“For the fifth edition of our Black Book article series, we direct your attention to a country that defies expectations. Home to lush green mountain ranges, pristine white sand beaches and glistening sand dunes set ablaze by the Arabian sun, this is the Sultanate of Oman: the unsung star of the Arabian Peninsula.”
– By Savi J
Kempinski Hotel Muscat
Kempinski Hotel Muscat is Europe’s oldest luxury hotelier’s ode to Omani and Arabian heritage. Their Muscat property — inspired by one of Sultan Qaboos’ ceremonial residences, Al Alam Palace — breaks the mould, to say the least.
An amalgamation of the classic Swiss design and the rich architectural values of the Arab world, there’s a tangible ‘wow’ factor to the place that stays true to the Omani environment. For instance, walking through the lobby is akin to taking a sun-soaked stroll through the date palm groves that can be found all throughout the capital. The hotel’s water features are also inspired by the ancient falaj irrigation systems.
Beyond the royal splendour of the exterior and interior spaces, choose from 10 room and suite options. Decorated with dark woods and muted furnishings, luxury details dot the space, from freestanding tubs to just one simple touchscreen master light switch. Some room categories come with private terraces, and the Royal Suite even has its own plunge pool and garden.
With some of the most in-house F&B establishments in a hotel that we’ve ever come across — 10 in total — no wonder there’s a need for a culinary concierge. Be spoilt for choice with Thai street food, to modern Indian cuisine and traditional Middle Eastern fare. For activities, Kempinski has its own slice of beach frontage, which means a range of beach and water sports to enjoy. There also day trips that will take you from local souqs to desert safaris.
Photo credit: Global Hotel Alliance
Al Jabal Al Akhdar
Alila Jabal Akhdar
Nestled in the Al Hajar Mountains range at 2,000 m above sea level, discover this breath-taking oasis in the unlikeliest of places. Alila Jabal Akhdar is a world away from the bustling souqs and expansive sand dunes; and serves as the culminating point for the natural, historic and architectural feats of Oman.
Access is by 4WD vehicle only but it’s not bumpy, rocky roads to ascend up on, but a remarkable highway system. Once you reach Alila, you’ll feel yourself cocooned in a Mediterranean climate — a reprieve from the desert heat — and frankincense wafting in the vicinity.
Alila’s commitment to preserving its surrounding communities and natural beauty is what sets it apart from other luxury hotel chains. Starting from the stone exteriors, traditional Omani construction techniques using local stones blend with contemporary architecture. In fact, the landmark was built according to LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) principles. It appears as though the structure has grown from the flanking mountainous terrain.
There are six room types (all soundproof), from the Mountain View Suite — where you can enjoy vistas of Jebel Shams, Oman’s highest mountain — to the regal Jabal Villa, with butler service, a kitchenette, private terrace and pool on-hand for you and three guests. Plush furnishings are graced with local accents, signature luxuries, his and her vanities, and foyers. In keeping with the ethnic traditions, the interiors are decorated with copper ornaments and handmade pottery from Bahla, a town located 40 km from Nizwa.
If taking it easy here is not your goal, the hotel concierge will keep you busy. Have access to cooking classes and learn how to recreate the flavours of the region. Engage in mindfulness on a path to self-discovery and reconnection. Embark on a cultural learning experience. As nature is the real star of the show here, guests are encouraged to explore the outdoors on guided canyon walks, cave explorations and wadi (riverbeds) hikes.
After a day of adventure, return to Alila to practice the art of self-care by immersing yourself in Arab and Asian traditional practices at the in-house spa. Opt for their signature foot bath, river stone massage, body wrap and red clay facial. Or perhaps get a good night’s rest in before partaking in a sunrise tai chi session.
All this in the hopes of providing every cherished guest with a truly transcendent journey of peace and tranquility in the Omani mountains.
Photo credit: Global Hotel Alliance
Wahiba Sands Desert
Canvas Club Oman
Live like an Arabian nomad as you glamp in refined luxury at the Canvas Club. Think of it as your own personal desert experience in the Wahiba Sands Desert as you step into the shoes of a Bedouin — nomadic Arabs of desert regions — for a night or two for a cultural and stay experience that is unmatched.
Your journey begins from a Land Cruiser Jeep, up on a camel’s back to the highest dune for a warm welcome by the club staff, then straight into your very own majilis, or tent. As the traditional living room of the Bedouins, take your time to settle in before dinner by candlelight, with nothing but ornate cushions at your back and glorious desert landscapes spread out before you. The desert nights, though quiet, are lit up by starry skies that keep watch over you as you get ready for bed.
In the morning, wake to the smell of fresh Omani bread baked by a private chef and an unbeatable sunrise before going dune bashing or embarking on a camel ride. Guests can also visit the Al Hayer falls of Wadi Bani Khalid, a desert oasis where you can take a dip and explore cave complexes. Once the day is done, freshen up in your private bathing tent — equipped with a hot water wash basin and shower — before tucking into delicious local fare. And if you’re up for it, the Bedouin staff will regale you with fireside stories while you stargaze and soak up the serenity.
Photo credit: Landmark Fine Travel
Meet the Women of Oman at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
In your exploration of the capital, take a tour of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which has long been a fixture in the Muscat skyline and one of the only ones in Oman where non-Muslim visitors can enter. Gaze at the colourful mosaic delights and immerse yourself in the sacred space for as long as you like. For a truly uplifting experience, meet Omani women and chat with them over dates and tea on their day-to-day experiences living as a woman in modern day Oman. Seize this rare opportunity to discuss religion, politics, family life and discover how these women are endeavouring to build a bridge between religions and combat prejudice.
Photo credit: Architectural Digest India
Sail Through the Persian Gulf in a Dhow Yacht
Come aboard a Dhow yacht, a sailing ship that has been used by the region’s fishermen for hundreds of years. Scythe through the striking azure water of the majestic Gulf of Oman, through the Musandam region, on this traditional 20-foot fishing vessel that has been renovated to accommodate luxury services and amenities. The cruise is the best way to gain access to remote beaches and pristine seas in the area, with front row seats to its abundant sea life. There are also unforgettable experiences available to you on–board, like dolphin watching.
Photo credit: OceanAir Travels