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Muscat is the the capital of the Sultanate of Oman and its most important and populous city (at 1.2 million).
Known since the early 1st century CE as an important trading port between the west and the east, Muscat was ruled by various indigenous tribes as well as foreign powers such as the Persians, Portuguese Empire and the Ottoman Empire at various points in its history.
The rocky Western Al Hajar Mountains dominate the landscape of Muscat. The city lies on the Arabian Sea along the Gulf of Oman and is in the proximity of the strategic Straits of Hormuz.
It is home to a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society, and receives the largest number of foreign visitors to the country. Unlike other cities in the Gulf, notably in the UAE and Qatar, Muscat does not have an ultramodern skyline. Following the preferences of the Sultan, modern construction is required to adhere to traditional Arabic architectural styles, resulting in a more low-key urban landscape.
|POPULATION :||Metro: 1,288,330|
|TIME ZONE :||Oman standard time (UTC+4)|
|LANGUAGE :||Arabic (official), English, Baluchi, Urdu, Indian|
|RELIGION :||Ibadhi Muslim 75%, other (includes Sunni Muslim, Shi'a Muslim, Hindu) 25%|
|AREA :||3,500 km2 (1,400 sq mi)|
|COORDINATES :||23°36′N 58°35′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 63.60% |
• Female: 36.40%
|ETHNIC :||Arab, Baluchi, South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi), African|
|AREA CODE :||24|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :||+968 24|
Muscat has a number of museums. These include Museum of Omani Heritage, National Museum of Oman, Oman Children's Museum al Zubair, Oman Oil and Gas Exhibition Centre, Omani French Museum, Sultan's Armed Forces Museum and the Omani Aquarium and Marine Science and Fisheries Centre. The Bait Al Falaj Fort played an important role in Muscat's military history.
The city has numerous mosques including the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Ruwi Mosque, Saeed bin Taimoor and Zawawi Mosque. A few Shi'ite mosques also exist here.
Recent projects include an opera house which opened on October 14, 2011. One of the most notable new projects is the Oman National Museum. It is expected to be an architectural jewel along with the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
Visitors are also encouraged to visit Old Muscat and the Old Palace. The main shopping district is situated in Al Qurum Commercial Area, however shopping malls are spread out throughout the city.The one of the biggest Malls in Oman is Oman Avenues Mall located in Ghubra,Muscat.
The main airport is Muscat International Airport around 25 km (16 mi) from the city's business district of Ruwi and 15 to 20 km from the main residential localities of Al-Khuwair, Madinat Al Sultan Qaboos, Shati Al-Qurm and Al-Qurm. Muscat is the headquarters for the local Oman Air, which flies to several destinations within the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, East Africa and Europe. Other airlines such as Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, SriLankan, Royal Jordanian, British Airways, PIA, Jet Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates, Swiss International Air Lines, Kuwait Airways, Air India and Thai Airways also fly through Muscat International Airport.
- National Travel Tourism, Ar-Rumaylah Street, Wattayah, tel. +968 24 566046, e-mail: [email protected], Sat to Thu 8am-1pm, 4-7 pm
Evidence of communal activity in the area around Muscat dates back to the 6th millennium BCE in Ras al-Hamra, where burial sites of fishermen have been found.The graves appear to be well formed and indicate the existence of burial rituals. South of Muscat, remnants of Harappan pottery indicate some level of contact with the Indus Valley Civilisation.Muscat's notability as a port was acknowledged as early as the 1st century CE by Greek geographers Ptolemy, who referred to it as Cryptus Portus (the Hidden Port), and by Pliny the Elder, who called it Amithoscuta.
The port fell to a Sassanid invasion in the 3rd century CE, under the rule of Shapur I, while conversion to Islam occurred during the 7th century. Muscat's importance as a trading port continued to grow in the centuries that followed, under the influence of the Azd dynasty, a local tribe. The establishment of the First Imamate in the 9th century CE was the first step in consolidating disparate Omani tribal factions under the banner of an Ibadi state.
The Portuguese admiral Afonso de Albuquerque sailed to Muscat in 1507, in an attempt to establish trade relations. As he approached the harbor, his ships were fired on. He then decided to conquer Muscat. Most of the city burned to the ground during and after the fighting.
The Portuguese maintained a hold on Muscat for over a century, despite challenges from Persia and a bombardment of the town by the Ottoman Turks in 1546. On August 16, 1648 the Imam dispatched an army to Muscat, which captured and demolished the high towers of the Portuguese, weakening their grip over the town. Decisively, in 1650, a small but determined body of the Imam's troops attacked the port at night, forcing an eventual Portuguese surrender on January 23, 1650.
Muscat's naval and military supremacy was re-established in the 19th century by Said bin Sultan, who signed a treaty with U.S. President Andrew Jackson's representative Edmund Roberts on September 21, 1833. Having gained control over Zanzibar, in 1840 Said moved his capital to Stone Town, the ancient quarter of Zanzibar City; however, after his death in 1856, control over Zanzibar was lost when it became an independent sultanate under his sixth son, Majid bin Said (1834/5–1870), while the third son, Thuwaini bin Said, became the Sultan of Oman.
During the second half of the 19th century, the fortunes of the Al Bu Sa`id declined and friction with the Imams of the interior resurfaced. Muscat and Muttrah were attacked by tribes from the interior in 1895 and again in 1915. A tentative ceasefire was brokered by the British, which gave the interior more autonomy. However, conflicts among the disparate tribes of the interior, and with the Sultan of Muscat and Oman continued into the 1950s, and eventually escalated into the Dhofar Rebellion (1962).The rebellion forced the Sultan Said bin Taimur to seek the assistance of the British in quelling the uprisings from the interior. The April 26, 1966 failed assassination attempt on Said bin Taimur led to the further isolation of the Sultan, who had moved his residence from Muscat to Salalah, amidst the civilian armed conflict. On July 23, 1970, Qaboos bin Said, son of the Sultan, staged a bloodless coup d'état in the Salalah palace with the assistance of the British, and took over as ruler.
With the assistance of the British, Qaboos bin Said put an end to the Dhofar uprising and consolidated disparate tribal territories. He renamed the country the Sultanate of Oman (called Muscat and Oman hitherto), in an attempt to end to the interior's isolation from Muscat.
Muscat features a hot, arid climate with long and very hot summers and warm "winters".
Annual rainfall in Muscat is about 10 cm (4 in), falling mostly from December to April.
The climate generally is very hot, with temperatures frequently reaching as high as 40 °C (104 °F) in the summer. Humidity in the summer is at 40-60%, which is quite high for such hot temperatures.
Climate data for Muscat
|Record high °C (°F)||34.6|
|Average high °C (°F)||25.5|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||21.3|
|Average low °C (°F)||17.3|
|Record low °C (°F)||1.6|
Muscat is located in northeast Oman, at 24°00′N 57°00′E. The Tropic of Cancer passes south of the area. It is bordered to its west by the plains of the Al Batinah Region and to its east by Ash Sharqiyah Region. The interior plains of the Ad Dakhiliyah Region border Muscat to the south, while the Gulf of Oman forms the northern and western periphery of the city.
The water along to coast of Muscat runs deep, forming two natural harbours, in Muttrah and Muscat. The Western Al Hajar Mountains run through the northern coastline of the city.
Volcanic rocks are apparent in the Muscat area, and are composed of serpentine and diorite, extending along the Gulf of Oman coast for ten or twelve 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) from the district of Darsait to Yiti. Plutonic rocks constitute the hills and mountains of Muscat and span approximately 30 miles (48 km) from Darsait to Ras Jissah. These igneous rocks consists of serpentine, greenstone and basalt, typical of rocks in Southeastern regions of the Arabian Peninsula. South of Muscat, the volcanic rock strata is broken up and distorted, rising to a maximum height of 6,000 feet (1,800 m), in Al Dakhiliyah, a region which includes Jebel Akhdar, the country's highest range. The hills in Muscat are mostly devoid of vegetation but are rich in iron.
Muscat's economy, like that of Oman, is dominated by trade.
The more traditional exports of the city included dates, mother of pearl, and fish. Many of the souks of Muttrah sell these items and traditional Omani artefacts.
Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) has been central to Muscat's economy since at least 1962 and is the country's second largest employer, after the government. PDO's major shareholders include Royal Dutch/Shell, Total, and Partex and its production is estimated to be about 720,000 barrels per day (114,000 m3/d).
Muscat also has major trading companies such as Suhail Bahwan Group, which is a trading partner for corporations such as Toshiba, Subaru, Seiko, Hewlett Packard, General Motors, RAK Ceramics; Saud Bahwan Group whose trading partners are Toyota, Daihatsu,KIA and Hertz Rent-a-Car; Zubair Automotive whose trading partners include Mitsubishi, and Chrysler brands such as Dodge; and Moosa AbdulRahman Hassan which operates as one of the oldest automotive agencies in the entire region being established in 1927. The private Health Care sector of Muscat,Oman has numerous hospitals and clinics.
The Muscat Securities Market is the principal stock exchange of Oman. It is located in Central Business District of Muscat and it was established in 1988, and has since distinguished itself as a pioneer among its regional peers in terms of transparency and disclosure regulations and requirements.
Mina'a Sultan Qaboos, Muscat's main trading port, is a trading hub between the Persian Gulf, the Indian subcontinent and the Far East with an annual volume of about 1.6 million tons. However, the emergence of the Jebel Ali Free Zone in neighboring Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has made that port the premier maritime trading port of the region with about 44 million tons traded in cargo annually.
Omantel offers pre-paid Hayyak SIM cards and top-up cards, which can be purchased at mobile phone shops and hypermarkets. Also available are pre-paid Jibreen Cards, good on both mobile and landlines, in denominations of OMR5 and OMR1.5. An OMR5 card gets you 11 minutes of talk time.
Skype is blocked in Oman, and can only be accessed through a VPN. Other VoIP services have been blocked in the past; currently Google Talk, Viber, FaceTime and MSN Messenger are all accessible.
The calling card Global One does not work in Muscat. Although the Global One website lists the rates for calls from Oman there are no numbers listed alongside. The nearest Global One help line is in Dubai.
Free Wi-Fi is available in several public parks, including Qurm National Park, Naseem Garden, Al Amerat Park, and Wadi Kabir. For access, visitors are routed to an Omantel landing page requesting a mobile number, to which a password will be sent; customers are limited to 1.5 hrs/day. Costa Coffee also offers free connection in five locations: Qurm City Centre, Muscat City Centre, MQ, Bareeq al Shatti, and Oasis Mall.
Omantel Ibhar hotspots are scattered throughout Muscat, mainly in coffeeshops, restaurants, and shopping malls. Pre-paid Ibhar cards are available at any Omantel counter or at the hotspot location.
Prices in Muscat
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Milk||1 liter||$ 2.30|
|Tomatoes||1 kg||$ 1.45|
|Cheese||0.5 kg||$ 4.45|
|Apples||1 kg||$ 2.40|
|Oranges||1 kg||$ 1.90|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$ 2.75|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$ 12.00|
|Coca-Cola||2 liters||$ 2.40|
|Bread||1 piece||$ 1.05|
|Water||1.5 l||$ 0.55|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$ 37.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$ 61.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$ 110.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$ 6.00|
|Water||0.33 l||$ 0.30|
|Cappuccino||1 cup||$ 4.00|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$ 4.90|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$ 3.70|
|Coca-Cola||0.33 l||$ 0.50|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$ 15.00|
|Cinema||2 tickets||$ 18.00|
|Gym||1 month||$ 48.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$ 5.60|
|Theatar||2 tickets||$ 70.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$ 0.11|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$ 2.60|
|Antibiotics||1 pack||$ 15.00|
|Tampons||32 pieces||$ 6.00|
|Deodorant||50 ml.||$ 3.50|
|Shampoo||400 ml.||$ 4.70|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$ 3.00|
|Toothpaste||1 tube||$ 2.80|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$ 68.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||$ 60.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$ 85.00|
|Leather shoes||1||$ 100.00|
|Gasoline||1 liter||$ 0.34|
|Taxi||1 km||$ 0.50|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$ 0.55|
69 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
167 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Muscat International Airport, also called Seeb International Airport(tel. +968 24 519223 or 519456) is located 37 km west of Mutrah. A new terminal is being completed in 2014 and will have a capacity of 12 million passengers per year. The number of airlines flying to Muscat increases each year, although the Omani sale of their part of Gulf Air has meant a temporary decrease in passengers.
- Oman Air (in Ruwi, opposite Central Bank), , , (reservations), (tickets)fax: .Operates flights to Muscat from many airports in the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Domestically operates flights to/from Salalah and Khasab.
- Air Arabia, . 2 flights per day from Sharjah to Muscat, duration of flight is 55min.
- Air India Express. Flights from Amritsar on Wednesday and Friday (duration of flight 3hrs 15min, from Delhi on W, F (duration of flight 5 hrs 20min), from Kochi on Tu, Th and Su (duration of flight 3h35), from Kozhikode on F, Sa, Su (duration of flight 3h25), from Thiruvanantahapuram on Tu, Th-Su (duration of flight 3h45, or 5h20 if flight goes via Cochin).
- British Airways, , , fax: . Daily flights from London Heathrow to Muscat.
- Egypt Air, , , fax: .Offers flights from Cairo to Muscat M, W-F, arriving in Muscat next morning, duration of flight 4h.
- Emirates, , , fax: . 10 flights per day from Dubai to Muscat, flying time 1h.
- Etihad Airways, , , fax: . 3 flights per day from Abu Dhabi to Muscat, duration of flight 1h05.
- flydubai. 3 flights per day from Dubai to Muscat.
- Gulf Air, , , fax: . Flights from Bahrain to Muscat.
- KLM. Flights from Amsterdam to Muscat on M, W-F, Su, duration of flight 8h30.
- Kuwait Airways, , , fax: .
- Lufthansa, , , fax: . Daily flights from Frankfurt to Muscat with a technical stop in Abu Dhabi, duration of flight 8h.
- Pakistan International Airlines, Building No. 69, Way No. 2728, Block No. 127, Markaz Tijari Street, CBD area, , e-mail: [email protected]. Flights from Islamabad on M, W, Th, Sa and Su and from Peshawar on W, Th and Sa.
- Qatar Airways, , fax: .
- Royal Jordanian, , , fax: . Flies from Amman to Muscat on Tu, Th, F and Su, arriving in Muscat next morning
- Swiss, , , fax: .Daily flights from Zurich to Muscat via Dubai.
- Turkish Airlines. Daily flights from Istanbul with a stopover in Bahrain.
Taxis from and to the airport should cost between 6 OMR (Golden Tulip, near the airport) and 12 OMR (Al Bustan Palace Hotel, Al Bustan). Taxis can be booked at the Taxi Counter (tel. +968 24518780 or 24518781, email: [email protected]). Make sure you agree the fare with the driver before commencing your journey. Fares should be agreed before commencing the journey and may be pre-paid at the Muscat International Airport Taxi Counter. There are ATM machines inside the terminal just prior to exiting on the left side of the doors.
Public buses, run by the Oman National Transport Company, stop onSultan Qaboos Highway outside of the Airport. If you wish to catch public buses, you will have to walk the short distance to the bus stops on the Highway.
Oman National Transport Company (ONTC), Al-Jaame St (near Sun City Hotel in Ruwi), , e-mail: (reservations), (information)[email protected]. Runs buses to Muscat from Dubai (duration of journey: 6 hrs). Within Oman there are daily buses to Muscat from Buraimi (via Sohar), Nizwa (2hrs 20min),Salalah (13 hrs, reservation required), Sanaw and Sur (4 hrs 15 min)
You can reach Muscat by road from the United Arab Emirates. The journey takes about 5h by crossing the border in Hatta/Al Ain.
You can drive from Al Ghaydah in Yemen. The journey is about 6 hours via the border crossing at Sarfeit to Salalah and then another 10 hours to Muscat.
National Ferry Company, Call Center & Passenger Boarding Office (Sultan Qaboos Port, Mutrah), , toll-free: (office), (reservations)fax: , e-mail:[email protected]. Su-Th 07:30-15:30 (office). Ferries arrive weekly from Khasab to the main port in Mutrah, departing every Saturday at 11:30 and arriving five hours later. Ferries departing from Mutrah leave every Thursday at noon. All ferries have free Wi-Fi, with lunch, snacks and beverages included in the ticket price. You should get your ferry ticket in advance to ensure your place on the boat. One way: 45/23 OMR (business/tourist class), return: 85/44 OMR (business/tourist class).
Transportation - Get Around
Maxi taxis (minibuses, known throughout the expat community as baisa buses) ply the highway from Seeb to the Corniche area. The charge is OMR0.100 (100 Bzs) from the Corniche area to the church roundabout and another 100 Bzs from the church round about to Wadi Adai.
On arrival at the airport, situated approximately 40km from the main Muscat CBD, you can get a baisa bus down the main highway in either direction.
The (mostly orange and white) taxis are a bit pricier, and they hang around the hotels where they get juicy fares from unwary travellers. They will charge OMR8 for an airport trip if you don't haggle, but you should be able to agree OMR5. They always say they will give you "good price", but it's best to figure out what you want to spend then agree before you get in.
The Maxi Taxis ply the main routes through town, and they go where they want so you might have to find one going your direction. Once you are on one, they will make sure you get there. The place to wait for them is on the on-ramps of most of the main highway junctions, when you'll usually see a few people waiting around for one. A journey within the Muscat area should not cost more than OMR0.300 each, but if you look like an experienced traveller and hand them OMR0.200 then you can usually get away with that.
For visitors staying in Muscat for longer than a day, renting a car provides the most flexibility and is far more economical than using taxis, as one taxi ride from Ghubrah to Muscat and back will cost about the same as hiring a car for one day. A 2WD is fine to see the sights within and around Muscat, but if you're planning to explore wadis and mountains you'll need a 4WD.
Road signs in Muscat can be confusing, and motorway exits are not always clearly marked. Compared with elsewhere in the Gulf (e.g. Dubai and Doha) Muscat drivers are reasonably disciplined, but visitors from outside the region may find the local driving style erratic. For a gentler introduction into Muscat traffic it may be easier to take a taxi (or hotel-provided shuttle) from the airport, and arrange for a rental car through your accommodation – rates are usually the same as if not better than at the airport.
Most local and international rental agencies have offices at the airport. An international driver's permit is theoretically required to rent a car, but usually agents will request only your national licence. All car hires include mandatory insurance. The cheapest car hire is about OMR15 per day for a 2WD economy car with manual transmission and sometimes no air-conditioning; for a 4WD, expect to pay double that amount.
- ABC, . A local agency.
- Al Maskry Rent-a-Car, , e-mail: , [email protected]. A well-established local agency.
- Avis Oman, . (airport), (city)
- Budget Oman, , fax: , e-mail:[email protected].
- Europcar, . (airport), (city)
- Hertz, . (airport), (city)
- National, . (airport), (city)
- Sixt, . (airport), (city)
- Thrifty, . (airport), (city)
- Nomad Tours, , e-mail: (airport), (city)[email protected]
- BEST RATED -
- BEST VALUE -
On private beaches western swimwear is acceptable. On public beaches, however, visitors should be mindful of Omani conservative norms. Women are advised to stick with one-piece suits, and men should opt for longer swimming shorts (not speedos); keep shoulders and knees covered unless you are actually on the beach. Women may find a parasol helpful to hide from prying eyes.
Beaches with a sign 'Family Beach' are closed to single or bachelor men.
- Qurum Public Beach (Qurum). No facilities except open showers. Clean and well-maintained, with places offering jetskis for rent near the Intercontinental. This beach gets very busy on weekends. Free.
- Marjan Public Beach (PDO Public Beach) (near Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), Qurum Heights). This beach is quiet during the day, and more lively in early evenings. There are some small, excellent coral reefs just a short distance from the shore, suitable even for novice snorkelers. Clown fish, parrot fish, sea cucumbers, and occasionally sea turtles and rays can be spotted here. Free.
- Al Ghubrah Public Beach (between the Chedi Hotel and the desalination plant, Al Ghubrah). This is a family-oriented beach, with picnic benches and shaded areas. In the evening near the desalination plant there are several food trucks which offer good and inexpensive fare, including grilled meat and fish, lentil soup, and potato salads. Free.
- Seeb Public Beach (Seeb). This is a long stretch of beach, with some sections quite busy, and some sections accessible only with 4WD. Free.
- Al Bustan Public Beach (near the Al Bustan Palace Hotel). Named after the hotel, this beach has a good view of the mountains behind. Free.
- Mutrah Souq (main entrance along the Corniche, Mutrah). The maze-like souq (marketplace) is often described as the best in the Gulf region. The souq has many shops for jewellery, traditional Omani handicrafts and Omani food at reasonable prices. Some specific items to look for include Arab hand-embroidered mussar (shawls intended to be worn as turbans, OMR10+), garments, nuts, spices, incense, and earthenware. A few shops accept credit cards.
- Amouage Perfume Factory (near the airport), . S-Th 08:30-16:00. Amouage perfume is the most expensive perfume in the world, and visitors can learn about its production. It is recommended (but not required) to call beforehand to ensure that someone is available to show you around.
- Barka Omani Halwa Factory(between Seeb and Barka).
- Boraka Halwa Factory, Mutrah St(Mutrah).
- Jawahir Oman Jewellers, Al Wilaj St(Al Qurum Complex, Al Qurm), . Sells prized Omani silver, crafted into contemporary jewellery and gifts in a Muscat workshop.
- Omani Heritage Gallery, Jawharat Al Shatti Shopping Centre (across Al Kharijiyah St from the Royal Opera House, Al Khuwair), , fax: , e-mail:[email protected]. This gallery is operated by a non-profit group which encourages cottage industries.
- Souq al Jumaa (Friday Market) (Wadi Kabir, Ruwi). Fridays 07:00-21:00. A bustling flea market with everything from jewellery, camping gear, carpets and even cars. There is a section with clothing, and food stalls are also nearby.
- Markaz al Bahja Mall (Seeb), .
- Muscat City Centre (Seeb). Contains a lot of shops including a large Carrefour Hypermarket.
- Oman Avenues Mall (Sultan Qaboos St), . Oman Avenues Mall is the largest shopping mall in Oman. Offers shopping, dining, kid zones and entertainment to locals and international tourists.
- Qurum City Centre. Recently opened at Qurum and contains Carrefour.
- Sabco Centre (near the turnoff between Sultan Qaboos St and Qurm Heights Rd, Qurm). A collection of about half a dozen medium sized shopping centres which is very popular with locals. The actual Sabco Centre has a small souq-like collection of shops that contains many of the handicrafts that are available in the Mutrah Souq. There is also a Godiva Chocolates shop (tel. +968 24 562367). Opposite the Sabco Centre is the Omani Craftsman's House that only sells guaranteed Made in Oman crafts at fixed (but relatively high) prices.
- Al Meera (Azaiba), . A Qatari-based chain.
- Lulu Hypermarket, Al Mina St (Mutrah). All Lulu's branches have delis offering takeaways.
- Lulu Hypermarket Wadi Kabir, 63 St (Ruwi).
- Lulu Hypermarket, As Sultan Qaboos St (Ghubrah), .This location is particularly convenient if you're looking to stock up before heading to the mountains.
- Carrefour Hypermarket, Qurum City Centre. There is another Carrefour located in Muscat city centre (see listing above).
- Sultan Shopping Center (Al Qurm).
There are numerous Indian-run tailors. An Italian-style suits typically costs 5 OMR.
- Oman-UAE Exchange Centres - LuLu Hypermarkets, Ghala and Ruwi
- Global Money Exchange - Ruwi
- travelex - Seeb International Airport
- Purshottam Kanji - Ruwi
- Mustafa Sultan Exchange - Many outlets throughout Oman
Food is relatively cheap in Muscat, a meal can cost just a couple of rials. For inexpensive Indian food, there are many restaurants catering to Indian guest workers in Al Khuwayr. In Mutrah you can walk down the waterfront in the Corniche area to catch a cool sea breeze, and treat yourself to some sandwiches and Halib (tea with milk) or Sulaimani (black tea) at one of the wayside restaurants. A cup of tea costs about OMR0.050.
- Al-exandria, Fanja House, Near Sabco Centre, Ruwi, Tel - 561611. The best Rotis (Indian Bread). Try the chicken Jalfrezi and Paneer aloo (potato).
- Automatic, (Cuisine - Lebanese). Try the Hummus (Chickpea paste), Fatoosh (Salad), Mutabel (Egg Plant paste), Falafel and mint tea. Even the waiters are not sure why the restaurant is named automatic. There is a branch of Automatic located on the side of the Sabco Centre facing away from the central car park. There are also branches in Ruwi, Al Khuwair and elsewhere in Muscat.
- Al Haikal Restaurant, 2996 Way (near bus stand, Ruwi). Pakistani food.
- Al-Hanan, Ruwi (Cuisine - Indian).
- Al Shaheen Restaurant, Honda Rd (Ruwi). Pakistani food.
- Al Tarboush (Al-Tarboosh) (opposite the Sabco Centre, Qurm). Fast Arabian/Lebanese-style food available for takeaway or eat-in on the first floor.
- Bella-Pais, MAM roundabout, just off the Nizwa turn off (Cuisine - Greek + Other).
- Bin Ateeq, Al Khuwair Rd (near Shell petrol station and Holiday Inn, Al Khuwair), , fax: , e-mail:[email protected]. Daily 09:00-02:00. This place is mentioned in various guidebooks as the only 'authentic' Omani restaurant in town - and its fame means that this is now popular with tourists. The food is acceptable, if a bit pricey.
- Bin Ateeq, 2730 Way (Ruwi), , e-mail:[email protected]. Daily 09:00-02:00. Another branch of the popular Omani restaurant.
- Gujrat Bhojan Shala, Ruwi High Street, Ruwi (Cuisine - Indian).
- Muscat Light Restaurant & Coffeeshop, Al Bahri Rd (Old Muscat). Ideal place for a break during a walking tour of Old Muscat.
- Ofair Traditional Restaurant, Al Marafah St (Al Khuwair), .Serves traditional Omani food.
- Oman Express, Tel - 7731329. Delivers Lunch - 18 rials for a month including Fridays or 15.6 Rials excluding Fridays.
- Saravana Bhavan Restaurant (Ruwi, opposite OC Centre), . South Indian vegetarian restaurant.
- Subway, City Centre, Seeb, Tel - 542225.
- The Chedi Pizza Restaurant, Way No. 3215 (The Chedi Hotel, Ghubrah).Offers less expensive food than the other Chedi outlets, with the same understated chic ambience.
- Haffa House Hotel Restaurant, Al Farahidi St (Ruwi), .
- Kargeen Caffe, Al Bashair St, , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. Traditional Omani food served in a traditional setting. There is an outdoor seating area for shisha smokers, and a surprisingly good selection of vegetarian options. Reservations are recommended, particularly on weekends.
- Turkish House (Al Khuwair), . 11:00-01:00. The most popular Turkish restaurant in Muscat, with excellent fish dishes. Take-away and delivery available in the Al Khuwair area.
- Al Khiran, Al Bustan Palace Hotel(Qantab). Famous for their Friday brunch buffets. OMR19.5 + 17% service charge.
- Bait Al Bahr (Shangri-La Hotel), , e-mail:[email protected]. 19:00-23:00. Traditional Omani seafood. Reservations strongly recommended; smart casual, nonsmoking.
- The Chedi, North Ghubra 32 (Al Ghubra). Four open kitchens featuring international cuisine.
- Mumtaz Mahal (Al Qurm). Indian cuisine.
- Passage to India, Al Wutayyah (near Hatat House), . (reservations)Indian cuisine.
- Taj Samarkhand, Oasis by the Sea Residences (Al Qurm), . Indian Peshwari cuisine.
Coffe & Drink
Every road, street corner or little collection houses, huts or businesses has a 'Coffee-Shop' - basic but worth a go. Fresh fruit juices are delicious and available from a number of stalls and cafes in Muscat. Expect to pay between RO 0.500 and 1.500 for these juices depending on type and size.
- Al Ahli Coffeeshop (Mutrah Souq), . Also has fresh fruit juices.
- Fast Food N Juice Centre, Al Bahri Rd (Mutrah). You can watch the world go by from the outside tables.
- Starbucks Coffee (Al Qurm). Located on the beach road that goes between the Crown Plaza Hotel and the Intercontinental Hotel. It is so close that if you cross the road, you are on the beach. The larger drinks are about OMR2-2.2, but the view through the glass wall of the waves coming into the beach is excellent.
- Left Bank (ground floor beneath Mumtaz Mahal Restaurant, Qurm), . Sa-Th 12AM-3PM, 6PM-2AM; F 2PM-1:30/2AM. Known for good drinks as well as good food. Reservations recommended if you come here for dinner. Expensive.
Sights & Landmarks
- Al Mirani Fort, Al Mirani St. Built at the same time as Al Jalali Fort which it faces across the harbor. This fort has also been converted to a museum which is closed to the general public, but it can be freely appreciated from the outside.
- Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace. This is the office of Sultan Qaboos, ruler of Oman. This beautiful palace stands on the head of a natural deep water harbour and is guarded on either side by the twin forts of Mirani and Jelali. Visitors are not allowed to visit the palace, but they are allowed to take photographs at the entrance of the palace.
- Bait Al Zubair Museum, Al Bahri Rd, . Sa-Th 9:30AM-6PM. The museum itself features displays on Omani social history, while tours are frequently run of the neighbouring reconstructed townhouse.
- Omani French Museum, Qasr al-Alam St (in Bait Fransa near the police station). Sa-W 8AM-1PM, Th 9AM-1PM. This small museum has displays detailing the relations between France and Oman, with many colonial objects from the 19th century. OMR0.500.
- Muscat Gate Museum, Al Bahri Rd. Sa-Th 8AM-2PM. This museum marks the location of the old city wall, and has the original city gates which were used until the 1970s. The location offers good views of Old Muscat and the palace.
- Corniche, Al Bahri Rd. The recently renovated corniche area is a popular place for a walk and also for its many not-so-expensive eating places. There are also good view of the fishing dhows in the harbour.
- Fish market (fish souq), Al Bahri Rd(along the Corniche, across from the Marina Hotel). Daily 6AM-10AM. Visitors can watch fishermen unload and sell the catch of the day.
- Bait al-Baranda Museum, Al Mina St, . This renovated house from the 1930s has exhibits illustrating the history of Muscat. The lower level is devoted to pre-history and palaeontology, while the upper level is devoted to human history and ethnography. OMR1 (adults), OMR0.500 (children).
- Mutrah Fort. Built by the Portuguese in the 1580s, this fort is not open to the public, but visitors are permitted to climb up the hill to the outside for a good view of the area.
- Riyam Park, Al Bahri Rd. This park also has a small funfair with rides. Great views can be had from the giant incense burner perched on the hillside. Visited inThe Amazing Race 9.
- Old waterfront watchtower, Al Bahri Rd (across from Riyam Park). This restored Portuguese watchtower on the waterfront is a good place to catch views of the sunset.
- Old souq watchtower (near Mutrah Souq and Mutrah St). This Portuguese watchtower has also been restored, and although the tower itself is closed to the public, the hill can be climbed for some great views of Mutrah and the Corniche. There is no clearly-defined path to the top; the easiest access is from the northwest.
- Ghalya’s Museum of Modern Art, Al Wadi Khabir (on the Corniche, near Mutrah Fort), , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. Sa-Th 9:30AM-6PM. Opened in 2011, this museum is made up of a cluster of houses and comprises three distinct sections. The Old House is set up with furnishings and displays appropriate to an Omani house between 1950 and 1970, i.e. before the accession of Sultan Qaboos. The still unopened Clothes Museum exhibits traditional Omani clothing as well as international costumes, and the Modern Art Museum displays modern artworks from Omani and international artists, hosting occasional special exhibits. OMR 1 (adults 12+), 500 Bzs (children 6-12).
Ruwi and Qantab
Ruwi is Muscat's primary commercial district, as well as the gateway to Qantab south of the city.
- Currency Museum, Al Bank Al Markazi St (within the Central Bank of Oman building), . Sa-W 09:00-13:00. Has interesting displays of Omani currency, both coin and notes, with specimens from early history to the present day. 250 Bzs , free for children under 6.
- National Museum, An Noor St (near Abdulridha Mosque), .Sa-W 09:00-13:30, Th 09:00-13:00. Houses jewellery, costumes, and furniture.500 Bzs.
- Sultan's Armed Forces Museum, Al Mujamma St (Bait al-Falaj), . This excellent museum is housed in a building built in 1845 as a royal summer home. The lower level has displays on Oman's history, and the upper level examines Oman's international relations and military history. All visitors are given a mandatory military escort. OMR1.
- Aquarium and Marine Science and Fisheries Centre (between the Al Bustan Palace Hotel and the Capital Yacht), . Currently closed for maintenance, expected to reopen at the beginning of 2014.
- Sohar boat, Al Bustan Roundabout (near the Al Bustan Palace Hotel in Qantab). This boat was built in the dhow yards of Sur, south of Muscat. In 1980 Tim Severin and a crew of Omanis sailed in this vessel from Oman to Guangzhou, China in an effort to recreate the legendary voyages of Sindbad. Severin wrote about the undertaking in his book 'The Sindbad Voyage'.
Al Ghubrah, Al Khuwair, Al Qurm, and Bawshar
As an alternative to the main CBD of Muscat, Mutrah, and Ruwi, there are plenty of places to go to and things to see along the main highway that heads northwest out of the CBD. This main road, the Sultan Qaboos Highway, goes past many areas on its way out to the airport and further still to Seeb, Sohar and eventually the northernmost tip of Oman. Heading along this road you pass the districts of Al Qurm (Qurum), Madinat Al Sultan Qaboos, Al Khuwair, Bausher, Al-Hail and Seeb. Each one has a number of sights and places to stay.
There is also a very long beach road from Al Qurm to Seeb, some 50 km. Situated along this are some of the large international hotel chains but, more importantly, you discover the true beauty of the Oman coast-line: kilometres of beaches, fishermen with drag nets and open space to walk for hours.
- Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, As Sultan St (Al Khuwair). Sa-Th 09:00-11:00 (for non-Muslims). This is the third largest mosque in the world and mostly the entire complex is open to non-Muslim visitors; ladies are however expected to keep their heads, ankles and wrists covered while visiting the mosque. Must-sees in the mosque include the Swarovski crystal chandelier, the second largest hand made Persian carpet in the world, and the marble panelling.
- Natural History Museum (across the highway from the ice-skating rink). Sa 09:00-13:30; Su 08:00-13:30, 16:00-18:00; M-W 09:00-13:30; Th 09:00-13:00.
- Children's Museum, 2601 Way (Al Qurm). Sa-W 09:00-13:30, Th 09:00-13:00.
- Museum of Omani Heritage (Medinat Al Alam, on top of Information Hill near the Ministry of Information), . Sa-W 09:30-13:30, Th 09:00-13:00. This small museum has a good collection of archaeological exhibits, and is worth visiting for the excellent views. 500 Bzs.
- Qurm National Park (Qurum Natural Park) (Al Qurm). Has extensive rose gardens, a large manmade waterfall, a lake and an amusement park which is a must to visit during the Muscat Festival.
- Oil and Gas Exhibition Centre, Seih Al Maleh St (on the right-hand side at the end of the street just before PDO Gate 2), . Sa-Th 08:00-12:00, 13:00-16:00; Th 07:00-12:00. This private museum has six permanent displays explaining the formation of, and modern extraction of oil and natural gas.
- Planetarium, Seih Al Maleh St (adjacent to the Oil and Gas Exhibition Centre (see listing above)), , fax: , e-mail:planetarium.pdo.co.om. Su-Th. A full-dome digital system, which can accommodate up to 60 visitors. Two shows a week are presented in English; call or email to confirm times and to make reservations. Free.
- Bait Al Makham (Bait Al Magham) (Bawshar), . (call ahead)S-W 08:00-14:00. A fortified house built at the beginning of the 20th century, now restored and with excellent views from the top of the building. 500 Bzs.
- Bawshar Fort, Al Safa St (Bawshar). A large, photogenic ruined mud-brick fortress in a scenic location. Behind the fortress are scattered ruins and a long rampart wall, still unexcavated. Along the ridgeline in the hills are some prehistoric beehive graves. Free.
Things to do
There is some outstanding trekking in northern Oman, and for a taste there are a couple of easy treks within or very close to Muscat.
- Trekking path C38 (from Riyam Park to Mutrah Souq). This short hike takes the walker away from the modern world of Muscat and also offers fantastic views of the rugged mountains surrounding the capital city. The path begins in Riyam Park, and follows a 5000-year-old trail used by miners to an abandoned village, then finally finishes near Mutrah Souq. Allow for 1.5-2 hours, with an additional 20-minute return walk along the Corniche. A decent trail map can be found here.
- Trekking paths C52 and C53 (Bandar Jissah coastline). These two easy treks offer beautiful views over the coastline. Both trails begin in Bandar Jissah. Trail map for C52; trail map for C53.
- BlueZone Diving, Bander al Rhowda Marina, , e-mail:[email protected]. This center offers diving trips, as well as a full range of PADI courses.
- Oman Dive Center (Bandar Jissah, 15 km south of Muscat), , e-mail:[email protected]. This German-operated center conducts diving trips and PADI certification courses. The private beach is open to day visitors (OMR2 on weekdays, OMR4 on weekends), and it is possible to stay overnight in one of their beach bungalows (OMR49-176, depending on season and size of party; breakfast and dinner included). There is no public transportation to this area, so visitors will need to take a taxi or rental car.
- Omanta Scuba, Al Kharjiya St, Shatti (in the boat house at the InterContinental Hotel), , e-mail: [email protected].Conducts diving trips and a full range of PADI courses, as well as dolphin-watching tours. Diving destinations include the Damaniyat Islands, Fahal Island and Bhandra Kharan, with other destinations depending on demand.
With many excellent trails nearby, Muscat has a fast-growing mountain bike community. Bike Oman organizes weekly mountain bike excursions on Thursday, most of which begin within a 20-45 min. drive from Muscat. During the summer they organize weekly night time rides, usually on Mondays.
- Oman Bicycle Shop (behind the Radisson Hotel, Al Khuwair), . Sa 3PM-7PM; S-Th 10AM-1PM, 3PM-7PM; F closed. Mountain bikes can be rented here by the day, weekend, or week.
There are some good areas for avian enthusiasts, within and around the city.
- Al Ansab Wetlands (off of the Muscat Expressway, next to the water treatment plant), . Best in the early morning or late afternoon.Nearly 300 avian species have been spotted here, some during migrations and others living here year-round. The wetlands were developed by the Haya Water company, which offers guided tours, bookable online.
Festivals and events
- Royal Opera House Muscat, Al Kharjiyah ST, , fax:, e-mail:[email protected]. This stunning building is the venue for a wide range of performing arts, including western classical music, classical Arabian music, jazz and flamenco, and ballet and modern dance.
- Muscat Festival. Held annually from late January to early February, this month-long event celebrates Omani culture and traditions with demonstrations, food, dance and music performances, and other entertainment.
Things to know
ATMs are very common now, especially in the Embassy district and near most shopping malls, larger hotels, petrol stations and supermarkets. Also, every little neighbourhood has a several bank branches.
Bank Muscat is by far the largest bank in Oman and one of the largest in Gulf. It has over 230 ATMs all around Muscat.
There are some very good gymnasiums in the 4 to 5 star hotels and some privately run gyms in other places like Millennium Gym, Horizon Gym etc. You may pay money for that extra with the number of days you stay in Muscat.
- KIMS Oman Hospital, Darsait
- Muscat Private Hospital, Ghubrah
- Al Nahda Hospital, Ghubrah
- Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Al Hamriya
- Al Shatti Hospital, Shatti al Qurum
- Atlas Star Medical Centre, Bausher
- Al Amal Medical Centre-Al Wadi Al Kabir, Al-Khuwair
- Royal Hospital
- Badr Al Sama Hospital-Ruwi,Al Khuwair, Al Khoud,Barka,Sohar,Salalah
- Babylon Medical Centre, Amerat
Laundry charges 4-star hotel are high. Prices are much lower at any of the numerous Indian run laundries, although clothes left on a Monday typically won't be ready until Wednesday.
Safety in Muscat
It is advisable to drink bottled water while in Muscat.