Just Back From

Just Back From: Muscat

by Hilary Bass Rifkin

Seaside frolicking on the cliffs at Barr Al Jissah Resort in Muscat.

Just back from: Muscat, Oman.

Was it your first time? It was my first visit and likely my last, though I would like to explore Musandam Peninsula.

How long were you there? Seven days.

Why did you go? I was looking for a warm holiday from London for my family that didn't require 12+ hours on the plane (Asia), that was affordable (which ruled out much of the Caribbean), and that would be culturally inspiring for the children.

Who were you with? My family: husband and two kids, 10 and 11.

What was the best tip you got before you left? The best tip was to visit a Wadi. This came from several people: my son's teacher, who is English but had lived and worked in Oman for twenty years, another family who had recently visited Oman, and an editor at a new and thriving travel website called Fathom. Sadly, I know it was the best tip because everyone at the hotel told us how great it was. But we never made it!

What's the #1 tip you'd give a friend who wanted to go? Airfare is cheap, so splurge on the hotel. You'll be spending a lot of time there.

What did you do? Seven days on a lounge chair at Shangri La's Barr Al Jissah Resort. Not that there is anything wrong with that! I made use of the kayaks (the resort has great water sports), the gym, the tennis courts. But once I found the perfect chaise with views of the sea and the rocky coastline, I felt no need to move. Well, the view and Michael Lewis's Moneyball.

Were you there for the right amount of time? Had it been a bit warmer, I would have been happy to stay a few more days. Otherwise, seven days was ample. 

This was especially great: The people. Omani natives and those who now call it home are some of the most open, happy, and helpful people I have met in my travels. 

But this wasn't: The souk. Incredibly disappointing. It could have been a kiosk on Canal Street in New York City (no offense to those masters of trade). There were no treasures to be found and bargained for, no local color. In the end, it felt like a very sad, florescent-lit garage.

Speed Round of Favorites

1. Meal: Big feast dinner, Omani-style: spiced stews, grilled meats, aubergines, fresh seafood. Not a goose or turkey in sight!

2. Neighborhood: The beach that was adjacent to my room. 

3. Site: The Mosque at night. Beautifully lit, immense, and generally awe-inspiring.

4. Kodak moment: Full moon and rocky coastline — aggressively lit by the hotel designers.

One thing/place you didn't get to visit, but wanted to: A wadi.

What did you bring back? A tan and a very sore forearm and bicep from a hellish 15 minutes on a Banana Boat.

Would you go back? I would go back to Oman but a different hotel and a different region — my entire visit I was fantasizing about the Six Senses Zighy Bay on the Musandam Peninsula! I would not bother visiting Muscat again.

Any surprises? My disappointment was a big surprise.

You can't stop thinking about: Why I didn't simply go back to Dubai or Miami.


Get There

Fly: Seeb International Airport (MCT) in Muscat has direct flights from Europe (London, Paris, Frankfurt, Milan) and throughout the Middle East and Asia.

Visas: American, Canadian, British, European, and Australian residents need a visa, which can obtained at the Omani embassay (for around $10) or at airport upon arrival (for around $50).

Find It

Shangri La's Barr Al Jissah Resort
PO Box 644, Postcode 100
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

Read More on Fathom

A Mosque Grows in Muscat 
On the Road: Oman

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