Arabian wonders, night and day
A literal translation of Muscat is ‘safe harbour’. Through the resilience of its ancient buildings and the splendour of the surrounding environment, the reasoning behind such a moniker is evident. This is a city set apart from its neighbours with a unique cuisine, architecture and reverence for the past. The northerly port city is sandwiched between an enchanting desert and crystalline waters – a city of sharp contrasts, whatever your approach.
On the banks of the Al Mouj Marina, Mani’s Café is a quaint eatery offering shade from what can be, at times, an unforgiving Omani sun. The airy, contemporary space with whitewashed walls holds pops of colour throughout offers coffee, cakes and snacks throughout the day, as well as a comprehensive breakfast menu and main course options, which bring together a selection of Western staples and Omani classics.
Al Mouj Marina, Street 449, Marsa 2, Al Mouj – Muscat;
Tel. +968 24 607015
Situated next to the grand Royal Opera House Muscat, Al Angham represents the very best of Omani culture. Reflecting the opulence of its neighbour, each room and dining hall within the restaurant celebrates a different facet of culture and history, exuding authenticity and charm from the interiors, and continuing to do so on guests’ plates. Patrons looking for an evening of cultural exploration can spend an evening in the company of some of Italy’s greatest operatic talents before celebrating the best of Omani cuisine, without ever leaving the locale.
Opera Galleria, Al Kharjiyah St., Muscat;
Tel. +968 22 077777
While alcohol is not illegal in Oman, consumption is limited to select hotels and restaurants throughout the country. More popular within the city of Muscat are hookah bars, and one such space has proven time and time again to be the perfect people-watching place. A Jordanian café that now has outlets around the region, Muscat’s branch is located along ‘Love Street’ – the Qurum Beach Promenade – a known spot for romance and grand gestures which proves the perfect place to sit with a mocktail and watch the sun set.
A’Shati St, Qurm, Muscat;
Tel. +968 24 571313
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Desert Nights Camp
Luxury hotels in Oman are hardly difficult to come by, but to experience luxury beyond high-rise buildings encased in glass, a little distance may be necessary. A two-hour drive from the centre of Muscat can do just that, and lead you to the Wahiba Sands encampment of luxury, five-star tented suites. Amid an endless sea of sand, the luxury accommodation boasts tiled floors, spacious terraces and the option of dining on Omani delicacies by campfire, spending your evenings under the desert sky.
Desert Nights Camp, Al Wasil;
Tel. +968 92 818388
Images © Desert Nights Camp, Oman
Amouage Factory and Visitors Centre
The aromatic stronghold of Muscat lies within the Rousayl district – encased within a traditional, vast yet otherwise unassuming building. Such a space houses the Amouage Factory and Visitors Centre, erected in 2012 in celebration of the international fragrance brand’s 30th anniversary. Their overwhelming (yet never overpowering, staying true to their brand) success has led to the production of more than 20,000 bottles a week. Curious passers-by can now enter the two-storey house, visit the scent laboratory and purchase a bottle of their signature scents, bringing the flavour of Oman home.
Al Mawaleh, Muscat;
Tel. +968 25 434800
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Ras Al Jinz Turtle Sanctuary
Oman’s crystal clear, turquoise waters are home to the green turtles; the elusive and tragically now endangered gentle giants that have captured the hearts of people for decades. Commissioned by royal decree in 1996, the Ras Al Jinz turtle sanctuary has provided a haven for the area’s green turtle community while simultaneously promoting a respectful eco-tourism industry. The sanctuary rests a few hours drive from central Muscat and with the option of either a night or early morning viewing.
Ras al Jinz, 411, Sur;
Tel. +(968) 96 550606
The Food of Oman: Recipes from the Gateway to Arabia
By Felicia Campbell
Campbell is no stranger to the Middle East – the former Travel Editor at Saveur enlisted in the military in the wake of 9/11, and was subsequently deployed to Iraq in 2003. In The Food of Oman, Campbell retraces the ancient spice routes and the resultant melting pot of Omani cuisine – which, through borrowing from its Middle Eastern neighbours, has created and harboured a distinct culinary identity of its own.