Muscat is the capital of Oman and certainly a place that can’t be missed. It is a diverse mix of modern architecture, old souks and beaches spread out over a wide region. Muscat consists out of 5 big areas of interest: the city center, Mutrah, Ruwi, Qurm and Seeb. Each of these areas has a different vibe that can be discovered during 48 hours in Muscat. Scroll down to discover how we kicked off our Arabian road trip adventure.
Day 1: Old Mutrah and beyond
Start your day at the local fish market. Although the smell of fresh fish might not be the first thing you’re craving for after you wake up, mornings are always the best place to visit local markets. The most buzz is going on at this time of the day with vendors arriving with their fresh products and early buyers already haggling to get the best pieces. You won’t see many tourists around here.
Take a short walk along the bay and you will arrive in the old souk of Muscat. If you go to Oman, you can’t skip a visit to at least one of their local souks. The old souk of Muscat is situated in Mutrah and feels like a small labyrinth. I’m sure we passed some of these shops twice. Deep in the souk there is a great smoothie place. The souk is the perfect spot to buy authentic lamps, gold jewelry or a diamond, camel-shaped magnet. Guess which one of these three we brought home?
A bit further down the shore, you’ll pass the old watchtower. Right across this historic building you can spot a futuristic monument, the Incense Burner monument, which looks like it has been dropped out of space. A UFO-shaped building is not something we expected in this area, but it’s a good example of how diverse Oman can be.
If you continue your way along the shore, you’ll drive through an impressive gate which holds the Muscat gate museum. Unfortunately, the museum was closed when we wanted to visit it. After the gate, you enter the small village which mostly consists of big monuments and buildings. Take 2 hours to walk around and explore. Some of our favorite places here were the Al Jalaili fort, the Bait Al Zubair museum which has a small collection of modern art and the impressive Muscat National Museum. A little disappointment to us was the Al Alam Palace which was simply odd and much smaller than we expected.
Day 2: Modern architecture and the beach
The landmark of Muscat is the Grand Mosque of Sultan Qaboos. It was gifted by Sultan Qaboos (you didn’t need to be a genius to figure that one out) to celebrate the 30th year of his reign. For now it’s the largest mosque of Oman but you never know how long this will take in this region! The supreme WOW-element of the mosque is the main prayer hall. The magnificent Persian carpet was created by 600 women who spent 4 years weaving this masterwork. Take at least 1 to 2 hours to roam around in this genius piece of modern Islamic architecture. Take into account that you can only visit the mosque between 8 and 11 AM from Saturday to Thursday if you’re non-Muslim.
The heat was kicking in during our trip through Oman. The locals didn’t seem to feel the heat but believe me, for us it was getting pretty hot in here! Therefore, we wanted to unwind and cool off at the beach. Much to our surprise the ocean water around Muscat is pretty warm. Nevertheless, the ocean breeze offered the exact amount of cool-down we needed. We opted to spend the afternoon at Qurum Beach and Shatti Beach which is lined with beautiful palm trees. Besides being pretty, these palm trees also offer privacy if you want to take off your covering outfit and go for a more beach-ready attire.
The Royal Opera House was another genius invention of Sultan Qaboos. He did a great job in creating modern architecture that is perfectly aligned with the Arabic culture of Muscat. You can enjoy a guided tour through the Opera House. However, we skipped the tour and decided to return for another visit at night. The building was covered in great lighting which offered a truly mesmerizing vibe. I can honestly state that the building was even better looking by night and this is quite a statement if you take into account how pretty it already is by day!
You can be sure that it’s possible to see and experience all these interesting places of Muscat within 48 hours. The freedom of having our own car enabled us to discover all these places at our own pace and save some money on the way. If you’re not thinking of hiring a car in Oman, you can hire a private driver and guide (approximately 140€) or join a bus tour (Big Bus offers a similar tour for 50€/day) as an alternative. We, however, had the feeling these options were overpriced.
So our final message is: go and explore this little gem on the Arabian peninsula! If you need one more push, here is another picture of the magnificent Grand Mosque of Sultan Qaboos.