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Muscat Travel Guide

About Muscat

Stretching almost 25km (15.5 miles) along the Omani coastline, Muscat is a taste of real Arabia, and despite a recent Dubai-style building blitz, it’s a capital city that has retained all of its old-world charm.

That’s because, unlike the Emirati city, most of the new buildings are less than three-storeys high and the historic Mutrah district remains much the same as it has for generations.

One of Arabia’s prettiest cities, Muscat life is dominated by the old corniche, a picturesque stretch of seafront that is fringed by 18th-century buildings and dominated by the imposing 17th century Mutrah Fort.

By day, the harbour is awash with locals selling everything from bread to Sheikh salt pots, but by night it rings to the sound of locals chewing the fat and enjoying the cool twilight breeze.

Away from the corniche, there’s plenty to see – not least the tiny Bayt al-Baranda, a quirky little museum charting the city’s cultural history.

Then, there’s the mighty National Museum which focuses on Muscat’s role in the Omani empire, which stretched as far as East Africa. Here, history is brought to life with a dazzling collection of jewels (among them ruby encrusted daggers and elaborate emerald necklaces) that were amassed by the Sultan.

The current Sultan, Qaboos bin Said Al Said, shares the magnificent Al Alam Palace with the rest of the Omani royal dynasty. Flanked by Forts Al-Jalali and Al-Mirani, the palace is closed to the public but worth visiting for the architecture alone, as is the city’s other main focal point, the Grand Mosque.

Just as important as the sightseeing is the shopping and no visit would be complete without a trip to the Mutrah souk. Here, you’ll find everything from leather babouche slippers to pink plastic mosque alarm clocks, as well as plenty of vendors ready to indulge in a spot of haggling. For authentic charm, few places come close to Muscat – and the beaches aren’t half bad either.

Key facts

Population:
1.1 million
Latitude:
23.601091
Longitude:
58.540135

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Featured Hotels

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The Chedi Muscat

The Chedi is the original luxury hotel in Muscat, and arguably still the best. A true icon of the city, it combines traditional Arabic design elements with Asian-inspired minimalism, so a stay here feels like a true escape from the city. It also boasts the longest (and one of the loveliest) swimming pools in the Middle East.

Crowne Plaza Muscat

With cliff top views over the Gulf of Oman, this 4-star resort is popular with holidaymakers intent on working on their tans – and no wonder, given the sparkling swimming pools, private beach and sun-soaked terraces. Its fitness centre has tennis and squash courts as well as a sauna and steam room.

Hotel InterContinental Muscat

Tastefully decorated and festooned with luxury extravagances like swimming pools, tennis courts, sauna and Jacuzzis, this 5-star beachside hotel offers the upmost luxury without breaking the bank. Just a short hop from the Grand Mosque, the InterContinental is set among a glorious garden of palm trees. It also has five excellent restaurants and numerous bars.

Ibis Hotel Muscat

By far the best budget accommodation option in Muscat, you can count on the Ibis chain to deliver a cheap stay to a decent standard. This 3-star hotel might be no frills, but the rooms are modern, clean and comfortable, and have all the necessary amenities, including decent Wi-Fi.

Marina Hotel

For this price don't expect the Ritz. Overlooking Mutrah fish market this is a simple harbourside hotel offering great views of Muscat's famous corniche. It's basic and its basement bar can be a little noisy but its location is within walking distance of Mutrah Souk making it convenient for sightseeing.

Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa

Though just a short drive from the city centre, you'll feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of Muscat at this secluded 5-star gem. Actually encompassing three luxurious hotels, it's an oasis of calm, beauty and fantastic fine dining. Its tastefully decorated rooms are huge and come with air-con, Wi-Fi and flash TVs. A real treat.