Our itinerary through the wonders of Muscat
Leaving the Hotel at 8.00 a.m., we go straight to the Sultan Qaboos Mosque. With any doubt, it is the absolute top thing to do in Muscat. The Great Mosque was built in 1995, and it took 6 years to complete the works.
It is an architectural masterpiece, a mix of Omani, Islamic, Omani and modern architecture and it can host 20.000 worshippers, including 6500 in the main prayer room. The mosque boasts one of the world’s largest handmade Persian rugs and one of the world’s most significant crystal chandeliers. It has four main sections, the main prayer hall, the women prayer hall, the library, and the lecture theatre.
Our visit lasts 1 hour and a half, and at 9.30 a.m. we move to the close Royal Opera house. Built on the orders of Sultan Qaboos, a music lover, the Royal Opera House, it’s another architectural masterpiece of Muscat, a mix of tradition and modernity.
It was officially opened on October 2011, with the production of the Turandot opera by Plácido Domingo and it has hosted numerous international and regional shows including worldwide classics.
After the 30 minutes guided tour inside this impressive building, we head to Mutrah Corniche. It’s the lovely seafront where the old forts, white buildings and mosques are nestled between rocky brown mountains and the sea.
Our first stop here is the vibrant Fish Market. It takes place in a big new building bordering the beautiful coastline at the beginning of the north section of Mutrah Corniche.
It’s a real glimpse of local life, and the array of marine products offered is impressive: sardines, tunas, squid, king mackerel fish, swordfish, giant prawns, crabs, dorados, lobsters and much more. It’s almost 12.30 p.m., and it’s quite hot, so we decide to stop for lunch along the corniche, in a nice restaurant next to the Souk entrance.
At 1.45 pm, we go back to our car, and we move along the Al-Bari road until we get to the Al Mirani Fort. It is one of the main structure remaining from the years of Portuguese colonisation and was restored in the 19th century.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to visit the Fort, so we enjoy its fantastic view from the seaside. So as for the Al Jalali Fort, perched on the facing cliff to protect the harbour after Muscat had twice been sacked by Ottoman army.
After that, we reach the Al Alami Palace (the Sultan Palace) with a short drive, a modern building with a flat roof and gold and blue pillars, before heading to the close National Museum of Oman.
Opened in 2016, this impressive building is the country’s flagship cultural institution, showcasing the nation’s heritage from the earliest human settlement in Oman. Its permanent collection is divided into several galleries, each devoted to a particular theme. They include the “Land and the People Gallery“, the “Maritime Gallery“, the “Oman and the World Gallery” and the “Renaissance Gallery“.
The visit to the Museum could take a day-long, anyway, around 4 p.m., we go back to the Souk area. We park the car in front of the Fish Market and walk to the Mutrah Fort. The Fort is perched on a rocky hill and built by the Portuguese during the 1580s as a defensive measure against attacks from the Ottoman army.
Once climbed up the steep stairs to reach the top, the view is impressive: in front of us the long and beautiful seaside with its clear water facing the white, old white houses surrounded by the brown rocky mountains.
It’s 5 p.m., so we go back to the old Souk visiting its narrow streets of plenty of any goods, notably frankincense and myrrh, ceramic incense burners, silver and gold jewels, pashminas, turbans, traditional khanjar (the traditional Omani silver dagger), genie lamps, and souvenir.
At 7 pm, we have a dinner at Corniche Cafe, a small but nice restaurant on the left side of the main entrance to Mutrah Souk (pic above -you can spot the terrace on the left), ending up our long day with a relaxing stroll along the charming Corniche seaside.
Need to Know about Muscat
1) How to get around
If you decide to stay some days in Muscat and you plan to do some excursions out of the city, the best choice is to rent a car. Around the main attractions, you’ll always find a free car park. We rented a Toyota Prado 4wd, but if you don’t plan off-road driving, a sedan is good. Click here to see the rental car prices in Muscat.
Taxis are a bit expensive (you’ll find them everywhere) and you always have to haggle the fare with the drivers.
Alternatively, we suggest downloading the app “Otaxi“, a service cheaper than a taxi, where you can first check the price of your ride, then booking the car and pay with credit card (pretty much the same of Uber).
Other practical options are the Hop-on Hop-off Bus with a circular route through the city or arrange through the web a private tour of the city. Click below to check the route and ticket offers on GetYourGuide and Viator (usually very favourable because it includes some discounts and other activities).
2) Where to sleep
Muscat offers a wide range of accommodations. If you want to stay closer to the Old City, the best choice is Mutrah (Naseem Hotel is along the corniche), whereas the cheapest is Ruwi neighbourhood. We slept at the Savoy Inn Hotel, 15 min. drive from the airport, 10 minutes drive from the Grand Mosque and the Royal Opera House, 30 minutes drive from Mutrah Corniche.
3) Where to eat
Muscat is a big city, so you’ll find restaurants everywhere. Usually, the average expense is around 3/4 OMR. Anyway, our favourite place is Mutrah. Close to the souk, you’ll find some good restaurants. We tried Bait Al Luban Omani Restaurant (fantastic view on the rooftop), Corniche Cafe Restaurant (delicious Arabic food and view of the Souk), Fast Food and Juice Center (Arabic food-next to the Souk entrance and quite cheap), Royal House Restaurant (fancy place where you can find Indian, Italian and European food) and La Brasserie Restaurant ( fresh fish, French and European cuisine)
If you want to look for a restaurant in Muscat and read reviews about its service, click here.
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