Best Things to Do in Muscat, Oman

The Sultanate of Oman is a hidden gem on the Arabian Peninsula that has a good mix of nature, cultural history and is very authentic in contrast to its neighbor the UAE. I would say Oman is a super underrated travel destination but one of my most interesting travel experiences. Oman has no skyscrapers and the vast majority of the buildings are painted white. So, the contrast of the white colors against the bare grey mountains was stunning. From gorgeous wadis, sand dunes, ancient fortresses, beaches, and mosques, Oman offers an incredibly wide range of experiences.

Best time to go

The weather is the best October to March when it's not that hot. I went in January and it was 80 degrees during the day and 67 at night. One day had high humidity but the rest of the days were breezy. The week after I left it poured rain and flooded the country. But normally Oman gets very little rainfall and averages 4 inches a year while Washington, DC gets 39 inches a year.  


Arabic is the official language of Oman, but English is widely spoken. English is the unofficial second language, so you’ll find it relatively easy to communicate with locals without too much trouble. 20% of the population of Oman are Indians and they work in the service industry. Every hotel breakfast was heavily influenced by Indian cuisine as well as the Omani restaurants I went to. Another 20% of the population are other ex-pats. 

How to get there

I flew Qatar Airways transiting in Qatar. But you could also fly to Dubai or Istanbul and transfer there. Oman Airways does not fly to the USA but has direct flights to London, Frankfurt, Zurich, and Paris.  Oman borders the UAE so you can drive between cities as it would take 4.5 hours. Both countries have excellent roads and freeways. Tourist visas aren't exactly straight-forward as it was unclear from the wording on their website if I, as an American, needed a tourist visit. I bought one anyway as it was cheap but was not asked to see it by Immigrations officers when I arrived. Immigration finger prints everyone who arrives and gave me a hard time to enter. I went online afterwards and found that many other people had the same experience, definitely not a welcoming first impression to a country.


The Omani Rial is one of the strongest currencies in the world because of oil so I was a bit shocked at how expensive everything was. Because of this Omanis don't pay any taxes. Oman has the third-highest rated currency in the world behind Bahrain and Kuwait. For comparison the fifth highest currency is the British pound, the Euro comes in a 9th and the U.S. dollar is the 10th-strongest currency in the world. Omani currency is worth 3x more than the USD; so when I exchanged $300 I got the equivalent of $100 back.  Most places do accept credit cards in Oman, but it is always good to have a cash reserve with you as taxis only take cash. You can go to an ATM but I found that not all ATMs took an American cards. The exchange kiosk at the airport had a horrible exchange rate. 

Where to stay 

I stayed at the W hotel in Muscat then traveled around the country. Also on my list that I considered were the The Chedi Muscat and the Shangri-La Al Husn. The Radisson Blu is a more affordable option centrally located. 

W Hotel in Muscat

The W Muscat is located right along Qurum Beach and is a 20 min drive from the airport. Across the street from the hotel  is the Royal Opera House. Outside the main entrance to the hotel is a huge silver metal tree and a life sized bird cage. Overall I would describe my experience as being carried away in a chic Arabesque ambiance.

The lobby had bright, modern décor and a coffee stand at the door in a traditional pot with a bowl of dates. Omanis are big coffee drinkers, which plays an integral role in their culture. It’s an important sign of hospitality and is meant to be given as a welcome to guests. It is served in an Arabic coffee pot called a dallah which I also have at home from my previous travels in the Middle East. Also on the flight they flight attendant used a dallah.  In brewing, cardamom, cloves, and rose water are added for an extremely aromatic cup of coffee. You drink the coffee black from small cups and then pair it with dates for sweetness. 

The hotel has 279 rooms and mine came with a balcony with a partial beach view. Inside my room I had a full-length mirror, which you don’t find often in hotels. It also had a large minibar and free water bottles. The marble bathroom was impressive and modern Omani touches like the shape of the mirror over the sink. The toiletries smelled lovely. The décor was unlike any other hotel I’ve seen! What I didn’t even notice at first as I was awestruck by the beauty of the décor is that the bathroom had two black glass doors that hid a large walk-in shower with a rainfall showerhead and a toilet room. 

For dinner I went to the Siddharta Lounge by Buddha-Bar which serves Mediterranean food on the rooftop of the hotel. I had the best mocktail of the trip that had cranberry juice, strawberry puree, lemon juice, hibiscus & lemongrass syrup and a passionfruit vanilla foam.

The pool at the W Muscat was stunning with free day beds in it! Even though the hotel is on the beach, there are no chairs on the beach as it’s a public beach with a walking path.  

My room came with a free buffet breakfast which was incredible! I got zaatar pizza, Indian potatoes, Omani beans, passionfruit, labneh ball, Beetroot hummus. I drank lemon mint throughout the trip, chapati bread was all over Oman and very popular.


Muscat is the capital and the largest city in Oman with modern mosques, souqs, and excellent roads. It is known for its beautiful white-washed houses lining the brown hills. You can also taking a sunset cruise in Muscat on a traditional wooden dhow boat. As a Muslim country Thursday-Friday is their weekend which I had to keep in mind for visiting places and nothing is open before 1pm on Fridays. 

Sultan Qaboos Mosque 

The Sultan Qaboos Mosque is Oman’s largest mosque built in 2001 that can hold up to 20,000 worshippers and is known for its beautiful architecture and ornate interior. The grounds of the mosque had lots of beautiful flowers in bloom while I was there. The lavish chandelier in the prayer hall was a showstopper! It is the biggest chandelier in the world, according to Guinness World Records. The mosque also has the second largest carpet in the world. The mosque has a strict dress code for visitors. It’s required for both men and women to wear long sleeve tops and long pants to the ankle. Women need to cover their hair. If you are not fully covered you will need to rent a hijab for the visit. The mosque’s entrance is free. It is open to non-Muslims every day from 8 AM to 11 AM except Friday. 

Mutrah Souq

The souq in Muscat is an old market that consists of small alleys with stalls selling antiques, traditional fabrics, lanterns, spices, teas, pashminas, perfume, rugs, jewelry, and other souvenirs. Muscat is famed for silver daggers and there are plenty for sale here. Get ready for the stall owners who will try and persuade you to enter their shop! I bought an Omani magnet and exotic scented soap. Across from the souq is the Corniche where you can admire the Omani coastline. 

Al Alam Palace

The Al Alam Palace is located in Old Muscat and overlooks the Gulf of Oman. This is the Sultan’s official palace and no visitors are allowed to enter here. The palace was built in 1972 and is an example of modern Islamic architecture or rather futuristic.  The Sultan of Oman’s official residence is used to welcome guests visiting the country. The Sultan doesn’t live here everyday, but if Oman’s flag is up then the  Sultan Qabus is home. To the right are the old city walls, fort and watchtower that line the mountainside.

Royal Opera House 

It hosts a wide range of performances from jazz, opera, ballet and dance. The opera house is worth visiting for its architecture alone so be sure to book a guided tour because without one, you won’t be allowed to enter the opera house. The interiors are truly captivating and worth a visit!

Shatti Al Qurum Beach

We had a picnic lunch here at the beach. No one was swimming. It was insanely windy, my hat blew off my head, I had to run quite a while to catch up with it and then I tumbled in the process, but the hat was secured. There are many restaurants nearby with beach front views.


Along with dates, frankincense is synonymous with Oman. The three wise men brought Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense (an incense) and myrrh (an oil). Oman is the land of frankincense, it’s a resin from tree barks and I got to touch the sap of one tree in the wild. The markets always smelled of frankincense. Every hotel lobby had incense burning, the airport had industrial scent diffusers, and the people wore beautiful oud scented perfumes. Fragrance was everywhere. 

Oman had a lucrative trade in frankincense across the middle east region since it has a strategic location on the map in the Indian Sea. In ancient times Frankincense was considered sacred throughout the East for rituals, temples, and spiritual events. Many stallholders in the souqs sold Frankincense resin pictured below. 

The House of Amouage is a luxury perfume house established in Oman in 1983 by the Sultan of Oman. Amouage uses traditional Middle Eastern perfume ingredients such as agarwood, incense, musk, rose and spices. I visited the Amouage perfume factory to see how it was made. The perfumes are bottled in these gorgeous bottles! The women’s scents are in bottles in the shape of the Palace Ruwi Mosque and the men’s scents have a shape of a Khanjar, the traditional dagger of Oman. I didn’t buy a bottle because they start at $360. 

Fragrance youtuber Demi Rawlings also toured the factory and their flower fields and made a video about it. She’s Australian but based in Dubai. 


Food in Oman

The food in Oman is a mix of Arabian, Persian, Indian, and Turkish cuisine. Oman’s food reflects its historic role as a prominent trading empire at the crossroads of some of the world’s most famous spice routes. Rice, pita bread and hummus are key staples served with every meal. Dining at causal eateries where locals go will cost the same as dining in America.  

 different kinds of dates

Oman is famous for its dates as I saw palm tree, date farms everywhere. It is almost obligatory to eat them with coffee. Halwa is Oman’s most famous sweet and is a soft, chewy, wet paste consistency and dark brown in color. It is a mixture of sugar, honey, rose water, eggs, spices and nuts. Chai Karak is a popular tea in Qatar and Oman made with cardamom, saffron and evaporated milk that I enjoyed. Omani bread called Khubz is a thin, flaky bread almost like crêpe, often filled with cheese and honey. 


Alcohol is typically only found in high end hotels as Muslims don’t drink alcohol. The price for a drink will be high. Fabulous fresh juices are popular and plentiful in Oman. There’s no Coke-Cola in Oman but Mountain Dew was everywhere. The Omanis consider Mountain Dew their alcohol and drink a ton of it. 


Traditionally, Omanis eat their meals off large, round floor mats made from woven rattan. I observed this in one restaurant that had separate eating space for Omani families by having privacy dividers as some women cover their face.

I ate at a bunch of local places in Muscat but here are two relatively upscale places that I recommend you visit. 

Dukanah – They have two locations, I went to the one by Shatti Al Qurum Beach. The interiors replicate an old Muscat house. They offer traditional Omani food with a picture menu so it’s easy to order. My final meal: Omani bread, fava beans, chickpeas, cucumbers, labneh and feta pictured below.

Aram café an expensive international café that serves delicious pastas and matcha tea. Next to the Royal Opera House.

What to wear in Oman

Oman is a very conservative Muslim country and most Omani men wear a dishdasha, long white robe that covers their legs and arms. There is a tassel hanging from their neck which is wear they spray perfume. They also wear a traditional hat, the kummah cap was most popular. Women commonly wear a black abaya dress and a hijab head scarf. But I heard that some women are choosing to modernize and wear their abaya unzipped, open to show their dress underneath. I took this picture of a dry cleaner as I thought it was interesting how most of the clothes hanging are the white dishdasha. 

I will write a second post on my travels around the rest of the country. 

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