Muscat is not only the capital of Oman, but also one of the oldest cities in the Middle East. The city, which has developed rapidly since the 1970s, has an interesting history and a great deal of culture to offer. If you travel to Oman, you will probably arrive in Muscat. It is certainly worthwhile to stay here for a few days and discover this beautiful city.
Preparations: Oman visa
Besides planning the places you want to visit during your trip to the Sultanate of Oman, you should also apply for an Oman visa before you leave. Since 2018, it is no longer possible to buy a visa on arrival, so you will have to do this procedure online. The e-visa is easy to apply for with this application form. After filling out the form and paying the fee, your application will be processed. As soon as the visa is granted (on average this takes about 1 week), you will receive the visa by e-mail. You will need to print out the visa and present it upon arrival in Oman.
There are three types of tourist visas for Oman: the single-entry visa for a stay of up to 10 days, the single-entry visa for a stay of up to 30 days, and the multiple-entry visa for multiple stays of up to 30 days each for one year. The cost of the Oman visa depends on the type of visa chosen.
A city with a rich history
Muscat has been an important trading port between the East and West since the 1st century BC. The city was in the hands of the Persians, Portuguese and Spanish, among others, and only became the capital of Oman at the end of the 18th century. Discover the interesting and historic sites that you should definitely see during a visit to this city.
Muttrah and the Old City
Muttrah, located on the seaport, was an important fishing village and is now part of the city of Muscat. Not only is it one of the oldest parts of the city, but it is also where most of the sites are. One of these is the Muttrah Souq, which at 200 years old is one of the oldest markets in Oman. Another notable market is the Fish Market, which perfectly captures the commercial history and fishing continuity of the area. Another attraction is the Corniche, the famous promenade which is about a kilometre long. It has beautiful fountains, sculptures and gardens, and is the perfect place to view the Sultan’s impressive yacht.
The Old City is the birthplace of Muscat. You can enter the Old City via the Muscat Gate Museum, from where you have a great view of the Corniche. This area has remained partially walled and has two old forts built by the Portuguese in the 16th century: Al Mirani and Al Jalali. In the Old City there is also Al Alam, the ceremonial palace of the Sultan. Although it is not open to the public, you can walk around its courtyard and gardens.
To learn more about Oman’s 5 million-year-old history, a visit to the National Museum of Oman is a must. Opened in 2016, it contains the country’s largest collection of historic artefacts, with over 5,000 pieces. The idea behind the museum is not only to showcase Oman’s past, but also to raise awareness of Omani traditions and culture at home and abroad and encourage innovation. Admission is 5 OMR (about £ 12).
History and modernity in one
Until the 1970s, Muscat, like the rest of the country, had remained isolated and underdeveloped. Today, after considerable technological and infrastructural development, Muscat is a destination that combines history and modernity, with buildings that guarantee to amaze all visitors.
Sultan Qaboos Mosque
This impressive mosque is the main mosque of the Sultanate of Oman. It is also one of the main attractions in Muscat. Constructed mainly of marble, it has one of the largest Persian carpets in the world, which took four years to handcraft. It also has a huge chandelier with over 1,000 lights and decorated with hundreds of Swarovski crystals. It was the largest mosque in the world until the Sheikh Zayed Mosque was built in Abu Dhabi.
Royal Opera House of Muscat
Another iconic building in Muscat is the opera house, one of the first of its kind in the Middle East. It was built on the orders of Sultan Qaboos and reflects the country’s contemporary architecture. You can hear everything from traditional Arabic music to operas and contemporary music. As well as attending a performance, you can also take a guided tour to see the auditorium and exhibitions.