weekend away - Muscat
Written by Freddie Sythe Illustration by Vesa Sammalisto
Muscat is the capital of the Sultanate of Oman, and is perched on the north-eastern corner of the country, at the entrance to the Arabian Gulf.
A visit to Muscat would not be complete without seeing the Muttrah Corniche, and the souq attached to it. The souq has a main walkway through it, but be sure to venture off and explore down the small passages to really experience the magic of the place. You'll need to barter if you spot something you like – a good rule of thumb is to offer half of what they ask! Cool off with a fresh juice at one of the cafés dotted along the corniche and look out over the bay – you might even see the Al Said, the worlds largest yacht.
A great way to finish off a trip to the Muttrah Corniche is to visit the Bait al Zubair museum and art gallery (open Sat–Thu 9.30am–6pm), which is located in the original village of Muscat a short distance from the corniche.
A good stop for coffee or lunch is Shatti al Qurum as it has a range of restaurants and internationally branded coffee shops on offer. For a more local feel, check out the small beach café – Motif Café – which is about 50 metres down the beach; the juices are freshly made, and the fish is fresh from the sea daily.
The spa at the Chedi hotel (open daily 10am–10pm) is the best in town, and features a 100-metre-long infinity pool and a dedicated treatment building. While the ladies are in the spa, the men might like to take a trip to the Greg Norman-designed links-style Almouj golf course.
Pods of dolphins visit the shores of Oman in great numbers and dolphin-watching off the coast of Muscat is popular. With tours lasting 24 hours, there are many options to choose from at the Marina Bandar al Rowdha (marinaoman.net). I recommend a tour on the glass-bottom boat – seatoursoman.com.
The grounds of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque cover an area of 416,000m2. The visiting hours are between 8am and 11am every morning except Fridays. It was completed in 2001 and houses the worlds second-largest one-piece carpet. Made by hand in Iran, it consists of 1,700 million knots and weighs in at 21 tons.
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