While it may only be a short hop across the border, Oman's rich heritage and culture, along with its rugged natural landscape, offer visiting UAE residents something a little different, as well as a slower pace of life.
Located on the outskirts of Muscat, Shangri-La Al Husn is a sprawling adults-only resort that offers a taste of traditional Oman, as well as timeless luxury on a serene clifftop location.
The National checked in to find out more …
After winding our way up the rugged Hajar mountains, we approach Shangri-La Al Husn via a private, palm-tree lined driveway. It’s easy to see where the property gets its name — Al Husn means castle in Arabic, and its impressive Arabesque architecture certainly exudes a sense of grandeur.
Checking into Shangri-La Al Husn is a seamless experience, which is greatly appreciated as we arrive tired in the early hours of the morning. Despite it being 4am, we are greeted with warmth and the right amount of enthusiasm by the night team, who understand we want to get to our rooms as quickly as possible. The key is ready and waiting, resort information is offered quickly and efficiently, and I am in my room within five minutes of arrival.
The hotel is located about 40 minutes from Muscat International Airport, and is reachable via a scenic drive past some of the capital’s landmarks, including the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Comprised of two hotels — Al Husn, a luxurious adults-only property and the family-friendly Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah — the resort is perched on a cliffside, offering stunning views across the azure Arabian Gulf and rugged Omani coastline, which winds on in both directions.
The resort feels peaceful and secluded, despite being only 20 minutes out of the main city, making it perfect for weekend breaks away from the hustle and bustle of Muscat.
The safety measures
All rooms are fully sterilised and equipped with hand sanitiser, and masks are required in all indoor areas as standard.
All staff and servers are also masked up at all times, although masks are no longer required to be worn in public areas in Oman.
The hotel’s 180 rooms and suites come in six categories, ranging from deluxe to a truly regal royal suite (in which Ed Sheeran has previously stayed). Almost all come with balconies and a sea view.
My deluxe sea view room is generously appointed, with a huge super-king bed, seating and a large desk area. The hotel’s Arabic design continues throughout the rooms, and traditional touches are balanced nicely with contemporary elements.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the room is the bathroom, which almost matches the room for size, and comes with a large dressing area, separate shower and toilet, and a stand-alone bathtub separated from the bedroom via an intricately designed sliding wooden panel, which can be opened to look out to the ocean.
There are also plenty of in-room amenities, such as a Nespresso machine and a Bose speaker system.
All staff we encounter at Shangri-La Al Husn are not only professional and helpful, but also appear to be incredibly proud to show the resort, as well as Oman’s heritage. We are greeted warmly in all of the hotel’s public areas, and wait staff at breakfast and dinner are friendly and well-versed with menus.
The property also offers several additional services for guests, including packing us a delightful picnic for a local snorkelling trip, as well as airport transfers in one of the vintage cars from its on-site classic car museum.
At Al Husn, you’ll find a peaceful and picturesque infinity pool offering views over the Arabian Gulf, as well as a private cove tucked in a small crevice of rugged coastline, which feels truly secluded.
All guests also have access to the sister resort Barr Al Jissah, which can be reached via a short walk. There, you’ll find 100 metres of private beach, a family-friendly pool, resident camels and, most importantly, a lazy river, which runs in a picturesque loop under a canopy of palm trees and looming mountains, with the crashing waves from the adjacent beachfront as a soundtrack. It’s an idyllic way to while away an afternoon, and I go around more times than I’d care to admit.
On site, the resort also houses an Omani heritage village and the aforementioned classic car museum, both of which will be opening to the public in October. The resort’s car collection includes a Mercedes Steam Cart, the first bike to have an engine, as well as dozens of other vintage models.
Guests can also make the most of the resort’s beachfront location with complimentary watersports, and learn about Shangri-La’s conservation efforts from its on-site turtle ranger. Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah’s beach is home to one of the five nesting sites in Oman, where about 100 turtles return each year to lay their eggs.
For guests wanting to relax, there’s Luban Spa, which welcomes visitors in the traditional Omani way — with rose water for the hands and face. The spa offers a range of services, which can be easily booked on arrival.
Guests are spoilt for choice when it comes to dining. Daily breakfast can be enjoyed in the hotel’s main nautical-themed Sultanah restaurant, where you can tuck into both a la carte and buffet while taking in the morning views over the Arabian Gulf. Come evening, Sultanah transforms into a more luxuriousluxury setting, serving up an elegant and creative Mediterranean-inspired menu.
There’s also Mahharra Beach Bar and Al Muheet poolside cafe for lighter bites during the day, as well as an extensive in-room dining menu. All Al Husn guests can also enjoy complimentary afternoon tea at Sultanah, as well as sunset aperitifs at the stunning central courtyard in the cooler months.
Guests are also welcome to visit the restaurants in the neighbouring resort, where they can choose between traditional Arabic fare at Bait Al Bahr, pan-Asian cuisine at Chow Mee, and an extensive daily buffet at Al Tanoor.
Highs and lows
Some guests should be prepared for a bit of a walk to their rooms through several corridors, which can be a little confusing to navigate upon arrival, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
The tranquillity of Al Husn, while having the facilities of Barr Al Jissah right next door, offers the perfect balance for a relaxing weekend break.
The Insider tip
If you’re an early riser, make time for a sunrise stroll along the private beach. With the sun bouncing off the mountains behind and the sound of the waves, it’s an incredibly peaceful way to kick off the day.
Al Husn feels like a grown up, tranquil space that exudes Arabic grandeur in a contemporary way. Its cliffside setting offers picturesque views of both mountain and sea, leaving you feeling like you are a million miles from the capital. The facilities mean you have everything you need on-site, making it the perfect weekend break.
The bottom line
A two-night stay, inclusive of a couple’s massage and castle experience, starts at Dh1,150. Half-board offers start at Dh1,430; www.shangri-la.com/muscat
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards during this time. Services may change in the future