Things to Do in Oman
With its funnel-like gold and blue pillars and lone flagpole extending like an antenna from its flat roof, Al Alam Palace (Sultan's Palace) is one of Oman’s most striking examples of contemporary Islamic architecture. The palace, built in 1972, is set between the Mirani and Jalali forts along the coast of Muscat’s Old Town and is one of six royal residences belonging to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.
Over the years, the ceremonial palace has received a number of important visitors, including Queen Elizabeth of England and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, as well as hosting a number of official functions and ceremonies. Although the palatial buildings are closed to the public, visitors can still enjoy views of Imam Sultan bin Ahmed’s masterpiece from the surrounding palace gardens or the waterfront of the nearby Muscat Port.
More Things to Do in Oman
Located near the village of Hatta, just outside of Dubai in the Hajar Mountains, the Hatta Rock Pools have become one of the city’s most popular weekend getaways. This series of spring-fed pools meander through narrow canyon passages, amid the waterfall-dotted mountain scenery.
After experiencing the scorching desert temperatures of Dubai, the cool, dry climate of the mountains is nearly as refreshing as a dip in the turquoise waters. With its close proximity to the Hatta heritage village, you may want to consider combining the two attractions into a single day trip from Dubai. The rocky mountain passages and interesting landscapes of the area are also popular for off-roading in a 4x4.
Since the Hatta Rock Pools sit near the Oman-UAE border, remember to take your passport, as you’ll need it to pass through checkpoints.
Looking down over Muscat’s Old Town from its cliff top perch, the mighty Al Mirani Fort is one of Oman’s most striking landmarks, guarding the entrance to Muscat Bay. Built in the 16th century, along with the neighboring Al Jalali Fort, the fort is one of the most significant structures left over from the years of Portuguese colonization and was occupied by Portuguese troops until Imam Sultan bin Saif recaptured it in 1649, spearheading the decline of the city’s Portuguese rule.
Restored and extended in the 19th century, the fortress of Al Mirani is the larger of the two forts and makes an impressive backdrop for those exploring the Old Town or strolling along the Muttrah Corniche. Despite its popularity though, the fort is closed to the public and visitors will have to make do with taking in the views from the outside.
In 2012, the Amouage Perfumery opened in Muscat as a visitor center to celebrate three decades of this niche luxury brand of fragrance. Here you can discover the most expensive perfume in the world, which draws inspiration from the rich and colorful heritage of the Sultanate of Oman. For shopping fanatics, the Amouage Perfumery is best enjoyed as part of an Arabian shopping trip and souq experience. Once at the perfume factory, a guide will explain how the perfumes are made by hand and you can watch as the bottles are filled and packaged by the small team who work here, perhaps even purchasing a bottle to take home for yourself. If visiting as part of a shopping and souq tour, you’ll then get to visit two modern shopping centers, before finishing up at the most popular and largest bazaar in Oman, the Muttrah Souq. Did You Know? The Amouage Perfumery has the capability to produce anything upwards of 5000 bottles of fragrance per week.
One of a pair of 16th-century ports perched on the coastal cliffs surrounding the Old Town of Muscat, the dramatic stronghold of Al Jalali Fort is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks. Built by the Portuguese in 1587, both Al Jalali and its neighbor, Al Mirani Fort, played important roles in the years of Portuguese colonization before being reclaimed by the Omani in the mid 17th century.
Today, the hilltop fortress houses a private museum set up by Sultan Qaboos bin Said to showcase items of Oman’s national heritage to visiting dignitaries and heads of state. Reached by a stairwell cut into the rocks or by cable car, the mighty fortress hosts a number of military parades and city celebrations, but remains closed to the public except for special events.
Al Hazm Castle is an impressive structure—one of the best examples of Islamic architecture in Oman. It is known as one of the most famous historical landmarks in the country. Built by Imam Sultan bin Seif II (whose tomb is still within the fort walls) in the early 18th century, it was recently renovated and restored — just opened again to the public at the end of 2013.
Approaching the castle, visitors are led to a massive wooden door, intricately carved with script and design. The roof of Al Hazm is uniquely held by columns, as opposed to the traditional wooden supports. On the exterior, there are two fortified towers to see, along with a collection of artillery and cannons. Inside there are the grand living quarters of the Imam, including a kitchen, a courtyard, and a madrassah—a Qur’anic school. The castle is on the tentative list for inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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