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Elegant Muscat, with its attractive arabesque architecture and seaside locale, is steeped in tradition and warm Arabic hospitality. The capital of the Sultanate of Oman, the city sits nestled between the majestic and rugged Western Al Hajar Mountains and the Gulf of Oman, blending dramatic landscapes of desert, coast, and mountains at once. With an abundance of things to do in Muscat and places to explore, the city puts its rich heritage on full display in its traditional snow-white buildings, and it acts the gateway to the rest of Oman's wonders, from the historic capital of Nizwa to the natural marvels of Jebel Akhdar and the Al Hajar Mountains.
Muscat is composed of 3 smaller towns that have grown together over time: the business district of Ruwi, the bustling sea port of Muttrah, and walled Old Muscat. Outside of Oman's thriving capital, the region is rich with history and majestic natural landscapes that are worth exploring.
Muttrah is one of the largest seaports in the region and a center of commerce in Oman. Visit the Souq Muttrah, also known as Al Dhalam Souq, which is thought to be one of the oldest marketplaces in the region. Port Sultan Qaboos, or Muscat Port, is constantly busy with fishing boats and barges moving in and out of the harbor, and offers beautiful views of the Gulf of Oman.
Separated from the rest of the city by coastal peaks, Old Muscat is the historic center of Muscat. The district is flanked on 2 sides by the Gulf of Oman and mountains, while 17th-century walls protect the city from the west and south. Old Muscat is home to the 16th-century Al Jalali Fort as well as Fort Al-Mirani, which played a role in the Capture of Muscat by the Ottoman Empire in 1552. The impressive Bait Al Zubair Museum is one of many museums located in Old Muscat.
Nizwa is the former capital of Oman proper, a historic area within the current sultanate. The city's 17th-century Nizwa Fort is Oman's most prominent national monument. Nizwa is also famous for its enormous souq, where produce and handicrafts are on display The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Falaj Daris, Oman's largest falaj irrigation system, is also in Nizwa, and features a park just north of the city.
Muscat is steeped in culture and tradition, with the majority of its buildings adhering to the brilliant white forms characteristic of Omani architecture. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the jewel of the city and features pristine walls lavishly detailed with colorful mosaic patterns. An enormous chandelier hangs above the prayer hall and the second largest hand-woven carpet in the world. Muscat's cultural wealth is also on display at its various museums, including the vast historical collections of the Bait Al Zubair, the Museum of Omani Heritage, and the Omani French Museum, which highlights historic Omani-French relations.
With access to the Western Al Hajar Mountains and the Gulf of Oman, Muscat and its surrounding region are full of things to do. Venture along the coast and discover natural wonders like the Bimmah Sinkhole, where you can go for a swim in emerald waters, or strike out into the mountains and find Wadi Ghul, the breathtaking area known as the "Grand Canyon of Oman." From Muscat, you can also reach Jebel Akhdar, the highest peak of the Al Hajar Mountains. Enjoy Oman's gorgeous coast by taking a dhow cruise or relaxing on various beaches. Aviation Beach, or Shell Beach, is abundant in unique shells and starfish for collecting, and Qurum Beach's soft sands stretch for 2.5 miles (4 km) at low tide. Within the city itself, explore nature in the Qurum Natural Park, which contains a lake and the fragrant Sultan Qaboos Rose Garden. You can also take a look into Muscat of the past at the Bait Al Baranda Visitor House, which details the history of Oman from its formation as a landmass to the progress of civilization.