Oman’s understated capital, Muscat, provides a pleasant mix of traditional and modern. The city has boomed dramatically since the accession of Sultan Qaboos in 1970, transforming from a modest cluster of small, self-contained towns and villages into the sprawling modern metropolis you see today. Muscat is undoubtedly the heart of the nation, the seat of government and the nation’s commercial powerhouse. Despite this, Muscat retains much of its old-fashioned charm, particularly around the historic old enclaves of Mutrah and Old Muscat. You will not see any skyscrapers in the city, and most of the large office blocks and ministries adhere to the traditional Gulf Arab style of architecture which states that pitched roofs are forbidden and that new buildings must be either white or sand-coloured.
1. Muscat International Airport (MCT)
MCT was formerly known as Seeb International Airport. It is the main international airport in Oman and is situated 32 km from the old city and capital Muscat within the Muscat metropolitan area. The airport serves as the hub for flag carrier Oman Air and Oman's first budget airline Salam Air which features flights to several regional destinations as well as some intercontinental services to Asia, Africa and Europe. It is the gateway to Oman, improving connections to international destinations such as the Gulf, the Middle East, Europe and the Far East. It is operated by Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC) and services around 1900 flights per week.
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Muscat experiences are sunny, humid weather for most of the year. The best time to visit Muscat is between mid-October and mid-March when the weather is cool and pleasant. This is the time when the city is in bloom with petunias, and the sky is azure blue contrasting beautifully with the mountains and the calm sea in the distance. The coolest months are December and January when the nights are cool, and the day temperatures remain below 30°C. April to September is the off-season when temperatures can soar very high, and the heat gets unbearable. The Muscat Festival, a month-long festival that celebrates Oman’s history and culture is held in January and is a good time to visit. Travellers are advised to avoid the scorching summer months between June and August.
1. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque- The breathtaking Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is located in the modern part of Muscat. It’s open to non-Muslims every morning except Friday. The dimensions and the detail are awe-inspiring: it can accommodate up to 20,000 worshipers; acre upon acre of cool, white and grey marble reflecting the harsh sun; an exquisite Persian carpet in the main hall that took 27 months to hand-weave; chandeliers bearing thousands of crystals; and tranquil gardens with tropical flowers and splashing fountains. It’s essential to dress modestly to enter the mosque — women must cover absolutely everything, including their heads, while men won’t be allowed in if wearing shorts or with uncovered
2. Muttrah Souk- Mutrah Souk is easily the most popular tourist attraction in Muscat. Though modern – concrete shops replaced the original palm structures in the 1970s – the souk remains one of the most authentic in Arabia, its alleyways laced with the smell of frankincense and sandalwood, offering a memorable glimpse of Oman’s past. It is easy to get lost if you head off the main street through the souk, although this is a large part of the fun, and you’re never more than a couple of minutes’ walks from the main thoroughfares. West of the main section of the souk, it is also worth exploring the dazzling Gold Souk, reachable from slightly further west down the Corniche.
3. Bait al Zubair- South of Bab al Kabir lies Muscat’s most exciting museum, the Bait al Zubair. Occupying three airy traditional houses set around a garden, the museum displays an excellent selection of weapons, jewellery, costumes, household items and old photographs, while the grounds contain a re-creation of a typical Omani village, complete with falaj system. Bait al Zubair, funded by the Zubair family, also displays the family’s collection of Omani artefacts that spans some centuries and is considered to be the finest that is privately owned. Its ethnographic artefacts reflect highly specialised inherited skills that define Oman’s society, both past and present.