We visited the capital city of Oman the first time in 2009. It was a high summer month and Muscat was both hot and very humid; making outdoor tour of city becoming unpleasant. Now, we visited the city during spring and it was very much more pleasant. Muscat is a wide-spread metropolitan area that spans 3,500km2 (wikipedia); dominated by Western Hajar Mountain landscape. It is this nature setting that captivating the eyes of first time visitor; not modern settings or those high rise, skyscrapers.
We took a tour of the city that retains its traditional charms to Grand Mosque, Gate Museum, Al Alam Palace, Riyam Park, Qurm Beach and then continued driving to the city outskirts: Yiti and Bandar Al Khiran.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Coordinate: N 23°34’54.7″ E058°23’20.3″
Unlike in 2009, access for mosque visit/tour was through front gate; passing a green garden to reach the main mosque structure.
Riyam Park is easily identified from its commanding incense burner monument just at the end of Mutrah Corniche Road. Unfortunately, the view point underneath the Incense Burner was closed. As we confirmed to the park keeper, it won’t be open; never, he said. Not sure why. As an alternate we spent exploring Riyam Park and enjoyed the view towards Mutrah Port and some sections of Corniche Road, and kids played on the playground provided.
Riyam Park: N 23°37’18” E058°34’47”
Muscat Roads and Malls
During our stay, we mainly drove two main artery roads in Muscat: Sultan Qaboos Street and Muscat Southern Expressway that runs almost in parallel but intersects at Qurm. From these two roads one can access nearly every corner of the city. The most lovely roads are from Mutrah Corniche to Old Muscat.
In regards to malls, Doha is probably in a better shape. We visited three malls: Qurm City Center, Muscat City Center, and Markaz Al Bahja. The last two malls are located quite distant from city center, just near Seeb International Airpot.
Qurm Complex: N 23°36’55” E058°29’50”
Qurm City Center: N 23°36’30” E058°29’23”
Muscat City Center: N 23°36’05” E058°14’56”
Markaz Al Bahja: N 23°36’51” E058°14’49”
Qurm means ‘mangrove’. The beach, below the Crowne Plaza Hotel, is well set up for visitors and has a number of picnic areas and palm shades. When the tide is low, one can take a 4km walk towards the Embassies’ area in Shati Al Qurum. It seems that the area is popular among locals. Youth crowded Al Shati Street parallel to the beach with their fancy cars. People was seen jogging the esplanade or sipping coffee at many caffe dotted along Al Shati Street, available beside natural mangrove areas.
Al Qurm area is also well-known for a home for Petroleum Development of Oman (PDO, like QP in Qatar) both office, recreation center, school or housing for its employee. I had a chance to visit PDO Club, courtesy of my ex-colleagues in Qatargas who is now working for PDO. The club has an excellent strip of beach between two cliffs/fjords and offers water-based activities as well as sports and restaurants.
Qurm Beach Parking: N 23°37’30.3″ E058°28’48.9″
Opened in January 2001, the museum contains displays about Oman’s history from the Neolithic times to the present. It has a number of special exhibits on Muscat’s water springs, the ancient wells, underground channels, the souks, houses, mosques, harbors and forts. Try a video (complemented with marked oversized terrain map of Muscat) that takes you to a journey of Oman’s history.
Gate Museum Parking: N 23°37’02” E058°35’10”
Al Alam Palace
The palace has a history of over 200 years, built by Imam Sultan bin Ahmed the 7th direct grandfather of the current Sultan.The existing palace, which has a facade of gold and blue, was rebuilt as a royal residence in 1972.Visitors are not allowed inside the palace, despite the fact that His Majesty normally lives elsewhere in Oman, but it remains a popular area to walk next to and take photos. Al Alam Palace is surrounded by the Mirani and Jalali Forts built in the 16th century by the Portuguese. The Palace is used for official functions and receiving distinguished visitors. (Wikipedia)
I took an advantage of being a tourist by temporarily parking just in front of the gate to the palace. Not sure if it was allowed though. Otherwise visitors may park at nearby car parking area between Al Saidia Svhool and Directorate-General for Communication and Information Systems.
Nearby attractions include: Bait Al Zubair Museum, Omani French Museum and Mirani and Jalali Forts.
Al Alam Palace Car Parking: N 23°36’46.6″ E058°35’34.0″
Al Alam Palace Gate: N 23°36’45.4″ E058°35’38.0″
Yiti Beach and Bandar Al Khiran Beach
The beaches in Yiti and Bandar Al Khiran, being close to Muscat, are good for an easy half-day trip from Muscat. There are good networks of roads connecting Muscat to Qantab, Bandar Al Jissah, Yiti, Bandar Al Khiran (or Bandar Khayran) and finally As Sifah. All of them have many good beaches. Unfortunately, following the success of Bandar Al Jissah, Qantab, Yiti and Bandar Al Khiran are now undergoing massive property development. I am afraid these beaches will no longer be accessible by public, except by those who stay. Qantab Beach (we visited in 2009) is currently closed for the development. Yiti is also the same although we can still access a public beach near the village. But across an inlet, a development is under full swing (Yiti Bay Development and Salam Yiti Resort Development).
Qantab Beach: N 23°33’04” E058°38’37.0″
Yiti Beach: N 23°31’56.6″ E058°40’56”
A secluded beach opposite Yanket village (on the way to Bandar Al Khiran): N 23°31’06” E058°42’18”
Bandar Al Khiran Mangrove : N 23°30’47.7″ E058°43’14” – this was where I took the mangrove area picture above.
As Sifah village: 23°26’0″N 58°46’52″E – the beaches are located both on the left and right.