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 7 easily accessible attractions in the capital city that can be covered in in a day.
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 artefacts dating back centuries. The museum offers various exhibitions running throughout the year and showcases great displays, with a mix of different cultural and historic artefacts 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.
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 several 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.
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 reveal’s 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.
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