Shaquel al Balushi discovers a hidden site to Riyam, and the secrets of the Muscat Gate.
It’s funny how you can live somewhere for many years and still not know every part of it. I lived in the Riyam area of Muttrah for some time and thought that I had explored every nook and cranny to be found. Not so, it turns out.
During a catch-up with one of my old friends, Ahmed, he told me about a disused road behind the back of Muttrah Fort, which I’d never heard of. My next Destination was set! I made it my mission to find this hidden area and see with my own eyes the spectacular view that Ahmed had described.
I left my home in Amerat early, before 5am, to catch the sunrise. There are three ways to get to the old road – probably a couple more, too, known by locals – but I took the way Ahmed had revealed.
I drove to Riyam Park but once inside the entrance, instead of turning left, you continue straight up the hill and keep following as it dips down. Here, you’ll see the disused road.
It was clear that the old road, once functional, has not been used for many years. The tarmac was cracking, with weeds beginning to encroach and claim where cars had once travelled, and the stone kerb was crumbling away to dust.
Reaching a crest, the view suddenly opened up before me. Ahmed was right; it’s a beautiful panorama, sweeping along Muttrah Corniche. I could see the Sea of Oman glistening in the distance, as the sun began to creep up into the sky, and a glimpse of Al Alam Palace, slightly hidden by trees. A sea of roofs and building tops stretched out, leading your eye to the back of Muttrah Fort. I took a wonderful landscape shot, capturing the fort, sea, buildings and rock – one of my favourite photos of the day.
Muttrah Fort, with the Sultanate’s flag fluttering on the watchtower in the early morning breeze, was a majestic sight. It’s one of the oldest forts in Muttrah – built in the 16th century – and perches on a rocky outcrop overlooking the town.
Believe it or not, I could see my old home standing up here. It brought memories flooding back. I looked across in a diagonal line and saw the home of my old friends, identical twins Ziad and Zaker. As a teenager, I practically lived half my life at their house. The twins still live in the same house, although both are now married with children.
It was time to set off on the next part of my adventure. Walking down the path, I reached some stone steps and followed this up to Muscat Gate. Like me, you’ve probably driven under the Gate countless times on your way to and from Muttrah but never thought more about it. It’s an easily missed attraction that many residents and visitors to Muscat overlook. Straddling the road, the building used to act as an official gate for Muscat in days gone by and was locked at night to protect the old, walled city. The original gates still remain. What you might not know is that you can go inside the gate, which now houses a museum.
Outside, there’s also an immaculate little park area with pristinely cut grass and benches. It was empty when I got there, save for a municipal cleaner in beige overalls taking a break on a bench looking at his phone. I got some nice close-ups of bushes, heavy with vivid orange-reddish flowers.
On the steps to walk up to the top of the Gate, I was annoyed to see rubbish strewn around with drink cans and plastic bags. It’s such a shame people disrespect the country’s culture in this way.
Inside the Gate is a series of archways, creating a nice perspective photo. You can peer through the rusting metal frames across the windows down to the traffic rushing by below. There’s also a museum with photographs chronicling the area but it was closed when I was there.
The Gate has another secret: one of the best views in Muscat. Trust me, it’s worth the trip alone to stand and look towards the sea, framed by pale brown mountains with a watchtower on top. You can see the whole of Muttrah Corniche, too.
It was the perfect way to end my trip down memory lane.
Drive to Riyam Park and head straight. Alternatively, head to Muttrah and the Muscat Gate. Take the first right instantly after the gate if you are coming from Muttrah and go up to find a small parking space. A small staircase will take you to the top and the museum. If you’re coming from Muscat, drive under the gate and park as soon as you can. You can then walk back to the steps.