Architecture at Muscat, Oman

Buildings and architecture are a part of every visit to a city. The charm of a city is in a way defined by the beautiful buildings it has. If New York is remembered by its towering buildings, Chicago is all the more beautiful in its stately but tall buildings.  Victorian architecture is well recognized in many countries where the British ruled. Europe is renowned for its distinctive Greek/Roman and several other forms of architecture which make its towns and cities such a visual treat indeed.

The Middle-eastern countries have their own flavor of Muslim architecture which sets it apart from the rest of the world. Muscat, in the Sultanate of Oman showed me examples of some lovely architecture in its fine mosques, homes, forts and office buildings.

I am no expert on this topic, but the simplicity in fine lines, arches and curves defined elegance for me in all its buildings. Fortunately, His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos, the ruler of Oman, apparently was not in favor of the high rises that abound the neighboring prosperous UAE.  With a few high-rises only in the city, one never feels cramped as compared to being in modern day glass and cement cities. The shorter buildings here are not just square brick structures, but a medley of arches, and graceful straight lines at the right places. What also helps is the fact that surroundings are sparkling clean adding to the aura of the buildings.

The Grand Mosque in Muscat that was built after a competition for its design is one of the most popular destinations for worshippers and tourists alike.  However, my favorite mosque in Muscat, was the one I saw frequently by the main road. A gleaming off-white color, the Zawawi mosque in Al-Khuwair with its gardens around was a treat to see in the day and delightfully illuminated by night.  Some pictures are below.

Zawawi Mosque, Muscat

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat

A quick walk in the neighborhood left me spellbound as I saw the homes around me, each more beautiful than the other.

Local residence, Muscat


Local Residence, Muscat

Local Residence, Muscat

Another notable point was the uniformity in coloring of the buildings. As compared to the peeling reds , greens, blues and yellows found rampantly in the buildings in most Indian cities, most of the colors used were pale –with shades of white or sand being the most common. Perhaps it is the hot climate of the city which is the deciding factor. I wish such uniformity were present in Indian cities too.  There was no graffiti in the city and walls were spotless clean. A few rules (that were obeyed) such as not drying clothes where they would be visible to outsiders was a balm to eyes used to seeing garments of all forms in India!

If you get a chance to visit Muscat, and love seeing buildings, do try and visit some of the famous landmarks such as the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the old area of Corniche, old forts – the Sohar fort is my favorite and one of Muscat’s neighborhoods (preferably near the sea, that is where I went!). I am sure you will delight in the various forms of buildings you see.

Categories: Asia, Oman | Tags: , , , | 21 Comments

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21 thoughts on “Architecture at Muscat, Oman

  1. Milind

    Nice blog as usual. In Oman, every citizen gets free of cost land from government for building a house and also very low interest loan for construction. One of my collegues got 6000sq ft of land very close to his house and his spouse too got 6000sq ft from the government. He got loan of RO40,000/- to be repaid in installments of RO200/- per month and the instalment starts after the completion of the house. No wonder, the people can afford to build nice and specious villas ( even the compound walls are with marble tiles).

    • It is little wonder then, the houses are so large and so artistically built. How lucky indeed are the residents of this country are that they actually get beautiful homes almost for free! Thanks for sharing that information.

  2. Amruta

    Nice one though i donot have any expertise on architectures i just wonder why modern day constructions are not so magnificent and jaw dropping as ancient architecture.truly historical civilizations are identified with surviving architectural achievements

    Keep writing 🙂

    • I completely agree with you. The charm and the beauty of historical buildings is far more than any modern architecture can command. Perhaps a lot more effort and perfection went into buildings of the past than the quick building techniques and practical approach that is low on aesthetics these days.

  3. jalal michael sabbagh.

    Beautiful architect .Great post.jalal

  4. For someone who confesses not to know much about architecture, you have given quite a round-up and tour of the city! the houses indeed look like mini palaces and forts. And like you even I liked the Zawawi mosque more. And Richa you and your blog are much loved even I do miss an odd post here and there. 🙂

    • Happy to have you back on my blog and see your lovely words. I will try to be more regular in bringing you back here! The houses in Muscat indeed are mini palaces, each different from the other. It is certainly a place where architects get to practice their art in constructing so many different lovely designs!

  5. Thanks for bringing back memories of Muscat. Your observations are apt and so is the writing. Absence of graffiti and filth on the walls of the city points to a superior order of things -it may be the fear of the law in part.

    • Thanks! Yeah, superior is an apt word to describe. More than the fear of law, the locals there love their country and strive to keep it looking good even outside their homes. Not like the smart asses here who think they are being smart by breaking rules and dirtying the country!

  6. The houses are quaint and the white color might indeed be because of the heat. The mosque is huge and looks like an architectural wonder!! Beautifully captured 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by! There are many such pretty mosques the one I show here in Muscat but I like this one more because of the illumination and the lovely gardens around it. I hear the government provides free plots of land to people and loans to build homes at low interest rates. No wonder the houses are so lovely!

  7. I loved the Sultan Qaboos mosque, Richa. It reminded me of the Jama Masjid in Champaner. Can’t say the same for the houses though. :-). The houses, though neat, and tidy and grand are not my type. One thing intrigued me though: I couldn’t see a single AC unit anywhere in the houses. Where have they been placed?

    • Yes. I find it much grander on the inside than outside. It has rich carpets, one of the biggest chandeliers in the world! I never thought about ACs :). In Muscat, every dwelling however humble is completely ACed given the very hot climate there. I reckon all homes have central or split ACs these days.

    • Percy Bharucha

      @Richa, thanks for a great roundup on the architecture of Oman. I visited after 15 years and found it a visual treat all over again. Thanks to digital cameras, I now have over 2000 pix from a 15-day trip 🙂 Even the new constructions all adhere to the prevalent style of the surroundings, maintaining the beauty of the area.
      @Sudhagee, the airconditioning for the mosques and all other large buildings would be through central a/c plants, but unlike many parts of the world where these are visible eye-sores on the architecture, here in Muscat they are tastefully covered / hidden with a wooden or cement grill designed to blend with the architecture of the building itself.

      • Wow, 2000 photos! But I am not really surprised! There is plenty of natural and a rugged beauty in the place that makes for great photography. Even though all the buildings are different, there is a sort of uniformity in them which makes them look so good. Thanks for answering Sudhagees question on the AC. Even I didn’t know they were so cleverly concealed!

  8. Lovely pictures of the city, Richa! Khushwant Singh once wrote that ‘ one must visit Muscat before he dies’ and your post reaffirms this:)

    • That is so good to hear! Muscat is one of the cleanest cities in the world and one can’t help but marvel at the amount of greenery that has been planted and maintained in that desert city. So many lessons can be taken from this city!

  9. There is something about the mosques and their architecture which attracts me. Have been to many mosques in different countries and they all have so much to say. There is a mosque in Malaysia which doesn’t have a single fan or AC but still as cold as an air-conditioned building.

    And those buildings look so quaint. Thanks for taking us to Muscat.

    • Wow. I wish I could model my house the same way as the mosque in Malaysia! I am sure there is a science behind the shape of the buildings that is not just aesthetic but also practical. Thanks for sharing the Malaysia tit-bit.

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