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          Why we're Mad about Oman

          Posted in Travel Writing by Jayne Henshall on 1st Jun 2018

          A short but very sweet visit to the Sultanate of Oman.

          On leaving the pristine airport at Muscat we were struck by the rugged but surprisingly beautiful scenery which makes up the extraordinary Sultanate of Oman. Taking the Coastal road to Sur we passed the beautiful natural phenomenon The Bimmah Sinkhole, mooted to be the most beautiful sinkhole in the world before stopping at White Sands Beach, cooling our feet whilst looking for passing turtles.  On arriving at the Wahiba Sands, a picture perfect Arabian Desert, we hurtled across the dunes in our 4WD, dune bashing our way to Desert Camp where we were spending the night. After watching the sun go down we enjoyed a desert BBQ and a good night’s sleep, we woke ready for our next day visiting the mountain region of Al Jabal Al Akhdar.

          After an early start we had to time to visit the beautiful Wadi Bani Khalid, where after a short walk through the lush green date trees, you could swim and relax at the wadi.  Here many local Omanis spend their spare time enjoying the shade and the cool. We then continued our journey to the city of Nizwa. Here we visited the souq and enjoyed tasting the local dates and freshly made halwa with an Omani coffee. It would definitely be worth spending some time here visiting the impressive 17th century fort, souvenir hunting or just soaking up the truly authentic commotion with the locals.

          We were now ready to take the amazing scenic drive, along the hairpin bends travelling upwards  and upwards to Al Jabal Al Akhdar, when you finally arrive it feels like you are on top of the world. The impressive Alila and Anantara hotels make the most of this breathtaking landscape, perched on top of the mountains with stunning panoramic views. The Alila blends effortlessly into the mountains with boutique luxury elegance, perfect for getting away from everyday life whether you want to just relax or enjoy the spa or the great outdoors. The Anantara is in the city of Al Jabal Al Akhdar, where you can enjoy local Omani life. It’s only a short walk away and stunningly built on the edge of the mountains where you can enjoy a sundowner at Diana’s Point overlooking the dramatic vista.  We loved the amount of choice there is, you can choose to simply relax and enjoy your surroundings, take a hike or bike ride or try the ultimate Jabal activity wall, 1000 metres above the canyon which ends after a 2 hour climb with a jaw-dropping zip line through the air for the ultimate adrenaline rush. We stayed here for the night after enjoying a swim in their infinity pool overlooking the canyon before a sundowner and dinner, maybe next time we will climb the wall.

          The following morning we took the scenic route back down the mountains and headed for Muscat. On arrival we stopped at the stunning Sultan Qaboos Grand mosque, a spectacular piece of architecture surrounded by beautiful colourful gardens, before visiting the Ultra-modern new Kempinski Hotel, situated in the European styled community “the wave” of Al Mooj Marina where you can walk to restaurants and shops . We then travelled to the iconic Chedi Muscat, a wonderful blend of Omani and Asian influences with beautiful, relaxed gardens and fabulous restaurants. It was at Chedi Muscat that we enjoyed a lovely lunch before heading to our final stop the Shangri La Al Husn and Shangri La Barr al Jissah.

          A short journey via Old Muscat, looking at the Al Alam Palace took us to the luxury resort of Shangri La al Husn, where we were to spend our final night. There are three hotels here – the Shangri La al Husn and the adjacent Shangri La Barr al Jissah – Al Waha and Al Bandar. Each of these three hotels has their own individual style, the Al Husn luxuriously welcomes couples, Al Bandar with its vibrant atmosphere is a popular hangout for everyone, whilst the Al Waha is the perfect place for families to relax and play.

          The Sultanate of Oman is a vast, unique and surprising destination, proud and full of old world Arabian charm yet a welcoming and embracing change. Definitely somewhere we would all love to return to, hopefully for longer next time.