Oman : Muscat
In the dry arid northern region of Oman you will find the capital city of Muscat. Situated on a narrow strip of land between the Indian Ocean and the rugged Hajar Mountains Muscat is quite a linear city spread along the coast with the majority of hotels in the western part of the city and most of the sights in the eastern part of the city centered around the areas of Mutrah and old Muscat.
Muscat itself has a lot to offer ranging from the historical sights such as the Mirani and Jilali forts guarding the entrance to the harbor to the stunning Grand Mosque. The city has number of different souqs such as the fascinating Fish souq where you can watch the fishermen bringing in their latest catch to the frankincense and sandal wood aroma of the old Mutrah souq with its small gold and silver shops interspersed with antique and spice shops. The city also has a number of very good museums.
Due the excellent road system in Oman most of the sights in the northern part of the country such as Nizwa, Sur and the Wahiba Sands are reachable by day trip from Muscat however we would only recommend doing this if you are short on time as each place deserves at least a couple of days to explore.
The 5* Al Bustan Palace is situated eight kilometres south east of Muscat. The hotel is set in 200 acres of green gardens between the dramatic mountains and kilometre long stretch of private beach. Built in 1985 the hotel is very opulent in its design (apparent as soon as you see it!) with a breath taking atrium style lobby. For many years this hotel was voted the best in the Middle East and one of the finest hotels in the world, however, in recent years it may have been surpassed by other smaller but just as luxurious hotels in the Muscat area. However, don't let that put you off it is still a wonderful hotel and with its grand architecture is more of an experience than just a place to stay!
The hotel has 250 luxurious rooms and suites, each with its own private balcony and most with views over the Gulf. The hotel has 8 restaurants and bars along with tennis courts, swimming pool, children's pool, golf putting green and wellness centre. The hotel also offers sailing, windsurfing, snorkeling, diving and boat trips.
Oman Dive Centre is located in a little bay off the road between the Al Bustan and Shangi-La's Barr al Jissah Resort.
The Dive Centre is a small family friendly resort offering accommodation in traditional barasti (palm fronds) huts all of which are ensuite. Despite their rustic appearance the huts are tastefully decorated inside and equipped with modern facilities including mini bar, safe and most importantly air conditioning! The huts are situated directly on the beach, however, as there is limited space in the bay the huts are quite close together. The 'Odyssey' beach view restaurant and bar specialises in fresh seafood or should you fancy something different Muscat is only a short drive away.
As the name suggests the heart of the lodge is a fully equipped dive centre offering PADI courses. There are no strong currents in this part of the Arabian Sea and as such diving & snorkeling is both fun and easy for the beginners as well as providing some unique opportunities for more experienced divers. The diving is based on rock and coral sites with a few coral covered wrecks. The centre is close to Fahl Island and also offers trips to the Daymanyat Islands (one of the first National Nature Reserves in Oman) which are Oman's answer to the Red Sea with an amazing diversity of marine life and in terms of fish numbers it exceeds that found in the Red Sea! Should you be staying at one of the other hotels around Muscat the Dive Centre operates a pick up and drop off service at most of the top hotels.
Located on the bay at Barr Al Jissah, Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa is a large sprawling resort that starts on the headland and spreads all the way around the bay. As with all the hotels around Muscat it has the dramatic backdrop of the rugged mountains and looks out onto the warm waters of the Gulf of Oman.
Set in 124 acres of garden, this five star resort complex comprises three hotels, with a total of 680 luxurious bedrooms, 6 main restaurants, 7 pool bars and lounges, 2 bars and a nightclub, a Chi spa and three private beaches. The resort offers a wide range of activities from rejuvenating treatments at the Chi Spa, saunas, steam rooms, jacuzzi and plunge pools to aerobics classes at the gymnasium.
The resort has 6000 square metres of swimming pools as well as a 500 metre lazy river, and children's and toddlers swimming pools. A dedicated 'Little Turtles' Kids Club providing both indoor air conditioned, and outdoor play areas, four tennis courts and a Dive Centre (opening soon, currently using Oman Dive Centre) offering PADI dive instruction and certification as well as scuba diving, snorkeling, dolphin and whale watching trips, and a marina with berthing for up to 80 boats and yachts.
The Chedi Muscat is situated on the quiet Al Ghubra beachfront on the western side of Muscat. It is one of Muscat's smaller hotels with 151 rooms and suites. Unlike many of the other high end hotels in Oman which have a slightly over the top 'glitzy' feel to them The Chedi Muscat has a simple elegance with contemporary stylish furnishings, natural but vibrant colours and characteristic traditional Omani architecture which combine to make it one of our favorite hotels in the capital.
All rooms and suites are tastefully appointed with stylish bedrooms with ensuite open-plan bathrooms. The rooms either have views over the beach to the Gulf of Oman, look back towards the majestic Hajar mountains or look out over the hotels lush water gardens. The hotel has a private beach, 2 swimming pools (one for adults only), tennis courts and a Spa.
The Grand Hyatt has an unusual history; a Yemeni Prince built it using silver Saudi Rials and bullion he salvaged from an American ship sunk off the Omani coast during WW2. The hotel is located on the sandy beach of Shatti Al Qurm in the Embassy and Ministries area of Muscat. With 280 rooms the Grand Hyatt is probably the largest and most opulent hotel Muscat has to offer and it shows as soon as you walk into the vast lobby with a rotating equestrian sculpture.
The hotel has 5 types of room each offering the latest technology but still reflecting the calm, traditional Omani style. The rooms have sea, mountain, city or garden views from spacious balconies. The hotel has excellent facilities with 3 restaurants, 4 bars/lounges (one named the John Barry after the ship that sank), swimming pool with lazy river, children's pool, Spa and access to the Ghallah Wentworth Golf Club (about 7km from the hotel).