Keen to discover a side of Muscat that doesn’t revolve around souks or the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque? Explore more of the city by visiting its various green spaces.
Parks and green spaces aren’t usually the first destinations that come to mind when visiting a Middle Eastern country, but Oman has a landscape that varies from mountainous terrain and desert sands to flowers, palm trees and the blue waters of the gulf. Explore the lesser-known spaces of Oman’s capital city to connect with nature and discover all that this diverse Arabian country has to offer.
A visit to the Al Ansab Wetland can turn anyone into a birdwatcher; the area is a haven for almost 300 species of birds, along with butterflies, fish and flowers. Situated 11km (7mi) from the centre of Muscat, it’s only a short drive away and can easily be added to an itinerary. Al Ansab Wetland is oddly nestled into a water treatment works, but don’t let that put you off. Oman’s wastewater services company is helping the wetland by implementing guidelines to protect the environment from pollution and reduce carbon emissions.
A nature reserve and public garden, Qurum Natural Park is described locally as the ‘lungs of Muscat’. A popular spot for residents and tourists to explore, this park offers a boating lake, the Sultan Qaboos Rose Garden, fountains and an artificial waterfall. Once the sun sets, the garden is ideal for an evening walk as the lights illuminate the park’s pergolas, 4,500-seat amphitheatre and fountain at the centre of the lake. The park, which opened in 1993, is a short drive from the heart of Muscat, located by the side of the main coastal road that leads down to Qurum Beach.
Combine a day at Muscat’s harbour and port with a visit to nearby Riyam Park. Along with its beautiful foliage, the most striking feature of this green space is a giant ornamental incense burner – a memorial built in honour of Oman’s 20th National Day – from which you can see beautiful scenes of the gulf and city beyond. Steeped in history, the park was the location where a peace treaty was signed with the Portuguese in 1648, giving Omanis free access to maritime trade. Riyam Park holds a funfair every weekend, which is popular with local Omani families and lies on a hiking trail that used to link Muttrah with Muscat. The park is approximately 23km (14mi) from the city centre.
Naseem Garden has an array of attractions, including Arabic and Japanese gardens, a children’s playground, a maze and a small train to take families around the park. It’s also home to an aquarium, a lake and a waterfall – peaceful places to unwind. The park often hosts music performances and festivals, so keep an eye out for any upcoming events during your stay. One of the first parks to be built in Oman and 39km (24mi) from Muscat, Naseem Garden is located on the highway that leads to Al-Bāţinah.
While a sinkhole might not sound like the most obvious attraction to visit on your holiday, the Bimmah Sinkhole at Hawiyat Najm Park is one of Muscat’s hidden treasures. With a limestone landscape that surrounds turquoise waters, it’s a picturesque, must-see attraction. The mix of freshwater and saltwater at Bimmah Sinkhole is much warmer than the nearby ocean, making the location ideal for swimming and snorkelling. Hawiyat Najm Park (Falling Star Park) is a little further afield – about 128km (80mi) from central Muscat – but well worth the trip. Admission is free.