muscat travel guide

The huge white-marble Royal Opera House is the pride and joy of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. (Photo: Getty Images)

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7 Indulgent Oman Experiences: A Luxe Guide to Muscat

Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman, is in many ways like nearby Gulf capitals, and noted for its understated luxury scene. A strong currency and smaller tourist market ensure that you get more for your rial here than anywhere else in the region, so when money is no object, Muscat has plenty to offer.

Here are seven of the most indulgent experiences to be had in Oman’s largest city. As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.

Watch the Sunset on a Private Dhow Cruise

Muscat is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, and the sea’s influence has shaped the Omani capital for centuries — the legendary sailor Sinbad was born here. The city also has no shortage of rugged cliffs, towering forts and hidden inlets dotted along its shoreline.

Booking a sunset sail on a luxury private dhow is a fitting way to experience how Oman is connected to the sea. Relax aboard the traditional dhow and feel a rush as the wind catches in the boat’s distinctive sails and turtles and dolphins “surf” the waves created by the vessel.

As you cruise along the coast of Muscat with kahwa tea and dates in hand, you’ll pass 17th-century Portuguese forts, Al Alam Palace and Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Snap photos and watch the sun falling behind the Al Hajar Mountains, casting an orange glow over Mutrah Fort and the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.

Haggle for Gold in Mutrah Souq

Gold is synonymous with the Gulf, and Oman’s Mutrah Souq is truly a gold lover’s paradise. The narrow and winding alleys inside the enclosed market are a gold lover’s paradise, with jewelry stalls and antique merchants around every corner.

Window displays with hundreds of long gold necklaces, glistening gold bracelets inlaid with colorful precious stones, diamond-studded gold watches and traditional khanjar daggers mesmerize the mind. Few pieces of jewelry sold in the souq are less than 22 karat gold, so don’t expect budget prices.

Haggling is one way to bring down the costs, but expect shopkeepers to expertly talk you into agreeing to leaving with a bag full of gold — and a wallet all the lighter because of it.

Watch the Opera from an Exclusive Box

The huge white-marble Royal Opera House is the pride and joy of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, who wanted to share his love of the opera with the Omani people and visitors alike. The performance calendar is full of world-class acts from around the world, and tickets are often in high demand. Recent acts have included cellist Yo Yo Ma and opera singers Andrea Bocelli and Plácido Domingo.

To experience what draws His Majesty to the Opera House, opt for the Diamond Box, with uninterrupted views of the stage. The diamond category box is close to the royal box, with comfortable armchair-style seating, gilded gold carved walls and red velvet coverings. Prices start at 450 rials per performance.

Get “Wild” on a Private Safari to Green Mountain

Book a private, 10-hour 4×4 safari tour from Muscat to Green Mountain, which also explores popular local sights like Wadi Fanjah and Birkat Al Mawz, before heading up the impressive Al Jabal al Akhdar mountain.

Along the way, you’ll experience the region’s famed agriculture, including scenic terraces where fruit trees, pomegranate, saffron and other spices grow. Once you ascend the nearly 10,000-foot-high mountain, spectacular views of the surrounding landscape await — keep your camera at the ready.

Experience Luxurious Perfume Production

Oman is one of the world’s oldest producers of perfume. Amouage, one of the world’s most luxurious perfume brands, was founded in Muscat, and its factory is open to discerning scent aficionados.

Amouage was established in 1983 by Sultan Qaboos, and the finest ingredients — Omani frankincense, agarwood, musk, rose and spices — are expertly combined and sold at eye-watering prices in the finest department stores around the world.

The Amouage factory is an impressive white-marble building that produces 25,000 bottles of this liquid gold each week. Take a tour of the factory, watching how these heavenly scents are produced, and buy exclusive editions of your favorite scent to take home. Some bottles include pure-cut diamonds and 24-karat-gold labels.

Pamper Yourself With a Hammam Spa Treatment

Sprawling across three levels and more than 33,000 square feet, the extraordinary Six Senses Spa at Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel offers no shortage of ways to indulge your body and mind.

You’ll certainly want to treat your skin with all the opulence it deserves by booking either the 24K Gold Age-Defying or Hydra-Diamond Exfoliation facials (yes, those involve real gold and real diamonds!). But be sure to make time for the Royal Hammam, an 80-minute traditional hammam experience that includes steam treatment, hair wash and mask, foaming body mask and an ultra-relaxing back massage.

Have a Tailored Dishdasha Produced by Hand

The white dishdasha is the national dress of Oman, and much like the designers of fine-tailored suits in the West, expert tailors in Oman hone their craft over generations. The white flowing gowns worn by local men are more than they seem — fine thread is woven by hand through cotton — and there are long waiting lists for the best tailors.

Have a bespoke dishdasha designed by tailors in Muscat and choose the material and style you want. Designer dishdasha are highly sought after, and the best can cost hundreds of rials.

Go on a Private Market Tour and Cooking Class

Food is an integral part of Omani society, and there are a select number of local chefs who want to share their recipes with visitors. Accompany a chef on a tour of Muscat’s bustling fish and vegetable market to source the finest ingredients — fragrant spices, freshly caught fish and local vegetables — and then go back to a professional kitchen and learn how to prepare and cook an Omani dish.

Make a majboos dish of spiced rice, chicken and vegetables; meshkak, a marinated grilled meat skewer; or mashuai, a spiced grilled kingfish served whole.

Take a Private Tour to Nizwa

The oasis city of Nizwa is approximately a 90-minute drive outside of Muscat, through the soaring Al Hajar Mountains and arid Omani deserts. Nizwa’s impressive rows of date palms stretch over eight kilometers, and the ancient UNESCO-listed Falaj Daris (irrigation channels) are still in use today.

Enjoy the views in a chauffeur-driven 4×4, and on Fridays you will see the frenetic scenes of tribesmen traveling from across Oman to sell their livestock, just as they have for centuries. Stop off to take a guided tour of the 17th-century Nizwa Fort, at the heart of the former capital of Oman, and enjoy an exclusive meal at a local village before driving back to Muscat via Jabal Shams, the highest point in Oman.