Atlantis of the Sands: Oases in Oman
Oman’s determination to cater to the discriminating traveler suggests that
the sultanate will become home to some of the Middle East’s most luxurious
hotels. Here are three that already are open for business, or soon will
Situated 20 miles south of Muscat, on the exclusive Boushar beachfront, the Chedi reflects the mellow, minimalist atmosphere of Oman’s capital city. The resort’s whitewashed buildings—which together hold 115 rooms and 36 suites—are clustered among gardens, ponds, and shady palm trees. You enter the resort through a Bedouin-style tented lobby and pass four open kitchens that specialize in Asian, Indian, Mediterranean, and Arabic cuisine, respectively.
In addition to the waters of the Gulf of Oman, swimmers have access to two pools, one of which is reserved for adult guests. The Chedi Club Suites are Arabian in style, with domed roofs, and each has a view of the ponds from its private terrace. Guests who stay in the suites have use of the resort’s private lounge and library.
AL BUSTAN PALACE INTERCONTINENTAL MUSCAT
The Al Bustan was built in 1985, a time when there were no tourists in Oman. For years, therefore, the only guests in its 250 rooms and suites were kings, emirs, princes, and the assorted government dignitaries who kept oil and petrodollars flowing throughout the region. Anything less than monumental would not do for these personages, and thus the Al Bustan remains one of the grandest hotels in the Middle East.
Set on some 200 acres of lush gardens, the hotel is octagon-shaped, and when viewed from the water, it suggests a wedding cake. The Al Bustan’s interior is no less compelling. The lobby has white marble flooring, mosaic-tile walls, and a 125-foot-high domed ceiling. Each floor evokes a particular time and place: modern European, Arabian traditional, Chinese antique.
The restaurant grills lobsters fresh from the sea, and although it is difficult to purchase even a can of beer elsewhere in the country, the bar at the Al Bustan purveys dozens of single-malt Scotch whiskies. Currently closed for a multimillion-dollar refurbishing, the Al Bustan is expected to be no less majestic when it reopens in December.
SHANGRI-LA BARR AL JISSAH RESORT & SPA
When Oman’s largest resort opened last year in Muscat, its 680 rooms and suites doubled the nation’s entire stock of luxury accommodations. The Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa is at odds with the Omani penchant for understatement; you might call it Dubai Lite. It is actually three resorts in one: There is the family-friendly, 302-room Al Waha (the Oasis), the 198-room Al Bandar (the Town), and the 180-room, so-called six-star Al Husn (the Castle). Ultimately the resorts’ physical settings distinguish them from one another. The Town, for instance, is closest to the sea and has numerous pools and beach amenities, while the Oasis is more intimate and reminiscent of a village. The ultraexclusive Castle is set off by itself, perched on the resort’s highest point, from which it overlooks infinity pools that seem to flow into the sunset.
The latest addition to the resort complex is the Shangri-La CHI spa village, where treatments that originated in China and the Himalayas are conducted in private villas equipped with deep baths. Guests can relax on their own in the CHI Spa Oasis, which has a hydro pool and rain showers, before enjoying the grand hammam.