The Magical Land of Muscat for your post-lockdown travel plans

Updated: May 26, 2021


Wadis in Muscat

Guess what? It's exactly been 5 years since I visited Muscat with my family and I still remember and cherish the time we spent in this city, except for how excruciatingly hot it was in Mid-May. I know almost everyone is stuck at home (including me, duh) as I write this article. There's been far too much grief and tragedy lately and I really hope you (yes, YOU, you beautiful, resilient, strong soul) are keeping it together. And gosh are we tired of not being able to travel to the next destination on our bucket lists. But it doesn't stop you from reading about travel or me from writing about it now, does it?


So, coming back to why I have summoned you on my blog today is to show you your options in the beautiful land of the gulf for the next time you find yourself booking tickets to Dubai, yet again, after this madness of a pandemic gets over of course. Don't get me wrong, I love UAE and I absolutely love how beautiful Dubai and Abu Dhabi and all the other hottest places (no pun intended 😏) to visit in the Middle East are. Unlike its extravagant neighbour, the capital of Oman is like a subtle beauty, with a certain raw and natural energy about it that deserves a fair chance to be recognised.


Hear me out, while I write this, Oman remains to be #76th on the world's worst-affected countries by Covid, compared to UAE on #39 or Jordan on #36, or even Turkey for that matter, which happens to be one of my favourite countries ever, on #5. Now I know statistics are only statistics, and sometimes, not always, the reality is different. But why would you want to take extra risks for yourselves going to countries that are in their healing stages themselves? Haven't we all been through enough? (screaming internally MAJOR, ugh)

Let me give you some excellent reasons why -


Alright, now let me give you some excellent reasons for considering the beautiful land of dazzling souks and rugged terrains for your next travel plans.


Wadis in Muscat

The WADIS

Note that this is not something you will find on top of the list on any other travel blog. But I personally feel it should belong at the very top and it is almost a crime to not do so. When you think of any middle eastern scenery, you picture spice markets, deserts, rocky terrains, etc. but if you are anything like me, there's one detail that is EXTREMELY CRUCIAL to any such scenery. And that is this thing called wadis - which basically are lagoons. Imagine pools of cold water between humongous mountains, palm trees and orchards, while some even have caves and waterfalls. They are the most beautiful pops of green and blue amidst all the red and unforgiving mountain landscape.

There are plenty of options when it comes to visiting the most beautiful wadis of Oman. They're certainly not close to the city centre of Muscat, but they're every bit worth it if you're willing to drive for an hour or two. Wadi Ad Dayqah


One of the most accessible of the wadis, with the largest dam in the country. It has a gorgeous view from the top of the dam, and then accessible flowing water when you descend to the other side. Beautiful, look for yourself!

Wadi Ad Dayqah

Wadi Shab

140 km (87 miles) from Muscat, on the Qurayat – Sur Coastal Road (which is a beauty in itself, you'd be driving with the Arabian Gulf on one side and the rugged red mountains on the other) Wadi Ash Shab has pristine pools, water caves and mountain peaks. So, you can easily make a day out of it if you plan on having a picnic with your family and friends, or plan on trekking or diving.

Bimmah Sinkhole

This beautiful wonder is on the way to the Wadi Shab, so don't miss it en route! It is identified as a meteor crash site, just in case you need more incentive. Pet the local goat friends, rest in the gazebos, and take a dip in the sinkhole, no seriously!

Wadi Bani Khalid

Further away from Muscat is this epic wadi, which isn't as raw and untouched as Wadi Shab, but it doesn't make it any lesser beautiful.

Wadi Bani Khalid
Wadi Bani Khalid

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the Wadis in Oman. These are just a few from the ones I visited and other very famous ones that happen to be on the radar of tourists. So, please explore more about the other lesser-known ones as well. You never know what gem you'll stumble upon! Oh, and yes, activities like star-gazing, camping, diving, mountain trekking etc. are popular, so look up permissions for specific locations beforehand.

The SOUKs

As I mentioned earlier, middle-east and spice markets are two very synonymous in nature if you ask me. Think 'Arabian Nights' stories and picture a marketplace. Perfect! Muttrah Souq is a very old, traditional market or an Omani bazaar with tiny, overflowing shops with items like frankincense, clothes, spices, and gold. To be very honest, all I remember from this souk (it was 5 years since I visited) is the smell of frankincense and a plate of falafels we had there. If you like street shopping, this might be your thing, so bargain away. It isn't the most 'local' markets though, with all the souvenirs taking over, so take your own call. It is a good place to explore no doubt.

Karak Tea, Omani Halwa, Seafood, and Dates


I find food to be a HUGE interest when looking more into new places. And to speak for Muscat, Omani food has its own specialities. One of the first things I heard about Omani food was the Omani halwa - a sweet sticky fragrant Omani dessert. Very traditional and authentic, and my family happens to be a huge fan of it, but I find it too sweet for my taste.

Then there's of course the fan favourite duo - Tea and Coffee. Both are very famous in Oman, and you will find a unique blend and taste of both. Karak tea happens to be Oman's national drink, which you'll find on every street corner for as good as 100 baisas per cup (about ₹20 or so). Also, when it comes to beverages, I probably shouldn't leave out Laban, which is very similar to the Turkish drink "ayran". It is a yoghurt flavoured thick drink (similar to lassi, but salty), which is the best accompaniment to all the meat-based cuisines.


While grilled meats happen to be a huge part of Omani cuisine, they also have probably the best seafood all over the gulf. Oman actually has plenty of seafood lovers as residents and tourists, and rightly so. If you can eat freshly caught prawns, lobsters and kingfish curry served to you on a platter, who wouldn't be attracted to it like a fish to the bait. Oh, wait (sorry about that one).

Fresh Dates in Oman

And this doesn't need a special mention but then there's always fresh dates when it comes to middle eastern countries. Not the dried, over sweet, brown-blackish ones you get back here in India (nothing against them, again too sweet for my liking), but fresh, fruity and juicy dates. They're just the best, must-try.







Architecture

Omani architecture has a very unique style and design that reflects its heritage and culture strongly. You won't find some of the tallest skyscrapers here, but Muscat did have the world's largest chandelier and the largest single-piece woven carpet until the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi broke its record in both categories.

Omani Architecture

If you are from a design background like me, or just love to enjoy beautiful extravagant structures, here are a few you can visit and definitely not regret.


  • Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat

One of the most beautiful mosques I have visited so far because of its sheer simplicity and architectural elegance. It is spread across a campus of more than 450,000 sqm., so it could take a while to walk around the space.

Make sure your attire is decent and following the dress code allowed by the mosque (Timings are 8 AM - 11 AM, except Fridays for non-muslim visitors and throughout the day for Muslim worshippers)

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Built using Indian sandstone, it has a soft glowy charm to it, especially during the hours of golden light.


  • Royal Opera House

The primary venue for musical arts and cultural events in Oman, this Royal Opera house is more like a palace when you see the extravagant interiors of this huge building. It stands by its name by all means - Royal.

Entrance Fee: 3-4 OMR for adults, 1-2 OMR for child


  • Al Alam Palace

Al Alam Palace
Al Alam Palace

The Al Alam Palace has a history of more than 200 years, with it being one of the 6 residences of the ruling family and the ceremonial palace of Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the leader of Oman. The distinct Yellow and Blue facade is easy to recognize from afar because of its unique and simple architecture. It reflects a traditional Omani architectural style with polished marble surfaces, wooden balconies and beautifully shaped gardens.


History

Muscat has been a part of many conquers and downfalls of kingdoms since it always had a strategic location advantage with the mountains on one side and the Arabian Gulf sea on the other. It prospered majorly from the trade opportunities from all its ports.


You can get good glimpses of its ancient heritage by visiting the Al Jalali, Al Mirani and Muttrah Forts. Al Jalali and Al Mirani fort were both built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and are located facing each other with the Al Alam Palace in the middle. Entry to Al Jalali is restricted(only by prior permission by the Ministry of Natural Heritage), but you can visit the Al Mirani Fort between 6 am to 6 pm to experience the fort and view some ancient war weaponry and other fascinating items on display.

Muttrah Fort in Muscat
Muttrah Fort ©Zameer Chogle

You can also visit some of their many museums in the city, a good one to start would be the National Museum of Oman (Entrance is 5 OMR), Bait Al Zubair Museum.


Vitamin Sea

Al Qurum Beach, Muscat

As you may already know by now that Muscat is of course a coastal city and has plenty of activities around its coast. You can visit Al Qurum Beach to enjoy the beautiful sandy shore or relax under one of the many palm trees on its periphery.

Al Qurum Beach, Muscat
Al Qurum Beach, Muscat ©Miqdad Ukaye

It also has a few watersports like parasailing, jet skiing and kayaking and activities such as snorkelling and scuba diving on and near the beach which you can explore at your interest.


The Muttrah Corniche is the waterfront and promenade which lines and connects most of the hubs of the city like the Muttrah Souk, Muscat Cruise Port and Riyam Park. Any city that has a waterfront, be it Muscat, London or Pattaya, being a Mumbaikar I will always connect it to our very dearest Marine Drive in Bombay. So yes, love, love, love this place.

Muscat Corniche

Even though I ask you to consider Muscat as your next travel option in the gulf, please do your due diligence by checking the latest status of permissions and requirements to enter the country. Another very important thing to consider - Muscat is generally extremely hot except for its pleasant winter months from November to March, so make sure you plan your trip around that time to avoid the scorching heat.

It is Muscat, and by large, Oman's simplicity in its beauty that will win your hearts, it did mine.


You can also check my destination guide for Thailand here or read some other weird and whacky pieces by me on my blog.


Say Hello! to me on my Instagram and share your questions and comments below, I will make sure to answer all of them.


A hundred tonnes of love from my side and Stay insanely safe! ❤

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