On our way back from Malaysia, we found ourselves in Muscat for about 7 hours because a flight delay from Kuala Lumpur caused us to miss our connection to Manchester. So here’s how to spend a short layover in Muscat and to make the most of a few hours in this beautiful city.Thankfully our airline put us up in a hotel BUT we didn’t pack a change of clothes and we desperately needed one, so my Nigerian boarding school training came clutch. I had a ‘shower’ and did ‘rub and shine’ (Nigerian boarding school people know about this, its basically a way to not look ashy) with a tiny tub of Vaseline, because being ashy is never cute. Then off we went into the Omani heat to explore.
Getting around Muscat
From our experience, taxis are the easiest way to get around Muscat, especially with the intense 35°C+ heat, but there is apparently a bus service, called Mowasalat, which you could possibly look into using.
As we drove, I noticed Muscat’s character is particularly different from nearby capitals like Dubai, in that, there is a distinct lack of high-rise buildings and also that ‘new money smell’. I this makes Muscat whimsical, elegant and very calm. Another thing we noticed was a lot of the buildings were painted white and this is apparently by royal decree, I love!
The people in Muscat
Our taxi driver, Fahad, was absolutely awesome! 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 and mums horror that a girl my age isn’t married (mind you I’m not even old!).
The men, the men, the men!
Can I just quickly break our regular scheduled programming 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 caftan, 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 clean!
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.
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 (a fact I didn’t know about Oman before, 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 get a picture first!
Take in the scenery in Muscat
Hinged between mountains and sea, Muscat is a haven of calmness in comparison to 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 mountains 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. Views for days!
On the way back from the palace, Fahad took us to a spot near the water, with a fort in the background. The view of the sun setting over the water was 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 (called 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 plying their wares 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, and local crafts, everything you can think of at your fingertips. I spent my last money on some amazing Oud and a pot for my mum and a fridge magnet (I have a thing for collecting fridge magnets).
- Stay ready so you ain’t gotta get ready- Pack a change of clothes, underwear and a couple of 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 have to 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 and I hope this has helped you figure out what to do on a shirt layover in Muscat! If you’ve been leave a comment below about your experience!
Until next time,