This December, we spontaneously decided to make a quick winter escape and catch some sunshine. Always having wanted to travel to Oman, we spent 7 days in beautiful Muscat. We’ll definitely be back to see more of the countryside, but here are our impressions & recommendations from this trip!
Off we go! By now, I’ve learned to dress veeeeery casually for overnight flights. My strategy: cashmere knits in elegant nudes and greys that don’t make you look sloppy, and enough layers to adapt to both overheated and chilly airplanes. When traveling from a very cold to a much warmer place, I usually bring an easy summer dress and some ballet flats or sandals to change into. And a bikini in case my luggage gets lost! 🙂
Dresscode: Traveling to the Middle East for a summer escape implies a much different packing strategy than, say, the Caribbean. Different culture, different habits – and tight strapless mini dresses are simply not appropriate in the Middle East, not even in Dubai. No, you don’t have to wear a burka, but covering your shoulders in long-sleeve dresses or adding a pashmina or blazer shouldn’t be too much to ask. Most hotels and restaurants won’t enforce it, but you’ll be treated differently and you’ll notice the appreciation if you dress somewhat appropriately. Plus, you’ll look just as pretty in long flowy beach tunics and maxi dresses! I try to embrace it and adapt my look to whichever country I travel to, just like I’m incorporating ethnic prints in earthy tones when in Africa, adding bright colors when dancing it off in the Carribean, or perfecting my eyeliner and ballet flat look when in Paris. I think it’s fun!
Food: I personally love Arabic food, but even if you’re not a fan (yet), I strongly recommend you to at least try some local foods wherever you travel to. Never, ever set foot in a McDonald’s abroad! 🙂 In Oman, they have some great dishes, one of which is called “Shuwa”, which consists of lamb or goat with rice that is wrapped in banana leaves and and cooked for 24 hours in an oven that’s basically a hole in the ground. It’s delicious! Generally, try things with lamb, fresh fish, saffron, cardamom and dates.
We had traditional Omani cuisine twice during our vacation, once in our hotel that created a special buffet one night, and once at “Al Angham” in the Royal Opera House in Muscat after going to the ballet. The latter was an incredible experience and one of many moments when we felt the extent of the local hospitality and kindness.
Scuba Diving: We’re both big fans of scuba diving, so of course I recommend all of you to get certified 🙂 If you can or already did, you should definitely consider diving in Oman. The visibility is not the very best, but the underwater life is so varied and beautiful. Plus, it’s very likely that you’ll be diving with beautiful turtles and see some stingrays and giant cuttle fish!
We loved “Extra Divers Qantab” right next to the Shangri-La for their team and equipment.
Beach days: Our primary objective was to catch some sun and relax at the beach soaking up the sunshine before returning to cold Swiss winter. I was so happy that Oman seems to always have a bit of a breeze this time of year, so I was never too hot.
Very important though: Protect your skin and stay hydrated! Find some of my favorite SPF products and waterproof beauty items below:
Our Hotel: We stayed at the Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton hotel that was originally built as the Sultan’s guest house. With the renovations a few years back, they created a gorgeous garden and pool area that made the perfect setting for relaxing beach days. We loved it, the rooms were beautiful despite the rather small bathrooms, the 4 restaurants offered delicious variety, the Six Senses Spa was amazing (still dreaming of that 80-minute full body massage!) and, above all, the service was impeccable. Not only are the Omanis probably the most friendly nation ever (seriously), but also the staff they hire from all over the world at their hotels, restaurants, etc. are without exception some of the most professional and welcoming we’ve experienced so far. Yep, it’s all pretty expensive too, especially when it comes to alcohol and cab rides, but it sure is worth it.
If you go, be sure to also try the slighty hidden Asian restaurant “China Mood” on the fourth floor as well as the Beach Pavillon for dinner with your feet in the sand. For lunch, we usually ate at the pool restaurant or right on our sunbeds. During the day, we were frequently offered fresh fruit skewers or refreshing shots of chilled passionfruit (yummy!).
As to external restaurants, we loved the Al Angham as mentioned above, and one of the very best dinners was the tasting menu at the Chedi’s beach restaurant.
If you want any more detailed info, let me know in the comments!