One of the three towns holding together the province of Muscat is Muttrah, which is home to the Muttrah Corniche and Muscat Port. When the country first began to truly develop its economy, it was this place that was chosen to be the hub of commercial and trade activities, with adjacent Muscat Proper serving as the centre of military and governmental activity. Thus the two towns developed together throughout the ages, and even now, tourists in the province rarely consider Muttrah as a thing distinct from Muscat, viewing them instead as inseparable pieces of the same whole.
There are many places to go here, but the first place to which your feet might take you shall probably be The Corniche: this is the waterfront of the city, about 3 kilometres in length along the coast, and a marvellous place to for a simple promenade or for sightseeing. Restaurants and stalls line the nearby streets and dolphin and fish statues may be found on the boulevard of The Corniche itself. Another of the old forts of Muscat is nearby too, and although it is closed to the public, the stone steps leading up to it on the craggy cliff are accessible to anyone if you want a closer look at it. If you do head to The Corniche, it can be good to come at night: Al-Riyam Park’s huge incense burner monument is visible in the distance and is fantastic when lit up. In the morning, you can look to the left to spy the gorgeously colourful Al Lawatiya Mosque, which is conspicuous for its blue and gold dome.
Muttrah is also the site of the Muscat Port, whose official name is Port Sultan Qaboos. This is one of the main ports for Indian, Arabian, and African trade vessels-it has been for centuries. The harbour is a natural one and you can come to see ships putting in at its huge semi-circular bay daily. Fish is brought in from here every day too: if you are interested in getting the fruits of the sea, shop early, from the dawn hours to about 10 in the morning. This is when they bring the best fish.
The biggest attraction of Muttrah is its souq, though, which is called Al Dhalam Souq by the locals. The local name can be translated to either “The Dark Souq” or “The Souq of Darkness”, and was inspired by the thickness of the stalls in the market: there were so many, even during its beginnings, that their shades and canopies permitted only a fraction of the day’s light to come in and made lamps obligatory for shoppers even in midday.
The Muttrah Souq has been remodelled since, though, and while more lasting materials have been used for building it, the look is very much the same. Locals agree: it is in fact the majority opinion that the souq’s appearance should not depart too much from the original, insofar as concessions to durability and safety were to be made. Nearly everything that the country has to offer is sold here, from dishdasha robes to khanjars, incense, amouage, silverware, local textiles and fabrics, and the most elaborate traditional pipes. Shopping in the souq is always a delight, and is something every visitor coming to the Muscat province should try out. Note too the fish roundabout in front of the market: this is a fairly popular subject of tourist photos from here.