MUSCAT (مَسْقَط)

We spent a few nights in the capital of Oman, scenically wedged between mountains and ocean, with old forts, excellent museums, an opera house, and flower-filled parks. The gentle city of Muscat is a delight to visit. Its name means ‘safe anchorage,’ and the sea plays a vital role in city life today.

We have parked behind a fish market just next to Mutrah Corniche with the souq, which retains the chaotic interest of a traditional Arab market albeit housed under modern timber roofing. Shops selling Omani and Indian artifacts and a few antiques jostle among more traditional textile, hardware, and jewelry stores.

The following day, we walked from Mutrah along an attractive corniche of latticed buildings and mosques to the old town. We came to the front of the gates of the Soltan Palace. The palace was built over the site of the former British embassy where there used to be the stump of a flagpole in the grounds: the story goes that any enslaved person (Oman was infamous for its slave trade from East Africa) who touched the flagpole was granted freedom. Today, the palace is used mainly for ceremonial purposes as Sultan Qaboos favors a quieter seaside residence near Seeb.

On our way out from Muscat, we stopped next to the glorious piece of modern Islamic architecture, which can accommodate 20,000 worshippers. The Grand Mosque was a gift to the nation from Sultan Qaboos to mark his 30th year of reign. The main prayer hall is breathtakingly beautiful. The Persian carpet alone measures 70m by 60m wide, making it the second-largest hand-loomed Iranian carpet in the world; it took 600 women four years to weave.

Parking location – Muscat: 23.625722N 58.562025E (🚻-08:00-18:00)