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It was the last day of 2013 that I visited Muscat, the capital of Oman. It was the second last day of my Oman road trip with my family. New Year isn’t celebrated that much during the day so we went to see the city. Muscat is a beautiful city where one day is actually not enough. I just had a day so I made the most out of it and did see all the important places. Let me show you which places are a must see in Muscat. We start at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque located in western Muscat and then continue to Old Muscat in the east. In the evening it was time for the New Year’s Eve party at the hotel. Enjoy visiting Muscat with me!
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
The first stop in the morning was at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. It’s the main mosque of Oman located in the western part of Muscat. It opened its doors in 2001 and is a magnificent piece of art. A total of 20000 worshippers can attend the mosque at the same time. It has a square layout with a huge dome and minaret in the middle. On the corners are four smaller minarets. The mosque is free for visitors but you have to respect the rules. One important rule is to dress conservative and cover your skin. I had bought a thaub in advance in my home country the Netherlands. It fitted perfect but I had washed and dried it before I went on this trip. I guess I washed it too hot as it was about 15 centimeter shorter not covering my ankles. It was no problem to enter but it did cost me a lot of photos together with local people. They found it pretty funny a tall guy with a too short thaub. I had lots of fun with them and the barrier to speak to local people was directly gone, even some of the women.
The interior of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a true piece of art. Both the main chandelier and the carpet are the second largest in the world. Beautiful light comes from the chandeliers and through the stained glass windows. The walls are decorated with beautiful painted tiles and marbles. Wooden doors heavily decorated with carvings separate the various rooms. Tourists are guided through the mosque one way, so make sure you do all your photography directly as you won’t be walking the same way back. The way the light plays inside the mosque made me happy. It’s a real piece of art. After the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque I drove with my family to the other side of Muscat where the old town is located.
The forts of Al Jalili, Al Marini and Mutrah
While we explored the old town of Muscat called Mutrah we had a quick look at the three important forts of Muscat. The main forts are the Mutrah Fort, Fort Al Jalali and Al Mirani Fort. These fortresses were built in the late 16th century by the Portuguese to defend the Old Muscat harbor. Two were built on both side of Old Muscat and one (Fort Al Jalali) on an island in the bay. The forts were conquered by the Omani in the mid-17th century and played also an important role in the civil wars during the first part of the 18th century. Today they are most of the time closed for visitors but they are iconic structures in the view of Old Muscat. Well worth a photograph.
Old Muscat and it sights
There are a few other places of interest in Old Muscat worth seeing. You should first stop at the Sultans Palace or the Al Alam Royal Palace. It’s not the place where Sultan Qaboos lives but it’s used for ceremonial purposes only. Visitors are not allowed inside but it’s a beautiful building with a blue and golden façade. The area around it is worth a short stroll. Not far away are the Muscat Gate and the Clock Tower. Just a short photo stop will do there. At the same time you can see the forts mentioned above from various angles.
Continue to the souks which are located at the corniche. Small streets with all kinds of shops make up the area and are crowded with locals and tourists. If you have never seen a souk then I recommend going for sure. In case you have seen souks in other places I can recommend to go to if you have the time as it’s a pleasant souk. The sellers are not too much pushing you to buy, a bit of course, but that’s part of the game. With some luck you can spot the royal yacht in the harbor. The kids bought some souvenirs to take home after which we returned back to our hotel.
We arrived back to our hotel late afternoon. It was New Year’s Eve and we would have just one more day in Oman. The hotel organized a huge party but it’s nothing compared to cities like Sydney or New York. Our 10 days in Oman was almost coming to an end. It was our fourth Middle East country after Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar. The next year we would make a two week road trip in Jordan. Muscat is a pleasant city for a day or two but I do suggest getting out into the rest of Oman if you have more days.
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