Muscat is surrounded by a wall on its southern and western sides. The wall, with its round towers, was built in 1625, while the mountains and the Gulf of Oman have remained its natural walls to the north and east.
Within the walls are the old districts that hug the harbour, the heartbeat of the city. A must do in Old Muscat is the Mutrah Souq, one of the oldest markets in Oman, dating back about two hundred years. Its antiquity has perhaps increased the extent of its beauty, magic and allure.
You cannot see Mutrah Souq from the outside, as it is stretched deep within the city. The market starts at a gate facing the Sea of Oman and Mutrah Corniche, and ends with another gate in the city’s old quarters that usually receive the majority of visitors coming from other Omani towns and villages.
Close to the road leading to the heart of the capital Muscat stands the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Wilayat (district) Bawshar, like a radiant lighthouse attracting its visitors to interact with the spirit of Islam as a religion, science and civilisation. After having an architectural competition to select the best design for Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, construction took six years. The mosque’s total capacity is 20,000 worshippers, and it covers an estimated area of 416,000 square metres.
Built on the royal orders of Sultan Qaboos of Oman, the Royal Opera House reflects contemporary Omani architecture, and has capacity to accommodate a maximum of 1,100 people. This opera house is the first in the world to be equipped with Radio Marconi’s multimedia interactive display seatback system, Mode23. The opera house complex consists of a concert theatre, auditorium, formal landscaped gardens, cultural market with retail, luxury restaurants and an art centre for musical, theatrical and operatic productions.
Thousands of sea turtles migrate annually from the shores of the Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea and Somalia to lay their eggs on the Sultanate’s shores. Oman has five of the seven species of sea turtles.
At night, these turtles carrying their heavy shells on their backs, drag themselves out of the water to the beach, dig a hole in the sand using the tips of their paws so as to bury their eggs and then return to the sea. After about 55 days, the eggs hatch and baby turtles come out to start the most dangerous journey of their lives, trying to avoid hungry foxes, crabs and birds and push their way towards the sea where they can find safety in the waters. Watching the turtles’ night dash to the sea is among the most popular tourist activities.
A’Sharqiyah Sands are considered among the most beautiful camping areas in the Sultanate and extend over an area of up to about 10 thousand square kilometres.
The sand colours range from red to brown as far as the eye can see. It is the original homeland of the Bedouins. This area attracts many desert adventure fans, and is preferred by visitors owing to its ease of accessibility from Muscat, making it a must on any trip to Oman. Desert camps that make the sands their home base offer a variety of accommodation and facilities, from a rustic experience to pure luxury under the stars.
These mountains rise to a height of 2,980 metres and are famous for their wide plateau close to the summit and dramatic deep ravines creating impressive canyons, with stunning resorts hugging the cliff edges. While it is only a two hour drive away by four-wheel drive, the contrast to Muscat is stark, and the resorts allow visitors to explore local villages and get active with many mountain pursuits.
Al Jabal Al Akhdar is known for its Mediterranean climate. Temperatures drop during winter to below zero Celsius, with snow falling at times, and rise in summer to 22 degrees Celsius. Due to its location and unique weather, the Green Mountain produces a variety of fruits, such as apricots, plums, figs, grapes, apples and pears, as well as almonds, walnuts and saffron. The pomegranate that grows here is classified among the finest of its kind in the world.
Oman boasts exquisite forts offering diverse glimpses of a powerful, wealthy Arabian culture living in turbulent times at the crossroads of Asia and Europe. These are largely clustered in the northern one-third of the country.
The dizzying heights of many Omani forts and the complexity and weight of fortifications is a clear reminder that here were not nomadic herders, but some of the finest architects and engineers of their times and ours. Each fort in Oman has distinctive engineering and architectural features that make it a physical challenge and an education to visit today. Be prepared for plenty of climbing up and down steps in your exploration of these enormous structures.
Oman’s coastline stretches for a distance of 3,165 kilometres, including beaches overlooking the Sea of Oman, the Arabian Sea and the Straits of Hormuz in the North. The nature of this coastal strip varies from tourist-friendly sandy beaches where summer holiday-makers hang out, and the rocky coasts, bays, islands and lagoons with their diverse geographical make-up, making them ideal for fishing and marine excursions.