Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Muscat, Oman
Sep 2, 2011, 6:44 a.m.
3 p.m. Now head to the Mutrah souk (market), and stop for a quick bite at the street eatery Fastfood'n'Juice Center to the left of the entrance to grab a shwarma (sandwich) and a cup of sweet chai (tea).
5 p.m. Explore the Mutrah souk, open daily from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday to Thursday and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, a market housed under a roof with a labyrinth of small alleyways where everything from khanjars to silverwork, gold jewelry, textiles, spices and incense is sold. Make sure you've polished your haggling skills.
7 p.m. Enjoy an energy-boosting pomegranate, banana or mango fruit juice at al-Ahli Coffeeshop in the heart of the souk.
8 p.m. You must be hungry by now. Restaurants serving Omani dishes are rare, but try the cuisine of the Bin Ateeq in the al-Khuwair area, serving harees, made from wheat mixed with meat, or maqbous, a rice dish with saffron cooked over spicy meat. For dessert, have halwa, traditional Omani sweets, containing eggs, sugar, saffron, cardamom, and nuts.
Alcohol is only available in selected restaurants and luxury hotels, but usually quite expensive. Omani qahwa (coffee) is delicious however, mixed with cardamom powder and often accompanied with dates.
If you travel during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public during daylight hours.
10 p.m. Muscat's nightlife is rather thin, but you can have a drink at the Trader Vic's in the InterContinental hotel for cocktails, or at the romantic John Barry Bar with live piano music in the Grand Hyatt. If you are lucky, you can catch a concert of the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra (www.facebook.com/royalomansymphonyorchestra).
If all of this doesn't tempt you, take a stroll along the corniche to enjoy the harbor scenery.
You may want to venture out of the city for the day, consider the options of: diving (www.omandivecenter.com), birdwatching (www.birdsoman.com), horse-riding, dolphin and whale-watching or off-road wadi-bashing in the desert dunes.
Camel races are also held on Fridays from October to April, but check with the Directorate-General for Camel Affairs first when the race is taking place.
8 a.m. Otherwise, start your day with breakfast in the Bedouin-cultured garden of the Kargeen Caffe (www.kargeencaffe.com) in Madinat Qaboos.
9 a.m. Take a taxi to the sprawling Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which is able to accommodate up to 20,000 worshippers. Construction of the white marble mosque with ceramic floral murals and a Swarovski crystal chandelier started in 1995 and was completed in 2001. The mosque is open daily for Muslims, and for non-Muslims Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Visitors must wear long sleeves, trousers or long skirts, and women must cover their hair.
10 a.m. A nice place to see old silver ornaments, copper crafts and samples of Omani ships is the National Museum. It is open Saturday to Thursday from 9.30 a.m. - 1.30 p.m.
1 p.m. Have lunch at the classroom restaurant of the National Hospitality Institute, tucked away in the Wadi al-Kabir, where students train to become chefs and offer an international menu. Be aware that a "training eye" camera is installed in the restaurant. (http://www.nhioman.com/contactus.html)