Walking Tour: Muscat Coastline
- Start Fish Market, Mutrah
- End Al Bahri Rd, Old Muscat
- Length 8km; four to five hours
Giving a sense of how the sea defines the city, seeping into the souq and throwing sardines into the pockets of passersby, this walking tour follows the coastline through the ancient ports of Mutrah and Muscat. Appealing to historians, bus-hoppers, shoppers, hikers and bikers, it picks up some of the best of Muscat's sights while following the gulls around the distinctive rocky seafront. Pack a snack and take lots of water. The walk can be segmented if time, energy or summer heat forbid the whole route.
Turn right at Samak roundabout, which means 'fish' in Arabic and is decorated appropriately with a pair of generic pisces. Call into nearby Bait Al Baranda and learn about the history of Muscat’s relationship with the sea and the origin of the city's name, meaning 'safe anchorage'. Return to the Corniche and head towards the fort. Cast your eye out to sea: His Majesty's Dhow is generally harboured here, cruise ships dock by the harbour master, the ferry to Musandam sits proudly in its own berth and large cargo boats unload at the docks beyond. Inland, the merchants’ houses of the Lawataya people, who built their fortunes on the seafaring trade, sport balconies that allow the inhabitants a nostalgic glance across the Arabian Ocean.
Turn into Mutrah Souq, where items such as handmade models of silver dhows and ship chandlery are on sale; this souq grew from seaborne cargo and to this day many of the wares (Indian spices and textiles, Egyptian plastic, Iranian crafts and Chinese toys) are shipped in by sea. Return to the Corniche and head east towards 16th-century Mutrah Fort, built by the Portuguese who were unwittingly led to Muscat by the kindness of Ahmed Bin Majid, a famous sailor from Sohar.
At the goldfish monument and fountains, a heron often snacks in view of the royal yacht and the visiting navies of other nations. Continue towards the giant incense burner; Oman’s former prosperity was built on Dhofar frankincense, which left the shores of Oman with other precious cargo such as Arabian horses.
On reaching Al Riyam Park you could, with stout shoes, head back to Mutrah on the Ministry of Tourism’s walking route C38, past panoramic views. Alternatively, continue along the Corniche to the watchtower and scan for dolphins – some real and some carved from marble.
After pausing for a rest at Kalbuh Bay Park, cut inland via Al Bahri Rd and enter the ‘city proper’ via Muscat Gate Museum. Every night until the 1970s the doors to the city were locked at this point, keeping tradition in and those from the interior out.
Turn right towards Sidab on Al Saidiya St and visit Bait Al Zubair for photographs showing the sea’s influence on Muscat.
Continue along Al Saidiya St, still heading for Sidab. Pause for fried fish at City Tower Grill Restaurant & Cafe on the corner before turning right along an elegant avenue of date palms.
At the roundabout, march left through the colonnade towards the grand front entrance of the Sultan’s Palace. Follow the palace walls left, past beautiful gardens and mature trees (a favourite roost of mynah birds) on Qasr Al Alam St.
At the junction, turn left for the Omani-French Museum and a display on shipbuilding, or right for Muscat Harbour. The Portuguese built forts, such as Al Mirani, towering to the left, and Al Jalali (across the bay), to protect their maritime interests. Look across the harbour for a graffiti logbook etched into the promontory rocks, left by the visiting navies of Great Britain and other countries. This is a good place to admire the back garden of the palace and imagine the spectacle of the military banquets held annually here, complete with ice sculptures on the lawn, a band on each of the surrounding forts, lights from Oman's fully rigged tall ship moored in the harbour for the occasion, and fireworks mirrored in the calm waters of the bay.
Turn left at the harbour wall, and duck under the tunnel before the modern naval base. Turn right under the old city gate on to Bab Al Muthaib St. This soon runs into Al Bahri Rd – and from here, it’s an easy taxi ride back to Mutrah.