Capital and port of Oman, lying on the Gulf of Oman; population (2001 est) 57,600. The Muscat region has a population of 635,300 (1999 est). With the advantage of a deepwater harbour at Matrah, in the western part of the city, Muscat handles the bulk of the country's foreign trade, especially the export of crude oil and the import of food. Port Qabus, a modern deepwater port built in the 1970s and named after the sultan, is an extension of Matrah and Mina, with a terminal for loading supertankers, and Riyam, which handles incoming refined petroleum products, are both nearby. Natural gas and chemical industries are also important. Muscat is served by an international airport, As-Sib, and the city is linked to Salalah, a former capital, by a 1,000 km/625 mi trunk road completed in 1984.
History The port at Matrah has been functioning since the 6th century BC, when the area was ruled by the Persians. The area was under Portuguese control as a trading post and naval base from 1502 to 1650, and Muscat became the capital of an independent Oman when the present dynasty assumed power in 1741. Its growth was greatly accelerated in the 20th century, following the discovery of rich oil reserves in Arabia.
Features Muscat's architecture shows a variety of influences: Persian, Portuguese, Indian, and African, as well as European and Arabic. Notable landmarks include the old wall and gates, two forts built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, the palace of the sultan – built on the waterfront in an Indian style, and the national museum.