The palace of the reigning sultan in the Omani capital Muscat is enthroned in the middle of the government quarter of the old city and is worth a visit with its strikingly well-kept exterior.
Guarded by the two impressive fortresses of Jalali and Mirani in the harbour of Muscat, the Al Alam Palace is the official residence of the reigning Sultan of Oman in the government quarter of the old city. The magnificent building is mainly used for representative purposes at state receptions or as a majestic backdrop for the annual "Tea Party" on Oman's bank holidays, the Sultan's birthday (18 November).
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PICTURES: Sultan's Palace in Muscat
The present building with its distinctive blue, white and gold façade dates from 1972 and was built by a construction company from India. When the Sultan is in his capital, he only stays in the palace to work; his residence, the Bait al-Barakah Palace, is in Sib, a district of Muscat about 30km from the old city.
Visit to the Sultan's Palace in Muscat
Unfortunately, a visit to the Sultan's Palace al-Alam is not possible in any way. Not even the grounds may be entered by unauthorised persons. The reigning sultan simply does not want to be disturbed by visitors during his work. However, there is a publicly accessible parking garage directly on site.
Tourists can approach the Sultan's Palace to within a few metres of the spacious, remarkably clean and well-kept forecourt, which is lined with snow-white arcades. Then a wrought-iron fence blocks the way, emblazoned with the Omani coat of arms in gleaming gold.
But a look through the bars is worth every effort. The finely crafted mosaics of precious materials on the façade of the main building and the magnificent garden of the Al Alam Palace can thus be closely examined and photographed.
Tip: A visit to the Sultan's Palace in Muscat is recommended in the evening, when the sun is no longer burning mercilessly from the sky and the palace is also fabulously illuminated.
History of the Sultan's Palace in Muscat
The origin of the Al Alam Palace goes back 200 years in history. Back then, in the early 19th century, the first sultan's palace in Muscat, the Bayt al-Alam, was built by Sultan Said ibn Taimur, the grandfather of the current Sultan Qaboos. In 1895, the palace was vandalised by insurgents and could not be renovated again due to a lack of funds, the last renovation having taken place only a few years ago.
In the 1940s, after the end of the Second World War, the need for renovation no longer existed, as the Sultan wanted to escape Britain's influence and moved his seat to Salalah in the south. The Sultan's Palace in Muscat was then closed to all entry and fell into disrepair.
New building under Sultan Qaabos
Two years after his seizure of power in July 1970, Sultan Qaboos awoke the palace - like so much else in Oman - from its slumber. He had the old walls demolished and a new representative building erected in the Anglo-Indian style. The entire harbour area between the two Portuguese forts of Jalali and Mirani was converted into the palace area.
Today, the official residence of the Omani Sultan also consists of the barracks of the bodyguard and numerous other residential and administrative buildings, which are embedded in the government quarter of Muscat. A metre-high, snow-white flagpole towers unmistakably on the roof of the palace, but rarely flies a flag. Perhaps the reason for its dominance is that the palace was once called Bayt al-Alam, which translated from Arabic means "The Flowering Flag".