On a quick trip to the capital, these are five must-see places which every tourist/visitor must visit
Do you have guests dropping in for a brief holiday in Muscat and you haven’t made any plans to take them around? Rest assured, with timed visits to the following 5 destinations in the capital, you can, indeed, give them a fair idea about what makes Muscat the most endearing city in the Arabian Gulf.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
A visit to Muscat may not be complete without a visit to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque at Azaiba which covers a massive area of 416,000sqm – the largest and most beautiful mosque in the sultanate.
With a capacity to accommodate 20,000 worshipers at a time in the prayer halls, corridors and courtyard, this mosque has one of the biggest chandeliers in Oman, measuring 14 metres high and weighing 8,500kg with a 24-carat gold-plated frame embellished with 600,000 Swarovski crystals and 1,122 bulbs, besides a hand-loomed Persian carpet covering the main prayer hall, also among the largest in the world.
The official opening hours of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque are from 4am to 9.30pm but non-Muslims are only allowed to visit between 8-11am everyday, except Fridays. Outside of the visiting hours, one is allowed to take photographs of the exterior of the building. Make sure to don modest attire – no shorts/sleeveless shirts for men and full-length, full-sleeved dresses/pants and scarves for women.
This is the key tourist haven in the capital and one can spend at least hald a day here. The main attraction is the seafront and the Old Muttrah Souq where one can buy traditional trinkets and souvenirs, besides perfumes and frankincense. The ancient Muttrah Fort along the seafront is open to public and offers one of the best panoramic views of the ocean and adjacent landscape. Along this stretch one can also visit the Gate Museum, Bait Al Zubair Museum and Bait Muzna gallery which offer fabulous insights into the cultural heritage of Oman.
From here, one can drive part Marina Bandhar al Rowdha, where private boats are docked, continue your drive till Al Bustan/Qantab and Barr al Jissah Resort and Spa for a stupendous view of stony mountains with the sea playing into the lap of various commercial properties – if you haven’t been driven past this stretch, you have not really seen Muscat.
Qurm Natural Park/Shatti Qurm
Qurm is known for the city’s green lung – Qurm Natural Park – the largest park in Muscat with an attractive lake and an open air theatre. The City Amphitheatre is also located at one end of the park, besides Marahland, a mini amusement park, at the other. Qurm also houses the iconic Mercedes showroom, many old shopping arcades like Sabco Centre, Al Araimi Complex, Qurm Commercial Complex, a string of popular restaurants for diverse cuisines, and a bowling alley on the way to Shatti Qurm, the most popular beach in town. Jawaharat al Shatti, a popular shopping arcade with many esteemed dining outlets, as well as the InterContinental Muscat hotel and Crowne Plaza hotel are located adjacent to the beach.
A visit to the park and beach provides a fulfilling experience of serenity and bliss, away from the hullabaloo of the city.
Shopping around Bousher
What’s a visit to Muscat without a little shopping for varied stuff at international branded outlets housed in the various malls located around Bousher district. One can visit Oman Avenues Mall (which has a new wing with the IKEA showroom), Muscat Grand Mall, Panorama Mall as well as Mall of Oman a little ahead which houses the newly opened Snow Oman – the largest snow park in the region on level three. (Timings: Sun-Thu – 10am to 10pm and Fri-Sat – 10am to 12am)
Other malls include the Mall of Muscat which has the Oman Aquarium which is open Saturday to Wednesday from 10am to 10pm and 10am o 12am on Thursday-Friday. They also have a Weekend Dive Show on Friday-Saturday at Ocean Tank Gallery at 12 noon, 4pm and 8pm.
Al Alam Palace/National Museum of Oman
Your trip would be incomplete without visiting the jewel of Muscat – the majestic Al Alam Palace in Old Muscat. Though entry inside the palace is not allowed, visitors enjoy taking photographs outside the wrought iron gates in the sprawling courtyard lined with flower beds and marble tiled floors. A photo taken up and close outside the palace is treasured by most visitors.
Opposite the palace is the National Museum of Oman – Oman’s flagship cultural institution, showcasing the Sultanate’s cultural heritage from the earliest evidence of human settlement in the Oman Peninsula through to the present day. The Museum houses more than 7,000 objects and offers 33 digital immersive experiences, state-of-the-art conservation facilities, a UHD cinema, and discovery areas for children. (Timing: Sat-Thu – 10am to 5pm; Fri – 2pm to 6pm)