This is the ultimate family guide to Muscat

When it comes to nearby travel destinations, Oman is a popular one, but choosing where to stay and what to do can leave you drawing a blank so here’s a little primer to help with your trip planning

While the UAE is home to grand attractions and a host of luxury hotels, sometimes it’s good to get away and experience something new. Thankfully, we don’t have to travel far to see natural wonders, experience a different culture or embark on exciting new adventures.  

Whether you’re looking to trek through the mountains, feast on indigenous food or settle into a relaxing seaside retreat, our friendly neighbour, Oman, is a great place
to explore. 

Getting there

Because we’re neighbours, driving to Oman is an affordable, relatively quick means of getting there, making it the perfect destination for a family road trip. It’s about a five-hour drive from Abu Dhabi to Muscat and aside from a full tank of petrol, you’ll need proof of ownership of the vehicle – or proof that you have permission to drive the vehicle in case it’s a rental – and insurance that covers the vehicle in both the UAE and Oman. If your UAE insurance does not extend to Oman, you can purchase a policy at the border. 

If you prefer to fly, a few airlines do offer direct  flights from Abu Dhabi to Muscat, including Oman Air and Etihad.

Stay and play

millennium resort mussanah

Finding the right accommodation is the key to any great trip and self-contained properties like Millennium Resort Mussanah are ideal for families. Like most resorts, this property features award-winning restaurants, a state-of-the-art health and fitness club and Zayna Spa, which is sure to put your body and mind at ease, but it has a big entertainment factor too, and that’s what makes it one of our faves. 

There are tennis courts, an 18-hole mini-golf course, a dedicated family pool, zipline and Aqua Fun, a floating water park. Even better, when the grown-ups want to enjoy some down time or perhaps watersports, sailing or snorkelling along the resort’s private 54-berth marina, you can drop the youngest members of the family off at Kids’ Club. 

With room options including two-bedroom duplexes with fully stocked kitchens, everyone can retreat to their own space to rejuvenate. 

Cultural excursions

Whether you’re doing a quick pop over or staying a little  longer, you’ve got to get out and experience Muscat. Oman is known for being a welcoming and family-friendly place and its capital is no different. Walk about, interact with the Omani people and learn more about the country’s rich history by visiting cultural landmarks. 

al alam palace

Al Alam Palace is the ceremonial palace of Sultan Qaboos of Oman, located in Old Muscat. As the official residence of the Sultan of Oman, this is where distinguished guests who are visiting the country are received. The sultan resides elsewhere day-to-day, but if the Omani flag at the main entrance of the palace is raised, Sultan Qaboos is home.

The palace is the centrepiece of a long pedestrian boulevard lined with manicured gardens and surrounding government buildings erected from polished white marble. The front of the building is accented by four eye-popping gold and blue columns and adorned with all the ornate arches, tiling and carvings.

Although visitors are only allowed to view the palace from outside the gates, it’s well worth a visit to admire this beacon of modern Islamic architecture.  

mutrah souq

Located opposite the Mutrah Corniche, Mutrah Souq has the old world charm of the traditional Arab market with breathtaking views of the ocean. The souq is well shaded beneath timber roofing and is set up along cobblestone pathways that splinter and give way to nooks and crannies filled with traditional Omani and Indian artefacts. You can buy anything from textiles to jewellery and fragrances but be prepared to bargain. Cards are accepted in most shops but cash gives you better leverage. Sat-Thu 8am-1.30pm and 4pm-10pm, Fri 24 hours. Visit: omantourism.gov.om

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a beautiful landmark with a stunning interior, exterior and surround gardens. It’s a great excursion for older children who may be eager to learn more about local religion and culture. Free. Sultan Qaboos Street. Sat-Thu 8.30am-11am, times may vary during Ramadan.  

Want to explore the great outdoors? Muscat has some beautiful beaches, particularly Al Qurum Beach, where you can take a picnic, walk along the coast and let the kids play in the sand. You can also take a boat tour to go dolphin watching, snorkelling or swimming. Visit: viator.com

Finally, Bait Al Zubair offers a glimpse into traditional Omani life. The museum recreates houses with displays of clothing, frankincense and more, while a shop sells modern local trinkets. 2RO for adults, 1RO for children aged ten to 15. Al Bahri Road. Sat-Thu 9.30am-6pm, opening hours may differ during Ramadan. Visit: baitalzubair.com

Book it

We mean it when we say that lodging can make or break your trip, so we’ve pulled together this list of places, eagerly waiting to host you. 

Kempinski Hotel Muscat is nestled within the coastline community of Al Mouj, affectionately known as ‘the new heart of Muscat’. This five-star hotel features ten restaurants and bars, a kids’ club, tennis court, private bowling and entertainment centre, gym, spa and two pools, with one being exclusively for children. Plus, you can enjoy a variety of outdoor and watersport activities. Visit: bit.ly/2Y0gevF

Located downtown near the central business district and prime shopping, the Radisson Blu Hotel, Muscat has a city vibe. This four-star hotel is conveniently located 15km from Muscat International Airport. The hotel’s four restaurants and two bars offer a variety of cuisine including Italian fine dining and an Irish pub. While here, you can sweat it out in the health club or take a dip in the outdoor, temperature-controlled pool. Visit: radissonblu.com/hotel-muscat

Positioned between the ocean and the Al Hajar Mountains, the opulent Al Bustan Palace offers an alluring blend of old and new. Set within a former palace, the resort features a collection of amenities that includes newly renovated guest rooms and suites with sea or garden views, five dining venues, a spa, private beach and four pools, including one dedicated to children. Visit: bit.ly/2INpjUN

Before you go

Getting to the border is one thing but actually getting across it is something entirely different. Oman has recently made changes to its visa process and here’s what you need to know to get across the border hassle-free. 

All GCC residents qualify for an Oman e-visa so you can apply online at rop.gov.om by submitting the following:

• Two 4x6cm photographs
• A copy of your passport, which must be valid at least six months
• A copy of your visa and/or a letter from your sponsoring organisation (or spouse) granting permission for travel 

Once the visit visa is granted, it will be valid for six months from the date it was issued. The visa is valid for staying in the Sultanate for three months from the date of entry. 

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