Muscat is a bustling port that has always been celebrated for its hospitality. Renowned for its stunning architecture and spotless streets, silk bazaars and souks, it’s the perfect starting point for visitors. The Grand Mosque, built by Sultan Qaboos in the late 1990s, is one of the most popular attractions, but there are plenty of others, from the Al-Mirani Fort to the Bait Al Zubair Museum and the Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace to Al-Riyam Park, where you will find a huge white frankincense burner.
Kids of all ages love the drama of the kaleidoscopic underwater world or playing on the beautiful beaches. A little further afield, the former capital city of Nizwa is fantastic on a Friday – market day – when the surrounding population turn out to market their wares and livestock. Muscat has two main family-oriented hotels, and a boutique option for those looking for more minimalist style. The vast (640-room) Shangri-La Barr al Jissah Resort, which is really three hotels rolled into one luxury mega-resort, sits beside a 600m private beach. For families, the best choice is the unfussy Al Waha section with its complex of interconnecting shallow pools and a lazy river where kids can let off steam, when they’re not in the kids’ club or dive club.
The second is the iconic Al Bustan Palace Hotel. Sitting in an oasis between the beach and mountains, it’s like a Sultan’s palace from the Arabian Nights. Its opalescent dome, turrets and archways shimmer at night as searchlights criss-cross starry skies. The cavernous lobby could easily host a conference of Sinbad and the original sultans of swing. Its friendly service and fine selection of restaurants, including Muscat’s best Chinese, mean it is well set up for children.
Tennis and diving are good options for teenagers. The Chedi is Muscat’s answer to boutique beauty. If you’re a pool lizard rather than a beach babe, then this aesthete’s hangout is the one for you, especially if you prefer to create your own activities rather than enrol the kids in a club. It’s also great for foodies, with nine restaurants from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern to Asian or casual barefoot in the sand. Three pools, Muscat’s largest health club, and a menu of Balinese spa therapies, Indian Ayurveda and indigenous rituals are among the temptations.
The best time to visit Oman is between September and May. June, July and August are particularly hot, but no hotter than Dubai. Rainfall varies according to the region, but stays low throughout the year.
There are daily direct flights with Oman Air throughout the year (flying time seven hours). The four-hour time difference makes it manageable for children to adjust quickly, and a week’s holiday is completely viable. Turquoise Holidays is dedicated to creating bespoke experiences in Oman for families of all ages and levels of adventure.