The Sultanate of Oman really does have it all with sparkling beaches and endless unspoilt desert.
Unlike other nearby UAE neighbours, Oman is a much more authentic Arabian experience. The landscape is free from skyscrapers and if you venture into the mountains, small villages and fresh mountain air give you yet another picture of the real Oman.
There are many flight options to Oman. Three carriers fly directly from the UK to Muscat and we chose to travel in style with Qatar Airways. The multi award winning business class Qsuite seat offers pure privacy thanks to a fully closing sliding door with fully lie-flat beds, generous storage space, on demand dining, charming service and endless entertainment options. The cabin is also very flexible as partitions can be opened up to create private spaces so if you are travelling as a couple or family, you can have your own area to eat, sleep and hang out. This is what we loved the most about our Qsuite experience:
- We arrived completely refreshed and relaxed thanks to the seat which becomes a 2 metre long bed with hand-stitched Italian leather and satin rose gold finishing. Pop to the loo to refresh and ask the crew to prepare your bed and you will come back to White Company pyjamas, padded extra mattress and soft lighting. The curvature of the side unit gives you more space if you roll over and sleep on your side.
- There is always something to do. The bar area is somewhere to hang out and feels like a cocktail den on a private plane complete with a fully kitted out backlit bar. Have a cocktail made just the way you like it and perch on custom shaped sofas. In your suite you also have a 22-inch HD in-flight entertainment screen with noise cancelling headphones and the latest films, TV shows, games and more with nearly 4,000 options.
- The little touches really make this one of the best business seats in the sky. Luxury amenity kit, plugs and storage space aplenty, non-slip coating on the table, dining on demand, fast WIFI (one hour free then just $10 for the whole flight) and crew personalising everything to you make a big difference.
- Not only can you order whatever you like from the menu whenever you like, food is well presented and delicious. We tried a fillet steak, smoked salmon gravadlax and a full afternoon tea with Godiva chocolates before landing. Don’t forget to ask for some warm nuts with your cocktails. The wine list is full of rare and high end wines with two champagnes always available too.
DUNES BY AL NAHDA
The base for our Omani adventure was Dunes By Al Nahda, in the South Bathina region – less than one hour drive from Muscat airport.
The resort is spread out over 17 acres and has 50 individual palatial tents. Despite being in the desert, the resort is very accessible but separated from the world by a gorge where as we approached our abode for the next few nights, the tents were silhouetted against the sky as the sun was setting. Reception is completely outdoors which adds to the romance of the atmosphere.
Each free-standing suite is a luxurious Swiss made tent palace with a comfortable king size bed, locally sourced furnishings, air conditioning and also smells divine. Dunes use local exotic oils designed in house to keep your sleeping space sumptuous.
Each suite comes with a sunken bath, rain shower, golden taps and the fluffiest of towels. You can also ask for your very own personal butler who can attend to (almost) your every need.
Spa treatments can be booked in your tent or at the open roofed spa. This is the only spa in Oman which offers an Egyptian Sand Bath where you are immersed in sand then let the sun soaked warm sand with its minerals do the work. After the sand bath you will be given a massage which enhances the soothing properties of the sand bath, leaving you rejuvenated and revived. We went for the Liquid Gold scrub and massage, a perfect end after a day of travelling. Look out for upcoming new medispa options with non surgical treatments.
The Fleur Restaurant & Bar at Dunes is a mix of Omani, Indian and popular choices with views over the Wadi Al Abyad and the Al Hajar mountains. You can also experience a Omani cooking experience with a local speciality called Shuwa. Lamb is marinated in oil and spices then wrapped in palm leaves and cooked in an underground kiln for 24 hours. There is also an impressive wine and cocktail list. For a special culinary treat Dunes can organise dinner under the stars.
If sun worship is your thing, Dunes has an infinity pool with evening sunset views, a swim-up bar and cabanas.
There are various activities on offer throughout the day. We tried quad-biking in the sky-high dunes and adrenaline junkies can also have a go at sand boarding. The dunes are considered to be the very best in Oman as they stay intact which makes everything more exciting. For something more gentle, ride a bicycle or even the resident hotel camel Abdullah who will be happy to show you around.
Day trips are also available from the hotel and no visit to Oman is complete without taking in the Grand Mosque in Muscat. The chandelier in the main hall is the second biggest in the world and made with 600,000 Swarovski crystals. It even has a small staircase built within it so someone can keep all 100 lamps always a-glow.
After the mosque, a jaunt to the Souk is a must for some browsing. We came away with cashmere, pure perfume and leather goods for a competitive price. Managing shopping money was easy because we discovered Currensea, a new travel money debit card for ANY currency that connects to your UK bank account so no more hassle of currency bank accounts, topping up cash cards or foreign transaction charges. Exchange rates are based on the wholesale prices with no hidden charges for extras like non-sterling withdrawal fees. Sign up here before the secret is totally out: www.currensea.com
For more details about things to do and brilliantly useful information about Oman, visit: experienceoman.om
Oman is a great winter sun destination for luxury travel. The locals are proud, welcoming and open. What we loved most about Dunes was that the resort is a symbolic representation of Oman culturally, artistically and most of all, it is a beacon of Omani hospitality.
To discover more and book, visit: www.dunesbyalnahda.com
To learn more about Qatar Airways and Qsuite, visit: www.qatarairways.com
By Mark Captain
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