21 June 2009

A Little Piece of Heaven

For those of you who feel that a lifetime of waiting is too long to experience what heaven has to offer - here is somewhere that I would think would give you a little taste - the Barr al Jissah Resort and Spa in Oman. The resort is about 45 minutes outside of the city of Muscat and approx a 4 hour drive (or flight if you take total travel time into account) from Dubai. It is the perfect getaway and even in June it didn't seem as hot as it actually was!

The resort consists of 3 hotels and a spa nestled in the mountains with 2 pristine private beaches and is the perfect getaway "from it all". You have a choice of the 5* Al Waha (the Oasis), the 5* delux Al Bandar (the Town) and the 6* Al Husn (the Castle). I was very fortunate to be upgraded to the Al Husn Hotel and was able to use the exclusive swimming area that incorporated both a private beach and a private pool. My favourite part of the complex is the "hotel lazy river" which is a 500m man-made stream that you can float down while lying on a tube. When you reach the end, just get out and walk back to the beginning to start all over again. The thing that impressed me the most was how they had managed to get "the little things right". All rooms have an ironing board and iron, the wireless broadband internet is complimentary as are the non-alcoholic beverages in the room mini-bar.* The hotel even provides a book exchange program (so no need to worry if you're finishing your book and still have a week left to go).
When you arrive at the beach one of the attendants will come to set up your lounge chair with a toweling cover (unoccupied chairs cannot be booked), give you a large swimming towel and a cooler of bottled water set in ice (and all this is complimentary!) If you feel like you can take a dip in the sea or pool to refresh yourself (it was a bit warm when I tried it). Both of the beaches are used by turtles to lay their eggs and the hotel is doing what it can to ensure that this continues. Turtle nests are identified and fenced off; the "turtle team" watches the beach at night and you can give them your room number and they'll call you to come and see if a female turtle comes up onto the beach to lay eggs. They will also call you when the hatchlings hatch and make their way to the ocean.

There are a number of restaurants with different flavours in the hotels, all of which provide sumptuous food. This is a good thing as there is not much other choice in the area. The hotel does provide a daily shuttle to the "old city of Muscat" where you can visit what in my opinion is the best traditional souk in the Gulf and airport transfers. We found that for our short stay it was cheaper to hire a car (you will need an international drivers licence to drive in Oman) than to use the hotel transport.
I stayed at the hotel with my Mom who used to live in Muscat. She told me that the hotel was only built recently and prior to that, access to the beaches were only from the sea. Fortunately a road has now been carved through the mountains to the hotel. If you are feeling a bit adventurous you could make your way to the fishing village at Qantab and take a local fishing boat to another isolated beach. You can also find the old Christian Cemetery in one of the bays as it is only accessible by boat.
Other facilities offered by the hotel are horse and camel riding, diving from a 5* Padi centre, water sports, a spa, dolphin watching, a shopping centre and traditional village. We were really disappointed with the traditional village. It is just a small series of stalls and doesn't really give any information on how Omanis used to live.

Oman is a culture that has a rich heritage and the people are very friendly. To add that little bit extra to your experience take a trip to a local village and see how they live. They still live relatively traditional lives in villages that are mainly fed by underground water ways that were hand carved hundreds of years ago. There are also a number of forts dotted around the country side, which pay testament to Oman's strategic importance.

Although our stay was only 24 hours long we left feeling like we'd had a week away - completely relaxed and spoilt. This is definitely somewhere where you can come to experience a little piece of heaven.

*might be different in the other hotels
Pictures From Top:
View of Al Waha Hotel and general beach. Al Banda Hotel is just off to the right of the picture
View of Al Husn swimming pool
The author and an Omani in traditional dress including the Kanja (spear) in the belt.
All pictures are taken by the author and please do not re-use without permission.


Laura Cococcia said...

I love the personal elements - and in particular, this picture above, in your posts - much more than just a report back of all of the things to do - really differentiates it from other travel blogs!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kim

An excellent report which I'm sure would impress the hotel. I was also impressed with the cold towels that we received at the pool to help refresh us.


Kim said...

@ Laura - Thank you once again for your encouraging words. I must admit I tried to "cut me out of the picture" but it just looked wrong!
@ Mom - Thank you too. And I'd forgotten about those refreshing iced towels...

Andy Hayes said...

Interesting choice - not heard much about Oman, so always nice to get some perspective. Thanks!

Kim said...

@ Andy - thank you and definitely a place that is worth a visit.

Daphne @ Joyful Days said...

Hi Kim,

Great reading, and also great that your blog is growing in readership! This is the kind of travelogue - first hand detailed experience - that I think many travellers look for.

Kim said...

@ Daphne - Thank you for your continued support. It means a great deal to me.

B said...

Oh, I do need to spend some relaxing days in a place like that!
What an itneresting contrast between the resort and the villages around.

Kim said...

@ B: I think that the villages and the resort complement each other in that the whole pace of life in both places is just that much slower.