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Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Muscat, Oman

Sep 2, 2011, 6:44 a.m.

By Martina Fuchs

MUSCAT (Reuters) - The capital of the sultanate of Oman stands in stark contrast to the nearby glitzy trade and business hub of Dubai with no high-rise buildings to obscure the beauty of its Arabesque architecture, ancient fortifications and generous corniche.

Muscat, where men wear spotless white robes, the traditional woven kuma hat and for festive occasions a khanjar (curved traditional dagger) in their belts, and women long abaya cloaks, has preserved much of its rich history and culture.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help you get the most out of 48 hours in the oldest independent state in the Arab world, which has been ruled by the al-Said family since 1744.

MONDAY

10 p.m. Spend your first evening enjoying the 1,001 Nights atmosphere and oriental decor of The Chedi hotel(www.ghmhotels.com). Stylish lounges serve non-alcoholic "mocktails," while an infinity pool in a lush green garden, and a stretch of private, sandy shore provide a relaxing atmosphere. Most bungalows at the hotel have scenic views either on the sea or the surrounding mountains. Or try the Shangri-La (www.shangri-la.com), a luxurious three-hotel resort village and signature spa, a drive away from the capital in a desert setting of rugged mountains.

For the lower-budget traveler, go to the Corniche Hotel, just steps away from the fish market in the Mutrah area of town.

TUESDAY

6 a.m. Rise with the sun and dash out to get photographs of the daily catch being delivered to the fish market in the Mutrah port, as well as the scaling, cleaning and weighing of hammour, tuna or octopus then spend time listening to the fish merchants haggling over the bounty of the sea.

8 a.m. After this first photo opportunity, it's time to grab breakfast. Head to the rooftop Al Boom restaurant in the Marina Hotel overlooking the harbor, a few steps across from the fish market. Muscat means "anchorage," and cruise ships as well as fishing boats are berthed at the port around the clock.

10 a.m. Now it's time to take in some culture. Muscat is home to a number of museums, including the Museum of Omani Heritage, the National Museum of Oman, or the Oman Natural History Museum.

Visit the Bait al-Zubair museum (www.baitalzubairmuseum.com) on al-Saidiya Street in Old Muscat, which houses a vast collection of ancient household equipment, costumes and weapons, or the Bait al-Baranda museum (www.baitalbaranda.com) on the seafront in Mutrah, presenting Muscat's ancient life, geology, and folk arts. It is open Saturday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

12 p.m. From Bait al-Zubair, walk either across the street to the Bait Muzna Gallery for a taste of local art (www.baitmuznagallery.com), or take a refreshment a few steps away at the Muscat Light Restaurant & Coffeeshop, before continuing your walk through Old Muscat to the Sultan's Palace.

1 p.m. A colonnade surrounded by palm trees and royal court buildings leads to the palace, which was built in 1972 but is not open to visitors. It is flanked by the al- Mirani and al-Jalali Forts, both built in the 1580s during the Portuguese occupation of Muscat.

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