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Cruising Article – 2011-06-29

Dive into the exotic culture and desert beauty of Muscat, Oman

Asian cruise destinations

Perched on the end of the Arabian peninsula, the nation of Oman is famous for its exotic culture, gorgeous desert scenery and crystal-clear blue waters. During a visit to the capital city of Muscat as part of an Asian cruise, you can discover the rich cultural heritage and stunning views that this thriving destination has to offer.

One of the most spectacular sights in the city is the Grand Mosque, a massive religious structure dedicated to Oman's Muslim population. Crafted from sandstone bricks that evoke the surrounding desert, this building is the third-largest mosque in the world. It features impressive decor such as marble paneling, a chandelier with Swarovski crystals and the second-largest handmade Persian rug anywhere on Earth.

Another opulent attraction in Muscat is the Al Alam Palace, the home of Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Although it is closed to the public, you can still marvel at its beautiful gold and blue facade.

To learn about the history of Oman, you will want to pay a visit to Bait Al Zubair, one of the city's preeminent museums. Here, you can peruse displays of Islamic weaponry, art, household artifacts and more. You may also choose to visit Nakhl Fort, a pre-Islamic foritifaction that served as the seat of power for the Bani Kharous tribe. The militaristic attraction's highlights include the ladies' sitting room, the ruler's court, the prison and the courtyards.

No visit to Muscat is complete without experiencing the lively nature of a Middle Eastern marketplace. The best one in the city is the Muttrah Souk, a labyrinthine bazaar that serves as a hub for local activity. When you come to the market, you can buy jewelry, handicrafts, exotic spices and more. Meanwhile, the Quriyat Fish Market allows you to watch as Omani fishermen unload fresh fish caught in the nearby gulf.

When you venture outside the city limits of Muscat, you will be able to experience the Omani landscape at its best. During a trip on a dhow, a traditional Arabian boat, you can soak up the culture as you sail along the glistening coastline. Further inland, you can even go on a four-wheel-drive safari tour of the desert, zooming up and down the dunes as you visit charming villages and vibrant oases.