Oman Pictures Guide – Muscat

A typical Muscat scene: smart while buildings set off by rugged rock and a perky watchtower, Oman

A typical Muscat scene: smart white buildings set off by rugged rock and a perky watchtower. Photo by Francisco Anzola.

Want a safe,traditionalGulf Arab country? This is it!

Untainted by overdevelopment or money madness and ruled by an unusually sensible and respected Sultan, the Sultanate of Oman offers good beaches (huge but with somewhat limited facilities), rocky mountains, a classic desert, isolated forts and friendly, tolerant locals with – to date – no sign of Islamic mentalists (official terminology thanks to Jeremy Clarkson! ).

The Al Khuwair district of Muscat, Oman

The Al Khuwair district of Muscat. Photo by Joe Castleman.

Muscat is the nation’s tiny, neat capital, but you won’t see many expensive cars or grandiose schemes in this country, where much of the small oil income seems to be spent on noble ventures such as bringing water to the people via falajes – an ancient Persian irrigation system – and restoring some of the mud brick villages and forts scattered around the country.

Muscat

Muscat’s fort, with Islamic trimmings.

Forts, big and small, are the main architectural attraction of Oman, and rocks the main scenic attraction, though there is a wide band of sand desert running across Oman and into Saudi Arabia that sees a lot of modern desert activities, i. e. 4WD craziness.

Royal Opera House in Muscat, Oman

The grand new Royal Opera House in Muscat. Photo by Paasikivi.

Muscat’s main attractions

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. OK, so this is a must-see with both style and substance, from the delightful water features to the mix of best Islamic design, the marble and inlaid stones but most of all for the majestic main prayer hall. It’s able to accommodate an incredible 20, 000 worshippers at one time, with the main minaret at 90 metres high and four smaller minarets at 45 metres it symbolises the five pillars of Islam.
The mosque is only open weekday mornings and guards will get everyone out before noon prayers, so give yourself time to wander in wonder. There are several buildings to see but the main attraction is definitely the main prayer hall. Dress sensibly, no T shirts, tank tops or short skirts and ladies must wear a scarf to cover their hair.

Royal Opera House, is another worthwhile visit, both during the daytime – perhaps with a guide – and at night for a performance. The quality of structure and sound is second to none, a brilliant and functional piece of architecture.

Oman Oil and Gas Exhibition Centre, a free museum that is interesting and entertaining in the style of the best, modern, interactive science museums. Who would have thought?
The museum in is three parts: an extensive explanation of the oil and natural gas industry; a planetarium; a hands-on exhibit about various forms of energy.
Most the exhibits are interactive and even younger kids will be entertained.

Sultan’s Armed Forces Museum, an excellent attraction for visitors of a historical or military bent, with plenty of interesting stuff including a a real warship, various military vehicles and plenty of British equipment emphasising the link between the UK and the Sultanate of Oman!

Bayt Al Zubair, this is a terrific museum about Omani history and heritage, including many impressive antiques from the former National Museum: weapons, dress, jewellery, kitchenware and so on. A separate building, Al Bait Al Oud, is an old family mansion and exhibits belongings of the founder of the museum as well an interesting collection of old maps, prints and photographs.

A traditional music band, Oman

Lively and colourful traditional music is also available on request or even not on request if you pick the wrong tour package. Kidding! This local band was brilliant and as wild and entertaining as any ethnic group we’ve seen.

Al Bustan hotel beach, Muscat, Oman

Al Bustan hotel beach.

Beaches in Oman are as common as, well, mud, and bikinis are acceptable on stretches popular with foreigners though facilities are not up to the well developed resort areas of southern Europe, USA, Thailand etc.
Qurum Beach is a another decent long, white stretch of sand a short walk from the Grand Hyatt or the InterContinental hotels. It’s quiet and the waters seem safe but there’s not much shade.

Weather

Best October-April, when it’s cool (upper 20’s C) and dry in most areas.
Worst: June-September. Very hot (30-40C) and humid with probable rains in the south e. g. Salalah.

Ramadan

During Ramadan most, if not all Muslims will neither eat nor drink during the daytime and consequently many cafes, restaurants and even shops may open only after sunset; public eating, drinking and smoking by tourists may upset the locals. In one Muslim country the only alcohol served to us during our visit was in a teapot, into tea cups in a first class hotel.

Furthermore service personnel may be missing, careless or irritable during the daytime.
The last day of Ramadan, known as Idd al Fitr, can be a wild time with much celebrating, depending on location.

Dates depend on the full moon rising in your location so they may differ by one day depending on where you plan to be.

In 2017 Ramadan will start on the 27 May and will continue for 30 days until the 25 of June.
In 2018 Ramadan will start on the 16 May and will continue for 30 days until the 14 of June.
In 2019 Ramadan will start on the 6 May and will continue for 30 days until the 4 of June.

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