19 May 2016

48 Hours Layover In Muscat

A few months ago we had to travel from Malaysia back to the UK, while the flight is not unreasonably long (14 hours) it is still longer than we wanted to take in one go as Mini EE was 15 months so just about the worst age for travel (non toddling babies and those who can sit in their own seats being a much better proposition).

Muscat
Muscat - a somewhat calmer layover than Dubai
Discretion being the better part of valour we decided to break our journey half way and give ourselves a day off before resuming the journey to the UK.  While most people stop in places like Dubai we thought we would take the opportunity to look around Muscat, an altogether quieter and calmer proposition.  
Exploring the Sultan Qaboos Mosque
While the journey did not get off to the greatest start (a drugged up taxi driver screeching along the Malaysian motorways at 150kph, immigration delaying Master and Miss EE’s exit on their cancelled student visa for so long that we almost missed the plane and finally just to top it off an emergency stop/aborted take-off due to a plane landing out of sequence), thankfully the rest of the journey went very well.

Sultan Qaboos Mosque Oman                    Sultan Qaboos Mosque Oman

As this was our final exit from Malaysia we were rather overburdened with luggage, 5 suitcases, a pram, carry on and a box with Mini EEs car seat in for use in the UK.  It was a miracle that we managed to stay within our weight allowance and we needed two taxis at the other end.

Sultan Qaboos Mosque Oman                    Sultan Qaboos Mosque Oman

We were staying with a long term Expat Couple who let some rooms in their villa through AirBNB.  They were not there when we arrived but had told us they would leave the doors open and just go in and settle in the rooms.  Having been up for 36 hours straight sorting out the final packing I went to sleep while Mr EE and the children sorted everything out.  By the time I woke the owner had returned and advised us where to eat etc, he even loaned us a car so the children would not need to walk the short (2k) trip into the local town for food after their long journey.

Sultan Qaboos Mosque Oman

Sultan Qaboos Mosque Oman

We had arranged with one of the taxi drivers to ferry us around the following day and he arrived early.  We put ourselves in his hands asking him to make sure that we saw the highlights of the city.  We spent an hour in the Sultan Qaboos mosque, a huge complex near the airport.  The mosque is beautifully landscaped and decorated with impeccable taste.  While children under 10 are not allowed in the main prayer hall the very kind doorman allowed our three children to come in with us so we did not have to take turns.
Muscat Bazaar
The tiny bazaar was heaving with tourists from cruise ships
Muscat Bazaar


From there we drove up into the mountains before driving back down to the coast to enjoy a few hours at the corniche and bazaar.  The Muscat bazaar is tiny but thronging with tourists.  Most of the wares on sale are modern tourist tat or overpriced ‘antiques’ but there are a few genuinely good pieces if you are willing to spend the time looking.  The restaurants next door, while obvious tourist traps, served good portions of food at reasonably decent prices and the children were all given a piece of fruit on leaving. 

Muscat Corniche
Popular tourist cafes on the Corniche
We drove on to see the royal palace complex and then to spend some time looking through a private museum, the Bait Al Zubair, nearby dedicated to the cultural history of Omani life.  The museum was excellent, set in some traditional houses it was just the right size to enjoy for an hour or two and with plenty of information to put the exhibits into context.  Next to the (excellent) coffee shop was a recreation of a traditional Omani house and a space for the practice and display of traditional crafts and industries. 

Muscat Palace
Royal Palace Complex
Fort In Muscat
Fort Guarding the Anchorage

By this time we were starting to flag so our driver took us back to our temporary home.  We walked into the local town for a quick meal before spending the evening in a rather pleasant discussion on local history, culture and work with our hosts.   A girl I knew from school lives just a few minutes drive from our AirBNB, (one of the advantages of a boarding school is that I seem to know people in all sorts of places) we had intended to meet up but sadly we never quite managed to co-ordinate our schedules so we will catch up sometime in the future.

Bait Al Zubair Museum

Complete with random goat statues gracing the gardens
(no photographs allowed inside)
The homeward flight was late enough in the afternoon to allow us to have a relaxing breakfast before trekking to the airport to catch our flight to the UK.  All in all, while it is not a traditional stop over, I can heartily recommend Muscat as a good place to break a journey between Europe and East Asia.  The pace of life is calm and the people we met were incredibly friendly and very hospitable.  We will almost certainly be back as our 48 hour stop left us wanting to see more of this country which is, luckily, rather conveniently located for our new posting.  

For more posts on Expat Life please click on the photograph below

Ersatz Expat

Posted to Seychelle's Mama's Expat Life Linky


Seychelles Mama

16 comments:

  1. I've heard so many good things about Oman that it's going up and up on my list of places to visit....is it expensive? #myexpatfamily

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    1. Yes it is expensive sadly. Luckily there are ways to keep costs down. We used AirBNB as it works out better for us when we travel with children. We hired a driver this time round but next time we would probably just get a hire car.

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  2. I have a friend in Oman so would love to visit one day, your photos are amazing, it looks incredible! :)

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    1. Oh do go and visit, you won't regret it. We were only sorry that we did not have time to see more and are looking forward to going back again.

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  3. Gorgeous photos! It sounds like such an interesting place to visit and not at all like the stopovers that normally come to mind.

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    1. Thanks! Yes we were looking for something a little bit calmer than Dubai as we had had a rather hectic few weeks with (yet another) last minute move.

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  4. WOW. That looks amazing! Did you also have a good time back in the UK?

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    1. Thanks, yes we did we had a good Christmas and enjoyed my sister's wedding. Mr EE only had 6 weeks there but the children and I were stuck sofa surfing for nearly 4 months (we have a tenant in our own home) while we waited for our Saudi visas. It was lovely to see family and friends but I was a bit over the experience by the end!

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  5. It looks so beautiful in Muscat, I've never really heard anything about it before but you have definitely sold it to me! The start of your journey sounds absolutely awful, what a nightmare....you probably all enjoyed how nice Muscat was more as a result of that though!!
    Thanks for sharing your alternative stop over for #myexpatfamily :)

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    1. Yes it was not the best of journeys. Mr EE and I still have the text exchange on our 'phones where we are wondering if we will live through the experience. Any other day and we would have made him pull over and let one of us drive.

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  6. What a great idea to use your layover to see a place you might not see otherwise. I love the pictures - it looks like you found a real gem!

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    1. Thanks Cristin, it is a place we have wanted to see for ages and will definitely go back to!

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  7. Great idea to go somewhere a bit different for a stop over - I have thought of doing the same from here by going via Istanbul. And funnily enough I was just talking on Skype this morning to someone about Oman who had been living there and is returning soon - she said she loved it :) #MyExpatFamily

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    1. Istanbul is a fantastic hub, we have friends there so use it quite often. It is probably my favourite city to visit. You have made me remember that I have meant to write a post about it and failed to do so for many years!

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  8. Great idea to explore Muscat and adventurous too (I guess I would have gone for Dubai as I am familiar with it). I read on the BBC news recently that travellers can book stopover tours from the airport the mentioned a company called TripAside in Frankfurt, Brussels, Paris, Rome, Madrid etc. Apparently their are similar tours offered in the US. They will collect you from the airport, give you a city tour (including a trip to a restaurant for a meal) then deliver you back in time for your flight. Sounds like stress free fun. #gapinthemarket
    http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35705764

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    1. Yup some airlines offer this as well. I think Turkish do free tours of Istanbul if your layover is long enough.

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