Lying amidst the undulating sand dunes and the blistering heat of the sun is the oasis that is Muscat. The port town of Muscat is situated at the tip of the gulf of Oman. It is where the dunes of the sand meet the waves of the sea. Muscat is a magical mix of the ancient and the modern fused together in a harmonious symphony. The capital city of Oman has managed to hold on to the essence of its past while progressing into the future which is evident from its buildings, streets, its bustling old bazaars, its rustic winding roads which co-exist with its futuristic malls and its towering skyscrapers.
Among its attractions, perhaps the most alluring is the Bawshar Sands. Hidden in the heart of the city, these golden peaked dunes attract tourists from all corners of the world. It is a perfect getaway for those dying to surf the dunes in their power packed SUV’s or take a spin on the sand waves on their sand bikes. Muscat is the land of the sand, surf and the sun. Only here the sand is not only restricted to the glorious beaches that dot its coastline but is also found in the magnificent, rolling sand dunes that sprawl across the country. The sand dune safari is another activity that one should definitely participate in when one is in Muscat. A Bedouin style camp has been set up on the Wahiba sands is a mere 25 kilometres from the city of Bidiyah. This safari gives tourists an excellent chance to enjoy life on the desert first hand.
The Qurum Beach and the Qantab beach are among a few of the stunning beaches that one can be assured to stumble upon in Muscat. The Qurum beach with its shallow waters during low tide, its wide array of sea shells is the perfect beach to enjoy a leisurely stroll while the Qantab offers a wilder, untamed beauty. All beaches in Oman provide tourists with a wide array of activities such as diving, snorkelling, jet skiing and kite surfing from which one can take their pick. Watching the sun set on this divine landscape is guaranteed to transport you to another world.
Muscat isn’t a land of only scenic beauty but it is also seeped deep in rich history. Located on one of the most flourishing trade routes of the past, and with one of the world’s largest natural harbours, the country of Oman flourished. However with the discovery of oil in the county, the county experienced an economic boom. The Islamic style of architecture is clearly evident in the buildings found there. It is home to several world heritage sites such as the Bahla fort, its ancient settlements and tombs, the Frankincense Route and its five Falajs. The Bhala fort is believed to be built in the pre-Islamic era. This Fort with its 13 km wall houses the Bhala oasis with its traditional souks and archaic mosques. Two places one must go to while visiting Muscat are the Al Jalali and the Al Mirani forts as these two forts give the people who visit, a better understanding about the unique history of Muscat.
The Royal Opera House in Muscat is one of its most visited locations. Famous not only for its grandeur of the building itself but also for the world class performances it hosts. If you are lucky to visit Muscat between the months of December to March, be sure to drop by the Cultural Theater Program held at the ancient Al Flyaj Castle. The traditional dances, the music and the atmosphere together forms a hedonic mixture for the mind.
A trip to Muscat would be incomplete without a taste of the delicious Omani cuisine. Omani food is a mix of several marinades meat and spices which together create a mouth-watering concoction that promises to tickle the taste buds. The Ruz Al Mudhroub, Maqdeed, Mulaqub, Asria and Mishank are a few of the delicacies that one should definitely try out on a trip to Oman. Shuwa is another Omani delicacy that is prepared only on the finest of occasions. It is a slow cooked meat where the meat is marinated in a wide array of spices such as red pepper, cumin, coriander, turmeric, garlic and vinegar which is then wrapped in dry banana and palm leaves and then tossed into a smouldering hot oven of coal where it is cooked for 24 to 48 hours. For those who have a sweet tooth, Oman provides a wide array of desserts to choose from. Halwa, sako, kanafa and gamatte nido are among a few.
Muscat’s various souks, bazaars and shopping malls are an amazing place to shop to your heart’s content. High end shoppers interested in buying designer goods only should head to Muscat City centre. The Al Dhalam Souk , famous for its exquisite silver jewellery and its handmade ‘Khanjars’ (daggers) is the largest indoor market in Muscat. The Capital Commerce Centre is a shopping mall cum market that is an excellent place to buy trinkets, leather goods and Omani silver work.
The best time to visit this dessert oasis is between the months of October to March.