Quietly kingly port city
Muscat is an ivory-white port city that rambles between the sandy Gulf of Oman and Al Hajar Mountains.
Understated luxury is the theme here. Strict building laws safeguard Arab architecture, so even modern buildings come with filigree window shutters, carved balconies and mosaicked doorways. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the star, though – its towering dome and quintet of minarets strike out above the city skyline.
Meanwhile, Old Muscat – the city’s historic heart – slides east of the city centre, guarded by a pair of waterside forts. At the opposite end of town, high-end hotels boast spots beside bronzed beaches, while sprawling villas and family-friendly cafés decorate nearby expat neighbourhoods.
Muscat is also a dab hand at delivering the unexpected. For starters, you won’t see vineyards (despite the name, Muscat grapes – and the wine – likely don’t originate here). But you will see surprises like the Italian-Arabic Royal Opera House Muscat, which comes with a cluster of French bistros and steakhouses.
Flight time from the UK to Oman starts at 7 hours 30 minutes.
The best time to visit Oman is in autumn and spring. Temperatures waver between 23°C and 30°C, although nights can cool down considerably. That’s down to the desert climate, which also contributes to Oman’s very dry summers. The winters see occasional rainfall that appears in short, sharp bursts.
Temperatures frequently soar past 40°C between June and September. Wondering where all those dunes come from? Winds blow through between March and August, whipping up the desert sands.
You can expect plenty of sunshine all year round, too: at least eight hours a day on average.
British nationals don’t need to get a visa in advance. You’ll receive one when you arrive in Oman.
It’s best to tip around 10% in high-end or hotel restaurants. Elsewhere in Oman, a tip isn’t expected – but rounding up the bill to the nearest rial for good service is appreciated.