Oman is a Muslim country and although it is quite modern and Westernised in some ways, in many others it is deeply traditional and conservative. Tourists are welcomed with open arms and a lot of hospitality and so is a great introduction for first time travellers to the Middle East. This part of your Oman Travel Guide lists the best cultural activities in Muscat to get a glimpse into Omani culture and heritage.
Make sure to have a look at the best outdoor activities and day tours around Muscat. The city is also great for Middle Eastern food (it’s so delicious!) and I’ve compiled a list of authentic food spots for you.
Visit Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
As the country’s main mosque, this is an impressive building, a must-see. It may well be one of the most beautiful mosques in the world. Opened in 2001, it can fit up to 20,000 worshippers. As non-muslims, you can visit the mosque between 8am and 11am Saturday to Thursday. Make sure to dress appropriately: Women must cover their hair, shoulders and arms.
Explore old Muscat (Al Muttrah) and stroll along Muttrah Corniche
Al Muttrah is worth exploring to get an idea of what Muscat looked like back in the days. It’s the old town and an ideal place to get lost in narrow lanes and marvel at the architecture. Strolling along Muttrah Corniche is a lovely evening activity and you’ll love the breeze while looking out onto the Port of Muscat. The reflection of lights on the sea looks super pretty, too.
Practice your bargaining skills at Muttrah Souq
One of my very favourite places in Muscat. The souq, or bazaar, situated among Muttrah Corniche, can seem like a chaotic maze of shops so try to memorise a few orientation points to find your way back out. You can find plenty of shops selling jewellery, traditional textile, Omani and Indian artefacts and antiques. I bought so many shawls and they’re a great gift to bring home. Make sure to bargain – it’s part of the culture and expected!
Opening hours: 8am – 1pm, Sat – Thu; 5-9pm Fri
Royal Opera House
Muscat’s performing arts centre boasts beautiful traditional Omani architecture and is worth a photo stop. But you can also book tickets to an opera, music, dance or other event. Visit their website here.
Al Alam Royal Palace
Although the Sultan’s ceremonial palace is closed to the public, you can stop by for a photo from the gates. If you spend a day at ODC relaxing on the beach, you can pass by the palace on the way back into the city.
Bait al Zubair Museum
This beautiful ethnographic museum hosts a collection of traditional objects, clothes, and jewellery. Get a glimpse into daily life in the Sultanate over the centuries when you visit. There is also a collection of local and contemporary art as well as temporary exhibitions, concerts and events in support of young and up-and-coming artists.
Opening times: Saturday to Thursday, 9.30am to 6pm
Although you can dress liberally in hotels, nightlife spots and many outdoor places, you should dress respectfully in any cultural spots.
Remember to check out your Oman Travel Guide: Best outdoor activities and day trips around Muscat and to subscribe to my blog so you won’t miss out on my next travel tips!