge & scroll