Sultanate of Oman is a land of rich history and intriguing culture that dates back well over 5000 years. Lying to the east of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman borders Yemen to the south, Saudi Arabia to the west and the United Arab Emirates to the north-west. With a 2,000km coastline linking the Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, the country has a long seafaring and trading history. In this blog we explore 5 must see (Apart from so many which we will cover in another blog) attractions from the oldest souq in the middle east “Muttrah” to the shipbuilding city of “Sur”
This market could not ooze more culture and charm. One of the oldest markets in the Arab world because of Oman’s rich trade history, the souq is filled with various stalls and shops, some of which are hidden away in dark lanes beautifully lit by antique lights, making the architecture of the souk one of its prominent features. The souq is called Souq Al Dhalam, which in Arabic means ‘The Dark Souq, ironic, considering how busy and colorful it is inside.
Almost anything can be found here, from handmade jewelry from India, Afghan war hats to British coins and compasses (some of which are said to be from the Second World War). Pure Omani frankincense, perfumes made from natural oils such as jasmine and rose scents and Omani khanjars (the infamous handmade dagger that is found on the national flag) are among the national treasures commonly sold at the market’s numerous stalls.
Bait Al Zubair Museum
Bait Al Zubair translates to ‘House of Al Zubair.’ Formerly a home, the site is now a private museum funded by its founders, the Zubair family. Opening its doors to visitors in 1998, the museum has an exquisite display of Omani artifacts dating back centuries. The museum offers various exhibitions running throughout the year and showcases great displays, with a mix of different cultural and historic artifacts such as old cannons, jewelry and artwork, all of which tell the history of Oman and the ties it had with the different civilizations around the world, from China, India and Persia to Ancient Rome and Greece.
The museum also has a well-stocked library, and a falaj, which is an ancient water irrigation system that still plays an important role in Oman and its agriculture around the country.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
This radiant place of worship is a stunning masterpiece of architecture, design and spirituality. Made out of tons of Indian sandstone, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is one of the most beautiful architectural landmarks of the whole region, built before any of the other grand mosques. The courtyard has verses from the Holy Quran etched onto the walls, while the mosque as a whole reveals Islamic art from all angles. The main hall is covered in dark grey and white marble decorated with Islamic art features such as geometric and leafy patterns.
The construction of the mosque took six years. The prayer carpet inside the mosque, which was handmade in Iran, itself took four years to complete and is said to be the second-largest single Persian carpet in the world, made up of up to 20 colors in different shades, all hued using natural dyes. Another interesting feature to see is the chandelier above the prayer hall, which was crafted in Germany and is said to be the second-largest chandelier in the world.
Nizwa is one of the largest cities in the Ad Dakhiliyah region of Oman and is also the former capital. Nizwa breathes culture and history, as one of the oldest cities in Oman, it has so many different historical sites and ancient forts to explore and see. Not to mention that every Friday there is the colorful livestock market, which is an experience everyone should get a taste of. Nizwa Fort is a historical and cultural experience not to be missed as one of the largest forts in the country, and home to a museum, various exhibitions and a beautifully furnished rooms.
The city of Sur is a coastal and ancient port town that is around 300 km away from Muscat. Sur was actually one of the regions occupied by the Portuguese back in the 16th century. This historic port played a crucial role in the trade relations between the Sultanate and India, Africa and East Asia, in addition to its being known as a great shipbuilding town. The port saw many different kinds of products at its peak, such as luscious fabrics, spices and even certain gems and stones. Sur today has many different kind of sites to visit, including forts, a turtle beach and a turtle reserve, in addition to the Maritime Museum and the old shipyards.
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