Nestled between the imposing Al Hajar Mountains and salty waters of the Arabian Sea is Muscat, the cosmopolitan Omani capital. Now home to almost half the country's population, the city is an expat's darling and has a lot to offer in the way of historical sights, culture and entertainment. Muscat has managed to remain relatively concealed from the touristic eye and retains a sense of inwardness and an unspoiled quality long lost by some of its comparable Emirati neighbors.
Omani rial (1 Omani Rial = 2.33 Euro)
Oman Daily Observer
TheWeek (published Wednesdays)
Times of Oman
Most governmental offices and government-run facilities (including post offices and museums) open and close early (7.30am-2.30pm). Commercial establishments and local businesses have longer working hours and often operate late into the night, but often close for mid-day break between 3pm and 6pm.
Ministry of Tourism
Call Centre: +968 80077799
Phone: +968 22088000
P.O. Box 200, P. C. 115
Madinat Al-Sultan Qaboos
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
What once was three small villages of Muscat, Muttrah and Ruwi today constitutes the modern, ever-growing and very cosmopolitan Omani capital, with each of the three areas still preserving some of their individual flair.
Old Muscat, the historic heart of the city, contains some of the finest Arabian architecture and cultural heritage sites. Old Portuguese forts and historic buildings breathe the charm of foregone ages. The opulent Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, a rather new addition to the local architectural landscape, has grown to become the country's major religious centre and is open to visitors of all convictions.
The scenic, vibrant port area of Muttrah is the place to be right before sundown. A promenade along its seaside Corniche lined with stylish hotels and eateries makes for a perfect kick-start to the evening, to be continued exploring the Muttrah Souq and Muscat's somewhat hushed, but very present nightlife.
Neighboring Ruwi is, perhaps, best explored during daylight hours, when this newly emerged business districts' eclectic make up becomes most apparent.
Some distances might prove too long for walking, but commuting between Muscat's historically detached areas is made easy by omnipresent minibuses and taxis, easily hailed down from any point in the city.
Muscat's geographical positioning in close proximity to the sea, desert and mountains provides visitors with an endless list of possible activities. With natural beauty, beach resorts, an emerging cultural scene (facilitated much by the recently constructed Royal Opera House) and historical relics, the nation's capital is guaranteed to keep travelers busy both on land (mosques, forts and souqs) and at sea (dolphin-watching tours and snorkeling, to name a few).
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Royal Opera House
Bait Al Zubair Museum
Qurum Beach & Natural Park
Oman Oil and Gas Exhibition Centre
Al Jalali and Mirani Forts
Sultan's Armed Forces Museum
Omani cuisine is halal meat-dominated, with Arabian and Indian influences easily traceable. Some of the typical local dishes include grilled meats, shwarma and biryani; Muscat's seaside location makes for a heavy emphasis on seafood in local cuisine as well. Restaurants in Muscat are often located on hotel premises, and cater primarily to expats and tourists (most locals favor cafés over fine dining). The variety of cuisine choices, however, is certainly impressive, and ranges from traditional Omani to Indian, Pakistani, European and Asian.
D'Arcy's Kitchen MSQ
Bait Al Luban Omani Restaurant
Turkish House Restaurant
The Beach Restaurant at The Chedi Muscat
Western-style restaurants are a foreign import to Oman, while cafés enjoy a much higher popularity among locals and often make for dining experiences no less tantalizing. "Shwarma" is, perhaps, the most popular local eat, and is made with roasted beef or chicken wrapped in bread with salad and vegetables. Grilled meats (or "kebabs") are another local specialty, often served with flatbread and hummus. Another dish typical of the area is "biryani", which often simply means chicken leg with rice and spices. Cafés normally offer a variety of fresh juices to go with a meal, along with coffee ("gahwa") spiced with cardamom and cloves.
Super Café Chef A
Al Makan Café
Fast Food 'n' Juice Centre
Trattoria Italian Restaurant & Café
Muscat is an unexpectedly vibrant and photogenic city by night. Taking a stroll along the Corniche or wandering through the Muttrah area may offer a glance into local life hidden from sight during daytime. Those interested in smoking shisha will not find themselves at a loss - cafés that serve shisha are widely available throughout. When it comes to bars and clubs, most local nightlife is limited to hotel premises due to restrictions on sale and consumption of alcohol in the country. However, some hotels do pack a punch, and finding a suitable venue should not pose much difficulty.
On the Rocks Restaurant & Lounge
Feeney's Irish Pub
Al Ghazal Pub
Visitors to Muscat are free to choose between an authentic shopping experience in the souqs and modern, air-conditioned shopping malls established in the recent years (primarily in central Muscat and its upmarket suburb of Qurum). The souqs in Muscat and Muttrah are a vibrant, lively experience fit for those ready to haggle and actively pursue great bargains. Clothing, leather goods, local art and handicrafts, ceramics, gold and jewelry are some of the items on sale in the city's windy souqs. Western-style shopping malls, on the other hand, sell primarily international brand clothing and accessories, and often house grocery stores, food courts and entertainment venues.
Muscat Grand Mall
Oman Avenues Mall
High-end hotels and beach resorts of the Qurm and Al Khuwair areas are mostly well-known for their consistently good quality and still uninflated prices, while smaller inns and guest houses of the Muttrah district offer a variety of options to pick and choose from for travelers on a budget.
Muscat International Airport
The Muscat International Airport is the largest in Oman, and is located 32km away from the city. Some hotels in Muscat arrange courtesy shuttles for guests and offer pick-up services directly at the airport.
The most convenient way of getting to Muscat on one's own is by taxi. Fares should be agreed upon prior to departure; paying in advance directly at the airport taxi counter is also possible.
To reach the city by public transport travelers can use buses run by the Oman National Transport Company. There is a stop on Sultan Qaboos Highway, which is a short (200m) walk away from the airport.
Address: Muscat, Oman
Phone: +968 2451 9223
Travellers can choose between several transportation options in Muscat.
The first, so-called "Baiza" buses, circulate regularly around the metropolitain area picking up and dropping off passengers at various locations. These can be flagged down anywhere, and often do not have a visible indication of the destination, so enquiring with the driver is recommended. Fare is paid on board and is usually very low.
A pricier, but, perhaps, more convenient transportation option are the white-and-orange minibuses (local taxis) that are readily available throughout. These can be shared with other passengers to decrease costs. It is customary for these minibuses to pick up passengers that are not headed for the same destination, and make several drop-off stops en route. Fares should be agreed upon before boarding.
Buses run by the ONTC (Oman National Transport Corporation) are another, less popular option for getting around. These buses stop at designated locations only, and run less frequently. The main bus depot is based in Ruwi. Bus connections are available to a variety of destinations, including Muscat International Airport, Port Sultan Qaboos, Wadi Adei, Wadi Kabir, Mabelah, Muttrah, Al Almerat and the main residential areas of Muscat.
Phone: +968 2412 1555
Taxis are widely available throughout the city of Muscat, and are easy to spot by their white and orange color scheme. Fares should be agreed upon prior to boarding.
Some local taxi companies include:
The Central Post Office is located next to Muscat International Airport, off Sultan Quaboos Highway. Other post offices are available throughout Muscat, and often do not have an exact address. Post offices can be found next to the British Bank in Muscat, in the Ruwi Commercial area near the Telecommunications Company, on the Muttrah Hospital campus and at further locations (listed on the website).
Post cards and stamps can be purchased throughout the city (at various shops in the Muttrah Souq, for example).
Address: Muscat, Oman
Phone: +968 2451 0343
Pharmacies are available throughout the city.
City Centre Mall (next to the airport)
Al Ghobra, Nr. Al Maha Filling Station
(Open 24 hours)
Al Sarooj Commercial Centre
(Open 24 hours)
Ruwi (opp. Police station)
+968 24794186 / + 968 24791144 / +968 24702542
(Open 24 hours)
Address: City Centre Mall, Muscat
Phone: +968 2455 8704
Area code +968
220-240 Volts, British three-pin socket