Welcome to My Place . . . Muscat

Aislinn Dillon recommends sights to see, food to eat and places to visit in her ‘home away from home’

Co Clare native Aislinn Dillon on the Muttrah Geotrek in Muscat

Co Clare native Aislinn Dillon on the Muttrah Geotrek in Muscat

 

Aislinn Dillon is a teacher from Crusheen, Co Clare, who has been living in Muscat since 2016.

“I previously lived in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, so I’m approaching six incredible years in the Gulf. Muscat is a breathtakingly beautiful city and Oman is a place I’m blessed to call my home away from home. Its charm and authenticity rivals its glossy, skyscraper-filled neighbours.

Where is the first place you bring people to when they visit Muscat?

There really is so much to do here. However, we’d probably take a stroll along Shatti beach, grab a coffee and do some people watching. Sundowners are commonly taken at the ship-shaped Crowne Plaza, where the view is breathtaking. Later in the evening, we would have dinner at The Turkish House, followed by rooftop drinks and a natter at mine.

Muscat Grand Mosque at sunset. Photograph: Getty Images
Muscat Grand Mosque at sunset. Photograph: Getty Images

The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are. . .

Go on a hike at Muttrah Geotrek. Start off next to Al Riyam Park.

Take a trip to the fish market and visit a traditional souk.

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Go snorkelling with turtles, Moray eels and a plethora of sealife in the stunning Bandar Kharan.

Visit a souk in Muscat to buy spices and nuts
Visit a souk in Muscat to buy spices and nuts

This is a hard one to narrow down as once you leave Muscat and head over Al Amerat Hill (a bulldozed mountain road), you are greeted by tiny villages, roads laden with goats, donkeys and camels, and some of the most beautiful beaches and wadis that Oman has to offer. So head out of town too.

Where is the best place to get a sense of Muscat’s place in history?

Head to Mutrah (old town). Bar the addition of the out-of-place KFC, this town is rich in history and culture. There are low-rise white-washed buildings, bright doors and shutters, and unassuming cafes with shop names that either leave nothing to the imagination or are open to multiple interpretations, “Food Stuff” and “The Sale of Chicken and Poultry” being among my favourites.

The town is surrounded by mountains, adorned with fortresses (from the 16th century Portuguese occupation), and a large incense burner towers over Al Riyam park. The Sultan, whose palace is in the area, has two identical lavish yachts docked in the port. Cruise ships occasionally stop off to let passengers explore the traditional souk.

Muscat, the capital city of Oman, has been Aislinn Dillon’s home since 2016. Photograph: Getty Images
Muscat, the capital city of Oman, has been Aislinn Dillon’s home since 2016. Photograph: Getty Images

Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Muscat?

Like other Gulf countries, the expat influence is ubiquitous in terms of restaurants, Turkish cuisine being my favourite. The Turkish House is a must if you plan to visit. For a real Omani experience, avoid going anywhere high end. Go to a “spit and sawdust” type of joint. Perch on a plastic chair and share a platter of Shuwa (lamb or goat cooked underground for 24 hours).

What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Muscat?

Intricate lamps and lanterns, bedouin style jewellery, a hoard of scarves, and perhaps some Frankincense and Myrr.

If you’d like to share your little black book of places to visit where you live, please email your answers to the five questions above to abroad@irishtimes.com, including a brief description of what you do there and a photograph of yourself. We’d love to hear from you.

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