The Sultanate of Oman is the oldest independent state in the Arab world but has been rather overshadowed by its near neighbours, only coming out of self isolation in the 1970s when the reigning Sultan was overthrown by his son in a bloodless coup, who then began a liberalisation and modernisation programme, bringing the country into the modern world whilst at the same time keeping its own identity.
The nation’s airline, Oman Air, has somewhat mirrored this history. Most of its bordering nations have national airlines which are both well established with rich histories, as well as large fleets and large worldwide networks. Within 1,400km there are the home bases of Saudia, Qatar, Etihad and the closest and possibly biggest rival Emirates; all of these airlines are now in the forefront of setting new standards of inflight facilities and ambience.
So why come to spot here? Apart from a fantastic country, unlike the rather flashy neighbours, it is also perhaps not quite as busy as some of its neighbours, however the attitude to spotting is possibly a little more relaxed than it might be at the likes of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha. However, it is still a Middle Eastern country and the photographing of airport buildings and military aircraft is still a way to find yourself enjoying some unwanted attention. Even with commercial aircraft it is wise to be, at worst, very careful how you take photographs. Keep yourself out of the way of the security forces wherever possible.
Muscat Spotting Hotel
The Holiday Inn at Muscat al Seeb affords such anonymity when plane spotting in Oman. It is situated just 12km or a 15-minute drive from the airport on Al Mawaleh South, close to the main Al Seeb Street. It has 184 rooms and free WiFi but with little in the way of facilities nearby, other than a small takeaway and shop next door.
There is a price to pay for this anonymity as the windows do not open and are slightly tinted requiring some work to your photographs in post production. On the flip side, it does take you out of the searing heat and in contrast to the lack of nearby facilities provides you with easy access to food and beverages as well as a cooling pool, although no aircraft are visible from this area.
The Views & What You’ll See
To get a view of arriving aircraft you will need to get a room at the back of the hotel. These rooms look out over the final approach phase onto Runway 08L, which for the whole of my stay was used solely for arrivals (No guarantees though!).
There is a good range of interesting visitors from home based Oman Air with its Boeing 737s and 787s, Airbus A330s and the soon to be withdrawn Embraer E170s, and Salam Air with Airbus A320s.
The local the Sultan of Oman keeps his aircraft here, although as this is a split Commercial/Military site the royal terminal and hangars are situated in the military area alongside the Royal Air Force of Oman, whose A320s can be seen regularly in addition to the E170s of the Royal Oman Police.
International operators are a mix of the normal flag carriers from around the world including British Airways, Swiss, KLM, Thai etc. as well as the closer major and regional carriers such as PIA, Biman, Kuwait Airways, Indigo, Regent etc. operating smaller aircraft than would be seen in Europe and the US, if at all.
Then there are the few little gems such as Cham Wings with A320, Kish Air with Fokker 100s and Air india Express with their colourful 737-800s. On the freight side Cargolux operate their 747s here.
All in all, well worth a view hours if you ever visit this fascinating country.
Holiday Inn Muscat al Seeb
Al Mawaleh South, Al Seeb, Muscat 130
Tel: +968 22 080555
Read more about the history of Oman Air and what it’s like to fly on them, plus visiting Muscat and Oman here: https://www.flywinglets.com/single-post/2020/05/01/Oman-Air—Beautiful-not-big
For more great spotting hotels our book Airport Spotting Hotels is a perfect guide for the aviation enthusiast.
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