Muscat (Arabic: مسقط) has been inhabited since at least 1000 BCE and for centuries was an important trading port on the Maritime Silk Road. Today it is the the capital of the Sultanate of Oman and its most important and populous city (at 1.2 million). It is home to a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society, and receives the largest number of foreign visitors to the country.
Wedged between the Arabian Sea and the rugged Western Hajar Mountains, the city referred to as Muscat is in fact several smaller towns which have grown together over time. These include old Muscat (also known as the 'walled city'), site of the royal palace; Mutrah (also spelled Matrah or Matruh), once a fishing village and home to the labyrinthine Mutrah Souq; and Ruwi, which is the commercial and diplomatic quarter of the city. The metropolitan area covers 3,500km, and this tripartite division can be inconvenient for the visitor especially as much accommodation is located a fair distance from sights of interest.
Unlike other cities in the Gulf, notably in the UAE and Qatar, Muscat does not have an ultramodern skyline. Following the preferences of the Sultan, modern construction is required to adhere to traditional Arabic architectural styles, resulting in a more low-key urban landscape.
Muscat International Airport (IATA: MCT, ICAO: OOMS), also called Seeb International Airport (tel. +968 24 519223 or 519456) is located 37 km west of Mutrah. A new terminal is being completed in 2014 and will have a capacity of 12 million passengers per year. The number of airlines flying to Muscat increases each year, although the Omani sale of their part of Gulf Air has meant a temporary decrease in passengers.
- Oman Air (in Ruwi, opposite Central Bank), ☎ +968 24 707222, +968 24 798096 (reservations), +968 24 750812 (tickets), fax: +968 24 795546. Operates flights to Muscat from many airports in the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Domestically operates flights to/from Salalah and Khasab.
- Air Arabia, ☎ +968 24 700828. 2 flights per day from Sharjah to Muscat, duration of flight is 55min.
- Air India Express. Flights from Amritsar on Wednesday and Friday (duration of flight 3hrs 15min, from Delhi on W, F (duration of flight 5 hrs 20min), from Kochi on Tu, Th and Su (duration of flight 3h35), from Kozhikode on F, Sa, Su (duration of flight 3h25), from Thiruvanantahapuram on Tu, Th-Su (duration of flight 3h45, or 5h20 if flight goes via Cochin).
- British Airways, ☎ +968 24 565123, +968 24 2456877, fax: +968 24 795721. Daily flights from London Heathrow to Muscat.
- Egypt Air, ☎ +968 24 794113, +968 24 796134, fax: +968 24 70989. Offers flights from Cairo to Muscat M, W-F, arriving in Muscat next morning, duration of flight 4h.
- Emirates, ☎ +968 24 786600, +968 24 792222, fax: +968 24 750989. 10 flights per day from Dubai to Muscat, flying time 1h.
- Etihad Airways, ☎ +968 24 823555, +968 24 817861, fax: +968 24 823556. 3 flights per day from Abu Dhabi to Muscat, duration of flight 1h05.
- flydubai. 3 flights per day from Dubai to Muscat.
- Gulf Air, ☎ +968 24 703222, +968 24 703544, fax: +968 24 7003381. Flights from Bahrain to Muscat.
- KLM. Flights from Amsterdam to Muscat on M, W-F, Su, duration of flight 8h30.
- Kuwait Airways, ☎ +968 24 701262, +968 24 704455, fax: +968 24 700483.
- Lufthansa, ☎ +968 24 796692, +968 24 510400, fax: +968 24 798987. Daily flights from Frankfurt to Muscat with a technical stop in Abu Dhabi, duration of flight 8h.
- Pakistan International Airlines, Building No. 69, Way No. 2728, Block No. 127, Markaz Tijari Street, CBD area, ☎ +968 24792471, e-mail: email@example.com. Flights from Islamabad on M, W, Th, Sa and Su and from Peshawar on W, Th and Sa.
- Qatar Airways, ☎ +968 24 787070, fax: 24798987.
- Royal Jordanian, ☎ +968 24 796693, +968 24 707930, fax: +968 24 788098. Flies from Amman to Muscat on Tu, Th, F and Su, arriving in Muscat next morning (from JOD535 return, Sept 2010).
- Swiss, ☎ +968 24 703303, +968 24 787416, fax: +968 24 799502. Daily flights from Zurich to Muscat via Dubai.
- Turkish Airlines. Daily flights from Istanbul with a stopover in Bahrain.
Taxis from and to the airport should cost between 6 OMR (Golden Tulip, near the airport) and 12 OMR (Al Bustan Palace Hotel, Al Bustan). Taxis can be booked at the Taxi Counter (tel. +968 24518780 or 24518781, email: firstname.lastname@example.org). Make sure you agree the fare with the driver before commencing your journey. Fares should be agreed before commencing the journey and may be pre-paid at the Muscat International Airport Taxi Counter. There are ATM machines inside the terminal just prior to exiting on the left side of the doors.
Public buses, run by the Oman National Transport Company, stop on Sultan Qaboos Highway outside of the Airport. If you wish to catch public buses, you will have to walk the short distance to the bus stops on the Highway.
- Oman National Transport Company (ONTC), Al-Jaame St (near Sun City Hotel in Ruwi), ☎ +968 24 708522 (reservations), +968 24 510438 (information), e-mail: email@example.com. Runs buses to Muscat from Dubai (duration of journey: 6 hrs). Within Oman there are daily buses to Muscat from Buraimi (via Sohar), Nizwa (2hrs 20min), Salalah (13 hrs, reservation required), Sanaw and Sur (4 hrs 15 min).
Maxi taxis (minibuses, known throughout the expat community as baisa buses) ply the highway from Seeb to the Corniche area. The charge is OMR0.100 (100 Bzs) from the Corniche area to the church roundabout and another 100 Bzs from the church round about to Wadi Adai.
On arrival at the airport, situated approximately 40km from the main Muscat CBD, you can get a baisa bus down the main highway in either direction.
The (mostly orange and white) taxis are a bit pricier, and they hang around the hotels where they get juicy fares from unwary travellers. They will charge OMR8 for an airport trip if you don't haggle, but you should be able to agree OMR5. They always say they will give you "good price", but it's best to figure out what you want to spend then agree before you get in.
The Maxi Taxis ply the main routes through town, and they go where they want so you might have to find one going your direction. Once you are on one, they will make sure you get there. The place to wait for them is on the on-ramps of most of the main highway junctions, when you'll usually see a few people waiting around for one. A journey within the Muscat area should not cost more than OMR0.300 each, but if you look like an experienced traveller and hand them OMR0.200 then you can usually get away with that.
For visitors staying in Muscat for longer than a day, renting a car provides the most flexibility and is far more economical than using taxis, as one taxi ride from Ghubrah to Muscat and back will cost about the same as hiring a car for one day. A 2WD is fine to see the sights within and around Muscat, but if you're planning to explore wadis and mountains you'll need a 4WD.
Road signs in Muscat can be confusing, and motorway exits are not always clearly marked. Compared with elsewhere in the Gulf (e.g. Dubai and Doha) Muscat drivers are reasonably disciplined, but visitors from outside the region may find the local driving style erratic. For a gentler introduction into Muscat traffic it may be easier to take a taxi (or hotel-provided shuttle) from the airport, and arrange for a rental car through your accommodation – rates are usually the same as if not better than at the airport.
Most local and international rental agencies have offices at the airport. An international driver's permit is theoretically required to rent a car, but usually agents will request only your national licence. All car hires include mandatory insurance. The cheapest car hire is about OMR15 per day for a 2WD economy car with manual transmission and sometimes no air-conditioning; for a 4WD, expect to pay double that amount.
- ABC, ☎ +968 24 582663. A local agency.
- Al Maskry Rent-a-Car, ☎ +968 99438661, +968 99381524, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A well-established local agency.
- Avis Oman, ☎ +968 24 510342 (airport), +968 24 400888 (city).
- Budget Oman, ☎ +968 24 683999, fax: +968 24 683966, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Europcar, ☎ +968 24 521369 (airport), +968 24 521369 (city).
- Hertz, ☎ +968 24 521187 (airport), +968 24 625200 (city).
- National, ☎ +968 24 521369 (airport), +968 24 601081 (city).
- Sixt, ☎ +968 24 510224 (airport), +968 24 482793 (city).
- Thrifty, ☎ +968 24 521189 (airport), +968 23 211493 (city).
- Nomad Tours, ☎ +968-95495240 / 1 / (airport), , +968-95495242(city) e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Al Jalali Fort, Qasr Al Alam St. Built as a prison in the rocky mountains in the 1580s during the Portuguese occupation, now converted into a museum devoted to Omani heritage. Unfortunately the fort is only opened to visiting dignitaries and heads of state and not open to the general public, but it's still possible to climb the steep stairs up to the top and to enjoy the view.
- Al Mirani Fort, Al Mirani St. Built at the same time as Al Jalali Fort which it faces across the harbor. This fort has also been converted to a museum which is closed to the general public, but it can be freely appreciated from the outside.
- Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace. This is the office of Sultan Qaboos, ruler of Oman. This beautiful palace stands on the head of a natural deep water harbour and is guarded on either side by the twin forts of Mirani and Jelali. Visitors are not allowed to visit the palace, but they are allowed to take photographs at the entrance of the palace.
- Bait Al Zubair Museum, Al Bahri Rd, ☎ +968 24 736688. Sa-Th 9:30AM-6PM. The museum itself features displays on Omani social history, while tours are frequently run of the neighbouring reconstructed townhouse.
- Omani French Museum, Qasr al-Alam St (in Bait Fransa near the police station). Sa-W 8AM-1PM, Th 9AM-1PM. This small museum has displays detailing the relations between France and Oman, with many colonial objects from the 19th century. OMR0.500.
- Muscat Gate Museum, Al Bahri Rd. Sa-Th 8AM-2PM. This museum marks the location of the old city wall, and has the original city gates which were used until the 1970s. The location offers good views of Old Muscat and the palace.
- Bait Muzna Gallery, Saidiya St, Way 8662, House 234 (opposite Bait al Zubair Museum), ☎ +968 24739 204, fax: +968 24739205, e-mail: email@example.com. A gallery representing primarily Omani artists, and a few Oman-based western artists.
Formerly a fishing village, Mutrah is known primarily for its extensive souq and waterfront corniche. Mutrah harbor is also where the Sultan's royal yacht is docked.
- Corniche, Al Bahri Rd. The recently renovated corniche area is a popular place for a walk and also for its many not-so-expensive eating places. There are also good view of the fishing dhows in the harbour.
- Fish market (fish souq), Al Bahri Rd (along the Corniche, across from the Marina Hotel). Daily 6AM-10AM. Visitors can watch fishermen unload and sell the catch of the day.
- Bait al-Baranda Museum, Al Mina St, ☎ +968 24 714262. This renovated house from the 1930s has exhibits illustrating the history of Muscat. The lower level is devoted to pre-history and palaeontology, while the upper level is devoted to human history and ethnography. OMR1 (adults), OMR0.500 (children).
- Mutrah Fort. Built by the Portuguese in the 1580s, this fort is not open to the public, but visitors are permitted to climb up the hill to the outside for a good view of the area.
- Riyam Park, Al Bahri Rd. This park also has a small funfair with rides. Great views can be had from the giant incense burner perched on the hillside. Visited in The Amazing Race 9.
- Old waterfront watchtower, Al Bahri Rd (across from Riyam Park). This restored Portuguese watchtower on the waterfront is a good place to catch views of the sunset.
- Old souq watchtower (near Mutrah Souq and Mutrah St). This Portuguese watchtower has also been restored, and although the tower itself is closed to the public, the hill can be climbed for some great views of Mutrah and the Corniche. There is no clearly-defined path to the top; the easiest access is from the northwest.
- Ghalya’s Museum of Modern Art, Al Wadi Khabir (on the Corniche, near Mutrah Fort), ☎ +968 24 711640, fax: +968 24 711620, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sa-Th 9:30AM-6PM. Opened in 2011, this museum is made up of a cluster of houses and comprises three distinct sections. The Old House is set up with furnishings and displays appropriate to an Omani house between 1950 and 1970, i.e. before the accession of Sultan Qaboos. The still unopened Clothes Museum exhibits traditional Omani clothing as well as international costumes, and the Modern Art Museum displays modern artworks from Omani and international artists, hosting occasional special exhibits. OMR 1 (adults 12+), 500 Bzs (children 6-12).
Ruwi and Qantab
Ruwi is Muscat's primary commercial district, as well as the gateway to Qantab south of the city.
- Currency Museum, Al Bank Al Markazi St (within the Central Bank of Oman building), ☎ +968 24 796102. Sa-W 09:00-13:00. Has interesting displays of Omani currency, both coin and notes, with specimens from early history to the present day. 250 Bzs , free for children under 6.
- National Museum, An Noor St (near Abdulridha Mosque), ☎ +968 24 701289. Sa-W 09:00-13:30, Th 09:00-13:00. Houses jewellery, costumes, and furniture. 500 Bzs.
- Sultan's Armed Forces Museum, Al Mujamma St (Bait al-Falaj), ☎ +968 24 312648. This excellent museum is housed in a building built in 1845 as a royal summer home. The lower level has displays on Oman's history, and the upper level examines Oman's international relations and military history. All visitors are given a mandatory military escort. OMR1.
- Aquarium and Marine Science and Fisheries Centre (between the Al Bustan Palace Hotel and the Capital Yacht), ☎ +968 24 736449. Currently closed for maintenance, expected to reopen at the beginning of 2014.
- Sohar boat, Al Bustan Roundabout (near the Al Bustan Palace Hotel in Qantab). This boat was built in the dhow yards of Sur, south of Muscat. In 1980 Tim Severin and a crew of Omanis sailed in this vessel from Oman to Guangzhou, China in an effort to recreate the legendary voyages of Sindbad. Severin wrote about the undertaking in his book 'The Sindbad Voyage'.
Al Ghubrah, Al Khuwair, Al Qurm, and Bawshar
As an alternative to the main CBD of Muscat, Mutrah, and Ruwi, there are plenty of places to go to and things to see along the main highway that heads northwest out of the CBD. This main road, the Sultan Qaboos Highway, goes past many areas on its way out to the airport and further still to Seeb, Sohar and eventually the northernmost tip of Oman. Heading along this road you pass the districts of Al Qurm (Qurum), Madinat Al Sultan Qaboos, Al Khuwair, Bausher, Al-Hail and Seeb. Each one has a number of sights and places to stay.
There is also a very long beach road from Al Qurm to Seeb, some 50 km. Situated along this are some of the large international hotel chains but, more importantly, you discover the true beauty of the Oman coast-line: kilometres of beaches, fishermen with drag nets and open space to walk for hours.
- Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, As Sultan St (Al Khuwair). Sa-Th 09:00-11:00 (for non-Muslims). This is the third largest mosque in the world and mostly the entire complex is open to non-Muslim visitors; ladies are however expected to keep their heads, ankles and wrists covered while visiting the mosque. Must-sees in the mosque include the Swarovski crystal chandelier, the second largest hand made Persian carpet in the world, and the marble panelling.
- Natural History Museum (across the highway from the ice-skating rink). Sa 09:00-13:30; Su 08:00-13:30, 16:00-18:00; M-W 09:00-13:30; Th 09:00-13:00.
- Omani Museum (Medinat Al Alam, on top of Information Hill near the Ministry of Information), ☎ +968 24 600946. Sa-W 09:30-13:30, Th 09:00-13:00. This small museum has a good collection of archaeological exhibits, and is worth visiting for the excellent views. 500 Bzs.
- Qurm National Park (Qurum Natural Park) (Al Qurm). Has extensive rose gardens, a large manmade waterfall, a lake and an amusement park which is a must to visit during the Muscat Festival.
- Oil and Gas Exhibition Centre, Seih Al Maleh St (on the right-hand side at the end of the street just before PDO Gate 2), ☎ +968 24 677834. Sa-Th 08:00-12:00, 13:00-16:00; Th 07:00-12:00. This private museum has six permanent displays explaining the formation of, and modern extraction of oil and natural gas.
- Planetarium, Seih Al Maleh St (adjacent to the Oil and Gas Exhibition Centre (see listing above)), ☎ +968 24 675542, fax: +968 24 675553, e-mail: planetarium.pdo.co.om. Su-Th. A full-dome digital system, which can accommodate up to 60 visitors. Two shows a week are presented in English; call or email to confirm times and to make reservations. Free.
- Bait Al Makham (Bait Al Magham) (Bawshar), ☎ +968 24 641300 x142 (call ahead). S-W 08:00-14:00. A fortified house built at the beginning of the 20th century, now restored and with excellent views from the top of the building. 500 Bzs.
- Bawshar Fort, Al Safa St (Bawshar). A large, photogenic ruined mud-brick fortress in a scenic location. Behind the fortress are scattered ruins and a long rampart wall, still unexcavated. Along the ridgeline in the hills are some prehistoric beehive graves. Free.
Festivals and cultural events
- Royal Opera House Muscat, Al Kharjiyah ST, ☎ +968 24 403300, fax: +968 24 403322, e-mail: email@example.com. This stunning building is the venue for a wide range of performing arts, including western classical music, classical Arabian music, jazz and flamenco, and ballet and modern dance.
- Muscat Festival. Held annually from late January to early February, this month-long event celebrates Omani culture and traditions with demonstrations, food, dance and music performances, and other entertainment.
There is some outstanding trekking in northern Oman, and for a taste there are a couple of easy treks within or very close to Muscat.
- Trekking path C38 (from Riyam Park to Mutrah Souq). This short hike takes the walker away from the modern world of Muscat and also offers fantastic views of the rugged mountains surrounding the capital city. The path begins in Riyam Park, and follows a 5000-year-old trail used by miners to an abandoned village, then finally finishes near Mutrah Souq. Allow for 1.5-2 hours, with an additional 20-minute return walk along the Corniche. A decent trail map can be found here.
- Trekking paths C52 and C53 (Bandar Jissah coastline). These two easy treks offer beautiful views over the coastline. Both trails begin in Bandar Jissah. Trail map for C52; trail map for C53.
- BlueZone Diving, Bander al Rhowda Marina, ☎ +968 24 737293, e-mail: Bluzone@omantel.net.om. This center offers diving trips, as well as a full range of PADI courses.
- Oman Dive Center (Bandar Jissah, 15 km south of Muscat), ☎ +968 24 824240, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This German-operated center conducts diving trips and PADI certification courses. The private beach is open to day visitors (OMR2 on weekdays, OMR4 on weekends), and it is possible to stay overnight in one of their beach bungalows (OMR49-176, depending on season and size of party; breakfast and dinner included). There is no public transportation to this area, so visitors will need to take a taxi or rental car.
- Omanta Scuba, Al Kharjiya St, Shatti (in the boat house at the InterContinental Hotel), ☎ +968 97 700564, e-mail: email@example.com. Conducts diving trips and a full range of PADI courses, as well as dolphin-watching tours. Diving destinations include the Damaniyat Islands, Fahal Island and Bhandra Kharan, with other destinations depending on demand.
With many excellent trails nearby, Muscat has a fast-growing mountain bike community. Bike Oman organizes weekly mountain bike excursions on Thursday, most of which begin within a 20-45 min. drive from Muscat. During the summer they organize weekly night time rides, usually on Mondays.
- Oman Bicycle Shop (behind the Radisson Hotel, Al Khuwair), ☎ +968 96773824. Sa 3PM-7PM; S-Th 10AM-1PM, 3PM-7PM; F closed. Mountain bikes can be rented here by the day, weekend, or week.
On private beaches (i.e. those attached to hotels) western swimwear is acceptable. On public beaches, however, visitors should be mindful of Omani conservative norms. Women are advised to stick with one-piece suits, and men should opt for longer swimming shorts (not speedos); keep shoulders and knees covered unless you are actually on the beach. Women may find a parasol helpful to hide from prying eyes.
Beaches with a sign 'Family Beach' are closed to single or bachelor men.
- Qurum Public Beach (Qurum). No facilities except open showers. Clean and well-maintained, with places offering jetskis for rent near the Intercontinental. This beach gets very busy on weekends. Free.
- Marjan Public Beach (PDO Public Beach) (near Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), Qurum Heights). This beach is quiet during the day, and more lively in early evenings. There are some small, excellent coral reefs just a short distance from the shore, suitable even for novice snorkelers. Clown fish, parrot fish, sea cucumbers, and occasionally sea turtles and rays can be spotted here. Free.
- Al Ghubrah Public Beach (between the Chedi Hotel and the desalination plant, Al Ghubrah). This is a family-oriented beach, with picnic benches and shaded areas. In the evening near the desalination plant there are several food trucks which offer good and inexpensive fare, including grilled meat and fish, lentil soup, and potato salads. Free.
- Seeb Public Beach (Seeb). This is a long stretch of beach, with some sections quite busy, and some sections accessible only with 4WD. Free.
- Al Bustan Public Beach (near the Al Bustan Palace Hotel). Named after the hotel, this beach has a good view of the mountains behind. Free.
There are some good areas for avian enthusiasts, within and around the city.
- Al Ansab Wetlands (off of the Muscat Expressway, next to the water treatment plant), ☎ +968 800 77111. Best in the early morning or late afternoon. Nearly 300 avian species have been spotted here, some during migrations and others living here year-round. The wetlands were developed by the Haya Water company, which offers guided tours, bookable online.
- Mutrah Souq (main entrance along the Corniche, Mutrah). The maze-like souq (marketplace) is often described as the best in the Gulf region. The souq has many shops for jewellery, traditional Omani handicrafts and Omani food at reasonable prices. Some specific items to look for include Arab hand-embroidered mussar (shawls intended to be worn as turbans, OMR10+), garments, nuts, spices, incense, and earthenware. A few shops accept credit cards.
- Amouage Perfume Factory (near the airport), ☎ +968 24 534800. S-Th 08:30-16:00. Amouage perfume is the most expensive perfume in the world, and visitors can learn about its production. It is recommended (but not required) to call beforehand to ensure that someone is available to show you around.
- Jawahir Oman Jewellers, Al Wilaj St (Al Qurum Complex, Al Qurm), ☎ +968 24 563239. Sells prized Omani silver, crafted into contemporary jewellery and gifts in a Muscat workshop.
- Omani Heritage Gallery, Jawharat Al Shatti Shopping Centre (across Al Kharijiyah St from the Royal Opera House, Al Khuwair), ☎ +968 24 696974, fax: +968 24 696568, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This gallery is operated by a non-profit group which encourages cottage industries.
- Souq al Jumaa (Friday Market) (Wadi Kabir, Ruwi). Fridays 07:00-21:00. A bustling flea market with everything from jewellery, camping gear, carpets and even cars. There is a section with clothing, and food stalls are also nearby.
- Muscat City Centre (Seeb). Contains a lot of shops including a large Carrefour Hypermarket.
- Oman Avenues Mall (Sultan Qaboos St), ☎ +968 24 540200. Oman Avenues Mall is the largest shopping mall in Oman. Offers shopping, dining, kid zones and entertainment to locals and international tourists.
- Qurum City Centre. Recently opened at Qurum and contains Carrefour.
- Sabco Centre (near the turnoff between Sultan Qaboos St and Qurm Heights Rd, Qurm). A collection of about half a dozen medium sized shopping centres which is very popular with locals. The actual Sabco Centre has a small souq-like collection of shops that contains many of the handicrafts that are available in the Mutrah Souq. There is also a Godiva Chocolates shop (tel. +968 24 562367). Opposite the Sabco Centre is the Omani Craftsman's House that only sells guaranteed Made in Oman crafts at fixed (but relatively high) prices.
- Al Meera (Azaiba), ☎ +968 24 583444. A Qatari-based chain.
- Lulu Hypermarket, As Sultan Qaboos St (Ghubrah), ☎ +968 24 504504. This location is particularly convenient if you're looking to stock up before heading to the mountains.
- Carrefour Hypermarket, Qurum City Centre. There is another Carrefour located in Muscat city centre (see listing above).
There are numerous Indian-run tailors. An Italian-style suits typically costs 5 OMR.
- The Raymond Shop (Assarain Textiles LLC), Ruwi High Street, Ruwi, ☎ +968 24830149 / 99267972, e-mail: email@example.com. Customs suits costing from OMR50-60 each in fabrics from pure wool, wool blends, Cashmere, Mohair, Angora and linen.
- Oman-UAE Exchange Centres - LuLu Hypermarkets, Ghala and Ruwi
- Global Money Exchange - Ruwi
- travelex - Seeb International Airport
- Purshottam Kanji - Ruwi
- Mustafa Sultan Exchange - Many outlets throughout Oman
Food is relatively cheap in Muscat, a meal can cost just a couple of rials. For inexpensive Indian food, there are many restaurants catering to Indian guest workers in Al Khuwayr. In Mutrah you can walk down the waterfront in the Corniche area to catch a cool sea breeze, and treat yourself to some sandwiches and Halib (tea with milk) or Sulaimani (black tea) at one of the wayside restaurants. A cup of tea costs about OMR0.050.
- Al-exandria, Fanja House, Near Sabco Centre, Ruwi, Tel - 561611. The best Rotis (Indian Bread). Try the chicken Jalfrezi and Paneer aloo (potato).
- Automatic, (Cuisine - Lebanese). Try the Hummus (Chickpea paste), Fatoosh (Salad), Mutabel (Egg Plant paste), Falafel and mint tea. Even the waiters are not sure why the restaurant is named automatic. There is a branch of Automatic located on the side of the Sabco Centre facing away from the central car park. There are also branches in Ruwi, Al Khuwair and elsewhere in Muscat.
- Al-Hanan, Ruwi (Cuisine - Indian).
- Al Tarboush (Al-Tarboosh) (opposite the Sabco Centre, Qurm). Fast Arabian/Lebanese-style food available for takeaway or eat-in on the first floor.
- Bella-Pais, MAM roundabout, just off the Nizwa turn off (Cuisine - Greek + Other).
- Bin Ateeq, Al Khuwair Rd (near Shell petrol station and Holiday Inn, Al Khuwair), ☎ +968 24 478225, fax: +968 24 488784, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 09:00-02:00. This place is mentioned in various guidebooks as the only 'authentic' Omani restaurant in town - and its fame means that this is now popular with tourists. The food is acceptable, if a bit pricey.
- Bin Ateeq, 2730 Way (Ruwi), ☎ +968 24 702727, e-mail: email@example.com. Daily 09:00-02:00. Another branch of the popular Omani restaurant.
- Gujrat Bhojan Shala, Ruwi High Street, Ruwi (Cuisine - Indian).
- Muscat Light Restaurant & Coffeeshop, Al Bahri Rd (Old Muscat). Ideal place for a break during a walking tour of Old Muscat.
- Ofair Traditional Restaurant, Al Marafah St (Al Khuwair), ☎ +968 24 482965. Serves traditional Omani food.
- Oman Express, Tel - 7731329. Delivers Lunch - 18 rials for a month including Fridays or 15.6 Rials excluding Fridays.
- Saravana Bhavan Restaurant (Ruwi, opposite OC Centre), ☎ +968 24 704502. South Indian vegetarian restaurant.
- Subway, City Centre, Seeb, Tel - 542225.
- The Chedi Pizza Restaurant, Way No. 3215 (The Chedi Hotel, Ghubrah). Offers less expensive food than the other Chedi outlets, with the same understated chic ambience.
- Haffa House Hotel Restaurant, Al Farahidi St (Ruwi), ☎ +968 24 707207.
- Kargeen Caffe, Al Bashair St, ☎ +968 24 699055, fax: +968 24 695522, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Traditional Omani food served in a traditional setting. There is an outdoor seating area for shisha smokers, and a surprisingly good selection of vegetarian options. Reservations are recommended, particularly on weekends.
- Turkish House (Al Khuwair), ☎ +968 24 488071. 11:00-01:00. The most popular Turkish restaurant in Muscat, with excellent fish dishes. Take-away and delivery available in the Al Khuwair area.
- Ubhar Restaurant, Al Sarooj Rd and Al Kharjiyah St (Al Qurm), ☎ +968 24 699826, e-mail: email@example.com. Daily 12:30-15:30, 18:30-23:00. Exceptional, traditional Omani dishes with a modern twist, very highly rated.
- Al Khiran, Al Bustan Palace Hotel (Qantab). Famous for their Friday brunch buffets. OMR19.5 + 17% service charge.
- Bait Al Bahr (Shangri-La Hotel), ☎ +968 24 776565, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 19:00-23:00. Traditional Omani seafood. Reservations strongly recommended; smart casual, nonsmoking.
- Passage to India, Al Wutayyah (near Hatat House), ☎ +968 24 563452 (reservations). Indian cuisine.
- Taj Samarkhand, Oasis by the Sea Residences (Al Qurm), ☎ +968 24 602757. Indian Peshwari cuisine.
- Spinney's, Al Khariyah St (Al Qurm, by the Sultan Qaboos Expressway). A Lebanese-based grocery store chain, has take-away options.
- Al Fair Supermarket. A chain of supermarkets sells a wide range of items.. Many of them are on the main Sultan Qaboos highway making them easy to spot.
- Lulu's. Oman's favourite supermarket chain with a branch off Sultan Qaboos Street in Al-Khuwair.
Every road, street corner or little collection houses, huts or businesses has a 'Coffee-Shop' - basic but worth a go. Fresh fruit juices are delicious and available from a number of stalls and cafes in Muscat. Expect to pay between RO 0.500 and 1.500 for these juices depending on type and size.
- Al Ahli Coffeeshop (Mutrah Souq), ☎ +968 24 713469. Also has fresh fruit juices.
- Fast Food N Juice Centre, Al Bahri Rd (Mutrah). You can watch the world go by from the outside tables.
- Starbucks Coffee (Al Qurm). Located on the beach road that goes between the Crown Plaza Hotel and the Intercontinental Hotel. It is so close that if you cross the road, you are on the beach. The larger drinks are about OMR2-2.2, but the view through the glass wall of the waves coming into the beach is excellent.
- Left Bank (ground floor beneath Mumtaz Mahal Restaurant, Qurm), ☎ +968 24 693699. Sa-Th 12AM-3PM, 6PM-2AM; F 2PM-1:30/2AM. Known for good drinks as well as good food. Reservations recommended if you come here for dinner. Expensive.
- Corniche Area There are five hotels on the Corniche waterfront in Mutrah that all charge OMR15. Al Fanar Hotel which is very rundown at the end of the waterfront charges OMR10.
- Marina Hotel, Corniche (Mutrah, across from the fish souq), ☎ +968 24 713100. Has good views of the harbor, but with two nightclubs is quite noisy at night. Free wi-fi available only in lobby.
- Delmon Hotel Apartments, Al Wada Al Kabir St (Ruwi), ☎ +968 24 818181, fax: +968 24 818844, e-mail: email@example.com. Includes breakfast and free Wi-Fi. OMR23-75.
- Golden Oasis Hotel, Al Wada Al Kabir St (Ruwi), ☎ +968 24 811655. In the centre of Ruwi and close to the main commercial area. A popular choice for tourists. OMR35-55.
- Guest Houses. There are a number of Guest Houses (Isteraha in Arabic) spread around Muscat which are quite affordable and acceptable in general.
- Crown Plaza Hotel, Al Qurm St (Heights Residential Area, Al Qurm), ☎ +968 24 660660. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: noon. Has a grand view north up the beach towards the Intercontinental.
- Golden Tulip Seeb, Exhibition St (Seeb, across the expressway from the airport), ☎ +968 24 514444, +968 24 510055 (reservations), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- L'Espace Bed and Breakfast, 77 Al Ezdehar St (Al Ghubrah), ☎ +968 9628 2472, e-mail: email@example.com. A charming bed and breakfast just across the road from the beach.
Muscat offers a considerable range of luxury hotels, including those listed below.
- Al Bustan Palace Hotel (Qantab), ☎ +968 24 799666. Built originally to house a regional conference in the mid-80s, the hotel is famous for its brunches. Worth visiting just to check out the lobby and hotel grounds.
- Al Falaj Hotel, Al Mujamma St, 2031 (Ruwi), ☎ +968 24 702311, fax: +968 24 795853, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Chedi, North Ghubra 32 (Al Ghubra), ☎ +968 24 524400, fax: +968 24 493485, e-mail: email@example.com. Five star luxury with traditional Omani architecture.
- Crystal Suites, Vegetable & Fruit Market Road, Way 6702, Block 167 Wadi Kabir (Ruwi), ☎ +968 24826100, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 78 rooms, each a 32” LCD TV, DVD player. Amenities include a restaurant serving Mughlai and Afghani dishes, an open to sky Atrium with children’s play area and dining facilities, and ballrooms for wedding receptions and functions. OMR30+.
- Grand Hyatt (Al Qurm), ☎ +968 24 641234, fax: +968 24 605282, e-mail: email@example.com. This is an opulent building designed by a Yemeni prince in what seems almost a parody of Arabian palace styles.
- InterContinental Muscat, Al Kharjiya St, ☎ +968 24 680000, toll-free: 800 971 234, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00.
- Ruwi Hotel (Ruwi), ☎ +968 24 704244, fax: +968 24 704248, e-mail: email@example.com. A tired and run down hotel that is more the standard of a third world back packer establishment, but has an interesting bar.
- Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa (southeast of Muscat), ☎ +968 24 776666, fax: +968 24 776677. Part of the international luxury chain. In Bar al Jissah, which is about 30 minutes outside central Muscat. The hotel can be challenging to find, so make sure you have a good map if you are driving. The Shangri-La is on a beautiful section of the coastline.
It is advisable to drink bottled water while in Muscat. Oman Oasis, Tanuf, Arwa, Salsabeel and Aquafina are the most recognisable brands of mineral water and is available in most convenience shops. "Masafi" and "Darbat" are also brands at reasonable prices - RO 1 for 12*1.5 litre. Tap water is generally not safe, and so use bottled water.
Omantel offers pre-paid Hayyak SIM cards and top-up cards, which can be purchased at mobile phone shops and hypermarkets. Also available are pre-paid Jibreen Cards, good on both mobile and landlines, in denominations of OMR5 and OMR1.5. An OMR5 card gets you 11 minutes of talk time.
Skype is blocked in Oman, and can only be accessed through a VPN. Other VoIP services have been blocked in the past; currently Google Talk, Viber, FaceTime and MSN Messenger are all accessible.
The calling card Global One does not work in Muscat. Although the Global One website lists the rates for calls from Oman there are no numbers listed alongside. The nearest Global One help line is in Dubai.
Free Wi-Fi is available in several public parks, including Qurm National Park, Naseem Garden, Al Amerat Park, and Wadi Kabir. For access, visitors are routed to an Omantel landing page requesting a mobile number, to which a password will be sent; customers are limited to 1.5 hrs/day. Costa Coffee also offers free connection in five locations: Qurm City Centre, Muscat City Centre, MQ, Bareeq al Shatti, and Oasis Mall.
Omantel Ibhar hotspots are scattered throughout Muscat, mainly in coffeeshops, restaurants, and shopping malls. Pre-paid Ibhar cards are available at any Omantel counter or at the hotspot location.
Emergency number (ambulance, fire and police) is 9999.
ATMs are very common now, especially in the Embassy district and near most shopping malls, larger hotels, petrol stations and supermarkets. Also, every little neighbourhood has a several bank branches.
Bank Muscat is by far the largest bank in Oman and one of the largest in Gulf. It has over 230 ATMs all around Muscat.
There are some very good gymnasiums in the 4 to 5 star hotels and some privately run gyms in other places like Millennium Gym, Horizon Gym etc. You may pay money for that extra with the number of days you stay in Muscat.
- KIMS Oman Hospital, Darsait
- Muscat Private Hospital, Ghubrah
- Al Nahda Hospital, Ghubrah
- Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Al Hamriya
- Al Shatti Hospital, Shatti al Qurum
- Atlas Star Medical Centre, Bausher
- Al Amal Medical Centre-Al Wadi Al Kabir, Al-Khuwair
- Royal Hospital
- Badr Al Sama Hospital-Ruwi,Al Khuwair, Al Khoud,Barka,Sohar,Salalah
- Babylon Medical Centre, Amerat
Laundry charges 4-star hotel are high. Prices are much lower at any of the numerous Indian run laundries, although clothes left on a Monday typically won't be ready until Wednesday.
- Oman Daily Observer. One of Oman's most-widely distributed English newspaper, also available in print.
- Oman Tribune.
- Times of Oman. Oman's oldest English newspaper, printed Sa-Th, available online and in print.
- Muscat Daily. Oman's most widely distributed English newspaper, available in print.
- TheWeek. A free weekly newspaper published on Wednesdays.
- H!. A free weekly newspaper offering light reading, published every weekend by the Times of Oman.
- Oman Today. A small glossy magazine with tips on tourism, local trips and eating-out, published monthly.
- Khaleej Times. Published in Dubai and available throughout the Gulf.
- Austria. Embassy closed in 2011 for budgetary reasons; nearest diplomatic mission is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
- Bahrain, 115, Madinat Al Sultan Qaboos, ☎ +968 24 605074, +968 24 605075, +968 24 605133, fax: +968 24605072.
- Egypt, Jamai'at al Dowal al Arabyia St (in the Diplomatic Area), ☎ +968 24 600411, +968 24 600982, fax: +968 24603626, e-mail: Eg.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- France, P.O. Box 208 Madinat Qabous PC 115, ☎ +968 24 681800, +968 24 681804 (emergencies), fax: +968 24 681843.
- Germany, Hillat Al-Jazeera, Way No. 4911, Villa 953 (near Al Nahda Hospital, Ruwi), ☎ +968 24 832482, +968 24 837374, +968 24 835000, fax: +968 24 835690. Su-W 9AM-12PM.
- Greece, PO Βox 175, ☎ +968 24 793072, fax: +968 787714.
- Iran, Jamai'at al Dowal al Arabyia St (in the Diplomatic Area), ☎ +968 24 696944, +968 24 696947, fax: +968 24 696888.
- Italy, Al Qurum House 842 Way 2411, ☎ +968 24 560968, +968 24 564832, +968 24 564838, fax: +968 24 564846, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Jordan, Jamai'at al Dowal al Arabyia St (in the Diplomatic Area), ☎ +968 24 692760, +968 24 692761, fax: +968 24 692762.
- Switzerland (Consulate), Al Asfoor Plaza Bldg 1F 104 (Qurum), ☎ +968 24 568205, fax: +968 24 568206, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- United Kingdom, 116 Mina Al Fahal (in the Diplomatic Area), ☎ +968 24 693077, +968 24 609000, fax: +968 24 609010, e-mail: email@example.com. Su-Th 7:30AM-2:30PM.
- United States, PO Box 202, PC 115, Madinat Al Sultan Qaboos, ☎ +968 24 643400, +968 24 643400 (emergencies), fax: +968 24 643740, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- National Travel Tourism, Ar-Rumaylah Street, Wattayah, tel. +968 24 566046, e-mail: email@example.com, Sat to Thu 8am-1pm, 4-7 pm
- Drive west to Nizwa, and then go hiking or camping in the magnificent Hajar Mountains. Explore the fortresses in the area, and visit the UNESCO sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn.
- Drive south for an hour to explore the spectacular Wadi Shab. Along the way check out the Bimmah Sinkhole, and then continue onwards to Sur.
- Head north to Sohar for some good diving, visit Ibri and then continue onward to the Musandam Peninsula.