Asia, Culture, Destination, Middle East
48 Hours in Muscat
By Chantal Blake
Tucked in the corner pocket of the Arabian Peninsula lies a quiet sultanate of which most people are unaware. This oasis cannot claim the tallest skyscraper or the largest shopping mall in the world, but it possesses a natural beauty that no manmade luxury can contest. Visitors from all over the world are increasingly meeting Oman and falling in love with it. The Sultanate of Oman is a buffet of beauty showcasing the contrasts of mountains and valleys, deserts and beaches, sand dunes and waterfalls. But if you don’t have time to fully explore all of what Oman has to offer, a two-day stay in Muscat will give you a taste and whet your appetite for more.
Start your stay with a morning tour of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. From Saturday to Thursday, the impressive place of worship welcomes visitors for an informative tour of how the mosque was designed and constructed. Both male and female guests should take note of appropriate dress requirements before entering the mosque.
From the mosque, head eastward towards the Sultan Qaboos Port to walk the winding corniche or tuck into the sheltered Mutrah souq market for shopping. Most shops and stalls close midday but open later in the afternoon until the late evening for you to finish any unfinished bargaining. Just outside of the market there’s a Lebanese eatery near the main entrance where you can feast on fresh salads, tasty sandwiches, all washed down with a refreshing glass of mint lemonade.
For a break from the midday heat, wind southward along the coast of Muscat. Take a glimpse of Al Alam Palace, the Sultan’s ceremonial palace, but don’t get too comfy. Beyond pictures taken out front, you won’t be able to enter. Instead, take refuge in Bait al Zubair, Oman’s largest family collection of artifacts. The museum compound houses relics from everyday life in Oman, as well as antique weaponry.
To conclude your day, continue further down the southern coast of Muscat to Marina Bandar al Rowdha and consider a sunset cruise on a family-owned charter, catered with a home-cooked traditional Omani meal. For your night’s accommodation, find your way to Ruwi Hotel for an affordable and comfortable night’s rest.
When you wake up, expect an international breakfast feast that will effortlessly serve omelettes, curried dhal and roasted tomatoes from the same buffet table. If you’re traveling with children, consider an early visit to the Children’s Museum in Qurm before the exhibition halls fill up. Continue to either Qurm beach or the more secluded Azaiba Beach for a morning dip in Muscat’s refreshingly clear beaches. Once you’ve had enough sand and surf, do your best to tidy up since you’re not likely to find restrooms or changing facilities nearby.
For a filling lunch, head to Coconut House in Seeb to taste some of the many flavors in Oman’s diverse palate. In spite of the geographical distance, Zanzibar and Oman once shared the same governance, and the cultural heritage of Zanzibar is mostly aptly noted in its delicious cuisine.
Serving authentic food served at local prices, Coconut House swells with patrons for lunch any day of the week. Sumptuous stews and sauces made from coconut milk can be sopped up with Swahili chappati or spooned atop delicious biryani and pulao rice dishes.
At this point in the day, you might want to properly relax and refresh after your sun-worn morning on the beach. Retire at your hotel or pass the time walking around one of Muscat’s many parks, depending on your interest in landscaping, coastal scenery or amusement parks. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, pick your budget and desired ambiance for your final meal in the city.
A proper Indian meal is a nod to the large Southeast Asian community and their integration into the fabric of Omani society. For a memorable meal atop the city, make reservations at Mumtaz Mahal for the best Indian cuisine in town. If you can’t get a table, a mid-end option is the Great Kabab Factory for a creative buffet meal that doesn’t require you to leave your seat. Waiters bring samples of every dish to your table, veg or non-veg depending on your preference, and you can request more until you’re satiated. If you have a large crew or you’re trying to keep a budget, Spicy Village has something for everyone on their mostly Indian selection with a parallel “Chinese” menu that is still largely Indian in flavor. After your meal, reflect on your two-day encounter with Muscat, and make a vow to return for a much longer stay on your next vacation.
Chantal Blake is a Jamaican-American writer from New York City. A frequent traveler since birth, she married a fellow nomad and has been living abroad since 2008. In spite of her background in environmental engineering, her work abroad has included teaching English, travel writing, and raising two amazing kids. Her writing has been featured online and in-print and covers themes of family travel, veganism, and migration.