Clare's Oman Travel Blog
by Clare Crowson / 2022-10-31 14:24:19
This was our last holiday before the arrival of our first baby and wow…it was a special one!
Three nights at the 5* Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar in Oman’s Green mountains followed by four nights at the 5* Chedi Muscat, my all-time favourite hotel.
We flew BA premium economy, which was great – with larger seats, extra leg room and a much smaller cabin, we both managed to sleep on the flight. On arrival at Muscat airport, we got our visas, cleared security, collected luggage, were greeted by Yusef, our driver/guide for the transfer and were on our way to the mountains within an hour of landing.
The road up to Al Jabal Akhdar is relatively new - just 20 years ago the mountain villages were served only by a bumpy dirt track which made the journey a lot longer. Now, this new and relatively wide mountain road makes the journey so much easier and the scenery as we climbed, was truly spectacular. We stopped at the TIC, where Omani coffee and dates were served - free of charge, which Yusef told us was part of their culture: the guests are served first, starting with the oldest man followed by women and then once finished the host is allowed to drink. For a refill you pass your cup back to the host or to communicate you've finished, you shake your cup and the host can then pour himself a drink.
The beautiful Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort is one of the world’s highest luxury resorts and was featured on BBC2’s “Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby”. All guest rooms boast incredible views of the canyon, the suites have private pools and the hotel also features a traditional spa, a range of activities including the Jabal Activity Wall (essentially for abseiling and ziplining), multiple dining options and Diana’s point - a glass walled viewing platform where Princess Diana once stood.
After we'd been shown round the resort, we showered and went for a swim at the hotel’s impressive infinity pool. The sunshine butler brought over cold towels and ice water which was welcomed as we sat relaxing by the pool. The view was just stunning. That evening we headed straight to Diana's point to watch the sun set behind Jebel Akhdar, before an amazing meal at the Belle Vista.
Breakfast at the hotel is nothing short of a feast with something for everyone – from fresh fruit, impressive pastries and breads, to made-to-order omelettes, pancakes and cooked breakfasts.
Being 5 months pregnant, I couldn’t experience the Activity Wall, but would definitely on another visit! Instead, we opted for a walk down into the canyon, through the local villages which was really nice, albeit very hot! We called the hotel from the bottom and they came and picked us up – I didn’t fancy climbing back up in the heat!
We spent the rest of our time relaxing in the resort, admiring the view and eating!
After 3 nights in the mountains we were picked up and taken to Muscat via Nizwa Fort – an impressive structure built in the seventeenth century. I opted to stand in the shade while Nick climbed to the top – apparently the views were impressive. We also stopped at a local village and explored the market which was bustling with people selling dates, spices, pots and more.
We then arrived at the Chedi, Muscat. I had been lucky enough to stay at this hotel 10 years before so was incredibly excited. Leafy palm trees line the driveaway and the white walled sanctuary that is the Chedi is incredibly inviting from the minute you turn in the gates. The smell of traditional frankincense lures you into the Bedouin tent inspired lobby lounge, with large white drapes, low-Arabian sofas and Omani dates on demand. From the minute you walk through the door you feel an overwhelming sense of serenity!
We were escorted to our Chedi Club Suite to be greeted by our cases which were already there. These suites are nothing less than impressive! The large living area decorated in traditional Omani wood, complete with a complimentary mini bar and three crystal decanters with a choice of Gin, Vodka or Whiskey, Nespresso coffee machine and fruit basket. Off the lounge was a huge bedroom, a private terrace with an alfresco dining area and an extremely comfy sun lounger! Not to forget the magnificent bathroom with Acqua di Pama products, his and hers sinks, a rainforest shower and a sunken jacuzzi style bathtub.
As well as amazing guest rooms, the Chedi Musat is just stunning – everywhere you look is pleasing to the eye, the attention to detail is incredible! There are three spectacular pools to choose from – The Serai Pool which is next to the Serai restaurant; the Chedi pool which is an infinity pool overlooking the beach; and the Long Pool, which is a very long pool, adults only pool next to the spa and gym. We swam in them all.
As we’d upgraded to Club, it meant we also had access to the Club Lounge and between 5.30 and 7, complimentary cocktails (or mocktails for me) and canapes were served. This proves excellent value if you like a glass of wine on holiday as alcohol is not cheap. Club rooms also benefit from complimentary laundry, free airport transfers, breakfast and the free mini-bar.
On the second day in Muscat, we had booked a Dolphin Watching Tour. We were picked up from the hotel and taken to Muscat marina where we joined our group (a party of cabin crew who turned out to be working on our flight home!) We were given a quick safety briefing, introduced to the captain and off we went, at full speed along the spectacular coastline to dolphin city. There were literally hundreds of dolphins playing in the water, swimming around and under the boat, jumping in and out and posing for the camera! I've never seen so many. We then headed further along the coast to a secluded bay where the boat anchored and we were given snorkelling gear. There were jelly fish but non-stinging ones - the captain demonstrates by pulling one out of the water. In the water we were surrounded by colourful fish, jellyfish and even a turtle swimming majestically beneath us. It was amazing. After 45 minutes we started to make our way back along the coast, through holes in the rock and past the five-star hotels which dot the coastline. A fab trip and a great way to spend our last morning in this spectacular country.
On return to the hotel, there was a birthday cake for Nick in the room, which was a lovely surprise.
Whilst in Muscat, we did a city tour which included the Grand Mosque, Mutrah souk and the National museum.
The Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in Oman and took just over 6 years to build. It has a capacity of 20,000 worshippers and is home to the second largest chandelier in the world. Made up of two worship halls, one male and one female, it is like nothing I have seen before. The grandeur and beauty of this iconic structure is an architectural wonder. Anyone visiting Muscat will see it, but I would recommend taking a visit inside.
Mutrah Souk is arguably the most attractive souk in all the Gulf States. Sheltered in a maze of alleys, you’ll find thousands of stalls overflowing with gold, spices, textiles, dates, silver… Everything you could imagine!
Finally, the National Museum of Oman is the Sultanate’s flagship cultural institution, showcasing the nations heritage & culture. The beautiful modern, white building stands proud in “Old Muscat” and homes 5,466 objects, among which an internationally significant collection of prehistoric metallic artefacts. A must do for anyone looking to see the history surrounding Oman.
Oman exceeds all expectations. The luxurious resorts, the spectacular scenery, the exquisite food, the friendly people, a real sense of Arabia and the sun shines all year round! What more could you want?!
My top tips!
- For those going into the mountains, bear in mind it is a good 10 degrees cooler, pack layers!
- When visiting the Mosque, it is important for women to be covered up. Legs, arms & hair must all be covered.
- Buy frankincense in the souk! It is the best in the world, and the market holders show you how & what to use it for.
- If you like to drink alcohol, ask about Club room upgrades. Most include a couple of hours each day with complimentary wine, beer and cocktails as well as pre-dinner canapes.