What to Do On a Layover in Muscat, Oman

Gatehouse, Muscat © Jean and Nathalie/Flickr
Gatehouse, Muscat © Jean and Nathalie/Flickr
Photo of Gehad Medhat
22 December 2017

Muscat is one of the best cities in Oman, surrounded by natural and architectural beauty. Luckily, it also has the country’s main international airport. So, if you still can’t visit Muscat to enjoy its wonders, but have a connecting flight with a transit in Muscat for few hours, then here is how you can use that time to get an unforgettable glimpse of the splendid city, and the country’s unique culture.

If you have three hours…

Three hours is definitely not enough to enjoy Muscat’s spectacular attractions or to walk around its famous local Muttrah souk. Nevertheless, you can go to Muscat City Center which is located on Sultan Qaboos Road, only 3 km (1.86 miles) away from Muscat International Airport. For three hours, you can enjoy walking around the mall and buy gifts or souvenirs from international and traditional Omani brands. You can also relax in one of the luxurious cafes such as: Tim Horton, Starbucks, Papparoti or Costa Coffee. If you are hungry, you can choose from a wide range of restaurants and fast food stores that offer various cuisines between Chinese, European, American and Mediterranean dishes. If you are looking for something different, then you can have some fun in the mall’s entertainment area “Magic Planet” or watch a movie in the mall’s “VOX Cinema”. The cinema plays Arabic, Indian, animation and foreign movies that take between 85 min. to 185 min.

Seen City Center | © Jhong Dizon/Flickr

If you have five hours…

Five hours can get you a reasonable sense of Muscat and the authentic Omani culture. That’s why you should visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the biggest and most famous Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Oman. The mosque is located on the Sultan Qaboos St. around 12.4 km (7.7 miles) away from the airport. The mosque is open for non-Muslims from 8 am to 11 am Saturday through Thursday, while its library is open from 9 am to 2 pm and from 4 pm to 9 pm Saturday to Wednesday. However, you can still visit the mosque, not the inside praying halls, outside the opening hours and enjoy its charming architecture. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque has one of the world’s biggest crystal chandeliers and one of the largest Persian rugs on earth. Beside its beautiful dome and minarets, the mosque is distinguished with the traditional Omani architecture that is reflected in its arches, towers, wall engravings, and floors mosaic style. After visiting the mosque, you can go to Al Dhayafa St., which is an eight-minute drive away, to enjoy some Indian or Turkish food. If you are not hungry, then you can go to Oman Avenues Mall, which is a six-minute drive, and enjoy one of Muscat’s best malls, with local and universal brands, and luxurious coffee shops and restaurants.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque | © Sam Nabi/Flickr

If you have seven hours…

If you have seven hours to spend in Muscat, then head directly to Al Qurum. The city is around 26 km (16.2 miles) away from the airport, which can be driven in about 35 minutes. Al Qurum is one of the most beautiful and famous suburbs in Muscat, and it is also a dynamic commercial district. First, visit Shatti Al Qurum (Al Qurum Beach), which is one of Muscat’s best beaches, to enjoy the golden sand and the crystal waters of the Gulf of Oman. It is five minutes closer to the airport than the city of Muscat. If you are hungry, then enjoy an authentic Omani seafood meal in one of the top seafood restaurants in Muscat like: the Twins Turkish restaurant or The Beach restaurant, which both have marvelous views over the beach. Then, go to Al Qurum Natural Park , which is 5.4 km (3.4 miles) away. You can even enrich your dose of entertainment by visiting Marah Land, and enjoy the breathtaking electronic games. You can go to Al Qurum City Center, which is 2.9 km (1.8 miles) aways and takes around seven minutes drive. Like the City Center in Al Seeb, this City Center is one of Muscat’s best shopping malls. Simply have a walk in the mall, buy some souvenirs, or just rest in one of the cafes.

Al Qurum Park | © Juozas Salna/Wikimedia Commons

If you are looking for a deeper glimpse of Omani culture, then you can visit one of the nearby museums which include The Sultan’s Armed Forces Museum (8.6 km/ 5.3 miles away from Marah Land), Oman Oil and Gas Exhibition Centre (2.7 km/ 1.7 miles away from Mariah Land), and the Natural History Museum (9 km/ 5.6 miles away from March Land). You can also watch a show at the elegant Royal Opera House, which is 3.7 km (2.3 miles) away from Marah Land, but make sure to check the available shows and tickets first.

Royal Opera House, Muscat | © Jean and Nathalie/Flickr

If you have 12 hours…

If you have 12 hours to spend in Muscat, then you are lucky to get the chance to visit the most traditional area – the city of Muttrah. Muttrah is one of the most ancient cities in the Capital Governorate of Muscat that is around 32 km (20 miles) away from Muscat International Airport. It used to be the center of commerce in the country as it had one of the largest seaports in the country. The city has one of the most traditional souqs in Oman; Muttrah Souk, which is a must-visit attraction. The souq has several stores and small shops that sell Arabian perfumes, silver crafts, Omani jewelry, gold, frankincense, pottery, and wooden handicrafts. It is the perfect destination for buying souvenirs. However, even if you are not buying anything, a walk through the souq is a walk through Omani heritage and culture, and is a great place to take pictures. Outside the souq, you can take a stroll on Muttrah Corniche and enjoy the great views of Muscat Port and the Gulf of Oman. Then, you can head to Riyam Park, which is 1.2 km (0.75 miles) away from the Corniche, to enjoy the natural beauty of Muscat, and great scenery over Muttrah.

Muttrah | © Riyadh Al Balushi/Flickr

For a great tour in Muscat and through Omani culture and history, you can visit Al Alam Palace (3.6 km/ 2.2 miles away from the Corniche), which is the royal residence of the Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the current leader of Oman, and Al Jalali and Al Mirani forts (4.3 km/ 2.7 miles away from the Corniche).

Al Mirani Fort | © Patano/Wikimedia Commons

It is worth mentioning that visas to enter Muscat are usually purchased before traveling to Oman. Nevertheless, there are some countries of which citizens are allowed to purchase a visa in the airport to enter the country, even for few hours. So, make sure that you can enter the city, if you have long hours waiting for a connecting flight in Muscat International Airport.

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