A half-day tour of Muscat will cover the main highlights of this thinly spread city of contrasts. At the historic end of the spectrum is Old Muscat, where you can admire the forts of Jalali and Mirani standing sentinel-like astride the entrance to the bay; at the head of the bay lies the Sultan’s Palace, its riches can be guessed at from the opulent exterior. Nearby is the Beit Al-Zubair museum, easily the best museum in the country, which will help put the whole of your trip in context. One bay over is the traditional part of your tour, as you make your way through the narrow streets of the souq in Muttrah; if you’re feeling brave and can stand the smell, you can cross the road to the fish souq. Oman is a seafaring nation and fishermen have been unloading and selling their fish here for centuries. The modern part of your tour comes from driving through the city, past the 20th Century shopping malls and office blocks, to the Grand Mosque, completed by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos in 2001. It is a stunning complex of buildings, finished to the highest order in marble and with decorative artwork and carvings everywhere. Highlights include the prayer carpet from the main prayer hall, hand woven and the second-largest single piece of carpet in the world, and the 14m high chandelier above the prayer hall, comprising approximately a million Swarovski crystals.
In addition to the above, we can also offer a full-day version of the tour, which adds an external visit to the Royal Opera House (tours of the opera house subject to availability) – a beautiful gleaming white structure built in 2011 – and the National Museum. The latter gives an overarching picture of the country as a whole, an ideal activity for the start of your trip to give you a backdrop for your upcoming adventures. The exhibitions jump all the way back to the first human settlements in Oman some two million years ago up to the story of the country today – so it’s quite a thorough overview!