On our way back from Malaysia, we found ourselves in Muscat for about 8 hours. Our flight was delayed leaving Kuala Lumpur, causing us to miss our connection to Manchester. So today, I’m sharing how we spent a short layover in Muscat and how you could to. This will help you make the most of a your time in this beautiful city!
Thankfully our airline put us up in a hotel for the duration of our delay. I had a shower and moisturised with a little Vaseline, because we didn’t pack much in our carry ons. We decided not to sit in the hotel because we had a great (read as free) opportunity to see another country. So ff we went into the Omani heat to explore!
Often overlooked for the bright lights and glamour of Dubai, Oman is a small country bordering the UAE and the Arabian Sea. I hadn’t really heard much of Oman until our delayed flight which gave us 8 hrs to spend in Arabia’s jewel, Oman.
Getting around Muscat
Before you start exploring on your layover in Muscat, you need to decide on how to get around and what you want to see. From our experience, taxis are the easiest way to get around Muscat, especially with the intense 35°C+ heat. There is apparently a bus service, called Mowasalat, which you could look into using.
As we drove, I noticed Muscat’s character seemed particularly different from nearby capitals like Dubai. There is a distinct lack of high-rise and glossy buildings (and trees!). I think this gives Muscat a whimsical charm and a calm elegance. Another thing we noticed was a lot of the buildings were white and this is apparently by royal decree, I love!
The people in Muscat
Our taxi driver, Fahad, was absolutely awesome! He was so friendly and had such a happy and calm aura about him and he was so generous (something the Omani people are known for) that he made us feel at home. He took us on a mini tour before we had to make the shuttle to the airport. Turned out he was the same age as us and he was already married with 2 kids! He kept telling us to go get married which just echoed all the Nigerian aunties that a girl my age isn’t married. Mind you I’m not even old!
On the scenic drive through Muscat, Fahad told us about his life and family and started asking if we were married. We burst out laughing because we were single to stupor! This immediately reminded me of my aunts that constantly ask when I will get married, and seeing a similarity in Omani and Nigerian culture regarding marriage.
Can I just quickly break to shout out the Omani men real quick?? I loved how all the men with their shiny hair and beards (I’m a card carrying member of the beard appreciation gang, get at me to get your own card), wore the traditional Omani DishDasha, an ankle length white kaftan, with a round embroidered cap called the Kumma. And not a single stain, not a wrinkle on any of them, so fresh and so clean!
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Learn about Oman’s past
Naturally, the first place Fahad took us was to Al Alam Palace. The regal gold and blue ceremonial royal residence of the Sultan of Oman, one of 6 rotal residences. A great spot to start your layover in Muscat!
It is also known as the “Flag Palace” because the palace was built on the site of the former British Embassy where there was a stump of a flagpole in the ground, that stories say, any slave who touched it was granted freedom. An interesting fact seeing as Oman was notorious for its slave trade from East Africa and the Sultan in the middle of the 19th century, actually moved the capital to Stone town in Tanzania because he loved it so much and wanted to live there (Interesting!).
On the approach to the palace is a long boulevard, lined with palm trees, framed with mountains all around.
The palace itself is closed to the public but we stopped in front of the gates at the end of the approach to take pictures while Fahad was shouting us to get back to the taxi to get going, but we had to do it for the gram first!
Take the Scenic Route through Muscat
Hinged between mountains and sea, Muscat is a haven of tranquility compared to hustle and bustle if the cosmopolitan Kuala Lumpur where we just left. Fahad took us on a journey through the city towards Old Muscat; through long highways and winding roads with unobstructed mountain and sea views. We had to stop when we saw the most beautiful little town, settled at the foot of the mountains, with the sun shining over. The view was truly breathtaking.
On the way back from the palace, Fahad took us to a spot by the harbour, with the Al Jalali fort in the background. A fort built by the Portuguese empire to protect Muscat after it had been attack twice by the Ottoman forces in the 1580s. The rich colours of the sun setting over the Omani sea were immaculate, just beautiful!
Shop Shop Shop!
Our last stop was the Mutrah Souq, first to change some money and then to do a little shopping! First of all, can I just say that I didn’t realise the money in Oman (Omani rial) is so strong!! £1 was about 0.5 Rial, I had no idea, I was so shook when I first changed £20 and got back 10 Rial! Malaysia had spoiled me.
No visit to Muscat would be complete without getting lost in the labyrinthine Mutrah Souq, where traders have been for centuries. The rich smell of Oud perfumed the paths, sellers calling out from their stalls with their wares spilling out. Oud, Abaya’s, Pashminas, local crafts, everything you can think of at your fingertips. I spent the last of my money on some Oud and a pot for my mum and a fridge magnet (I collect them).
- Stay ready – Pack a change of clothes, underwear and small toiletries in your carry-on, just in case! This is something I never did before this trip but I definitely do from now on.
- Money, Money, Money, Money! – Always carry cash in your home currency or well-known currencies ($, £). It makes changing money in emergencies like these super easy and you don’t get charged using your debit card.
- Are you ready for your blessing? – Every disappointment could be a blessing in disguise or an adventure waiting to happen! The delay meant we got to explore a third country for free in one holiday.
Is Oman on your travel list? If not, it definitely should be!! Even though I only had a few hours, Oman was beautiful and I’m sure I’ll be back. I had an amazing experience on my layover in Muscat and I would definitely recommend spending some time in this striking country.
And I hope this has helped you figure out what you could do on a short layover in Muscat! If you’ve enjoyed this post, don;t forget to SHARE using the below pins!
Until Next Time,