Prior to visiting, Muscat conjured images of spices, mysterious alleys, and trade routes. In fact, it is a place full of history, traditions and beauty. There is a tremendous amount of urban development, but there are many areas that are preserved for posterity.
The old city is nestled among the imposing mountains that run down to the sea. Watchtowers and the Portuguese forts (one of which can be seen in the background above) harken back to the days when camels and dhows were the main transport.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is an exquisite religious and educational compound that opened in 2001. It is a must see for every visitor to Muscat.
The architecture is elegant and awe inspiring.
The chandelier is fourteen meters high and was manufactured in Italy.
Much of the design is Persian-inspired, including the mosaics and the carpet, which is the second largest single-piece carpet in the world. Made by hand in Iran, it took four years to complete, contains 1,700,000,000 knots and weighs 21 tons. We spent several hours discussing Islam and other topics with this Imam and two others. Many Omani men wear a Kuma. The photo above was taken at the Muttrah Souk in Muscat. I had to restrain myself from buying kumas for all my friends and family (after all, they are so light and packable). There was an entire section of stores selling gold jewelry. It amazed us to see how some were full of potential clients, while others were empty – even though we could not discern a difference in the wares. No trip to Muscat would be complete without taking a cruise out into the harbor. This is absolutely the best vantage point from which to appreciate the incredible geology and physical beauty.
We went out just before sunset, which was remarkable. It also added to the eerie apparition of what we dubbed ET’s spaceship, which is actually an exact replicate of a Mabkhara, or incense burner, a feature in every Omani home, as well as most stores and hotels. The frankincense from Oman is highly prized and is used in culinary applications (more on that in Foodie Friday).
These African green parrots were travelers, too, and we loved watching them preen and play in the date palms.
I hope these photos have persuaded you to put Muscat on your travel destination list. Stay tuned for more remarkable places to visit in Oman.