Unlike its flashy neighbours, the sleepy demeanour of the Sultanate of Oman's capital, Muscat, means there are no cranes filling the horizons working on the world's glitziest buildings. Instead, this Arabian town's clear blue skies are adorned with the camel-coloured Al Hajjar mountains, which become a beguiling burnt orange when the sun sets. Long stretches of clean beaches are idyllic spots for diving and swimming.

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  1. English is widely spoken but a little Arabic goes a long way.
  2. Omanis are welcoming and polite. Expect to be invited in for coffee.
  3. The Indian Ocean gives Muscat slightly cooler climes but the best time to visit Oman is between October and April.
  4. It's the land of the Queen of Sheeba, Sinbad the Sailor and Vasco da Gama's famous navigator Ahmad Ibn Majid.
  5. When introduced to a woman, wait for her to offer her hand.

Two-hour tour

  • Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque — Home to the world’s second-largest Persian carpet, this is still one of the most decorative houses of worship in the region and open to non-Muslims from 08.00 to 11.00, Saturday to Wednesday.

  • Muttrah Souk — A good spot for picking up Arabian attars (essential oils).

  • Royal Opera House Muscat — Take a look around the Sultan's lavish new opera house, the first in the Gulf.

    Shatti Al Qurum

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  • Independent and easy

    Park Inn

    Sultan Qaboos Street, Al Khuwair

    +968 2 450 7888

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  • Premium

    Al Bustan Palace

    Quron Beach, Muscat 114

    +968 2 479 9666

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  • Big chain

    Barr Al Jissah Resort Shangri-La

    Al Jissah Street, Qantab

    +968 2 477 6666

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  • Fast breakfast

    D’Arcy’s Kitchen

    Madinat Al Sultan Qaboos, Shatti Al Quroom

    +968 2 460 0234

  • Business breakfast

    Fauchon Oman

    Opera Galleria, Royal Opera House Muscat, Al Kharjiyah Street

    +968 2 234 6999

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  • Mid-morning coffee

    MacKenzie’s Deli

    Madinat Qaboos MQ

    +968 9777 6111

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  • Lunch with friends

    Mumtaz Mahal

    Way 2601, Qurm

    +968 2 460 5907

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  • Picnic spot

    Bandar Khiran

    Found 25km southeast of Muscat.

  • Lunch on your own

    Dukes Bar at The Crowne Plaza

    Building 1730, Qurum Street

    +968 2 466 0660

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  • Sunset cocktail

    The Long Pool

    The Chedi Hotel, North Ghubra 32

    +968 2 452 4343

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  • Dinner for two


    Grand Hyatt, Shatti Al Qurm

    +968 2 464 1234

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  • Dinner with friends

    Pavo Real

    Madinat al Sultan Qaboos 111

  • Big dinner with friends

    Safari Rooftop Grill House

    Grand Hyatt, Shatti Al Qurm

    +968 2 464 1234

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  • Barbecue/al fresco dining


    The InterContinental, Al Kharjiya Street

    +968 2 468 0000

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  • Drinks after dinner

    Left Bank

    Al Qurm, near to Mumtaz Mahal

    +968 2 469 3699

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  • Late drinks

    Trader Vic's — (until 01.45 Fri-Tue, until 02.45 Wed-Thu)

    The Intercontinental, Al Khariya Street, Al Shati

    +968 2 468 0000

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  • On the tiles

    Sama Terrazza

    Park Inn by Radisson, Sultan Qaboos Street, Al Khuwair

    +968 2 450 7888

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  • Bookshop

    Family Bookshop

    Madinat As Sultan Qaboos

    +968 2 460 4245

Thank yous

  • Chocolates from Patchi — Four locations in the city centre.

    +968 2 455 8032

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  • Lost luggage

    Gap — where to buy shirts, socks and underwear

    City Centre Muscat, Main Atrium, Ground Floor Sepp Street

    +968 2 455 8095

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  • Something for the kids


    Behind Al Qurm Complex

    +968 2 456 4427

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  • Something for someone you love

    Jawahir Oman — Jewellery.

    Al-Wilaj Street, Qurm

    +968 2 456 3239

  • Something for yourself

    Al-Madina art gallery

    Madinat Sultan Qaboos, Road 2, Villa 1691

    +968 2 469 1380

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  • Something you can't get anywhere else

    Muttrah Souq — Locally baked Omani halwa sweets


  • Muscat Pharmacy

    Al Hail (open 24 hours)

    +968 2 481 4501

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  • Car rental — Avoid overpriced taxis. There are several rental car companies at the airport.

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  • Sixt Car Rentals — Taxis can overcharge, so be sure to haggle a decent rate before setting off. Book taxis through hotels or restaurants, as street pick-ups are usually hard to come by.

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  • Good gym

    Club Olympus — Non-guests pay 10 rials (€19) for the gym, 15 rials (€29) for gym and pool.

    Grand Hyatt, Shatti Al Qurm

    +968 2 464 1234

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  • Alternative diversion

    Wadi Shab — Beautiful, clear waters. Go swimming, trekking – or just relax with a picnic.

Monocle 24

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