Culture and Arts Oman
Muscat Cultural Heritage
A true oasis in the desert, the Omani capital is built in the middle of a fertile plain surrounded by steep rocks. It is the smallest capital in the world, and the hottest too, reaching 45 ° C from May to August.
Seen from the harbor, this city offers an imposing spectacle, with its crenellated walls as in the Middle Ages and the blue and gold palace of the Sultan completed in 1970 and considered by the Omanis as a symbol of the country's rebirth.
The town planning conforms to the traditions of Arab architecture: no tall buildings, no sloping roofs, clean streets, sand-colored or white buildings.
Le old Muscat is also one of the places of sultan's residence Qabous Bin Saïd. Its palace is built in a contemporary architectural style which respects the traditional Islamic style. The Al Alam residence is flanked by the forts of Jalali and Mirani, majestic witnesses of the past.
Among the attractions of the historic capital that can be easily visited on foot, we can find the history museum of Muscat (located in the gateway to the city), the Oman museum, Bait Al Zubair museum and Franco-Omani Museum.
Cultural heritage around Muscat
Muscat is the ideal starting point for excursions into valleys and forts in the interior, along the coast to Sohar in the north or Sour and the Wahiba sands further south.
Muscat has experienced gradual expansion since the 1970s and has several new shopping and residential districts. The city also has 3 parks : Qourm, Seeb beach and Wadi Kabir.
La great mosque of sultan qaboos, opened in 2001, is located in Bawshar, on the expressway. It is an imposing and very luxurious building, financed by the personal funds of the Sultan. The exterior is made up of 3 main aisles, 5 minarets, several ablution courts and three vaulted passages. The prayer room for men is monumental. We will notice the magnificent dome and the chandelier.
If you can, also take a trip to the Friday market at Souk Al Jouma, in Wadi Kabir.
The coastal plain
La Batinah is the most populous and fertile coastal region in the country. It stretches for 300 km at the foot of the Western Hajar Mountains. This narrow plain (between 1 and 5 km wide) constitutes the natural route between the coast (Gulf of Oman), the mountainous axis and the interior plateaus on the border with the Emirates. The fishing villages line up along the coast from Shinas in the north to Al Khaboura in the south.
The interior is characterized by palm groves nestled at the foot of the mountains and by small farms and livestock. It is here that we find a multitude of wadis or wadis, these usually dry river beds, except after heavy rains. The oases develop around streams and small lakes buried behind stones, date palms and brush.
In the north of the country, the djebel akhdar, the "green mountain", culminating at an altitude of 3 m, is the central and highest part of the Hajar Mountains, the backbone of the country. It separates the Bâtinah (literally the "belly"), the coastal plain which borders the Dahirah mountains (the "back"), the plateaus of the interior.
The main town in the hinterland is Nizwa, the former capital, located in a large oasis, where the caravan trails of the north and south meet. You must visit the mountain villages and terraced crops.
In the south, in the province of Dhofar, we find the homonymous mountain range, of which Jebel Samhan constitutes the highest peak. As Jebel Akhdar is located in a protected military zone, one must apply for a permit (issued by the government and easily obtained from hotels in Nizwa, for example) before visiting the region.
It occupies two thirds of the territory. As we move away from the coast towards the interior, it changes color and height from plains where white predominates, then yellow and red, to dunes which can reach 300 m in height. .
On the edge of the sands of Wahiba, there are a handful of bedouin markets, as in Al Wasil and Al Mintirib. The Roub al-Khali, which can be reached more easily from Salalah, remains the largest desert in the world, poorly known and rarely crossed, except by a few Omani tribes.
Oman has a total of 1 km of coastline. North of Muscat, the beach area stretches from the town of Shinas to Barka. South of Muscat, a good part of the coastline on the Arabian Sea borders the desert, thus forming immense beaches and salt marshes, like that of Bar el Hekkam.
The coast - which is accessed by tracks - is low and straight, often preceded by small islands, coral reefs and sandbanks. The main cities are Sour, historic center of commerce and shipbuilding, and Qouriyat, a fishing port. Several diving centers are located along the coastline around Muscat (Sawadi and Boustan), which are accessed by paved roads.
Dhofar (the south)
Administratively, the western province of Dhofar occupies two thirds of the country. The population is concentrated in the southernmost part - on the edge of the Arabian Sea, on the border with Yemen - in a region which juxtaposes the coastal plain, the plateaus and a mountain range (the Dhofar mountains, maximum height : 1 m in the Jebel Samhan).
Dhofar is relatively populated thanks to the summer rains at the end of the monsoon and its hot and humid climate. This is where the people of Muscat come to seek refuge during the scorching summer months. The population of Dhofar is composed mainly of sedentary farmers cultivating coconut and banana trees.
The main town is Salalah, whose incense souk is very famous. Must visit in the region: Mirbat, the ancient capital of Dhofar, the road to the desert Roub al-Khali and the lost city of Oubar, the ruins of the city-port of the kingdom of the Queen of Sheba, the beaches of Moughsail, and the wadis where the Frankincense tree grows. Do not miss a visit to the Jabali villages in the surrounding mountains.
The Moussandam peninsula (the north)
The cliffs cut by deep gorges of the rocky cape of Moussandam plunge steeply into the turquoise waters of Hormuz, creating a unique landscape comparable to the fjords of more extreme latitudes. The highest point of this mountain range which extends into the hinterland is the djebel harim, 1 m high. The famous and closely watched Strait of Hormuz provides a strategic location for traffic control at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. ; 700% of world oil consumption passes through the Strait of Hormuz.
Curious fact: Oman is one of the few countries in the world to be discontinuous; the Moussandam peninsula being cut off from the rest of the country by a territorial advance of the United Arab Emirates (more precisely the emirate of Sharjat). Excursions to Moussandam can be done by plane from Muscat or by road from Dubai.
A more sporty alternative is the practice of cabotage in the coves and inlets cut into the rock. One of the most spectacular fjords in the region is the Khor al Sham fjord, which we go back to the departure of Khasab. Swimming, snorkelling and visiting tiny fishing villages are the most popular activities on the program.
Moussandam is arguably the best kept gem in the Sultanate of Oman. Today it is open to tourism, with its beaches nestled in peaceful bays, its clear waters and its seabed full of fish, its mountains and its unspoiled nature.
For those who love secret and unspoiled natural spaces, the big island ofAl masirah and the 5 islands of Kuria muria are worth the trip. Al Masirah is 40 km long, covered in sand and inhabited by members of the Janabah tribe, who make a living from fishing. Rare fact: on this island, no tree grows. The islands of Kuria Muria will satisfy divers looking for limestone bottoms full of fish. You can reach Masirah Island by plane from Muscat.