The 17th-century Nizwa Fort looks out over lush palm groves at the base of the Western Hajar Mountains, about 1.5 hours from Muscat. Built to protect the city of Nizwa, an important center for trade and religion, it’s the most visited national monument in Oman. For a very local experience, wander through the Nizwa souk. The animal auction is held there early on Friday mornings. That’s worth scheduling around.
Al Hamra & Bait Al Safah
The restored hillside village of Al Hamra is a time capsule of traditional life in Oman. Wander through the maze of mudbrick houses to Bait Al Safah, a living museum where local woman demonstrate domestic tasks done the old way. You’ll be greeted with tea and dates, an ageless gesture of welcome in Arabia.
Misfat Al Abryeen
The nearby village of Misfat Al Abryeen is an idyllic place, where you can take a shady walk among the terraced farms and orchards and catch stunning views of the surrounding mountains and gorge. Date palms, banana trees, pomegranates and goats are just some of the inhabitants of this oasis, all fed by the falaj irrigation channels trickling through.
This impossibly picturesque village spills down a hillside above terraced green fields and palm groves with majestic mountains towering all around. Babbling falaj course through the village and fields and friendly locals offer dates and wild honey foraged from nearby caves. Park down the road and walk into the village.
Wadi Bani Awf
A wadi is a valley, and Oman has them aplenty. If you enjoy a hair-raising drive, you’ll love Wadi Bani Awf, which may have the most spectacular scenery in Oman, and that’s saying a lot. You’ll need a 4-wheel drive (all of our Oman touring is done in 4WD vehicles) and an experienced mountain driver. We highly recommend a local guide.
See our Oman tours here.
Royal Opera House of Muscat
This is a magnificent building, inside and out. If you’re able to catch a performance there, we’re thrilled for you and a bit envious. If not, we highly recommend a taking a tour. The monumental proportions, sublime design and state of the art technology are testament to the high value Sultan Qaboos places on the arts. He’s a big fan of classical music himself but he had the opera house built for the people of Oman and visitors. Besides world-class performances, the opera house offers arts education programs, lectures and workshops.
Al Alam Palace
This is the ceremonial palace of the sultan of Oman. It’s not open to the public but it’s easily accessible for photos and visual consideration from the front and back. It’s a very unique piece of architecture, especially the central building, which I found kind of obnoxious initially, to be honest. But the more I look at it, the more I love it. It was completed in 1972, which explains a lot. The modern, organic Islamic style is whimsical and flamboyant in the most friendly way. I love it even more now than I did when I started writing this paragraph.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Another awesome building, outside it’s all cool, serene elegance, with gleaming marble surfaces and pearly arches. Inside, the exposed timber ceilings are warm and earthy, while heavenly multitudes seem to open out to infinity in the massive central dome. Modestly dressed non-Muslims are welcome.
Stroll the Corniche
The Muttrah Corniche pedestrian promenade rambles for about 3km along the sea wall in the Muttrah district of Muscat. If you avoid the midday heat, it’s bustling with locals and visitors and is the perfect vantage from which to take in harbor sights on one side and the pretty sea-front avenue backed by the craggy Hajar mountains and old Portuguese watch towers on the other side. From the corniche you can access the fish market, best in the early morning, and the adjacent fruit and vegetable market and down the way is the Muttrah Souk. You’ll find benches, a park and fountains along the corniche.
This, the oldest market in Oman, is a must, whether or not you’re a shopper. The streets closest to the corniche are pretty touristy but if you persevere into the maze you’ll find a feast of authentic shops. Some good buys are gold, silver and frankincense. Be sure to bargain. The souk closes from about 1-5pm each day and it especially bustles with locals in the evenings.
The Mutrah Corniche is a waterfront promenade wrapping around the harbor of Mutrah, the historical district of Muscat, capital of our mystery country. A leisurely stroll along the corniche is a highlight of a visit to Muscat, especially at dawn or dusk, when the lights play on the water, and the temperatures are mild. The corniche attracts locals and visitors alike and is a prime people-watching spot. Popular attractions, the Mutrah Souk and fish market, are adjacent to the corniche.
Can you name that country?
See below for answers.
Thanks to our friend Sallie Volotzky for sharing her photos!
photos by Sallie Volotzky