11. Muscat, Oman: A Middle East Gem
Why Muscat, Oman?
Oh man! O.K. so that’s a bit corny :-), but I had a real fun time when I visited this tiny Middle Eastern country a few years ago. The people were friendly and welcoming; there were not many tourist; still aren’t and it is a fun place to visit and explore a new culture. You should too.
The country of Oman is located in the Middle East, east of the United Arab Emirates (of which Dubai is one). It is also bordered by Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Muscat its capital sits on the Gulf of Oman in the north of the country.
How To Get Here
The Oman International Airport (MCT) serves the city of Muscat. You can get nonstop flights from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. If you are coming from elsewhere, it is necessary to either connect in Europe or Asia or fly into Abu Dhabi (AUH), Bahrain (BAH), Doha (DOH) or Dubai (DXB). The national airline is Oman Air (WV) with service to several destinations around the world. The following airlines has service:
Air Arabia (G9), Air India (AI), Air India Express (IX), Biman Bangladesh Airlines (BG), British Airways (BA), Egyptair (MS), Emirates (EK), Ethiopian Airlines (ET), Etihad Airways (EY), FlyDubai (FZ), Gulf Air (GF), IndiGo Airlines (6E), Iran Aseman Airlines (EP), Jet Airways (9W), Kish Air (Y9), KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL), Kuwait Airways (KU), Qatar Airways (QR), Regent Airways (RX), Spicejet (SG), Swiss Airlines (LX), Oman Air (WY), Pakistan International Airlines (PK), Saudi Arabian Airlines (SV), Shaheen Air International (NL), SriLankan (UL), Thai Air Asia X (XJ), Thai Airways (TG) and Turkish Airlines (TK).
I found this piece in Lonely Planet that tells you how to make it from Dubai to Muscat by bus. It takes about 6.5 hours.
If you are already in the Middle East you can take the drive. Just use a service like Google Maps for directions.
Where To Stay
Muscat has many places to stay, even a Ritz Carlton hotel. It’s a little way from the heart of the action of the city which is in Muttrah, however its a great hotel and in an equally great area. There are also hotels by the airport as well as in the Muttrah area.
Where To Eat
There are plenty of local restaurants with local fare, so you will have no issues here. There are also street stalls from immigrants with their own local food. I had some food from India, but I really can’t tell you what it was called, just that it was tasty.
This is a Muslim country so alcohol consumption is restricted to special areas such as your hotel bar.
What To Do
So what does one do in Muscat?
There are quite a number of things to do really. I’ve included a list below. One thing I did was take the minivans to a place called Seeb; a seaside town not far from the airport. You use the minivans to get around the city. They are very efficient. It was a bit of randomness, but while there, I met a local family who invited me inside their house for tea. I felt a bit scared at first, but immediately got over it. I had such a good time.
- Go shopping in the Souk of Muttrah Fort
- Go to the black sand Beach beaches
- Take a Hop On/Off bus around Muscat
- Visit the Fish Market
- Visit the Incense Burner monument in Al Riyam Park
- Visit the Palace of Sultan Qaboos – I don’ think you can go inside, but you can see it in all its grandeur from the outside
- Visit the Royal Opera
- Visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque – ensure you check the opening times and dress code.
- Visit the city of Nizwa – This can be done in a day; get an early start
- Visit a Wadi (valley) – This is a fertile area usually with a large river, where you can take a swim and an area where you can also go for a walk/hike. There are several in Oman. The one I visited was Wadi Shab. It’s a long walk to the “top” where you enter a cave by swimming between two very narrow walls to reveal an area that is amazingly beautiful. This are is for strong swimmers so be cognizant of that.
- Rent a bike and ride along the coastline
- Walk around the city by yourself. I found that I discovered many little gems of the city just bay walking. It’s right on the coast, so you can also walk the coastline and enjoy the yachts and cruise ships in the port. There are also a lot of seagulls plus restaurants around the coast line.
==>> Here is a list of things to do from Trip Advisor.
==>> Here is a list of Tour offered by Viator.