Saturday, 7 April 2018

OMAN: Discover Muscat, World Famous For Its Hospitality, Women Can Wear Bikinis And Shirts.

Muscat is the capital of Oman and the country's largest city.

Muscat is the capital and largest metropolitan city of Oman. It is also the seat of government and largest city in the Governorate of Muscat.

Often referred to as 'the jewel of Arabia', Oman is certainly not a holiday spot to be overlooked.

Muscat is also considered as a Global City. According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), the total population of Muscat Governorate reached 1.28 million as of September 2015.

The metropolitan area spans approximately 3,500 km2 (1,400 sq mi) and includes six provinces called wilayats.

Known since the early 1st century CE as an important trading port between the west and the east, Muscat was ruled by various indigenous tribes as well as foreign powers such as the Persians, the Portuguese Empire and the Ottoman Empire at various points in its history.

A regional military power in the 18th century, Muscat's influence extended as far as East Africa and Zanzibar.

As an important port-town in the Gulf of Oman, Muscat attracted foreign tradesmen and settlers such as the Persians and the Balochis.

Since the ascension of Qaboos bin Said as Sultan of Oman in 1970, Muscat has experienced rapid infrastructural development that has led to the growth of a vibrant economy and a multi-ethnic society.

The rocky Western Al Hajar Mountains dominate the landscape of Muscat. The city lies on the Arabian Sea along the Gulf of Oman and is in the proximity of the strategic Straits of Hormuz.

Low-lying white buildings typify most of Muscat's urban landscape, while the port-district of Muttrah, with its corniche and harbour, form the north-eastern periphery of the city. Muscat's economy is dominated by trade, petroleum and porting.

Muscat is located in northeast Oman, at 24°00′N 57°00′E. The Tropic of Cancer passes south of the area. It is bordered to its west by the plains of the Al Batinah Region and to its east by Ash Sharqiyah Region.

The interior plains of the Ad Dakhiliyah Region border Muscat to the south, while the Gulf of Oman forms the northern and western periphery of the city.

The water along to coast of Muscat runs deep, forming two natural harbours, in Muttrah and Muscat. The Western Al Hajar Mountains run through the northern coastline of the city.

Volcanic rocks are apparent in the Muscat area, and are composed of serpentine and diorite, extending along the Gulf of Oman coast for ten or twelve 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) from the district of Darsait to Yiti.

Plutonic rocks constitute the hills and mountains of Muscat and span approximately 30 miles (48 km) from Darsait to Ras Jissah.

These igneous rocks consists of serpentine, greenstone and basalt, typical of rocks in southeastern regions of the Arabian Peninsula.

South of Muscat, the volcanic rock strata are broken up and distorted, rising to a maximum height of 6,000 feet (1,800 m), in Al Dakhiliyah, a region which includes Jebel Akhdar, the country's highest range.

The hills in Muscat are mostly devoid of vegetation but are rich in iron.

The halophytic sabkha type desert vegetation is predominant in Muscat. The Qurum Nature Reserve contains plants such as the Arthrocnemum Macrostachyum and Halopeplis Perfoliata. Coral reefs are common in Muscat.

Acropora reefs exist in the sheltered bays of the satellite towns of Jussah and Khairan. Additionally, smaller Porites reef colonies exist in Khairan, which have fused to form a flat-top pavement is visible at low tide.

Crabs and spiny crayfish are found in the waters of the Muscat area, as are sardines and bonito. Glassfish are common in freshwater estuaries, such as the Qurum Nature Reserve.

The Al Sultan Qaboos Street forms the main artery of Muscat, running west-to-east through the city. The street eventually becomes Al Nahdah Street near Al Wattayah.

Several inter-city roads such as Nizwa Road and Al Amrat Road, intersect with Al Sultan Qaboos Road in Rusail and Ruwi, respectively.

Muttrah, with the Muscat Harbour, Corniche, and Mina Qaboos is located in the north-eastern coastline of the city, adjacent to the Gulf of Oman.

Other coastal districts of Muscat include Darsait, Mina Al Fahal, Ras Al Hamar, Al Qurum Heights, Al Khuwair and Al Seeb.

Residential and commercial districts further inland include Al Hamriyah, Al Wadi Al Kabir, Ruwi, Al Wattayah, Madinat Qaboos, Al Azaiba and Al Ghubra.

The city referred to as Muscat consists of three smaller towns which have grown together over time. They are:

- Muscat, often referred to as the walled city, Muscat proper is the site of the royal palaces.

- Matrah or Matruh, originally a fishing village, and home to the maze-like Matrah Souq.

- Ruwi, generally considered the commercial and diplomatic centre of the city.

This tripartite division will sometimes cause the visitor an inconvenience, as distances between sites can be very long.

As an alternative to the main CBD area that is considered as these three areas there is plently of places to go and things to see along the main highway that heads North East out of these areas.

This main road, The Sultan Qaboos Highway, goes past many areas on its way out to the Airport and further still to Seeb, Sohar and eventually the northern most tip of Oman.

Heading along this road you pass the districts of Qurum, Madinat Al Sultan Qaboos, Al Khuwair, Bausher, Al-Hail and Seeb. Each one has a range of sights to see and places to stay.

There is also a very long beach road from Qurum to Seeb, some 50km. Situated along this are some of the large international hotel chains but more importantly you discover the true beauty of the Oman coast-line. Km's of beaches, fisherman with drag nets and open space to walk for hours.

The climate is tropical, with very hot and generally humid weather year-round.Muscat features a hot, arid climate with long and very hot summers and warm winters.

Annual rainfall in Muscat is about 10 cm (4 in), falling mostly from December to April. In general precipitation is scarce in Muscat, with several months on average seeing only a trace of rainfall.

However, in recent years, heavy precipitation events from tropical systems originating in the Arabian Sea have affected the city.

Cyclone Gonu in June 2007 and Cyclone Phet in June 2010 affected the city with damaging winds and rainfall amounts exceeding 100 mm (4 in) in just a single day.

The climate generally is very hot and also very humid in the summer, with temperatures frequently reaching as high as 40 °C (104 °F) in the summer.

Muscat's economy, like that of Oman, is dominated by trade. The more traditional exports of the city included dates, mother of pearl, and fish. Many of the souks of Muttrah sell these items and traditional Omani artefacts.

Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) has been central to Muscat's economy since at least 1962 and is the country's second largest employer, after the government.

PDO's major shareholders include Royal Dutch/Shell, Total, and Partex and its production is estimated to be about 720,000 barrels per day (114,000 m3/d).

Muscat also has major trading companies such as Suhail Bahwan Group, which is a trading partner for corporations such as Toshiba, Subaru, Seiko, Hewlett Packard, General Motors, RAK Ceramics; Saud Bahwan Group whose trading partners are Toyota, Daihatsu, KIA and Hertz Rent-a-Car.

Zubair Automotive whose trading partners include Mitsubishi, and Chrysler brands such as Dodge; and Moosa AbdulRahman Hassan which operates as one of the oldest automotive agencies in the entire region being established in 1927.

The private Health Care sector of Muscat, Oman has numerous hospitals and clinics.

The Muscat Securities Market is the principal stock exchange of Oman. It is located in Central Business District of Muscat and it was established in 1988, and has since distinguished itself as a pioneer among its regional peers in terms of transparency and disclosure regulations and requirements.

Mina'a Sultan Qaboos, Muscat's main trading port, is a trading hub between the Persian Gulf, the Indian subcontinent and the Far East with an annual volume of about 1.6 million tons.

However, the emergence of the Jebel Ali Free Zone in neighboring Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has made that port the premier maritime trading port of the region with about 44 million tons traded in cargo annually.

Many infrastructural facilities are owned and operated by the government of Oman.

Omantel is the major telecommunications organization in Oman and provides local, long-distance and international dialing facilities and operates as the country's only ISP.

Recent liberalization of the mobile telephone market has seen the establishment of a second provider — Nawras.

Muscat is home to multibillion-dollar conglomerate Ck Industries with their headquarters located in Ruwi. Ajman based Amtek Industries also have a couple of offices around the city. It is also home to Galfar Engineering, headed by P. Mohammed Ali.

The airline Oman Air has its head office on the grounds of Muscat International Airport.

According to the 2003 census conducted by the Oman Ministry of National Economy, the population of Muscat is over 630,000, which included 370,000 males and 260,000 females.

Muscat formed the second largest governorate in the country, after Al Batinah, accounting for 27% of the total population of Oman.

Omanis constituted 60% of the total population of Muscat, while expatriates accounted for about 40%. The population density of the city was 162.1 per km2.

The governorate of Muscat comprises six wilayats: Muttrah, Bawshar, Seeb, Al Amrat, Muscat and Qurayyat. Of the wilayats, Seeb, located in the western section of the governorate, was the most populous with over 220,000 residents, while Muttrah had the highest number of expatriates with over 100,000).

Approximately 71% of the population was within the 15–64 age group, with the average Omani age being 23 years.

About 10% of the population is illiterate, an improvement when compared to the 18% illiteracy rate recorded during the 1993 census.

Expatriates accounted for over 60% of the labour force, dominated by males, who accounted for 80% of the city's total labour.

A majority of expatriates 34% engineering-related occupations, while most Omanis worked in engineering, clerical, scientific or technical fields.

The defense sector was the largest employer for Omanis, while construction, wholesale and retail trade employed the largest number of expatriates.

The ethnic makeup of Muscat has historically been influenced by people not native to the Arabian Peninsula.

British Parliamentary papers dating back to the 19th century indicate the presence of a significant Hindu Gujarati merchants in the city. Indeed, four Hindu temples existed in Muscat.

Christianity flourished in Oman from the late 4th century to early 5th century.

Missionary activity by the Assyrians of the Church of the East resulted in a significant Christian population living in the region, with a bishop being attested by 424 AD under the Metropolitan of Fars and Arabia.

The rise of Islam saw the Syriac and Arabic-speaking Christian population eventually disappear. It is thought to have been brought back in by the Portuguese in 1507. Protestant missionaries established a hospital in Muscat in the 19th century.

Like the rest of Oman, Arabic is the predominant language of the city. In addition, English, Balochi, Swahili and South Asian languages such as Hindi, Konkani, Marathi, Gujarati, Malayalam, Tamil and Urdu are spoken by the residents of Muscat.

Islam is the predominant religion in the city, with most followers being Ibadi Muslims. Non-Muslims are allowed to practice their religion, but may not proselytize publicly or distribute religious literature.
The city has numerous mosques including the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Ruwi Mosque, Saeed bin Taimoor and Zawawi Mosque. A few Shi'ite mosques also exist here.

Muscat has a number of museums. These include Museum of Omani Heritage, National Museum of Oman, Oman Children's Museum, Bait Al Zubair, Oman Oil and Gas Exhibition Centre, Omani French Museum, Sultan's Armed Forces Museum and the Omani Aquarium and Marine Science and Fisheries Centre.

The Bait Al Falaj Fort played an important role in Muscat's military history.

Recent projects include an opera house which opened on October 14, 2011. One of the most notable new projects is the Oman National Museum. It is expected to be an architectural jewel along with the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.

Visitors are also encouraged to visit Old Muscat and the Old Palace. The main shopping district is situated in Al Qurum Commercial Area, however shopping malls are spread out throughout the city.

One of the largest malls in Oman is Oman Avenues Mall, located in Ghubra.

The main airport is Muscat International Airport around 25 km (16 mi) from the city's business district of Ruwi and 15 to 20 km from the main residential localities of Al-Khuwair, Madinat Al Sultan Qaboos, Shati Al-Qurm and Al-Qurm.

Muscat is the headquarters for the local Oman Air, which flies to several destinations within the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, East Africa and Europe.

Other airlines such as Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, KLM, SriLankan, Royal Jordanian, British Airways, PIA, Jet Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates, Swiss International Air Lines, Kuwait Airways, Air India and Thai Airways fly through Muscat International Airport.

The Muscat area is well serviced by paved roads and dual-carriageway connects most major cities and towns in the country.

Since November 2015, Public transportation in Muscat has been revamped with a bus network connecting most important parts of the city with a modern Mwasalat which was Oman National Transport Company (ONTC) buses.

Mwasalat buses were procured from VDL Company of The Netherlands and they have several hi-tech features. Route 1 Ruwi-Mabela serves people travelling major shopping destinations Oman Avenues Mall, Muscat Grand Mall, Qurum City Centre, Muscat City Centre, Markaz al Bhaja and Muscat Airport.

Route 2 Ruwi-Wadi Kabir serves the residential and industrial district of Wadi Kabir. Route 3 Ruwi-Wadi Adei serves the downmarket residential belt of Wadi Adei.

Route 4 Ruwi-Mattrah serves the tourist destination of Muttrah Corniche, Al Alam Palace, National Museum and Port Sultan Qaboos. Route 5 Ruwi-Amerat serves the rapidly developing Amerat suburb.

Route 6 Ruwi-SQU&KOM serves the student community of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and the office commuters of Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM).

There is no rail or metro network in the country. Several forms of public transport are popular in Oman. Most popular are the Baiza buses, so named for the lower denomination of the Omani rial, the baiza, an adaptation of the Indian lower denomination paisa.

These are relatively inexpensive and service all major roadways, as well as a wide and loose network of smaller byways in the greater Muscat metropolitan area, opportunistically dropping off and picking up passengers at any location.

Less popular and slightly more expensive are large public buses, coloured red and green, whose service is limited to major roadways and point-to-point travel routes between Oman's major cities and towns.

Taxis, also colour-coded orange and white, provide semi-personal transportation in the form of both individual hire and the same opportunistic roadway service as Baiza buses.

Baiza buses and colour-coded orange-and-white taxis are unmetered, after several government initiatives to introduce meters were rejected.

The fare is set by way of negotiation, although taxi drivers usually adhere to certain unwritten rules for fares within the city. In many countries, one is advised to negotiate a fare with the driver before getting into a taxi.

However, in Oman, asking for the fare beforehand often demonstrates a passenger's newness and unfamiliarity with the area.

One should always find out the normally accepted fare for one's journey from one's hotel or host before looking for a taxi. Taxis will also generally take passengers to locations out of the city, including Sohar, Buraimi and Dubai.

A rail network named Oman Rail is expected to be completed by 2018. This will connect Oman with the GCC countries.

Historically, certain nationalities holding a Qatar or UAE tourist visas did not need to purchase an Omani visa if entering directly from Doha or Dubai. This was no longer the case in February 2018 - be prepared to purchase a tourist visa.

Visas upon arrival for eligible countries are quick and easy to obtain cost 20 OR for a 30 day validity. 10-day visas were historically available but are not longed offered as of February 2018.

Always check the length of visa granted: people have reported being incorrectly granted a 10 day visa at land border crossing and inadvertently overstaying their visas.

Penalties for overstaying visas are extremely high: 10 OR per person per day, payable at the border where you entered Oman.

Numerous air services arrive to Muscat International Airport, located only 15 - 20 minutes from the city depending which part of Muscat you are staying. Taxis are abundant and generally use meters.

Thai AirAsia operates 3 flights per week from Muscat direct to Bangkok (Don Mueang). Departing Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

flydubai operates 4 flights per day from Dubai to Muscat.

Oman Air operates flights to Muscat from Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Amman, Bahrain, Bangalore, Bangkok, Beirut, Cairo, Chennai, Chittagong, Dar Es Salaam, Delhi, Doha, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Jaipur, Jeddah, Karachi, Kathmandu.

Oman Air also flys to Khasab, Kochi, Kozhikode, Kuala Lumpur, Kuwait, Lahore, London Heathrow, Lucknow, Male, Manchester, Milan, Mumbai, Munich, Paris, Ras Al Khaimah, Riyadh, Salalah, Singapore, Tehran and Thiruvananthapuram.

Gulf Air offers flights from Bahrain to Muscat.

Emirates has 7 flights per day from Dubai to Muscat, flying time 1 hr.

Air Arabia offers 2 flights per day from Sharjah to Muscat, duration of flight 55 min.

Etihad Airways operates 3 flights per day from Abu Dhabi to Muscat, duration of flight 1:05 hrs.

Britsh Airways offers daily flights from London Heathrow to Muscat. The journey has a 1-hour stop-over in Abu Dhabi during which passengers stay on the plane.

KLM operates flights from Amsterdam to Muscat on Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri and Sun, duration of flight 8hrs 30min.

Lufthansa has flights from Frankfurt to Muscat from Sun to Fri, duration of flight 8 hrs.

Swiss operates daily flights from Zurich to Muscat via Dubai.

Royal Jordanian flys from Amman to Muscat on Tue, Thu, Fri and Sun, arriving in Muscat next morning.

Egyptair offers flights from Cairo to Muscat on Mon Wed, Thu and Fri, arriving in Muscat next morning, duration of flight 4 hrs.

Air India Express has flights to Muscat from Amritsar on Wed and Fri, duration of flight 3 hrs 15min, from Delhi on Wed and Fri duration of flight 5 hrs 20min, from Kochi on Tue, Thu and Sun duration of flight 3hrs 35min.

From Kozhikode on Fri, Sat, Sun duration of flight 3hrs 25min, from Thiruvanantahapuram on Tue, Thu to Sun duration of flight 3hrs 45 min, or 5hrs 20min if flight goes via Cochin.

Pakistan International Airlines operates flights to Muscat from Islamabad on Mon, Wed, Thu, Sat and Sun and from Peshawar on Wed, Thu and Sat.

Turkish Airlines operates flights to Muscat from Istanbul on everyday.

The number of airlines flying to Muscat increases each year, although the Omani sale of their part of Gulf Air has meant a temporary decrease in passengers.

Domestically, Oman Air also flies from Salalah to Muscat at least twice weekly.

Oman National Transport Company runs buses to Muscat from Dubai duration of journey: 6 hrs and Abu Dhabi via Buraimi.

al-Khanjry Transport runs a bus from al-Rigga in Dubai to Muscat, leaving every day at 7:00am and 3:00pm 55 dirhams one way, 90 return.

Within Oman there are daily busses to Muscat from Buraimi via Sohar, Nizwa 2hrs 20min, Salalah 13 hrs, reservation required, Sanaw and Sur 4hrs 15 min.

Long distance busses arrive at the Oman National Transport Company at Ruwi, Al-Jaame Street near Sultan Qaboos Mosque.

Scheduled departures with ONTC from Ruwi included: Ibri 08:00, 14:30, Sur 07:30, 14:30, Burimi 06:30, 13:00, 16:00, Salalah 07:00, 10:00, 18:00, Dubai 06:00, 15:00, 23:00.

More departures particularly to Salalah are available through the Gulf Transport Company (GTC).

You can reach Muscat by road from the United Arab Emirates. The journey takes about 5h by crossing the border in Hatta/Al Ain.

You can drive from Al Ghaydah in Yemen.naimu The journey is about 6 hours via the border crossing at Sarfeit to Salalah and then another 10 to Muscat.

Maxi taxis - vans, known throughout the expat community as baisa busses ply the highway from Seeb to the corniche area. The charge is 100 baisa from corniche area to the church round about and another 100 baisa from the church round about to Wadi Adai.

On arrival at the airport, situated approximately 40km from the main Muscat CBD, you can get a baisa bus down the main highway in either direction.

The mostly orange and white taxis are a bit pricier, and they hang around the hotels where they get juicy fares from unwary travellers.

They will charge 8 Rials for an airport trip if you don't haggle, but you should be able to barter for 5 Rials.

They always say they will give you good price but its best to figure out what you want to spend then agree before you get in.

The Maxi Taxis ply the main routes through town, and they go where they want so you might have to find one going your direction, once you are on one, they will make sure you get there.

The place to wait for them is on the on-ramps of most of the main highway junctions, you'll usually see a few people waiting around for one.

A journey within the Muscat area should not cost more than 300 Baisa each, but if you look like an experienced traveller and hand them 200 baisa then you can usually get away with that.

There are many rent-a-car services available in the city. There is much conflicting information as to whether an international driving licence is required for renting out a car.

According to the Royal Omani Police website, a valid license from your home country is sufficient for up to 90 days. It is best to verify this with the rental company. Most of the Car Rentals have offices at the airport arrivals terminal.

- Al Maha Rent a Car
- Al Maskry Rent-a-Car
- Avis
- Bahwan Rent a Car
- Budget
- Europcar
- Hertz
- National
- Sixt
- Thrifty

The cheapest car hire is about 11 OMR (14 GBP) for a day which will get you an economy car with manual transmission and sometimes no air-conditioning.

To get yourself properly equipped, you should hire a 4WD which will be around 30 OMR (38 GBP). Make sure that you will get a proper induction on driving in Oman.

Road signs in Muscat can be quite confusing, particularly when having to decide which exit to take to reach your destination.

Best to ask a local to provide you with directions if you haven't been to your destination previously.

Al Jalali Fort and Al Mirani fort They are located in Qasr Al Alam Street. The forts were built as prisons in the rocky mountains in 1580 during the Portugese occupation, and have now been converted into museums.

Update as of August 2012, the forts are now closed to the public. However, outside photography is allowed.

Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace Guarded by the twin forts of Jalali and Mirani, this is the office of Sultan Qaboos, the ruler of Oman. This beautiful palace stands on the head of a natural deep water harbour.

Visitors are not allowed to visit the palace, but they are allowed to take photographs at the entrance of the palace.

Corniche Area The recently renovated Corniche area is a popular place for a walk and also for its many eating places. Climb to the base of Mutrah Fort at the east end of the Corniche walk for a spectacular view of the city.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. This is the third largest mosque in the world and mostly the entire complex is open to non-Muslim visitors. Non-Muslims may visit from 8AM to 11AM every day except Friday.

Ladies are however expected to keep their heads, ankles and wrists covered while visiting the mosque.

Must sees in the mosque include the Swarovski crystal chandelier, the second largest hand made persian carpet in the world and the marble panelling.

Bait az-Zubair Museum The museum itself features displays on Omani social history, while tours are frequently run of the neighbouring reconstructed townhouse.

Muscat also has a large number of small and large parks, the largest being the Qurum National Park or rose gardens which include a large manmade waterfall, a lake and an amusement park which is a must to visit during the Muscat festival.

Other popular parks include:

Riyam park - also with rides and an Arabian watch tower. Visited in The Amazing Race 9

A number of factories are open for visitors such as the Omani halwah factory and the Amouage perfume factory. Amouage perfume is the most valuable perfume in the world.

Nakhal Fort. This splendid fort is about 40 minutes drive east of the city, located at the base of the Jebel Akhdar section of the Hajar Mountains.

Museums in Muscat:

- Bait Al Zubair

- Bait Muzna Gallery

- Children's Museum, Shatti al qurum

- Marine Science & Fisheries Centre, between the Al Bustan Palace Hotel and the Capital Yacht Club.

- National Museum, near Abdulridha Mosque-Ruwi.

- Natural History Museum, in the Minstry of National Heritage and Culture. Al Khuwair

- Omani French Museum, Near muscat police stn, Located at old Muscat in Bait Fransa.

- Omani Museum, Medinat Al Alam near Ministry of Information.

- The Sultan's Armed Forces Museum, Bait al falaj.

Al Mutrah walking tour: Walk down the waterfront in the Corniche area to catch a cool sea breeze, and treat yourself to some sandwiches and Halib which is tea with milk or Sulaimani which black tea at one of the wayside restaurants.

A cup of tea costs about 1 rial. From the waterfront enter the Mutrah Souk and bargain for Arab hand-embroidered mussar, shawls intended to be worn as turbans, which cost 10 rials and above, garments, nuts, spices, incense, earthen ware, etc.

Before getting back to your hotel have dinner at one of the wayside restaurants on the waterfront.

If you start in the morning, commence your tour at the fish market in the port area and stroll easterly towards the fort.

Scuba Diving: visit the Oman Dive Centre at Bandar Jissah.

Rock Climbing: there are over 200 bolted climbs in the Jebel Shams / western Hajjar Mountains region, 150+km from
- Muscat

- Night Safari

- Trekking

- Camel Racing

- Turtle Watching

- Dolphin Watching

- Horseback Riding

- Jewellery Shopping

Aywa Holidays and Tours, Oman, Ghubrah North, Way 3209, Number 725, 130 Muscat, OMAN. Aywa Tours offers a range of tours that introduce you to the landscape of Oman and give you an opportunity to get to know local lifestyle. Starting from US $117 / day / 2 people.

Mutrah Souk The maze-like souq the marketplace, which also includes a fish market, is often described as the best in the Gulf region.

The souq has several shops for jewellery, traditional Omani handicrafts and Omani food at reasonable prices. It is also a great place to find fun gifts to bring home.

Sabco Centre, Qurm. Located near the turnoff between Sultan Qaboos St and Qurm Heights Road, the Sabco Centre is actually a collection of about half a dozen medium sized shopping centres which is very popular with locals.

The actual Sabco Centre has a small souq-like collection of shops that contains many of the handicrafts that are available in the Mutrah Souq.

Opposite the Sabco Centre is the Omani Craftsman's House that only sells guaranteed Made in Oman crafts at fixed but relatively high prices.

Oman Avenues Mall. Oman Avenues Mall is a division of renowned LuLu Group International. Oman Avenues Mall offers an all-in-one shopping, dining, kid zones and entertainment experience to locals and international tourists.

- Muscat City Centre, Seeb. Currently the biggest mall, containing a lot of shops including a large Carrefour.

- Qurum City Centre.Recently opened up at Qurum and contains Carrefour too.

- Godiva Chocolates, Sabco Centre, Ruwi.

- Lulu Hypermarket, Darsait, Bausher and Seeb.

- Markaz al Bahja, Seeb.

- Safeer Hyper Market, Athaiba - Azaiba.

- Select, All Shell Petrol Bunks.

- Sultan Centre.

The Al Fair chain of supermarkets sells just about everything you want. Many of them are on the main Sultan Qaboos highway making them an easy place to spot.

There are numerous Indian run tailors. You may pay RO 5 to have 2 Italian suits tailored for sleeve length, trouser length and waist.

There is a Raymond store in Ruwi that will make custom suits in the RO 50-500 range, depending on quality.

In fact they have excellent fabrics from pure wool to wool blended with exotic fibers like Cashmere, Mohair or Angora and linen. Even Super 230s crafted out of 11.8 micron wool are found there.

Ask them for their catalogue, you will find the latest Italian designs and styles in there and a really good suit can be really light on the pocket.

Be aware that a custom suit will take up to 2 weeks to finish, therefore there is no use going to this store if you are staying for vacation for just one week.

Oman-UAE Exchange Centres- LuLu Hypermarkets, Ghala and Ruwi Global Money Exchange - Ruwi travelex - Seeb International Airport Purshottam Kanji - Ruwi Mustafa Sultan Exchange - Many outlets throughout Oman

Food can be cheap in Muscat and for about 1-3 Rials you'll get a meal per person, depending on where you eat.

Where to eat:

Al-exandria, Fanja House, Near Sabco Centre, Ruwi. The best Rotis or Indian Bread. Try the chicken Jalfrezi and Paneer aloo or potato.

Bin Atique, Al Khuwair, Ruwi. Said to be the only authentic Omani restaurant in town - and its fame means that this is now firmly a tourist joint. Food is acceptable if a bit pricey for what you get.

Automatic, Cuisine - Lebanese. Try the Hummus or Chickpea paste, Fatoosh or Salad, Mutabel or Egg Plant paste, Falafel and mint tea. Even the waiters are not sure why the restaurant is named automatic.

There is a branch of Automatic located on the side of the Sabco Centre facing away from the central car park. There are also branches in Ruwi, Al Khuwair and elsewhere in Muscat.

- Al-Haikal, Near Bus Stand, Ruwi, Cuisine - Pakistani.

- Al-Hanan, Ruwi, Cuisine - Indian.

- Al-Shaheen, Honda Road, Ruwi, Cuisine - Pakistani.

- Al-Tarboosh, opposite the Sabco Centre, Qurm. Fast Arabian/Lebanese-style food available for takeaway or eat-in on the first floor.

- Saravana Bhavan, Opp. O.C Centre, Ruwi, Cuisine - Indian.

- Bella-Pais, MAM roundabout, just off the Nizwa turn off, Cuisine - Greek and Other.

- Gujrat Bhojan Shala, Ruwi High Street, Ruwi, Cuisine - Indian.

- Oman Express. Delivers Lunch - 18 rials for a month including Fridays or 15.6 Rials excluding Fridays.
Subway, City Centre, Seeb.

Many restaurants targeting Indian guest workers in Al Khuwayr; also, Ofair and Ibn Ateeq Omani restaurants.

- Haffa House Hotel, Ruwi.

- Chedi Hotel pizza restaurant offers less expensive food than the other Chedi outlets, with the same understated chic ambience.

- Kargeen, located in Madinat Qaboos, offers a good range of local food and from the wider region such as Lebanese dishes. Their fresh juices are a must, or even a fruity shisha pipe.

The main plus is the ambience; most of the restaurant is outdoor seating with a ceiling of lights.

- Golden Grill, located in CBD area, ruwi, offers one of the best Indian, Chinese and mughlai and grilled food. Also famous for its seafood dishes and a great ambiance.

- Chili's a few in central Muscat, good fast food.

- Left bank one of only two places in Muscat where you can eat and enjoy a beer or a glass of wine. Great setting on top of a hill. Non smokers sit in side, as many of the wannabe's and smokers sit outside. Food is good.

- Al Khiran, Al Bustan Palace Hotel,Cuisine - Buffet. Famous for their Friday brunch buffets which cost RO 19.500 per person + 17% service charge/tax.

- Chedi Hotel, On the coast road, Cuisine - 4 open kitchens from across the world.

- Mumtaz Mahal, Cuisine - Indian.

- Passage to India,Jibroo, Wadi Adai, Hatat House Compound,Cuisine - Indian.

- Samarkhand, Oasis by the Sea, Cuisine - Indian Peshwari.

Every road, street corner or little collection houses, huts or businesses has a Coffee-Shop Basic but worth a go.

Fresh fruit juices are delicious and available from a number of stalls and cafes in Muscat.

Some well-known ones are Fast Food 'n' Juice Centre on the Corniche at Mutrah where you can watch the world go by from the outside tables and Al Ahli Coffeeshop inside the Mutrah Souq.

Expect to pay between RO 0.500 and 1.500 for these juices depending on type and size.

There is a Starbucks located on the beach road that goes between the Crown Plaza Hotel and the Intercontinental Hotel. It is so close that if you cross the road, you are on the beach.

The larger drinks are about RO 2-2.2, but the view through the glass wall of the waves coming into the beach is excellent.

Motif Coffee Shop. Next to the Intercontinental Hotel directly on the beach where you can sit under palms and watch the sunset. Despite the location prices are moderate.

Fresh juices are RO 1.1, a tea or coffee RO 0.8, a sandwhich about RO 1 and grilled fish or squid RO 3. It is a great place.

Accommodations in Muscat:

Guesthouse Aywa, Muscat, Ghubrah North Way 3209, number 725 130 Muscat, OMAN. checkin: 4pm; checkout: 12noon. Aywa Guesthouse is located near Grand Mosque and Auziba beach. Has shared terrace, lounge, and kitchen.

Friendly, knowledagble host and communal atmosphere. Free WiFi, guest computer, printer/scanner and washing machine. One 4WD car available for rental. US $49 / double room OR 20 for shared room.

Corniche Area There are five hotels on the Corniche waterfront that all charge 15 Rial $44US There is one hotel which is very rundown at the end of the waterfront that is 10 Rial $26us.

Delmon Hotel Apartments. Spacious, clean, and close to a LuLu's Hypermarket. For about 20-25 Rial a night $55 US you have a fridge, a coffee & tea maker, and a modern bathroom. Free wifi in rooms and lobby.

Golden Oasis Hotel. In the centre of Muscat and close to the main commercial area. A popular choice for tourists.

Hotel Summersands. Hotel Summersands is located in Seeb,Muscat, just 13 Km from Muscat International Airport. The hotel was built according to the Best Western international standards.

At the present time the hotel has 37 high-class rooms equipped according to modern standards.

There are a number of Guest Houses or Isteraha in Arabic spread around Muscat which are quite affordable and acceptable in general.

The Crown Plaza. Located in Qurum with a grand view north up the beach towards the Intercontinental.

Somerset Panorama Muscat, Al Ghubrah Street, PO Box 1640, PC 131, Muscat. Ideal for guests travelling into the city on business, the residence is situated in the Bawshar commercial district, centrally located near the diplomatic areas & Ghala industrial estate.

Muscat offers a considerable range of luxury hotels, among them are:

Crystal Suites, Vegetable & Fruit Market Road, Way 6702, Block 167 Wadi Kabir. It offers 78 well appointed suites, all of which have a 32” LCD TV, DVD player, electronic safe box, and direct dialling facility.

Some of its amenities are a restaurant serving finest Mughlai and Afghani recipes from Kareem’s of Bombay, an open to sky Atrium with children’s play area and dining facilities, and ballrooms with 1000 persons capacity for marriage receptions, and corporate and private functions.

They also undertake out-door catering facilities wherein Crystal Suites will offer unique experience to the local public and tourists. Best rates on official website start at OMR 30.00.

Al Bustan Palace Hotel. Built originally to house a regional conference in the mid-80s, the hotel is famous for its brunches. Worth visiting just to check out the lobby and hotel grounds.

The Chedi Muscat. Five star luxury with traditional Omani architecture.

Grand Hyatt. An opulent building built in what is almost a parody of Arabian palace styles. There is a great pool facing the beach, but this costs 10R ((£17) for the day and drinks are very expensive.

There is a bar inside the pool also, in which people are allowed to smoke.

Hotel Al Falaj.

Ruwi Hotel. A tired and run down hotel that is more the standard of a third world back packer establishment. Interesting bar tho.

Shangri-La Hotel. Part of the international luxury chain. In Bar al Jissah, which is about 30 minutes past downtown Muscat. The hotel can be challenging to find, so make sure you have a good map if you are driving.

The Shangri-La is on a beautiful section of the coastline.

Best Western Premier Muscat a Business Hotel in Muscat, Oman, P.C. 115 Madinat Sultan Qaboos, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. checkin: 14.00; checkout: 12.00. Four-star, non-alcoholic beverage serving, luxury hotel located in the heart of Al Khuwair near the business and shopping districts.

It is advisable to drink bottled water while in Muscat. Oman Oasis, Tanuf, Arwa, Salsabeel, and Aquafina are the most recognisable brands of mineral water and is available in most convenience shops.

Masafi and Darbat are also brands at reasonable rates - RO 1 for 12*1.5 lts. Tap water is generally not safe so use bottled water.

Global calling card Global One does not work in Muscat. Though the global one website lists the rates for calls from Oman there are no numbers listed along side. The nearest Global One help line is in Dubai.

Pre-paid telephone cards called Jibreen Cards are available at most stores. It's available in denominations of 5 Rials and 1.5 Rials. A 5 Rial card gets you 11 minutes of talk time.

A good prepaid SIM card for cell phones is Omantel’s Hayyak. It’s available at the typical corner phone shops and costs about 1–2 RO, with an equivalent amount of credit inside, dial *100# to see your remaining balance.

You’ll need your passport to register the line. SMS to Europe are 50 Baisa, and there is a number of internet packages available; for example if you have 3 RO of credit, you can get 1GB – to be used up within 7 days – by dialling *141*7#.

You can check your remaining balance of that package by dialling *141*7*0# and similarly for the other packages.

One can book multiple different packages simultaneously. A list of available packages can be obtained by sending 141 to the number 90000 free.

It appears that Android devices cannot be configured remotely by the provider for internet access; instead, you can try to call the toll-free hotline Nr.: 1234.

Do it yourself: Go to the Mobile Networks Settings, create a new AP (Access Point) and select it for use: User name, password and APN (Access Point Name) must be set to taif.

ATMs are very common now, especially in the Embassy district and near most shopping malls, larger hotels, petrol stations and supermarkets. Also, every little neighbourhood has a several bank branches.

Bank Muscat is by far the largest bank in Oman and one of the largest in Gulf. It has over 230 ATMs all around Muscat.

There are some very good gymnasiums in the 4 to 5 star hotels and some privately run gyms in other places like Millennium Gym, Horizon Gym etc. You may pay money for that extra with the number of days you stay in Muscat.

Hospitals in Muscat:

- KIMS Oman Hospital ,Darsait

- Muscat Private Hospital, Ghubrah

- Al Nahda Hospital, Ghubrah

- Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Al Hamriya

- Al Shatti Hospital, Shatti al Qurum

- Atlas Star Medical Centre, Bausher

- Al Amal Medical Centre-Al Wadi Al Kabir, Al-Khuwair

- Royal Hospital

- Badr Al Sama Hospital-Ruwi,Al Khuwair, Al Khoud,Barka,Sohar,Salalah

- Babylon Medical Centre, Amerat

If you are in a 4 star hotel, they will charge a lot for laundry. If you take a short walk to any of the numerous Indian run laundry stores, your money will go a lot farther.

Keep in mind that if you drop off your clothes on a Monday, they typically won't be ready until Wednesday.

Places to go in Muscat:

- Salalah, the jewel of southern Oman, with incredible beaches and plantations.

- Dubai, you can cross the border and visit disneyland in Arabia

- Nizwa, nice drive through the Hajar Mountains to this scenic town, or stay in Nizwa and explore the mountains and forts. Good base for the trip to Jebel Shams and many other historical sites, caves and walks.

- Wadi Shab. This is perhaps the most spectacular of all the easily accessible wadis in Oman. It is located about 100 km southeast of Muscat, accessed from the main coastal road to Sur at the village of Tiwi.

The pools here are a vivid emerald green colour, and the caves and sheer sides of the wadi are quite dramatic. The car park under the highway is the starting point for the short boat ride, 1 OR per person across the wadi.

Thereafter it is a 45-60 minute walk to the pools. Rock scrambling required, be careful as many people have fallen while taking photos. Past the third pool there is a narrow underwater passage to an amazing waterfall.

Wear clothes you can swim in, women can wear bikinis and shirts and sturdy shoes, but leave your belongings in the car.

From the high mountain peaks of the Hajar mountain range to the low-lying Wadi Valleys bursting with life, it is a country rich in natural beauty and heritage.

Often overshadowed by its big, brash cousin Dubai, Oman's capital Muscat is more traditional and humble, preferring low, traditional-styled buildings instead of skyscrapers.

Though it is more modest than its neighbors, it certainly oozes Arabian charm and style at every turn. Throughout the city you are constantly dazzled by modern twists on traditional Arabian architecture.

Opulently decorated mosques dotted throughout the city give you a real feel of how proud this Islamic country is of its faith.

Life in Oman can be very slow-paced and easy going, with the emphasis on quality family time rather than rushing and stress. The local Omani people are warm and welcoming and make it obvious why Oman is world-famous for its hospitality.

Before you know it, you will be ushered into someone's home and served with coffee and dates. As you explain how you wound up in Oman there is a chorus of oohs and aahs as the whole family hangs onto your every word.

This is part of the fun and experience of Oman – just relax and go with the flow.

Muttrah acts as the commercial centre of Muscat and is home to winding alleys, awe-inspiring buildings and vast bazaars. Be sure to make the most of this fascinating area of the city.

Located at the shipping port is the famous Muttrah Souq, a traditional Arabian marketplace. Dating back hundreds of years, it was a bustling place to trade spices and exotic items between countries.

To the present day it still retains the chaotic hustle and bustle bringing in hundreds of visitors, both local and foreign, every day to browse the exotic items.

Through the labyrinth of small passageways stores are piled high with trinkets and novelties. Each shop owner will vie for your attention to lure you towards their store of brightly coloured items.

Although the stores are open throughout the day, the most fun happens as the sun goes down and the locals come to haggle prices.

Strolling along the Muttrah Corniche seafront, you may be lucky enough to see the Sultan's yacht, named Bin Said, in the port, or the giant statue of a frankincense burner located high on the Muttrah hillside above Riyam Park.

But it’s the little shops such as Rozna that make the area truly unique. With the finest material bought from the Souq, owner Salama Alkubaici embroiders intricate designs and beautiful images onto fabric and displays other artists’ works that capture Muscat’s culture perfectly.

Muttrah Fort stands proudly on a high hillside overlooking the ancient trading port.

Built by the Portuguese in the 1580s, it is currently undergoing renovation work to restore it to its original glory, so even though you cannot enter it it’s an amazing piece of history to see with your own eyes.

Located close to the mouth of the port is the Fort's watchtower. With an amazing vantage point at the top, the climb up the steep stairs may leave you out of breath, but you won't be disappointed by the views on offer.

Situated inside the watchtower is a canon dating back hundreds of years – a nice authentic touch after the climb.
Omani cuisine is heady, aromatic and delicious, with plenty of fragrant spices and luxurious ingredients. Get a taste for Muscat by dining or drinking at the city’s most popular venues.

Dates are big business in Muscat, and are offered to any guest who enters an Omani home. Some of the best in the city come from four sisters – Waad, Ahed, Wafa and Shatha – who decided to start turning the dates into delicacies in the same way a chocolatier presents chocolate.

Visit their shop, Meshan, to enjoy some of their finest creations alongside some traditional Omani coffee, made with mountain rosewater.

For a traditional Omani meal head along to Al Luban Restaurant to try shuwa – a traditional dish of either lamb or goat seasoned and marinated, wrapped in palm leaves and slowly cooked in a pit dug in the ground to make a delicious, tender dish that’s served with rice.

If you don’t fancy eating it the traditional way, then head to Shuwa Diners, in Shatti al Qurum, where the chefs have shaken things up by creating fun fusion dishes such as the shuwa burger.

Local Omani artwork hangs on the walls and the sounds of Omani music play throughout the restaurant, making it a place that tickles all the senses and offers a fun, interesting experience of all things Oman.

Afternoon tea is a luxurious treat for any visitor to Muscat, and the Al Bustan Palace Hotel is one of the best and most splendid on offer in the Sultanate.

You can relax in the opulent atrium lobby whilst enjoying the traditional scents of Omani incense, before your afternoon tea is served with a selection of delicate cakes and delights made by the in-house chefs.

Oman boasts over 1,500 kilometres of stunning unspoilt coastline and an abundance of exotic marine life.

Whether you prefer a snorkel under the water, a relaxing spot next to the water or a boat cruising along the water’s surface, then Oman's coastline has something to please everyone.

There are twenty species of dolphins living in the waters around Oman and you’re almost guaranteed to spot some of them on a dolphin-watching trip.

It also gives you a chance to explore Oman’s shoreline, taking in all the tunnels, caves and beautiful cliffs that surround the coastline. The Jebel Sifah resort runs some of the best in Muscat.

See the coastline from the water and experience the culture from the comfort of a traditional Omani Dhow boat.

The symbolic wooden ships have been sailing on these waters for centuries, and many offer sunset cruises which give you a front row seat to the most incredible views.

The natural wonder of Bimmah Sinkhole, located in the Hawiyat Najm Park, is around an hour drive from Muscat.

Geologists say this forty-metre-wide, twenty-metre-deep waterhole was created when a limestone cavern collapsed, but many of the locals would disagree and tell you that a piece of the moon fell from the sky and made the giant hole.

The beautiful clear water can be particularly inviting as the sun beats down in the day. If you do give into temptation and dip your toes in the water, you might just be treated to a free pedicure from the tiny feet-nibbling fish.

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is grand for a very good reason.

Located in the heart of the city, it is an iconic building to the Omani people as it was gifted to them by their beloved Sultan.

With intricate details and expert craftsmanship, it's understandable why this mosque took six years and four months to complete.

After exploring the extravagant prayer halls and the surrounding grounds, you will be warmly welcomed into the Information Centre by the charming volunteers who will serve you traditional coffee spiced with cardamom and a selection of Omani dates.

Remember to cover up if you visit, they’ll politely request for your whole arms and legs to be covered and, for women, take a scarf to cover your hair.

Situated in the heart of the city is the Royal Opera House. Playing host to some of the world’s most famous operas and ballets, this is a building full of grace and elegance and has quickly become Oman’s hottest spot for arts and culture.

Sign up for one of the daily tours to see inside, or visit the box office to catch a show.

Showcasing a wide selection of contemporary Omani art, Ghalya’s Museum gives you an authentic peek into modern Omani life.

There are also older works, giving an insight into traditional local customs, and room after room of expertly curated exhibits means it’s one of the cultural highlights of the city, located right at the end of the Corniche.

Tourism Observer
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