I wasn’t familiar with Muscat when I decided to spend a weekend there after vacationing in Dubai. I wanted to enjoy my time at the beach, yet immerse myself in local culture. The Royal Opera House was a must to visit and so was the local perfumery, which carries exclusive perfumes found in a few places around the world. The flight from Dubai to Oman is only an hour, but to Dubai from my hometown of Los Angeles is unfortunately a long seventeen. The airport in Oman was small and welcoming. It was easy to rent a car and get around the city. No skyscrapers here. It’s a “Palm Springs on the sea” so to speak. As we headed to Old Town the scenery changed drastically. It started to feel like a real resort with palm trees, sandy beaches and the grand Al Bustan Palace in near site.
Ritz Carlton Al Bustan Palace
The beauty of Al Bustan Palace is indescribable. It stands alone surrounded by the Hajar mountains and lush palm trees. As you enter the hotel the lobby mesmerizes you with its sky-high ceilings. Guests are welcomed with a warm Omani coffee accompanied with a sweet date. After checking in you can head to one of the four lagoon pools or lounge at the private beach. Nothing beats taking a dip in the Sea of Oman, listening to relaxing music by the pool, and having a refreshing beverage. The newly opened Six Senses Spa located on a private beach is a short 5-minute walk from the hotel. Enjoy the 33,000 sq. ft. building by getting a massage or simply taking a fitness class. After a relaxing day make a reservation at the Beach Pavilion, the hotel’s beach front restaurant. This is by far one of the most romantic and tastiest places I have ever visited in the world. The Omani Lobster was so delicious that I went back the second night!
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
My first order of business was to see this famous place built by the Sultan himself. Sprawled over 416,000 square meters the mosque is built with 300,000 tons of Indian sandstone. After putting on my Hijab I walked around for a good hour enjoying the opulent grounds and of course listening to the history in the main musalla. The world’s second largest hand-woven carpet, the chandeliers, and the grounds were magical and something you don’t want to miss while visiting Oman!
Royal Opera House
I wish I could have watched an Opera while I was in Muscat, but unfortunately there was no time. I still got a tour of the building. Commissioned by the ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, this beautiful building saw some of the world’s top performers like Andrea Bocelli, Yo-Yo Ma, and the dancers of the American Ballet Theater. The attention to the interior detail and the handiwork was brilliant. I look forward to seeing a performance in this beautiful opera house in the future.
Amouage, one of the most expensive perfumes in the world, is located at the farthest point from the hotel, but is worth the trip. Make sure you get the right directions because it’s not easy to find! Once there, you can tour the facilities, see how this particular perfume is made, and discover all the natural ingredients that it is composed of. There’s also a flagship store to buy the perfume right from the source. I even got to meet one of the owners who loved my personal choice called “Beloved”. Lucky me!
The last stop on my trip was the local souk, which is located in the Old Town. A bus from the hotel dropped and picked us up a few hours later. At the entrance the smell of oud, a scent commonly found in Southeast Asia, hits you immediately. It’s strong, and will follow you around the narrow alleyways of the souk. You won’t get lost here, but it does feel like a maze at times. The vendors try to get your attention to sell you souvenirs at every corner. Prices are steep, especially in Omani rials. Even the toughest negotiators will find themselves at a loss. Oman is known for its beautiful silver, which also costs a pretty penny. Look for the official stamp to make sure it’s the real deal!
Before the airport I stopped for lunch at another popular hotel called The Chedi Muscat. It was located centrally unlike the Ritz Carlton Al Bustan Palace, and was modern and chic. This is a great option if you want to stay closer to town and enjoy contemporary accommodations including a private beach, international cuisine, and a luxury spa.
Until next time Oman!