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Al Bustan Palace captures the mystery and drama of Omani culture, whether it’s in design, on the plate or in a performance.

Cultural Treasures

Situated on the Gulf of Oman, Muscat dates to antiquity. Once a major trading port between the east and west, the city was ruled at times by indigenous tribes, Persians, the Ottoman Empire and the Portuguese Empire, all of which left significant cultural marks on the country. From cliff-top forts to mosques and ancient art, there’s so much to explore in this vibrant, multiethnic city. Spend a few days immersing yourself in the color, heritage and depth of Omani culture.

Terrace view to the shimmering, infinity-edge pool and Sea of Oman with tables and chairs in the foreground

Day

1

MORNING
  • A Terrace Breakfast.

    Enjoy a delicious buffet breakfast overlooking the Sea of Oman at Al Khiran Terrace Restaurant, just one of the signature restaurants at Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Fresh fruit, pastries and more make for a great start to your day of exploration, and an à la carte menu is available, as well. 

  • The Overview.

    After breakfast, travel to the National Museum, which just opened in 2016 and has quickly become known as one of the region’s best. Explore 14 permanent galleries to learn about the country’s rich heritage. 

MIDDAY
  • Magic Carpet.

    The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is spectacular in and of itself, built from 300,000 tons of stunning Indian sandstone. But the massive carpet that covers the floor of the prayer hall is the major draw. The rug — the second largest in the world — is made of 1.7 billion knots, weighs 21 tons and combines classical Tabriz, Kashan and Isfahan designs. The rug took four years to produce and includes more than 28 colors in varying shades. 

  • Local Lunch.

    Turkish cuisine is common in Muscat. For an inexpensive, authentic choice, visit Lokanta Restaurant, which offers great food and a family-friendly atmosphere.

AFTERNOON
  • Shop the Souq.

    One of the oldest markets in the Arab world, Muscat’s Muttrah Souq is filled with hundreds of stalls and shops, some of which you’ll find down dark side streets. Coins, stamps, handmade jewelry and Omani frankincense perfumes are among the items you’ll find, along with khanjars, handmade daggers like the one you see on the Omani flag. 

EVENING
  • Fine Dining.

    Return to Al Bustan Palace for a memorable meal at China Mood, which has quickly become one of the top Asian restaurants in Oman. Sample from an authentically crafted menu created by a kitchen team that was specially recruited to guarantee genuinely wonderful Chinese cuisine. 

Upward view of a grand mosque built in white stone with a minaret and blue skies in the background

Day

2

MORNING
  • Early Start.

    Wake up early to travel the nearly 160 kilometers to the ancient city of Nizwa.  

  • Explore a Historic Fort.

    Once you arrive in Nizwa, visit Nizwa Fort. Built by Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya’rubi in the mid-17th century, the fort is, essentially, a castle. Two cannons guard the entrance, and inside you’ll find narrow corridors, a maze of rooms and high ceilings. The exterior is a testament to the military history of the region — look for battlements, turrets and additional cannons. 

MIDDAY
  • And an Ancient Castle.

    Koranic verses. Lines of poetry. Those are among the things you’ll find etched on the walls at Jabrin Castle. Imam Bil’arab Bin Sultan, a lover of poetry and the arts, commissioned the castle in 1675. The striking structure was a sanctuary of sorts, a tribute to the Imam’s father, who ousted the Portuguese from Oman. Its preservation is impressive, to say the least. 

AFTERNOON
  • Mural Walk.

    Although much of Nizwa’s cultural heritage is centuries old, you’ll also delight in its modern adaptation — a series of street murals. Since 2015, the city has commissioned artists to celebrate Nizwa’s reign as the “Capital of Islamic Culture” through vibrantly painted pieces. From traditionally inspired Islamic writing to painted snapshots of men on motorcycles, the art is creating a new cultural heritage for the people of Oman. 

  • A Surprising Lunch.

    One of tourists’ favorites is Bahjat Al Sham restaurant, which offers authentic Middle Eastern cuisine that is affordable and delicious, popular with tourist groups who love to experience Middle Eastern specialties.

EVENING
  • Catch the Show.

    Return to Muscat with enough time to catch a performance at the Royal Opera House, where old traditions meet new. The beautifully built structure accommodates 1,100 people and is anchored by a massive pipe organ. Classic operas such as Aida are on the schedule at this incredible venue. 

  • Night Swimming.

    After the show, return to Al Bustan Palace for a late-night swim in one of five outdoor pools, including a 50-meter long infinity pool. Look to the stars and reflect on your experiences in this ancient region.