With evidence of settlements from as early as 3,000 BC, Muttrah (مطرح) is definitely one of the most ancient and historically significant cities in Oman. This tightly packed port market is surrounded by majestic mountains and is home to Souq Muttrah – the capital’s must-visit traditional vibrant market as well as the fish market and a variety of unique experiences in close proximity of each other. This post highlights the main attractions to be seen in Muttrah.
You cannot possibly visit Muscat and not go to Souq Muttrah (سوق مطرح). This is undeniably the most magnificent traditional market in the Sultanate. It is at least 200 years old and is made up of a complex maze of narrow walkways leading to hundreds of small shops that sell everything from Omani khanjers, halwa, and frankincense to kummahs and spices. It was historically known as the Souq of Darkness, due to its closed off ceiling and dimly lit interior, but thanks to the wonder of electricity, it is now lit and bright anytime you go visit. Unlike stereotypical markets in the Middle East and Asia, Souq Muttrah is laid back and the shopkeepers are not aggressive, they will of course overcharge tourists, but that’s how things work everywhere. It is also extremely safe and coming across a pickpocket or a con-artist is basically unheard-of. You can read our guide for the unique items to look for in Souq Muttrah and make sure that you enjoy the bargaining culture!
The fish market is towards the end of Muttrah corniche heading towards Sultan Qaboos Port. It is not technically a tourist hot-spot but it is worth a visit if you’d like to have an idea the kind of fish caught off the Gulf of Oman or what are some of the local delicacies (sharks anyone?). The fish market has been undergoing an expansion over the past couple of years, and is yet to open in its finished form; however, the old structure is still an active place where fishermen bring their catch early every morning.
There are two museums in Muttrah: Bait Al Baranda and Ghalya’s Museum of Modern Art. Bait Al Baranda museum has many exhibits about the archaeological and maritime history of Oman and it is open Saturday to Thursday from 9:00am to 1:00pm then 4:00pm to 6:00 pm, with 1 rial entry fee for adults and half a rial for children. On the other hand, Ghalya’s Museum of Modern Art has a misleading name as it is not really a modern art museum, instead it is a museum showcasing what life in Oman looked like between the years 1950 and 1975. The museum is small and worth visiting due to the authentic way in which it replicates the experience of being inside an old Omani house.
Muttrah offers adventure experiences for those willing to climb up the mountains surrounding it. The Muttrah Geo-Trek is an extremely easy hiking track right in the heart of the capital that takes you through the mountain range encircling Muttrah. This shouldn’t take you more than 3 hours to complete, and provides numerous breathtaking opportunities and stunning views of Muttrah corniche and Sultan Qaboos Port. You do not need to wear hardcore trekking gear, but you should still dress reasonably.
Muttrah is also home to Al Riyam Park, one of the oldest parks in the country. It is more of an activity that locals do to enjoy a relaxing afternoon or weekend and not really a touristy activity, but it does offer green spaces and a children playground with a few rides. Unfortunately, the area leading up the iconic white frankincense burner is closed off and nobody is allowed to go up to it.
In addition to the little coffeeshops in and around Souq Muttrah, Muttrah offers a number of great restaurants. The restaurant to visit is probably Bait Al Luban, which offers an authentic Omani cuisine menu and has breathtaking views of the corniche and His Majesty’s yacht. There is also Kurkum, a high end Indian restaurant with an exquisite service and beautiful setting.