Fot. Wojciech Penier
Anna Chodacka

Muscat: Come as a guest, leave as a friend

Recently, media all round the world have been naming Muscat as your „must go to” destination more and more often. If you are ready to see some spectacular views and experience amazing culture and architecture of Oman’s capital then you are definitely going to love this place on earth

You’ve never seen colors like these, you’ve never experienced such dramatic views and I bet surely you’ve never seen… a bunch of goats walking alongside highway lane, stress-free picking shreds of anything that is green in the dessert. Oman is a small country with people with big hearts who will make you feel welcome more than anywhere else. Oman has a wide variety attractions available for travelers which overall account for beautiful and hospitable country. Muscat is a heart of Oman which will leave you stunned with amazing views, beaches and unique architectural objects. Here are few of them.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Glorious piece of modern Islamic architecture is an active place of worship, especially for Friday prayers. Visitors are allowed to see the mosque. The entrance is free but you need to be dress modestly. Men won’t be allowed in shorts, women need to have hair covered and avoid tight clothing. If you are not prepared to enter the mosque (f.e. because your next stop is beach) you can hire appropriate clothing at the mosque cafe. The stunning mosque was a gift to the nation from Sultan Qaboos to mark his 30th year of reign.

The Bait al Zubair Museum

Is especially worth seeing, since these are private collections gathered together for tourists to learn Oman’s history and culture. At the entrance you will be welcome by colorful set of oryxes, sometimes referred as Arabian unicorns. The complex, consists of five separate buildings (Bait Al Bagh, Bait Al Dalaleel, Bait Al Oud, Bait Al Nahdhah and Gallery Sarah) as well as a garden with a number of traditional features, café and gift shop. The founders of museum, the Zubair family felt, it is their duty to preserve all aspects of culture and tradition in Oman. Maintaining its educational and historical role, at the same time, museum has recently evolved into the cultural centre of Muscat, hosting many international exhibitions of contemporary art.

The Royal Opera House

Breathtaking house of art, surrounded by large amount of colorful flowers and green, will leave stunned even those who don’t fancy exploring architecture. Detail oriented, built with best available materials, including teak wood, has become the leading arts and culture organization in the Sultanate of Oman. Placido Domingo once refferd to opera’s building as „luxury theater”. Royal Opera House in Muscat is also first opera house in Arabian Peninsula, opened in 2011. It is definitely worth a tour, during which I was able to hear beautiful message that stands behind creation of opera: „We all speak different languages but music speaks to all of us in one language.”  Muscat, the port city on the Gulf of Oman is backed by the Arid Hajar Mountains, perfect for trekking trips. Here are few places that you want check out, that are approximately 2 hours drive from Muscat.

Wadi Shab and Bimmah Sinkhole

It is one of the most popular wadis near Muscat, where hiking is not especially difficult but hugely rewarding, since at the end of one path you are able to take nice bath to cool off. Clear blue water, amazing mountain cliffs and beautiful palm groves make the trip worth taking.

The main attraction of this wadi is submerged cave with waterfalls. Water proof bag to put your camera in and swimming towel are the most important items that you want to take along with you. It is best to combine your trip to Wadi Shab with visit to Bimmah Sinkhole. It is a huge…hole (!) where allegedly ground water meets sea water resulting in amazing color of which, that you won’t be able to take your eyes of. However once you do that, take a nice deep dive into water, which is allowed, and many tourists take opportunity to do that. This unique formation is a result of purely nature’s work and is located in Hawiyat Najm Park.

Jebel Shams (Jabal Shams)

Is the highest mountain of Oman peaking over 3000 meters. There are areas accessible for tourists from south side, driving from the road from Al Hamra. 4WD vehicle is a must. If you don’t feel like trekking you still need to see the view of of the Al Nakhr Canyon so spectacular to be labelled as “The Grand Canyon” of Arabia. Camping under stars, night photography, trekking paths, off – roading trips, mild climate, stunning views – only one or all the reasons mentioned are the ones why you should go there.

Nizwa Fort

Drving back to Muscat from Jebel Shams you want to make a stop at Nizwa Fort, that is dominating (as it has been for centuries) over Nizwa town. Inside the fort you will find informative exhibitions on the region’s heritage. The top of tower gives amazing view over Nizwa town, believe me – it’s well worth the effort.

Useful tips:

- Remember that you are in Muslim country that has its own set of rules. Remember that you’re a guest here and respect social customs of the Omani society

- You need a tourist visa to enter Oman. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to buy it as soon as you leave the plane

- Consuming alcohol is only permitted in places that hold liquer license

- Renting a car is a best way to make the most of your trip, in Muscat and outside the capital city;

- When trekking, make sure to have enough food and water, don’t trek alone; stick to specified trails

- If you are planning trekking trips or off-road travels be sure to rent only 4WD vehicles

- Visiting female tourists are not obliged to wear abeyyas (full-lengh dresses) at all times (unlike in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) but entering mosques requires modest clothing (f.e. covering hair, full lenght trousers)

- It is best to visit Muscat (and Oman itself) in winter months when weather is very pleasant

Interesting facts about Oman:

- The falaj system is the main source for drinking and irrigation water. The Falaj Daris is one f Omani’s largest and most popular falaj systems,

- Visiting souqs (traditional markets), don’t hesitate to purchase local frankincense, that will remind of your trip to Oman,

- Oman is full of amazing forts and castles, that are often encircled by extensive date oases,

- Wadis are Omani’s valleys or ravines that are dry except during the monsoons, when they fill with water, forming oases of cool and vegetation. Do not camp in the wadi beds! Flashfloods can occur unexpectedly.

Author: Anna Chodacka-Penier

Photo credit: Wojciech Penier

Eastin Residences Muscat****

Our trip to Muscat was possible thanks to Eastin Residences Muscat****, which happened to truly be „home away from home”. Only 10-minutes from airport, al-Seeb located hotel was not only amazingly friendly accommodation but also perfect base for touring and exploration of Muscat. The Four Corners restaurant cooks will work tirelessly to meet your culinary expectations, lamb chops at the Roof Top Barbecue (with amazing view) are the specialty that you definitely want to try. Gym and swimming pool will be available to you if won’t be tired after long Muscat tours. Most importantly, thanks to amazing people working in the hotel, you will feel comfortable and welcome, at any time during your stay. I am thrilled to say, that I came to Eastin Residences Muscat as a guest but I left as friend.


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