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Muscat History

It has been the capital of an empire, and latterly a sultanate, but for centuries, Muscat was barely noticed by the outside world. The first mention came from Ptolemy in writings dating from 2BC. Despite his best efforts, the city slipped back into obscurity, with no further mentions until well into the 13th century.

As a result, little is known about Muscat’s formative years, but what is certain is that by the dawn of the 14th century, it was a trading port of some significance. It success, however, also made it a target and the Portuguese seized control of the city in the 1580s. But they weren’t the only ones with designs on Muscat and the Portuguese were forced to construct the city walls along with Fort al-Jalali to protect themselves from the Ottoman Turks.

Although the Ottomans were unsuccessful, the local Yaruba dynasty was not and in 1649, they booted out the Portuguese. In the years that followed Muscat became one of the foremost ports in the Indian Ocean but it was twice convulsed by civil war before falling to the Persians in 1743.

Free once more, Muscat became Oman’s capital city in 1793 and it soon grew in influence and prosperity, with its rulers racking up an empire that extended as far as Africa. But Africa was also to prove the city’s undoing and when Said bin Sultan took control of Zanzibar and moved his capital to Stone Town, Muscat’s fortunes dwindled.

In the 19th century, the British arrived, using Muscat as a major staging point between their interests in India, Africa and the Middle East. These interests included the formerly Omani island of Zanzibar and as a result, the city suffered an economic slump.

As the city grew poorer, tribal attacks increased and the Sultan was twice forced to get help from the British in 1915 and 1963. The rise of Sultan Qaboos, however, brought prosperity, peace and an extensive building programme which reshaped the city into the modern metropolis it is today.

Did you know?
• Actress Isla Fisher was born in Muscat.
• Muscat is home to the world’s largest marble mosaic. It measures 8.30 m (27 ft 2.77 in) in height and 5.30 m (17 ft 4.66 in) in width and depicts His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
• Muscat Gate was still in use up until the 1970s.

Featured Hotels

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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.

Grand Hyatt Muscat

With exotic marble flooring, indoor palm trees, stained glass windows, Bedouin tents and a revolving Arab on horseback, the decor of this luxurious and quirky beachside Hyatt was the inspired by its owner, a Yemeni sheikh. It offers some quality Arabic and Italian dining, along with the elegant ambience of the John Barry bar.