Review: A Lux Birthday Surprise at the Shangri-La, Muscat

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

I'm a big believer in pulling out all of the stops for a birthday. Particularly if that birthday happens to be a rather large milestone. On April 17th, it was Mr Sunshine-to-be's thirtieth, and naturally the first thing I thought of to surprise him with was a little trip overseas.

I poured over blog posts and websites, Lonely Planets and travel magazines, until I eventually alighted on a beautiful country just an hour away from our home in Qatar, and a rather fabulous hotel. When the day arrived, I packed our bags, teased him with cards and hints, and eventually, just as the suspense was about to get too much, as we boarded our flight, I announced his surprise.

Welcome to the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, Muscat, in the Sultinate of Oman. Or, the view from our balcony at sunrise to be precise.


True to form, Mr S-to-be had insisted on working on his birthday, so we had taken a late night flight to Oman and landed just as the sun was just beginning to peep it's way over the horizon. Following the road that weaved itself in and out of Muscat, and later along a dug-out channel through the majestic mountains, our friendly Omani taxi driver described the sights in front of us as we went.
 
At reception, we were warmly welcomed, told that they were expecting us, and taken directly to our room where we had just enough time to admire the gorgeous cake left out for Rich...


Before passing out in a bed which could have comfortably slept six.
 

 
Now Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah resort is not just one hotel, but three luxury five star hotels, set within a 124 acre haven along the turquoise waters of the Sea of Oman. 
 

The palatial Al Husn ("The Castle") sits majestically on the cliffs looking out over the other two hotels, and carries an air of mystique and exclusivity.


Al Waha, to the other side of the resort, is more open, family-friendly and relaxed, with several pools at its centre, which merge to form a serene oasis in the Omani desert.
 

 

Last but not least, Al Bandar, where we were staying, sits proudly in the centre, surrounded by beautiful gardens with pretty water features.
 
Mr S-to-be's favourite water feature? The lazy river of course! In fact, he enjoyed lazing about on it so much that he declared it the best feature of the entire hotel!
 
 
Everyone knows that this is the most sensible way to get into a rubber ring...

 
In front of the hotel is Circles Pool Bar and a lawn of sun loungers facing the gorgeous natural beach; a place so serene that turtles have chosen it as a prime location to lay their eggs. We picked a spot close to the sand to wile away our first morning and early afternoon, with a lazy late lunch (which was catch of the day - lovely, firm Hammour SMOTHERED in garlic).
 


The sun was beating down by this point, and we retreated to one of the many pools to cool off.


Mr Sunshine-to-be found the perfect shady spot from which to check the football scores...


While I got my swim on.
 

Around tea time, we dried off, headed back over the lazy river...
 


And wandered over to Chi Spa. We had a date with a couple of masseuses. 
 


Having arrived forty minutes early, we went our separate ways to enjoy the single-sex facilities until we were called for our couple's massage. 
 




Both Mr S-to-be and I agreed that the rain shower, and bubble seat Jacuzzi were two of the best spa facilities we had ever been lucky enough to sample!
 
I met my man in a tranquil little room at the side of a courtyard, where he was in a rather blissed-out state.
 


One hour of hard kneading later, and we emerged, feeling light as a feather, into the early evening sunshine. We picked out the perfect spot to see out the last of the rays before dinner.
 

 

For dinner, I had booked us a spot at the resort's famous seafood restaurant on the sea front.



 
Bait Al Bahr is known for its super-fresh fish...
 

Mussels and champagne...


 
And romantic setting overlooking the waters of the Sea of Oman.
 


I loved the rustic and yet perfectly presented look and feel of the food, which was a gourmet experience from start to finish.
 
The tempura prawns were meaty and filling, and were accompanied by a seaweed salad which tasted fresh and slightly salty. It was perfectly fitting for our location. 
 

The scallops with basil jelly and jam were sweet, tasty and interesting, but a little overdone for our liking.
 

But the main courses were the real stars of the evening. Fresh fish which we had picked out from the counter, with spring vegetables and a rather garlic-y sauce which I discarded in favour of being able to taste what I was eating. By this point, we were beginning to realise that the Omanis love their garlic, which was fine in moderation, but I was starting to find it a little overpowering (not to mention the protestation of my table mate who was going to have to endure my stinky company for the rest of the evening).
 
Anyway, back to the fish. I opted for the Omani speciality of Sharry, and Rich went for the Koeffer. Neither of us had tried these fish before and we weren't disappointed. The fillets were firm, yet delicate, expertly seasoned, and beautifully grilled to perfection.
 


With a glass of red in hand, I was one happy lady.
 
Meal over, we were asked if we would like to move to a seat tucked away in a quiet corner, where a special table had been laid out for us.
 

The waiters had cottoned on to the fact that it was Mr S-to-be's birthday and brought over champagne and cake to celebrate! Such a lovely surprise, which was fully appreciated by us both (I actually knocked over my wine in excitement at this point! Whoops).
 




 
Full of sugar and bubbly, we were ready to do what we do best. Explore.

On the roof above the restaurant we found the gorgeous BAB Bar.



 
After surveying the views over the resort from this excellent vantage point, we reentered the hotel and took a turn around the impressive lobby, which is resplendent in its traditional and rather opulent Dhofari style.





Through the lobby, towards the long corridors that make up the belly of the hotel, you are greeted by a fantastic silvery floor to ceiling chandelier to light the way.


And an ornate winding staircase of contrasting marble and carpet, with wrought iron banisters to guide you down.


Intricately carved archways welcome you on your route through to corridor after corridor.



And huge mirrors reflect the space and light (and are just too enticing to pass by without a quick snap).


Eventually, we found our way home, cooled our tired feet off in the bathtub and headed to bed.
 


It was another day, and having slept through breakfast the day before, we weren't willing to pass up on sampling the delights of Al Tanoor for a second day running.

We hopped downstairs to the bright and airy dining space of the restaurant.


It was another hotel breakfast spread which couldn't disappoint.



I particularly enjoyed the fluffy American pancakes, which I ate on the semi-covered terrace outside in the sunshine.


And then all too soon, it was time to wave goodbye to our relaxing time at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah. We stepped out of the huge doors and breathed in that mountain view one more time.


 
It was time to explore Muscat! But that's another blog post.

Have you been to Oman, or stayed in a Shangri-La hotel before? I'd love to hear about your experiences.

27 comments:

  1. What a lovely birthday surprise you arranged, Polly! My parents have been to Oman and said that they are some of the friendliest people there that you'll ever meet. I like the look of the lazy river!

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

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    1. Thanks Suze, I'm so glad it all went to plan in the end! Yes, everyone we met was so lovely and kind and happy! It really made the weekend. You should get yourself over there if you can, it's a fascinating country.

      Polly xx

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  2. Wow! You are a great fiancee, what a lovely surprise. I can't believe the hotel had a lazy river Mr S would LOVE that and he'd also be checking the football scores as soon as he got out. You arranged everything so perfectly.
    What a treat!
    Lots of love,
    Angie

    SilverSpoon London

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    1. Naww thanks Angie! It took a lot of research but I'm not going to lie, I kinda enjoyed it! Haha I believe our other halves would get on rather well!

      Polly xx

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  3. Wow, what a beautiful place! That lazy river looks like my idea of heaven!!! I adore Shangri-La hotels, I've stayed in a couple and just love them. Looking forward to your next Oman post!

    C x | Lux Life

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    1. We could have spent hours on that river just going round and round... It's a pretty special brand of hotel isn't it? Totally heading over your blog to search for Shangri La blog posts now ;-)

      Thanks love, I'm looking forward to writing it!

      Polly xx

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  4. What a magical birthday!!! This looks so amazing - and that river is like my (and John's) dream come true! You're lucky to have these locations close by! xx

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    1. Seriously, hotels shouldn't underestimate the power of a lazy river! It was such a relaxing tanning spot, we loved it! I know, I'm really going to make the most out of our proximity to some of these places this year. I don't want to leave with any travel regrets!

      Polly xx

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  5. Wow - what a fabulous resort and excellent birthday surprise! I want a go on a lazy river - looks amazing :)

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    1. Jessi, are you telling me you've never been on a lazy river before?! You need to sort this out!! Yes, it was soo lovely. Wish we were still there

      Polly xx

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  6. We had such a good time there too - the service quality at Shangri La is a stand out highlight always! We walked all the way up the road behind the hotel to get photos at sunset, nothing wrong with scouting around to find good vantage points!!

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    1. Did you actually stay at the Shangri-La, or just visit? I wish we'd spent longer there so we could have stayed a few nights at the Chedi too - your experience sounds incredible!! Completely agree with the vantage point thing for photos. I've been known to climb on top of things, walk for miles and get Rich to prop me up in all kinds of poses for the sake of a good photo!!

      Polly xx

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  7. I loved this hotel and snap it's where I spent my 30th birthday as well! The service is incredible and we had birthday cakes coming out of our ears when we stayed. If you ask my other half what his favourite thing about Oman was - his answer is the lazy river; seriously our routine for 6 days was breakfast and then the lazy river, bliss! xx

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    1. Ahh, what a coincidence!! It is the perfect place for a birthday isn't it?! Haha, it's so funny that you should say that about the cakes because we had exactly the same. One mention of a birthday and they're practically throwing cakes at you (I wasn't complaining). Hahaha, I LOVE the sound of your routine. We would have been exactly the same if we were there for longer. I think I'll be dreaming of that lazy river in years to come...

      Polly xx

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  8. Wow.. it looks like you had a blast! Happy belated birthday to Mr Sunshine-to-be, and what serious girlfriend points you must have earned yourself! The hotel looks incredible. I always regret not visiting Oman whilst we were living in Qatar. If we find ourselves back out that way, we'll definitely be paying it a visit. You look like such a beaut in your white dress too.. so Summery. x

    Kirsty - Effortlessly Excessive

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    1. Thanks so much Kirsty! I knooow (I really did it because it's my 30th in due course and he's got to at least match it, right?!). If you find yourselves back out here, please also pop into Doha and come and hang out with meeee!! Thanks for the compliment, I love that dress, it's a newbie from Club Monaco :-)

      Polly xx

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  9. It would take the hand of God himself to get me out of that lazy river. Awesome post.

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    1. Hahahaha! That made me giggle. It was a beaut experience I have to say. Thank you Danielle!

      Polly xx

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  10. How beautiful is that hotel? So gorgeous. Love his little birthday cakes as well - cute!

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    1. I knoow! They did the cakes so well. Everything about the whole place was stunning, from the buildings to the interiors, the setting to the weather! Wish I could live there forever!!

      Polly xx

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  11. This looks amazing. I just peeked at the prices to see how ridiculous it is and about fell off my seat its so reasonable! Maybe that's just me being used to ridiculous London prices but wow what a fab place x

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    1. I KNOOOW!! This is totally the best thing about it! There we go, is there any reason for you NOT to go sometime soon now?!!!

      Polly xx

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  12. wow this looks incredible, love the photos so much!

    danielle | avec danielle

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    1. Thank you so much Danielle!

      Polly xx

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  13. What a lovely wife you are! Couldn't agree more about pulling all the stops out for birthdays.. I will be commencing my birthday 'week' in June, haha! The hotel looks stunning, as does that gourmet meal. A real treat :) Lots of love, Andrea xxx

    www.andreaspassions.com

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    1. Haha. Thanks Andrea. Wife in training actually as we're not getting married until July. Let's see how long I can keep this up when we're actually married! 😉 excellent, love the sound of a birthday week. You're a girl after my own heart! Looking forward to extending it into July for our meet-up. Remind me to buy you a birthday drink!

      Polly xx

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  14. Love! Thanks for sharing. Definitely staying here now! Before we were thinking a maybe but you've convinced us! And how funny it's for my Birthhday as well :)

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