Muscat, the capital of Oman, is a sprawling city stretched over 25 miles of coastline. It is a low-rise city – compared to, say, the metropolis of nearby Dubai, for example – and comprises a series of distinct villages and suburbs separated by jagged hills and linked by smooth highways. The historic heart are the two settlements of Old Muscat and Muttrah. It’s here you’ll find the Sultan’s Palace flanked by the twin forts of Jalali and Mirani that guard access to the bay. In Muttrah is the old souq, winding narrow streets shaded by palm fronds where you can buy everything from frankincense to traditional weapons, gold jewellery to more prosaic everyday kitchen items.
Outside these two hubs is the more modern city, suburbs of shopping malls and streets of tradesmen of all specialities from vehicle maintenance to air-conditioning repair. The most recent addition to the skyline is the hugely impressive Grand Mosque built by the late His Majesty the Sultan Qaboos. A vast mosque of cooling marble, stunning chandeliers, and massive hand-woven carpets, it’s a fitting monument to Sultan Qaboos’s desire to modernise the country without compromising its heritage.