Living the dream in magical Muscat, Oman
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When winter sets in, and you fancy some sunshine in an exotic environment with lashings of culture, history and a different lifestyle, it's time to head for Muscat; the colourful capital of the Sultanate of Oman located on the edge of the Gulf of Oman.
Living the dream in Muscat, Oman: what to expect
The temperature in Muscat, even in winter, rarely falls below 25°C, soaring to 40°C in summer. Depending on your chosen airline and connections, and if you don't mind between a seven and 10 hour-flight, you will be rewarded with an Arab city which combines both modern and traditional ways of life in a uniquely elegant and sophisticated way.
Forget the in-your-face high-rises of Dubai; instead you're greeted with sweeping white mansions and wide avenues, the highest buildings being the Sheraton Hotel in the Ruwi business district, and the recently constructed control tower at Muscat International Airport. Beaches, boat trips, city tours, museums, mosques, souqs and malls - all things you will find in Muscat that leave you spoilt for choice with all the possibilities open to you to make your stay in Muscat a dream come true.
This vast and sandy beach is the biggest public beach in Muscat, popular with locals and tourists alike. Family friendly and suitable for joggers and walkers as well as for fans of water sports, you may well find Omani families having a barbecue in the evenings and, if you are lucky, be invited to participate. Bear in mind though, that women are expected to cover up on public beaches, the local ladies go into the water with at least a t-shirt on, so not a place for revealing bikinis or swimsuits.
Many major hotels in and around Muscat have private beaches. While there are no barbecues allowed, you can move around comfortably in a bikini. Try the Crowne Plaza Hotel Muscat, The Chedi Muscat, and Al Bustan Palace, among others.
Fishing, dolphin watching or, most romantic of all, a sunset trip along Muscat's spectacular coastline will provide fun and entertainment. One of the best operators for either one of these activities is Az'Zaha Tours, while Ocean Blue Oman Tours and Sidab Sea Tours are just two of the other companies offering a variety of boat trips from Muscat.
The dolphin watching trip takes you far out into the Gulf of Oman where the playful creatures are plentiful. Along the way you have a chance to admire the coastline of Muscat, which is full of contrast. White rocks and black rocks alternate forming bizarre 'sculptures', some of which even have names. Bring refreshments as nothing is served on the boats. Looking back to the city, you'll see Sultan Qaboos' blue, white and gold Al Alam Palace and the impressive Al Jalali Fort, which is Portuguese in origin, dating back to the early sixteenth century, and guards the harbour entrance.
Dhow sunset trip
Climb on board a traditional dhow, lounge on thick carpets and plush cushions, be served tea and refreshments, and admire the same coastline whilst the sun is setting.
A visit to the Muttrah Souq is another activity best reserved for the evening. Enter through the arch into a maze of small streets, jostling with the locals for everything imaginable, all the time inhaling the scent of frankincense wafting from countless burners. Frankincense is the symbol of Oman as documented by the gigantic frankincense pot looming over the leafy trees of Al Riyam Park. For a more contemporary shopping experience with familiar brands, head for the Ruwi shopping region.
Naturally, Muscat has many mosques but the crowning glory has to be the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, whose namesake built the impressive place of worship for his people on the thirtieth anniversary of his reign. For such a large mosque, the outside is comparatively understated but the inside is another matter.
The prayer hall features the world's second largest hand-loomed Persian carpet and the mosque can accommodate twenty thousand worshippers. Remember to cover up when you visit; take off your shoes, avoid prayer time, and be aware that children under 10 are not allowed to enter.
Muscat has a good selection of museums, from the Military and National museums, the Gate Museum, Children's Museum and French Museum, but the most eye catching of them is an insider tip, Bait Al Zubair Museum, located close to the French Museum in Muscat's old town. Beautiful traditional dress, jewellery and a vast collection of silver daggers called khanjars are arranged in this private townhouse. Last but not least, there's the Royal Opera House Muscat, where you'll find an array of international musical and theatrical productions.
The great thing about Muscat is that getting around is easy. You can go on a City Bus Tour, opt for a hop-on-hop-off ticket in an open double decker bus or hire a taxi via your hotel or by hailing one along the corniche. There is no better way to experience a safe and hospitable Arab country and escape the grey skies of winter than with a trip to Muscat.
Fancy living the dream in Muscat for yourself? British Airways offers flights and holidays to the capital, while Emirates, and Qatar Airways will also get you there at a great price. Don't forget to see our full collection of holiday, hotel and flight deals before booking.
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