The old Muscat is located along Muttrah’s sea front from Port Sultan Qaboos to Al Bustan Beach, while passing through the capital city Muscat. All along this belt lies a rich and intriguing history that led to building of this modern nation. Located at the eastern tip of the modern capital city, Muscat’s Old Town is best known for its pair of 16th-century forts and the prominent Al Alam (The Flag) Palace on the edge of the waterfront. The two forts of Al Mirani and Al Jalali, hovering on neighboring cliff tops, look out over the Gulf of Oman and form the boundaries of what was once the center of the historic capital. Despite serving as the home of the ruling sultan, Old Muscat retains the feel of a small and decidedly sleepy little town, quite distinct from the rest of the city, from which it’s separated by a swathe of rocky mountains.
Today, the area known as Old Muscat covers the coastal suburb of Muttrah and the peaceful Muttrah seafront, which runs the length of Muscat bay. With its busy port and diverse blend of old and new architecture, this is one of the capital’s most distinctive areas and there’s plenty for visitors to see and do.
Al Alam Palace
With its funnel-like gold and blue pillars and lone flagpole extending like an antenna from its flat roof, Al Alam Palace is one of Oman’s most striking examples of contemporary Islamic architecture. The palace, built in 1972, is set between the Mirani and Jalali forts along the coast of Muscat’s Old Town and is one of six royal residences belonging to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. Over the years, the ceremonial palace has received a number of important visitors, including Queen Elizabeth of England and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, as well as hosting a number of official functions and ceremonies. Although the palatial buildings are closed to the public, visitors can still enjoy views of Imam Sultan bin Ahmed’s masterpiece from the surrounding palace gardens or the waterfront of the nearby Muscat Port.
A sprawling development that offers a deep insight into Oman’s rich historical and cultural scene, National Museum nestles in perfect harmony with the adjoining Al Alam Palace. The museum preserves Oman’s traditions in the form of exhibits that make up the Sultanate’s enriching history. Revel in the historical and cultural dimensions of Oman that the museum presents by incorporating relics from diverse fields. The museum houses thirteen permanent exhibition spaces that showcase displays from different fields like Maritime History, Earth and Man, Cultural Achievements, Weaponry, Coins, Aflaj, Prehistory and Ancient History, the Majesty of Islam, The Renaissance Era and Oman and the Outer World.
Al Mirani Fort
Overlooking Muscat’s old town from an impressive elevation, the Al Mirani Fort is undoubtedly one of the stunning landmarks of Oman that guards the Muscat Bay. Built around the same time as the nearby Al Jalali Fort, it is the larger of the twin forts. Its prominent presence over the harbor adds up to the iconic view of the nineteenth century Muscat conquered lithographs. Al Mirani has a notable place in the history of Oman as it plays a pivotal role in the fall of the Portuguese rule. The fort was recaptured by Imam Sultan bin Saif who spearheaded the decline of the Portuguese reign. Shortly after the Portuguese were ousted from Muscat, the fort received a facelift in the nineteenth century. Al Mirani remains closed to the public, so visitors can tour around the fort from the dock built at the base of the fort.
Al Jalali Fort
The better half of Al Mirani, the Fort of Al Jalali guards the eastern border of the Muscat Harbor overlooking the Oman Sea. Locally known as the Ash Sharqiya Fort, the fort was built during the Portuguese invasion on the already existing Arab foundation. The edifice has two towers linked by a wall and punctuated by numerous fissures for cannons. Amounting to its elevated placement, the surrounding of the fort usually remains secluded and is inaccessible from its rocky frontage. It can be reached only by a small bridge that links to a steep flight of steps at one of the holdouts for a safe way out. Just like the Al Mirani, this fort is also out of bounds for the common public.
Muscat Gate Museum
Crossing the road between the old walled city of Muscat and the Corniche nestles the Muscat Gate Museum. The museum transport visitors to a different world, an enriching journey of the emergence and evolution of the Sultanate of Oman from a commercial harbor to an affluent state and also stands testament to Muscat’s history and artifacts. The gates of the museum formerly marked Muscat city’s boundary for the city was once enclosed within the fortified walls. The gateway was used until 1970 to keep intruders out of the walled vicinity. Once you are done exploring the historical artifacts, take a drive up to the aerial mast to the neighboring hillock to enjoy a panoramic view of the Muttrah area and the Muscat city before it merges with the horizon of the Al Riyam Park.
Kalbuh Bay Park offers an alluring, vast expanse of lush green space with panoramic vistas of the Muscat city and the watch tower. The park hangs over the sea that is filled with sardines. Neatly tucked on Bahri Road in the Muttrah area, this park serves as the idyllic spot for family get together and picnic and is mostly frequented by joggers and fishing enthusiasts. The coastal strip extends up to the edge of the mountain from the Sea Road and is an illustrious spot in the heart of Muscat. Sited at the end of the Corniche, this public park is an excellent halting point while on a hike between old Muscat and Muttrah.
The lush green Riyam park lies at the eastern end of the Muttrah Corniche and offers enchanting views of the harbor from the massive ornate incense burner. One cradle the remnants of the ancient Portuguese watch tower and the other hill is placed inland, coroneted with a newly built sheer white watch tower that looks like an incense burner, synonymous to Muscat’s identity. This ornamental tower is the main attraction of the park that draws locals and tourists offering a grand view of the Muscat city extending from Muttrah to Old Muscat. Al Riyam Park comes along the path of a popular trail that once linked the Muttrah area with Muscat’s old walled city.