Oman, the country of deserts, spices and frankincense exerts a special fascination. Unlike its flashy sisters Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, Muscat has maintained a more earthy and pristine charm, partly also because the country does not allow for buildings to be higher than a palm tree. Oman’s modernization only started in 1970 when Sultan Qaboos seized power. While many new buildings appeared, the old city of Muscat seems unimpressed by the efforts of modernization which have taken place in the country . Embraced by volcanic mountains, Muscat still radiates its ancient Arabic charm. A visit to Oman certainly offers enough activities for a week of holidays however if you are pressed for time these are our tips for a short but very sweet stay in Muscat.
What to do:
Visiting the old city of Muscat and the Sultan’s palace is a definite must. Afterwards, stop by Muttrah souk which dates back 200 years and stock up on some beautiful Pashmina’s shawls, frankincense and local craft. Then visit the Al Alam Palace and take in the view of the Portuguese forts of Mirani and Jalali. At the end of your day head to the Royal Opera house and treat yourself to an exquisite dinner or a concert which are shown here regularly. Make sure to book your tickets well in advance as they are sought after. Note the restaurant does not serve any alcoholic beverages. Royal Opera House, Al Kharjiyah St · +968 24 403300, http://www.rohmuscat.org.om/
The Damaniyat Islands which comprise of nine uninhabited islands offer a breathtaking variety of fish and corals in crystal clear waters. To get there you will have to take the boat. The islands are situated roughly 30 minutes from the coastline. Dive centers offer half day trips for both Scuba divers and snorkelers. Be warned though, the sea can be rough at times and anti-motion sickness meds are recommended.
Where to stay:
When it comes to hotels, there is only one choice to consider; the Chedi. The hotel which opened in 2003 has certainly set new standards. Everything about this hotel emanates perfection and its minimalistic charm is eye soothing. If you can, stay in their suites which include a bar, a jacuzzi and private terrace, complimentary laundry service as well as access to the hotels club which serves complimentary cocktails and snacks every evening.
The hotel offers 3 pools and a private beach. Their longest pool is a stunning 110 meters long and allows for long swims. The hotel also offers a chic spa, a top notch gym and 2 restaurants all built into the hotel’s beautiful architecture. As the name suggests, their restaurant “The Beach” is situated right at the Beach and serves seafood. Alternatively visit the sushi restaurant for a romantic dinner on sunbeds by the long pool illuminated by oil pits.