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An Introduction to Muscat, Capital of Oman

Lukas Bischoff

After arriving on a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul, as we drove in from the airport to Muscat's Mutrah district to begin our Oman tour,it struck us that this city of 1.7 million was everything we'd expected as the capital of a wealthy Gulf sultanate in the 21st century - modern highways in perfect condition, lavish buildings, decorative lighting - in addition to the streetlights from the road which give way to the old houses with a European flair (Oman was occupied by the Portuguese, from the 15th to the mid-16th century), giving way to narrow streets and the inevitable souk. Not to mention museums, shopping centers, and luxury beach resorts.

Angelo D'Amico

The first "thing" to see are the Omani themselves and especially their clothes. Despite the ostentatious buildings and expensive cars, many males still go around attired in traditional white dishdashas (you'll also see them in pastels, but white is the default), long, wide robes accompanied by lihaf headgear (if you wonder what they wear underneath, it's a kind of pareo skirt). When they sit, years of practice allows them to gather up their dishdashas and them over the pareos with an almost automatic movement that does not cease to surprise - and also keeps everything nicely concealed.

File:Al Alam Palace- Muscat.jpg


The best option for visiting city, is to sign onto a Muscat tour, either arranged beforehand, at the airport, or at your hotel. And one of the city's top sights is the Al Alam Palace (above), the ceremonial residence (and one of six palaces) of the Sultan Qaboos, who has reigned since 1970 (this is an absolute monarchy, with a subordinate parliament). More than 200 years old and rebuilt in 1972, it is however not open to the public; you can only admire its facade from outside the fence, adorned with the shield of the sultanate.


But other highlights besides the Mutrah souk include the Grand Mosque; the Nakhal, Bahla, and Rustaq forts; the Jabreen Castle; the ruins of Al Baleed and Sumhuram; and museums such as Qasrah and Bait Al Zubair, showcasing Omani heritage.

All in all, a mix of the traditional and modern that will truly enchant you!

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