Oman's clean and amiable capital city, Muscat, is the main entry point for most visitors. It's a pleasant mix of old and new, and a lovely place to spend a few days before venturing further afield. Muscat means ‘anchorage' and the sea is integral to the life of the city, with cruise ships and traditional wooden dhows docking in its harbour.
Muscat comprises three cities that have sprawled into one. Old Muscat is dominated by the cliff-side 16th-century forts of Al Mirani and Al Jalali, the al-Alam Palace and the sturdy city walls. The commercial and diplomatic distict of Ruwi reveals a more modern side to the city, its roads lined with manicured lawns and palm trees.
Muttrah is the third part of Muscat. Originally a fishing village, it is characterised by the Corniche, a popular and enchanting spot for evening walks and al fresco dining. Here too, is the Muttrah souk, a maze of pathways and one of the best souks in Arabia. Gold and silver jewellery is found in abundance, as are wooden carvings, ornaments, incense and spices. Ornate Omani daggers called khanjars are other items to haggle for in the souk.
The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque - the third largest mosque in the world - is another of Muscat's standout attractions. It can accommodate up to 20,000 worshippers and is decorated with lavish marble panels, intricate tile work and a large Swarovski crystal chandelier, which hangs beneath its grand central dome.