The borders of Oman have been shut tight since March, but after nearly seven months of battling the coronavirus pandemic, the country will reopen for international flights. From 1 October, tourists will be allowed to visit Oman, but the official list of permitted countries has not yet been released. Some Middle East-based airlines, including Emirates, have already started to list available flights to the country’s capital, Muscat.

As with other airports around the world, the terminals at Muscat International Airport have been outfitted with health and safety signage, hand sanitiser dispensers, and plastic barriers and shields at border control and airline ticket counters. Masks and temperature checks are required for all arrivals, and a one-way system has been put in place in the airport. Omani citizens and residents who have returned on special repatriation flights were required to quarantine for two weeks, but it’s unclear whether that will also be the case for international arrivals in October.

Nizwa’s 17th-century fort. © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

Oman, a quiet and often more traditional country than the neighbouring United Arab Emirates, is a beautiful but somehow forgotten corner of the Arabian Peninsula, with otherworldly natural wonders, including the ‘Grand Canyon of Arabia’ and a number of water-filled wadis that are perfect for a hike or a swim. The entire country received about three million visitors last year, compared with nearly 17 million who visited Dubai.

Before the pandemic, Oman had made moves to connect itself to its regional neighbours and become more accessible. In 2019, Dubai’s public transport system started a bus route that terminates in Muscat, and the country has remained a transit hub for travellers in the region wanting to visit Qatar, which has been blockaded by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other countries since 2017. Oman’s visa application process also went online last year, making entry processes faster and easier.

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