After my first Muscat layover I knew I would come back for more.
Due to a rescheduled flight I got to see a little more than the airport and a bird’s-eye view of Muscat. Not that much though as I was driven to a hotel at 2 am and back to the airport 9 hours later. However, this little glimpse of Muscat made me want to see more.
The next time I choose Oman Air, I intentionally went for the “bad” connection. And it is definitely not the worst to be stuck with a 19-hour layover in Muscat.
What to do on a layover in Muscat
I arrive in the early morning, after a very short night on a plane. I am basically already tired when starting this little venture. Getting a visa is straight forward and the immigration officer is super friendly.
Prior to my departure, I had done some research and was determined to take a shared taxi or public bus into town. Unfortunately, however, I cannot find the way to the main road. How embarrassing! So I am giving in and take a taxi to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
The taxi drops me off at the main road from where a little path leads to this impressive construction. It is now, in this beautiful morning sun that I notice how hot I already am. After all, I am wearing my comfy and warm travelling clothes.
At the entrance I am asked if I have a scarf on me. I do! But rather coincidentally than due to advanced planning. Of course I would have to wear a headscarf to visit the Grand mosque. How could I forget? I hesitantly pull my scarf from my bag, assuming that its skull print might be a problem. With big question marks in my eyes I am asking the attendant if this scarf is ok. He barely looks at it and nods. Are you sure? He waves me through.
With the scarf loosely draped around my head, I am entering through the gate. On the other side I am stopped by the fashion police – I am convinced it is because of the skulls and tell the lady that I was told it was ok. She smiles at me and shakes her head. Then she grabs my scarf.
I feel like a child that has her hair done – fabric flies around my head. after 3 or 4 seconds I am done. Properly scarfed! Ready to visit the Grand Mosque.
Mutrah and the Souk
After exploring the mosque and its surroundings, I am taking a taxi to Mutrah, the old Muscat. I am dropped off at the entrance of the Souk to explore the Bazar. Considering I am the only tourist there, I am quite surprised about the number of souvenir shops here.
After a while browsing around I am suddenly really hungry (of course I am! My last meal was on the plane!) and take a seat in one of the many empty sea front restaurants.
Minutes later the place is flooded by tourists. They are coming out of nowhere. It takes me a while until I spot the three large cruise ships and realise that I am surrounded by its content.
I finish my mediocre meal and leave the site as quickly as possible. After an hour of walking by the side of the road, I give in and wave down a taxi.
Beach side chilling
By mid-afternoon I start to feel really really tired. I definitely feel the lack of sleep and thus opt to go to the beach and chill a bit. I had been told by a friend at home, that the best spot is just east of the Hotel Inter-Continental. So I go there.
It is indeed a cosy place with cafes and outdoor seating areas and I end up staying here for hours, drinking a latte or two, eating a muffin and browsing the internet while observing locals and expats on the beach.
I am really too tired to go for another walk. After the sunset I grab a taxi back to the airport.
Conclusions of my Muscat Layover
I am so glad I did this stint to Muscat and can only recommend it to anyone. 19 hours was a long time considering my lack of sleep but it also allowed me to not be stressed about hanging around and spending time doing nothing more than observing people.
Solo Female Traveller
I am not the kind of person that worries about travelling alone as a woman but get asked a lot about it. So, how was Muscat? Well, I DID have to wear a head scarf to enter the Grand Mosque, but that was to be expected. Other than that, I was able to move around freely. I felt absolutely comfortable and well-respected.
Links and Information for a layover in Muscat
- Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque: it’s worth checking out the opening hours for visitors before you arrive.
Check out the official website: http://sultanqaboosgrandmosque.com
- Visa: at the time of my visit, I got a 10-day tourist visa on arrival. I could not get a transit visa.
Check out the latest information on visas here: https://evisa.rop.gov.om/home
- Transportation: there are many busses and minivans driving back and forth the main road between the airport and the city centre. However, I was too tired to even try to hitch a ride and opted for taxis. As the taxis were not metered I made sure to agree on the fare beforehand.