Sep 16, 2012

The Omani Cuisine Tour

The Omani Cuisine is of course a restaurant review website, but I do occasionally get emails from people visiting Oman and asking for advice on what to see and do, so I thought I’ll make a post for what I’d like to call the “Omani Cuisine Tour” – a sample outline on how to do a two days tour that involves watching a show at the Royal Opera House Muscat and visiting Nizwa.

This is basically just a suggestion on what to do if you are coming to Muscat to watch a show and have two days to spend, check out the Omani Cuisine Tour after the jump.

8am to 10am: If you are coming to Oman on a two days visit you should start the morning on the first day by visiting the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, one of the most beautiful and extravagant mosques in the world. The architecture of the mosque is gorgeous as it blend many different Islamic, Middle Eastern, and Omani styles in unison. The mosque features one of the world’s largest handmade Persian rugs and one of the world’s biggest chandeliers. Do not miss visiting the library and walking around the outer wall of the mosque. Entry to the Grand Mosque is open to the public from Saturday to Thursday between 8am to 11am. Women must not show shoulders and legs and must cover their hair before entry.

10am to 12pm: After your visit to the Grand Mosque you can head to Bait Al Zubair Museum, a private museum with an amazing collection of historical Omani articles such as clothing, jewels, weapons, and models of various Omanis forts. The museum is not too overwhelming and still comprehensive at the same time and should not be missed if this is your first visit to Oman. Bait Al Zubair is open from 9.30am to 6.30pm Saturday to Thursday. Do not miss visiting Bait Muzna Gallery located directly opposite Bait Al Zubair, even if you are not interested in buying any artwork, the gallery showcases some gorgeous Omani paintings and Arabic calligraphy.

12noon to 4pm: It might be tempting to pass by Al Alam Palace after visiting Bait Al Zubair, but I suggest that you do not do this after Bait Al Zubair as it could be too hot to walk around that time, instead I recommend that you go have lunch at Al Tanoor Restaurant at the Shangri La Resort. The drive to the Shangri La just on its own is breathtaking, and the setting of Shangri Law Bar Al Jissa between the mountains and the ocean makes for a spectacular view. Al Tanoor has a nice relaxing atmosphere that lets you sit under the canopies while looking at the Indian ocean, and it also happens that their Arabic/Indian buffet is really really good. After lunch you have a quite walk along the private beach of the Shangri La.

4pm to 5pm: You can relax at the Shangri La for a few hours just chilling by the ocean, and on your back to town from the Shangri La you should stop by Qasr Al Alam (Al Alam Palace), the Sultan’s palace in Old Muscat. You cannot actually go inside the palace, but the site features some unique architecture and is a great spot to walk around and take some photographs. You can also drive around the Palace to see the historic Jalali and Mirani forts.

5pm to 10pm: After seeing Qasr Al Alam and old Muscat, you should be heading back to the hotel to change in preparation for attending the show at the Royal Opera House Muscat. You should  be at the opera house about an hour before the show if you would like to walk around the building and enjoy the gorgeous architecture. Photography is allowed outside and inside the building, but not in the theater itself. Popular shows sell out months in advance, so you should make sure that you book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

10pm to 11pm: The majority of shows at the Royal Opera House finish between 10pm and 11pm nowadays, so if you would like to go for dinner afterwards you can easily just pop in to Bareeq Al Shatti Mall located right next to the opera house and have dinner at The SteakCompany, the best steak house in town with a great ambiance and service. Other options nearby include B+F Roadside Diner for amazing burgers, Mumtaz Mahal for Indian food on the hill in Shatti Al Qurum, or the Turkish House for Turkish and Arabic grills in the commercial area of Al Khuwair.

8am to 1pm: On the second day of the trip you can explore a bit of what life looks like outside Muscat by visiting the old city of Nizwa. Nizwa is one of the ancient capitals of Oman and is about an hour away by car from Muscat. The city has an old fort which has been renovated and can be visited to learn about the history of Oman. The fort is part of the old souq (market) of Nizwa which is famous for selling Omani silver, clay pots, and many other Omani merchandise. If you happen to be visiting on a Friday, you can catch the cattle auction in the market yard if you arrive there early.

1pm to 3pm: If you leave Nizwa around noon, you should be back in Muscat at 1pm to have lunch at at Ubhar, a great Omani restaurant that serves Omani food with a modern twist. The restaurant looks bright and gorgeous during day time and has a nice relaxing atmosphere. Make sure that you try one of their soups, a dish from the shuwa section, and the halwa puff dessert (Ubhar Dream) for a creative Omani food experience that you cannot have anywhere else in the world.

3pm to 4pm: You should have another relaxing session by the beach at Chado Tea Lounge if you manage to find seats outside. The weather is to die for during winter and you can only top that by sipping exotic teas from Chado. If the place is full you can have something at the Crepe Cafe, or you can enjoy some ice cream while looking at the ocean through the windows of Il Gelato on the first floor of that same mall.

4pm to 7pm: After relaxing by the beach in Shatti Al Qurum you can go to Souq Muttrah and the corniche at the Sultan Qaboos Port. This is the most popular tourist attraction in Muscat, but it is still not as aggressive or intimidating as traditional markets like Khan Al Khalili and similar places. You should have a walk by the corniche before you enter the souq to examine the traditional look of the houses by the corniche and appreciate the magnificent Mosque of the Prophet at the center of the corniche. If you are lucky you would also see the Sultan’s extravagant private yacht docked at the port.

7pm to 9pm: To conclude your trip in Muscat you can have dinner at Shang Thai in The Wave for Muscat’s finest Thai food experience. The service is great and the food is amazing. You can alternatively go to Pizza Express at The Wave or pop into Muscat City Center for a meal at the delicious Noodle House. The Airport is literally five minutes away from The Wave and Muscat City Center, so they make up for nice last minutes but totally memorable meals

There are a lot of other things to do and see in Muscat, but it is impossible to do them all in just two days.I thought this would be a good starting point for someone coming to Oman for the very first time.

If you guys have some suggestions don’t hesitate to share them in the comments below.