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