Muscat's Top Museums You Can't Miss

A snapshot of Muttrah near the entrance of the historic market | © Khalid AlBusaidi
A snapshot of Muttrah near the entrance of the historic market | © Khalid AlBusaidi
Photo of Sharifa Al Badi
17 January 2017

The Sultanate of Oman is one of the oldest countries in the world and maintains a tranquil, historic charm, contrary to its neighbours. Naturally, the capital, Muscat, is filled with many unmissable museums that reveal Oman’s rich cultural history. From war museums to old homes that have been transformed to tell the tales of the mysterious country, here’s a list of must-visit museums in the port city of Muscat.

The National Museum Oman

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Bait Al Bagh, part of Bait Al Zubair
Bait Al Bagh, part of Bait Al Zubair | © Courtesy of Bait Al Zubair museum
A newcomer to the cultural scene, The National Museum Oman was established in 2013 to display Oman’s cultural heritage, from prehistoric times to the present. The institution aims to spread appreciation and recognition of Oman within the Sultanate, but also to educate the international community about Oman’s role in history. With an exhibition space and over 10 galleries, the museum hosts a permanent collection and also has a gallery for temporary exhibitions. On display are some rare gold coins and utensils found in a recently excavated 16th-century shipwreck, thought to be part of Vasco Da Gama’s fleet, among other surprising things.

Bait Al Zubair

Bait Al Zubair is a private museum funded by the Zubair family, one of the oldest families of the Sultanate. The cultural space not only showcases beautiful artworks and artefacts, but also hosts events. The complex consists of five different buildings, each encompassing a unique standpoint: Bait Al Bagh, Bait Al Dalaleel, Bait Al Oud, Bait Al Nahdhah and Gallery Sarah. There’s also a traditional Arabic-style garden, café and gift shop.

Bait Al Zubair, Muscat 100, Oman. T: +968 22 084700

Sultan’s Armed Forces Museum

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Housed in a Bait al Falaj fort that was built in 1845, Sultan’s Armed Forces Museum features a brilliant display of Oman’s military history, from pre-Islamic Oman to the renaissance period. Visitors will learn about all the victories, defeats and military events Oman has been a part of since its birth, as well as gain an insight into Oman’s international relations. The opportunity to take pictures with vintage military equipment makes for a legendary social media post – you may even get an official military escort, if you’re lucky!

Bait Al Baranda

Formerly, Bait Al Baranda housed the American Mission in the early 1930s, then the British Council in the late 70s, but is now open for visitors to enjoy various displays of the country’s landmarks. People can learn about Muscat from the 1st century to 1744 AD, and get an insight into Oman during the Portuguese occupation, plus learn more about the Frankincense trade. (Frankincense was highly valuable in ancient times, and still is today, and is known for its healing properties).

Bait Al Baranda, Muscat, Oman. T: +968 24 714262

The Traditional Arts Corner- Bait Al Baranda Museum | © Property of Bait Al Baranda Museum Muscat

The traditional arts corner in Bait Al Baranda Museum | © Courtesy of Bait Al Baranda Museum Muscat

Ghalya’s Museum of Modern Art

Art and fashion lovers rejoice at this unique establishment. The museum is a collection of typical Omani houses, dating from the 1950s to 1975, which reveal Oman’s traditional customs and traditions. Early Omani life is portrayed using different rooms, such as the wedding, kitchen and display, mother and children’s and winter rooms. There are also art and fashion exhibits, and a gift shop for those who want to buy souvenirs.

Muttrah, Muscat, Oman, +968 24 711640

Omani-French Museum

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The Omani-French Museum is considered one of the oldest houses built in town. The former Sultan of Muscat and Oman, Faisal bin Turki, gifted the house to the first French Consul in 1896. Today, the establishment houses the Hall of Maritime Navigation, plus rooms featuring models of French and Omani ships, and a display of traditional costumes, among other pictures and relics. What makes this establishment unique is its reflection of the cultural connection between France and Oman.

Natural History Museum

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The domes of the Children's Museum in Muscat
The domes of the Children's Museum in Muscat | © Asma Al Jandal
For geography and science lovers, this museum exhibits some of the first traces of life in the region, from whale bones to rare fossils dating as far back as 260 million years. There also happens to be the remains of teeth belonging to a specific type of monkey! (Today, there are no signs of any type of monkey in the region).

Muscat Gate Museum

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As guests ascend the stairs to the Muscat Gate Museum, they can take in a spectacular view of the city. Inside, the museum showcases Oman’s history and unique architecture, with an emphasis on the capital. There’s also information about the ancient Aflaj irrigation systems, which Oman is famous for, and date back to 500 AD.