Muscat, Or Mascat, the chief city of Oman, in Arabia, situated at the head of a small inlet of the Indian ocean, in lat. 23° 38' N., lon. 58° 40' E., about 240 m. S. E. of the entrance to the Persian gulf; pop. within the walls, about 30,000; of the suburbs, 5,000. The cove of Muscat, as the harbor is called, is about three fourths of a mile long and half as broad, opening toward the northwest. To the west of this inlet is the larger bay of Muttra, or Ma-tara, capable of affording shelter to shipping when bad weather renders it difficult to enter the cove. The city stands on the S. side of the cove, in a hollow at the foot of cliffs 400 or 500 ft. high, and there is only one pass communicating with the interior. As seen from the sea, these cliffs have no trace of vegetation. Their summits and flanks are occupied by a chain of forts and towers, reached by difficult and narrow paths. These fortifications, which were built by the Portuguese at the end of the 16th century, are in a ruinous condition, and most of their guns have lost their carriages. The city walls are flanked by four fortified gates. The streets are narrow and dirty, and some of them are almost impassable. Half the town is in ruins.
Many of the houses are mere mat huts, and even those of the better class are seldom more than one story high. The sultan's residence is a very plain edifice. There is no police, and no constraint on the citizens, who have the largest liberty, and eat, sleep, and sometimes die in the open streets. The climate is excessively hot, and the land breeze at night is suffocating. The thermometer rarely falls below 90° in the shade. The inhabitants are composed of Arabs, Persians. Syrians, Kurds, Hindoos, Afghans, Belooches, and negroes. The prevailing language is a corrupt Hindostanee, the Arabic tongue being confined to the native Arabs. Most of the merchants live at Muttra and other towns along the coast, and bring in boats each morning the produce of the interior and of the places along the Persian gulf, even lire wood being thus imported. Muscat has an extensive transit trade with Arabia, Persia, and India. Corn and cloth are the principal imports; the exports are dates, horses, salt fish, hides, and madder, which are sent to India; sharks' fins, to China; and asses, to Mauritius. The harbor abounds with fish, and large quantities are cured. - The district of Muscat comprises the city and its suburbs, and the city and suburbs of Muttra, which, about 4 m.
W. of Muscat, is connected with it by a good road. Muttra stands in an open plain exposed to the sea breeze, and is much cooler than Muscat. It has docks for building and repairing ships, and a large part of its population of about 25,000 are fishermen, boatmen, sailors, and pilots. The sterility of the country around Muscat is only apparent. In the valleys back of the hills are woods, streams, gardens, and villages. - In the 15th century Muscat was a place of considerable importance, and was subject to Ormuz. Albuquerque took it in 1507, and it soon after became the centre of the Portuguese commerce in that part of the world. In 1648 the natives expelled the Portuguese, and took possession of several places in the Persian gulf. In 1707 they obtained permission from the king of Pegu to build vessels in his territory, constructed ships armed with from 30 to 50 guns, and committed great depredations on the coasts of Malabar and the Persian gulf, and on vessels in the Indian ocean. During the latter part of the 18th century they gave up their piratical habits and engaged largely in commerce. (See Oman).