Muscat has many PADI dive centres, making it a great place for divers to start exploring Oman’s relatively untouched coastline and the Persian Gulf. In the Must area, diving is available all year round, and features diving in the Daymaniyat Islands, a nature reserve with small, rocky islands surrounded by coral reefs, and a turtle nesting site; the shallow coral reefs, coves, bays and shipwrecks at Bander Khayran, southeast of Muscat; and Fahal Island or Shark Island, renowned for its swim-throughs and deep reefs, and occasional shark sightings.
Oman’s northernmost region, Musandam, juts into the Strait of Hormuz and is an area of sheltered bays and coves with vibrant reefs, and abundant marine life. It’s perfect for seasoned divers. Far to the south, the area around Salalah presents you with a sublime coastline hollowed with pristine bays and beaches, and makes for a fascinating dive destination during the off-season.
If you wish to tee off in Muscat, the hotel offers an easy access to two 18-hole golf courses. 15 minutes’ drive away from the hotel you’ll find the Muscat Hills Golf & Country Club, Oman’s very first golf course, complete with a stunning natural landscape, generous fairways and challenging shot opportunities over the wadi escarpments. Also 15 minutes away by road, the Greg Norman-designed Almouj Golf at The Wave is the country’s first PGA championship course, and is a 18-hole, par 72 championship course. Just over one hour by road from the hotel, the 18-hole Peter Harradine-designed Jabal Sifah Golf Course features mountain-links style holes that run along the sea.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Located a few minutes’ drive from the hotel, the massive Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a testament to Omani craft and devotion, and is a must-see for art and architecture enthusiasts. Built in 2011 of translucent Indian sandstone and inspired by classical Persian designs, the tranquil Mosque is the Sultanate’s most colossal. The main musalla spans over 4,000 square metres and accommodates up to 20,000 worshippers, while other breathtaking features include the many works of art, stunning oasis-like gardens, the 50-metre high central dome and a transfixing 14-metre Swarovski chandelier.
Although the mosque is open to all visitors, please remember to dress appropriately, wearing long trousers and with your shoulders covered. Women visitors must cover their head also.
The Royal Opera House
Only five minutes away from the hotel, the recently-opened Royal Opera House is spectacularly designed, featuring a sophisticated, rich interior laden with handmade ornaments. The centre has been conceived to promote Arabian arts and culture while hosting live performances, ranging from internationally acclaimed opera and ballets to local and regional concerts.
Muttrah and Nizwa Souk
You’ll reach the Muttrah Souk in approximately 20 minutes by road. Reminiscent of an ancient maze, with narrow alleyways, this souk offers a fabulous choice of ornate silver and gold sold by weight, incense burners and khanjars - traditional Omani daggers. Outside Muscat, approximately two hours away, the Nizaw Souk hosts a live animal auction each Friday and is also the perfect place to pick up traditional handicrafts.
The Rustaq Loop
Two hours’ drive from Muscat, the Rustaq Loop is one of most rewarding attractions in Al Batinah and makes for a fine day of driving, exploring and sightseeing. The Rustaq Loop combines stunning mountain and wadi scenery along with the sights of three of Oman’s most popular fortresses: Nakhal Fort, Rustaq Fort and Al Hazm Fort.
Nizwa, Bahla and Nakhal Fortresses
At the foot of Djebel Akhdar lie the fortresses of Rustaq to the north, and Izki, Nizwa and Bahla to the south, all former capitals of the sultanate. Two hours’ drive away from Muscat, the oasis of Bahla is home to the ruins of what was the glorious Bahla Fort, and at the foot of the fort lies the Friday Mosque, part of the small town of Bahla, complete with a souk and palm grove.
One hour’s drive away from Muscat, Nakhal Fort is one of Oman’s most picture-perfect forts, dramatically perched atop a natural rock outcrop. It offers you a glimpse of the antique lifestyle of the Omani people, and great views over Nizwa towards sprawling date plantations are to be had from the top of the fort. Visit the adjacent Nizwa souk especially for the live animal auction every Friday morning – an ongoing local tradition.
The origins of the fort probably date back to pre-Islamic times, although the structure has been continuously remodelled over the following centuries.
Wadi Shab and the Bimmah Sinkhole
About two hours south of Muscat on the road to Suri lies the dramatic Wadi Shab and Wadi Tiwi, two narrow ravines hemmed in by towering sandstone walls with date plantations and banana palms at the base of the cliffs. As there’s no road into Wadi Shab, progress is on foot only and will take you about one hour, passing plantations, the ruins of old villages and deep rock pools with shimmering turquoise waters.
Old, authentic souks meets modern shopping in Muscat - also known as the ‘walled city’ - which truly has everything shopping aficionados could desire. The Al Qurum area contains many department stores and shopping centres, along with an easy access to the beachfront. The Sabco Centre, the Sultanate’s first shopping centre, is home to a series of luxury brands and has its own indoor souk. City Centre Muscat, close to the airport and a short drive away from the hotel, has a selection of over 140 retail stores, ranging from jewellery and electronics to international and local fashion brands. If you’re looking for high quality local crafts, head to the Omani Heritage Gallery in Al-Qurum.
The waters that surround the Sultanate of Oman are teeming with marine life, and a short boat ride off the coast of Muscat will allow you to enjoy one of the most popular attractions in Muscat - dolphin watching. Spinner dolphins are the most commonly-encountered species, and are often joined by groups of long-nosed dolphins. If you’re lucky, you may also see humpback or false killer whales.