48 Hours In Muscat

Above: Al Alam Palace in old Muscat, Oman (Photo: Shutterstock/Pepj)

Muscat, the capital city of the Sultanate of Oman is surprisingly not on many bucket lists, which makes this city perfect for an authentic Middle Eastern adventure. A whiff of frankincense drifts by as the calls to prayer from the numerous minarets echo all around. This is no ordinary city, this is Muscat, where the food is tasty, the shopping luxurious, and the entertainment simply breath-taking.

What to see

There is an abundance of sights to see and places to visit in Muscat, where history stands still as visitors walk on by. Possibly the most famous sight in Muscat is Fort al-Jalali, the domineering 16th Century Portuguese castle standing atop a rocky outcrop on Muscat’s Old Town harbour. Although the fort is only open to visiting dignitaries, it makes for a great photo opportunity, and during special military occasions bagpipers sound their calls as fireworks reflect in the sea below. Not too far away stands Al Alam Palace, the ceremonial home of Oman’s hereditary Head of State, Sultan Qaboos. The palace, standing tall with a façade of gold and blue is not open to the public, however photography is permitted unusually for official buildings in the region. Both sights are ideal for those looking for something a little different than blue seas or tall spires.

What to eat

Muscat is a melting pot for world cuisine, with Indian, Persian, Lebanese and not forgetting Omani foods combining to make some truly unforgettable dishes. For those with a little cash to splash, La Sultanah restaurant is perfect. Set out in a traditional 1930s style cruise ship design, where better to try the typically Omani braised Kingfish with a red pepper confit.

For visitors who would like to sample some of the more unusual Omani dishes on offer, a visit to Ubhar Restaurant is definitely called for. Masirah Soup (Shark soup), Homous Omani (Camel homous), and Frankincense ice cream are all available if you think you can stomach them.

What to do

Camel racing is a national pastime in Oman, with many of the Sultan’s camels racing in specially organised racing circuits throughout Oman. Often described as a sport unlike horseracing, however the camels tend to be more aggressive than horses. It is an honour to partake in a spot of traditional Omani sword dancing if offered the chance to do so. Let the traditional Arabic folk music guide you and just copy the locals, waving the sword here and there; even Prince Charles himself has been known to do a bit of sword dancing when visiting Oman.

Where to shop

A visit to Muscat is not complete without a visit to the Ancient Muttrah Souq. Winding alleyways are bursting at the seams with hundreds of traditional market stalls, selling all manner of items, ranging from silverware and antique artefacts to fake Rolex watches; be sure to buy some famous frankincense or a traditional Khanjar dagger. Haggling is expected, so why not give it a go?

Tags: Muscat, Travel Guide

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