Unlike the glitzy neighbouring capital cities in the Gulf, Muscat comes across as sedate with few high rise buildings. You will find it warm and welcoming. You could plan for a stay in Muscat at the start or at the end of your Oman road trip itinerary.
Our 2 days in Muscat were after an adventurous road trip to Jebel Akhdar, Wahiba Sands and Sur village. This trip was with kids, so we planned for things to do in Muscat as a family. There was time spent amidst cultural sites, visit to a kid’s museum, trying our local cuisine, and an evening walk by the Arabian Sea.
2 day Muscat Itinerary
The 2 days in Muscat flew by quickly. After a hectic road trip to the mountain area of Jebel Akhdar, and then to the Wahiba Sands desert, and finally onwards to a sleepy fishing village, we ensured there was some downtime. So relaxing by the pool side at the hotel was given due importance! But we did manage to step out in the mornings and evenings for some of the top things to do in Muscat with family.
Day 1 of Muscat itinerary
Museum of Illusions
If you are visiting Muscat with kids, this interactive museum is highly recommended. Located in Muscat Grand Mall, this museum is fun for both adults and kids. There are different rooms with optical illusions and a playroom with many puzzles and interactive games for kids. The kids (one 4 year old and another 8 year old) had a fun time running from one room to another and enjoyed the illusions thoroughly.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
This main mosque is one of the top cultural attractions in Muscat. We visited the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque after the kids exhausted themselves at the interactive Museum of Illusions. The mosque is an imposing and beautiful sight in the middle of the city. The main prayer room can accommodate more than 6000 worshippers at one time and has a central dome that rises 50 metres above the floor. This mosque is definitely one of the top things to do in Muscat with family.
Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the mosque every day, except Friday, from 8:30 until 11:00 am. Visitors are asked to dress modestly, women are also required to cover their hair. Alas, we hadn’t researched on the visitor timings beforehand and reached the mosque after 11 am. I could admire it only from outside.
Royal Opera House Muscat
Our hotel was located right opposite the Royal Opera House and we went for a stroll post dinner. The beautifully lit exteriors made the building look like it was warmly glowing under the night sky! It is the leading arts and cultural institution in Oman. Though we did not attend any cultural event during our short visit, we did stroll through the Opera Galleria, a high-end shopping destination with many boutique stores.
Day 2 of Muscat Itinerary
Day 2 started with my friends visiting the Grand Mosque now that they knew the visiting hours were before 11 am. I had different plans that morning.
Diving at Dimaniyat Islands
Who would have thought that Muscat would make for an excellent diving destination! That too, within a 1 hour boat ride from the mainland. I had an early morning breakfast and went to the dive shop for my diving trip to Dimaniyat Islands. It was turtle hatching season when I went, and no visitors were allowed to step on the islands. But that was fine, because just about at 18 metres depth was a beautiful world filled with some of the biggest turtles, moray eels, sting rays and a variety of tropical fish. Definitely worth the solo trip that I did to reach the dive shop early morning!
Muttrah Corniche & Souq
It was the last evening of our 2 days in Muscat. Muttrah corniche is one of the top things to do in Muscat with family. It makes for a pleasant walk by the sea looking out at all the commercial liners and smaller boats. It is a good place to watch the sunset.
What is equally interesting is window shopping at the Muttrah Souq. This is a traditional Arab market with a number of small shops selling Omani and Indian artefacts, spices, jewellery, textiles and more. The main entrance for the souq is from the corniche. This was our last experience in the 2 day Muscat itinerary. Going through the small lanes inside the souq reminded me of a similar experience at the Grand Bazaar during our Istanbul itinerary. Do take care that the younger kids are holding your hand while walking the narrow lanes within.
Stay and Food recommendations
We stayed at the newly opened Hotel W. It is right on Qurum beach and opposite to the stunning Royal Opera House. You can’t ask for a better location! The well appointed rooms, a beautiful bar, stunning environs of the outdoor pool area where we spent an evening relaxing, and the great breakfast spread all make it an excellent accommodation choice in Muscat.
There is no dearth of local restaurants in Muscat offering local cuisine. I recommend 2 of them that we had a chance to enjoy during our 2 days in Muscat. The first day lunch was an elaborate affair at Kargeen restaurant. Excellent traditional Omani food! We were seated indoors but there is a serene outdoor area where they offer shisha in the evening. The outdoor area would not be suitable with kids.
The next evening dinner after ambling along Muttrah corniche was at Bait-al-luban. While Kargeen offers traditional Omani dishes cooked in the classic way, this restaurant offered a contemporary twist to the Omani cuisine. It also serves many vegetarian friendly options.
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