The Shangri La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa sits in its own private bay a short distance from Muscat. It’s a lovely half an hour drive from the airport, through the quaint city and the beautifully barren mountains, and is a lovely place for a quick weekend getaway.
There are only a handful of top notch hotels in Muscat, including the Ritz Carlton’s Al Bustan Palace and The Chedi, which is better situated for those who want to be closer to the airport and the city centre.The Shangri La itself is split into three hotels,each in their own spectacular bay. I stayed at the the Al Waha hotel, which is the most child friendly, and is linked to the adjoining Al Bandar hotel. The more exclusive (child free) Al Husn perched higher up on a hill, is exclusively for guests of that hotel, and it has its own smaller private beach. (You can, however, have dinner at a couple of the restaurants if you like).
After the lovely drive, and impressive entrance through a tunnel carved into the mountain, I was a bit disappointed by the lobby at Al Waha which feels a bit tired and dated. I was given a nice room in a quieter part of the hotel overlooking the ocean, and again, it had all I needed and was very comfortable, but I did feel that like the lobby, it could do with a refresh and touch of colour. Fortunately all I was after was a big rest and comfortable room (with free wifi), so personal aesthetics aside, it was perfect.
It rains very little in the Dubai, but for some reason the weekend I travelled, there were serious storms in Dubai, Oman and Saudi, but thankfully the sun did come out again for my second day and I managed to spend the day floating in the ocean and the large pool. Chances are you’ll be far luckier with the weather and there is enough to do in the resort. You can choose to lie at the pool, on the beach or on the lawn at Al Bandar. There is plenty of space to relax and the ocean is calm and inviting. If you have kids, there’s lots to keep them entertained, from the pools and beaches, to tennis courts and the kid’s club. And if you need some pampering as well, there is a Chi Spa that will help you unwind.
There are also plenty of decent places to eat, including poolside bars, a tapas restaurant and Bait Al Bahr, the resort’s signature seafood restaurant on the beach. But if you find yourself there on a stormy weekend like me, then you can also enjoy the room service. It was efficient and the food was good.
So if you’re heading to Muscat for a very luxurious weekend or you don’t have kids, you might prefer The Chedi, which is also closer to the Old City and so easier to get about (or even the Al Husn hotel in this resort). But if you’re after a very comfortable, more affordable weekend getaway in a stunning bay on the beach, the Shangri La is well worth it. If you can drag yourself away from the resort, take a quick trip to the Old City and the Mutrah Souk and you will return home feeling like you’ve had a good break from the city madness.