The suburb of QURUM (also spelled Qurm) is, from a tourist point of view at least, the heart of modern Muscat, and the place where you’ll find the densest concentration of shops, upmarket hotels and good places to eat, as well as the city’s best public beach, Shatti al Qurum. The centre of the suburb is marked by Qurum’s lively commercial district, close to the junction of Sultan Qaboos Street and the Muscat Expressway, which is home to a cluster of low-brow restaurants and small-scale malls dotted with some interesting shops. North of here lies the very upmarket suburb of QURUM HEIGHTS, with tree-lined streets and discreet, low-rise white villas surrounded by bougainvillea-filled gardens.
Continuing past the Jawaharat A’Shatti complex, an attractive ten-minute stroll along the pedestrianized seafront walkway brings you to the rear of the Grand Hyatt, one of Muscat’s most flamboyant hotels. Owned by a Yemeni sheikh, the rather peculiar exterior looks like the bastard lovechild of a Yemeni fort and a French chateau. It’s worth going inside, though, for a look at the hotel’s fabulous interior. This is pure Orientalist chintz at its most extravagant, with soaring gold and cream pillars, a great tumbling staircase, 25m-high stained-glass windows, plus assorted palm trees and Bedu tents. The whole place is best appreciated over a superior afternoon tea at the Sirj Tea Lounge in the shadow of the impressive bronze statue of an Arabian falconer on horseback, who glares out across the foyer – the whole statue actually rotates, imperceptibly, every hour, which explains why it never seems to be quite where you remembered it.