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Overview

Magnificently set around several sparkling cobalt bays and boasting beautiful sandy beaches on its northern shores, Muscat is arguably one of the most alluring of the Arabian Gulf's capital cities. The city's low-rise suburbs sprawl across a series of rocky hills, the lush gardens of their whitewashed villas spilling crimson-colored bougainvillea over their high walls. Old Muscat and Muttrah make up the compelling center (the commercial center of Ruwi has little to interest travelers) with a lively fish market at one end of Muttrah's attractive Corniche, where fishermen wheel their catch in barrows right from the boats to the market stalls. ...

Magnificently set around several sparkling cobalt bays and boasting beautiful sandy beaches on its northern shores, Muscat is arguably one of the most alluring of the Arabian Gulf's capital cities. The city's low-rise suburbs sprawl across a series of rocky hills, the lush gardens of their whitewashed villas spilling crimson-colored bougainvillea over their high walls. Old Muscat and Muttrah make up the compelling center (the commercial center of Ruwi has little to interest travelers) with a lively fish market at one end of Muttrah's attractive Corniche, where fishermen wheel their catch in barrows right from the boats to the market stalls. Restored old wooden dhow boats anchor in the harbor, creating a postcard-perfect photo opportunity with the craggy mountains, crumbling Portuguese watchtowers and Muttrah Fort in the background. Along the Corniche is a splendid blue-tiled Iranian Mosque, whitewashed merchants' houses with elegant wrought-iron balconies, and Muttrah Souq, one of the most atmospheric in the region, with narrow alleys lined with small shops selling frankincense, Arabian attars (perfume oils), Bedouin silver jewelry, and East African textiles. At the other end of the Corniche is the verdant Riyam Park, and Old Muscat, with its charming small museums, and the bizarre palace of the Sultan with its pillars that look like golf tees. Muscat may not boast the myriad attractions of its neighboring emirates and cosmopolitan cities such as Dubai, but its low-key vibe and lovely Muttrah make it a wonderful place to spend a few days.

Lara Dunston
About the Expert

Lara Dunston and Terry Carter have traveled to over 60 countries and written more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Rough Guides, Footprint, and others on destinations in the Middle East, Europe, and South America.

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Lara Dunston for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Winter (December-February), spring (March-May) and fall (September-November); avoid summer, when it's sweltering.