Friday 23 May 2014

The Bed Report 8: Shangri-La Muscat, Oman Accommodation Review

Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa is located on a peninsula on the southeastern edge of Muscat, the capital of Oman.

It feels as if it's a separate town in its own right, as you pass through craggy bare mountains before reaching the resort.

This relative isolation can be a good or bad thing, depending on your vacationing style.

If you're after classy accommodation where you can eat good food and do a lot of relaxing by the pool, it's ideal.

If you want to explore the city, however, it's a bit of a hike - a $25-$35 taxi fare either way, though the resort does run a few free shuttle services to urban attractions including the old port of Muttrah.

You can't fault the resort's setting, strung along a cove between stark brown mountains and the vibrant blue of the Indian Ocean.

It's actually divided into three separate hotels. The Al Waha, at the southeastern end, is the most family-friendly of the three, with a big central swimming pool, a kids' club, and an affordable bistro, Samba, which has a buffet.

In the middle is the Al Bandar Hotel, offering an excellent Middle Eastern buffet at its Al Tanoor restaurant.

At the top end (literally) of the complex is the Al Husn (pictured above). This is the hotel I stayed at, so I'll focus on its facilities here.

Though children can stay at the Al Husn with their families, they can't use the facilities; so for all intents and purposes this is an adults-only hotel. That's not really an issue, as facilities across the other hotels are open to all guests.

The Al Husn has a wonderful, effortless air of quality and discretion. The lobby is distinguished by the simple, clean lines of classic Islamic architecture, and there's the scent of smouldering frankincense in the air.

The lobby leads to a large central courtyard, a pleasant space set with comfortable lounges. Afternoon tea is served here each afternoon, followed by pre-dinner drinks.

Below the courtyard there's a swimming pool set among palm trees, with the hotel's own private beach down a path further on.

So far, so luxurious. My room continued the upmarket theme, with a comfortable king-size bed and elegant furniture resting on a floor of marble tiles. The balcony overlooked the cove and the other hotels, and had a semi-private vibe.

The bathroom, as expected, was a glamorous riot of marble and L'Occitane products.

I must admit to a fondness for a hotel breakfast, and the spread at the Sultanah restaurant was a good one. A cooked component was available on request, and ranged from omelettes to more unconventional choices involving lamb or Japanese ingredients.

The cold selection was excellent, with plenty of Middle Eastern standards such as hommous and labneh. When in the Middle East, I count a meal wasted if it doesn't have hommous on the plate, so I was happy here.

At nighttime Shahrazad, the hotel's Moroccan restaurant, is a beautiful dimly-lit space in which to eat some excellent North African dishes.

The service at the Al Husn was consistently good and, typically for Oman, involved staff from a multitude of countries - during my stay I interacted with staff members from Oman, India, Sri Lanka, Germany, Britain, the Philippines, Indonesia, Burma and even tiny East Timor.

As you'd expect for its rates, a stay at the Al Husn is a consistently good experience. I noted a few flaws during my stay - low water pressure in my shower, slippery tiles by the pool, an ironing board left out after housekeeping had serviced the room - but my overall impression was of well-maintained, tasteful quality.

It'd make a great alternative to the resorts found in popular tropical destinations, if you'd like to try a relaxing holiday in a different, more dramatic type of landscape.

Just the Facts:
Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa
Al Jissah Street, Muscat, Oman
Phone: +968 2477 6666
Rates: Rooms from $265 per night.

Disclosure time... On this trip I travelled courtesy of Oman Tourism.

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