Port Review: Muscat, Oman

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While neighbouring Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain are all about towering skyscrapers, massive shopping malls and expensive hotels, Muscat is all about history and tradition.

The Facts

Location: The Arabian Gulf.

Language: Arabic, but English is widely spoken.

Currency: Omani Rial.

Docking/Anchoring: Ships dock near the Old Town. 

Transport: Even though ships dock near the Old Town you can’t usually walk off independently as this is an industrial area. Most ships put on a shuttle to the gates and you can walk into town from here.


It’s no wonder that Muscat is one of the most popular ports of call in the region for Gulf and Arabian Peninsula cruises. Set against a beautiful mountain range with the beautifully preserved Old Town as the centrepiece, most cruise ship visitors are greeted with one of the most appealing ports of call in the Middle East. Exploring the city is a joy in itself, and there’s plenty to see and do out beyond the mountains.

Don’t Miss

The Mutrah Corniche is the top attraction in Muscat and it stretches along the main port area lined with mosques and lattice buildings while maintaining the feel of a fishing village. This seems to be a key focal point of social life in Muscat and there’s plenty of outdoor restaurants and cafes if you want to just stop and watch the world go by.   

The Mutrah Souk is a chaotic collection of antique shops and gold shops and many people go to the Corniche just to visit the Souk. You can try your haggling skills here but the chances are you’ll only score a slight discount.  

The Grand Mosque is a fabulous piece of modern Islamic architecture which can accommodate 20,000 worshippers at one time. It’s an imposing complex from the outside and inside the decor is overwhelming with a Persian carpet that took 600 women more than two years to hand weave and chandeliers with thousands of crystals. It’s open from 8am-11am Saturday to Thursday for non-Muslims.

Best Photo Op

On Friday evening after prayers, and most evenings around sunset, local people gather along the Corniche and the harbour, the city and the mountains become bathed in a beautiful orange hue. 


The Mutrah Souk is ground zero for souvenirs including gold, silver and handicrafts, while the Omani Heritage Gallery is a not for profit organisation for local artisans and the Sabco Centre is a more modern shopping centre but this also has a small souk within the complex.

Food and Drink

Omani food is distinctly Middle Eastern with a real Indian influence as well which makes it an interesting place to lunch or dinner if you have time. A typical meal usually involves a salad starter with dips followed by grilled meats marinated in yoghurt with spices. The Corniche has plenty of good restaurants and cafes and even if you don’t eat here, try an Omani coffee called “kahwa” with a dessert called “halwa” which is a sweet made of dates, honey and nuts.

Pick of the Excursions

If you are a first-time visitor, a city tour will get you around most of the major sights, including the magnificent Grand Mosque, before haggling for gifts at the lively Mutrah Souk. Afterwards, view the Sultan's Palace, and tour the Bait Al Zubair, a private museum that features exhibits chronicling Oman's heritage.

You can also take a leisurely cruise aboard a traditional Arab dhow and take in the stunning views of the Omani coastline. 

A popular alternative, however, is a desert safari in a 4WD with a stop along the way to the Quriyat Fish Market, where fishermen land their catch before your eyes. After a swim at a nearby beach, you set off for the desert on an exhilarating drive that explores the dramatic Omani valleys.


Joanna Hall