Around the World in 80 Pairs of Shoes


April 20, 2014

Luxury Holiday to Muscat, Oman

There is one area of the world that truly captivates me as a traveller; the Middle East.  I’m putting it down to watching Aladdin as a child and now as an adult I’m ever hopeful of buying that magic carpet.  The Middle East is a term that travellers don’t find welcoming hence the luxury travel market seems to have rebranded this area as “Arabia”.  So I thought I would take you on an adventure down memory lane on my luxury holiday to Muscat, Oman.

For my 30th birthday I wanted to visit somewhere new and with an interesting history while soaking up some February sunshine hence we ended up visiting Muscat, Oman.  If you are wondering where Oman is located; it is bordered by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen while it also shares marine borders with Iran and Pakistan but don’t let that freak you out in anyway as Oman is definitely a safe destination to visit.


After doing some online research I booked our trip to Muscat via Kuoni, staying at the beautiful Shangri-LaBarr Al Jissah Resort and Spa; a resort located about 15 minutes from Muscat.  The resorts consists of three hotels; Al Waha (the family friend hotel), Al Bandar (the 5 star hotel and centre of the whole resort) and Al Husn (the very exclusive hotel with a private beach and inspired to look like an Arabian Palace).

This wasn’t our first visit to a Shangri-La property (our first time was in Singapore) so we knew what to expect; some of the best service you will ever experience in a luxury hotel!

As G and I both celebrate our birthdays in February; G is a Valentines Baby and my birthday is two days later so we try to get away if possible to celebrate.  The Shangri-La Hotel in Oman was fantastic and we received not one but two cakes and roses for each birthday.


While I don’t have any photos of our rather large room I do have a view from our balcony taken in the morning and late evening which I loved sharing with friends freezing in London during February.


The Shangri-La Hotel has a stunning beach area however most travellers actually use the pool area which is a blessing as the turtles actually use the beach to lay their eggs.  The hotel employs a ranger and if you are visiting the resort at the right time of year you can ask the hotel to contact you (night or day) so you can watch the turtles. I loved that the hotel makes conservation a priority.


Coming back to the pool area; the hotel has a lazy river which G and I used every morning right after breakfast before all the kiddies got out of bed.  This was our morning ritual for five days; breakfast at 8am, get to the pool and take ride on a donut down the lazy river (photo on the left) and then read our books in the shade for a few hours.


The Omani Heritage Centre within the grounds of the hotel is a must to visit and there are shops where you can purchase beautiful Omani silver jewellery.  I purchased the most stunning pair of silver earrings that I just adore and everyone comments on when I wear them.  They were the perfect souvenir and dare I say it; better than a pair of shoes! (Image credit)


My favourite time of the day at the resort was at sunset as I love lanterns; I purchase lanterns a lot when I’m travelling.


As I’m not known for my patience or my ability to sit on a sun lounger and relax for 5 days straight, I needed to get out and explore Oman.  I’m quite lucky as G has driven through Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt so Oman was a walk in the park for his driving skills.  The fuel is cheap and once you leave Muscat the roads aren’t that busy at all and the road signs were easy to read (even better than the road signs in the UK!).  We hired a rental car directly through the concierge service at the hotel.

If you are looking at some day trip ideas from Muscat then here are few to tickle your taste buds!

Nizwa Fort

Nizwa is approximately 140 kms from Muscat and is home to a Fort and is one of Oman’s most visited sites.  The Fort is well worth a visit and also the souq where G picked up a much needed camel whip (I buy shoes, G picks up a camel whip!).  The handicrafts and silver jewellery are definitely worthy of a visit to the souq.  You can read more about Nizwa Fort through the Oman Tourism website.


Bahla Fort

Located 200 ams from Muscat, the Bahla Fort is the oldest Fort in Oman and is currently under reconstruction thanks to UNESCO and is now included in their World Heritage site List.  Unfortunately when we visited four years ago, it was closed to visitors and the whole town seemed deserted bar the goat and he didn’t seem impressed to see us!  You can read more about Bahla Fort through the Oman Tourism website.


Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Located in Muscat, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque has capacity for 20,000 worshipers at any one time and it’s home to the second largest carpet in the world and a truly impressive 14 metre tall chandelier!  You can read more about the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque through the Oman Tourism website.


What I loved the most about the Grand Mosque was the beautiful tiles and it has to be one of my favourite Mosques that I have ever visited.  Don’t be afraid to visit a Mosque while in Oman as everyone is extremely welcoming but please remember to dress appropriately.


Muttrah Cornice and Souq

If you decide to venture into Muscat at nighttime then take a stroll along the Muttrah Cornice and people watch.   The souq is well worth a visit to pick up some last minute silver jewellery (if you haven’t done already), artwork or if you need a new suit well get a custom fitted suit made by a local tailor.  I love souqs and all the bartering that goes along with it; the market is definitely a lot less intimidating than the souqs you find in Cairo and Marrakech.  Silver Jewellery is weighed so prices are basically fixed.


Afternoon Tea anyone?

Just to prove that I have been eating scones for quite some time; we did partake in scones at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel which at the time that we visited was an Intercontinental Property however now belongs in the Ritz Carlton portfolio of hotels.  I can’t see anywhere on the Ritz Carlton website if Afternoon Tea is still offered at the Al Bustan Palace however here are a few Afternoon Tea options if you do need a scone and finger sandwich fix while in Muscat – Shangri La Hotel and the Grand Hyatt Muscat.  


Travel tips for Oman

  • If leaving your resort make sure you wear appropriate clothing if visiting the souq or mosques (a scarf will cover your shoulders and head when necessary)
  • You will need to purchase a visa before entering the country which you do at the arrivals terminal when you land; if you are a New Zealander they love us and we don’t require a visa at all.
  • February is a wonderful time to visit Oman as the temperature is just perfect
  • If you are staying at a resort and haven’t got an all inclusive rate then ask about half board which will cover you for breakfast and dinner; the meals at the Shangri-La Hotels were out of this world!

Have you visited Oman before?  Did you fall in love with country?


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