You might remember that not so long ago, I surprised Mr Sunshine-to-be with a special 30th birthday trip to Oman where we stayed in the Shangri-La, Muscat. As we were only there for the weekend, I thought it was important that we eke out as much as we could from our short stay, and went about creating a rather packed itinerary for us to enjoy.
I don’t know whether it was the dramatic landscape, the tranquil nature of the city or the exquisite service and attention to detail that came along with everything we saw, but all of the activities that I organised ended up being incredibly romantic. Here are the things we got up to, and why I think they are unmissable experiences if you’re visiting Muscat with your other half.
A day at The Chedi
The five star Chedi hotel sits in a quiet part of the city, not far from the airport. The battered looking streets and uninspiring drive up to the entrance do nothing to prepare you for what’s beyond that big front door.
For as soon as you walk through the bright and breezy corridors of the hotel, and out into the grounds, you are confronted with an oasis of calm in the desert.
The outside space is cleverly divided into discreet areas by serene pools which are fringed by neat flower beds and set against architecture which screams traditional minimalism.
There are not one, not two, but three outdoor heated swimming pools, each with their own unique character.
But the three pools share one important affinity: they all carry an air of complete serenity. As we sat back to wile away the hours, I felt the stress that had parked itself firmly on my shoulders after weeks of work-related worry and wedding planning woe slowly begin to seep away. I tried to think of a time I had felt more relaxed, and failed.
We both agreed that if we hadn’t already booked our honeymoon in Italy, then this would be the place to have it.
After a while, we wandered back through the pretty manicured lawns and past the picture perfect beach…
Through the shady indoor-outdoor corridors…
And back into the vaulted space of the hotel’s lobby.
It was time for lunch in the hotel’s signature restaurant.
A meal at The Restaurant
‘The Restaurant’ is appropriately named, because if you are only in Muscat for 48 hours, this is THE restaurant you must head to. Its beautifully romantic space follows the architectural style of the rest of the hotel, with high ceilings, pillars and archways.
The lunch menu is eclectic (if slightly confused) with everything from pasta to sushi, burgers and chips to Arabic and Lebanese fare.
indecisive greedy people that we are, we went for a bit of everything.
The tuna avocado maki was fresh and clean tasting, with a little wasabi kick.
The burgers were tantalisingly large and juicy, housed in the softest brioche roll with crisp salad and oodles of cheese.
The spaghetti was perfectly al dente, with a touch too much chilli for my liking.
And the fresh juices were divine.
It was about 2.30pm by the time we sat down, and we were surrounded by men talking business, but alone in our little corner of this gorgeous resturant, we had one of the most romantic lunches of my life.
A wander around the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
It would be a travesty to come to Muscat without making a visit to the architectural wonder that is the Grand Mosque.
The Mosque, which is the principal place of worship for Muslims in Muscat took six years to build and is constructed of 300,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone. It is a huge space, which can hold over 20,000 worshippers at capacity.
And it is simply beautiful.
We walked the length and breadth of this stunning building in the late afternoon, without bumping into a single other soul.
The most romantic of views, set against the backdrop of a setting sun.
A few hours on the open ocean
The real selling point of this stunning city is the easy access to the big blue. The long city is built along the rocky, volcanic coastline which borders the Gulf of Oman, which feeds out into the Arabian Sea.
At an hour which was far too unsociable for the first full day of a holiday, we were picked up by a friendly driver from Sidab Sea Tours who drove us out to a waiting boat in the pretty Marina Bander Al Rowdha.
We passed forts that were steeped in history and brimming with secrets perched on the beautiful cliffs.
We sailed past interesting geographical features, including a stump that was affectionately known as ‘Elephant Rock’.
But the only thing I really wanted to see was a dolphin.
Revving the engine, our captain took us far out to sea, skimming over waves for what seemed like miles. Then suddenly someone pointed. We’d found them.
Rich and I eagerly rushed to the front of the boat to get a better look, just as one of them flipped out of the sea right in front of us!
I gasped, and held on tight as we took chase.
I wasn’t prepared for just how emotional I felt after seeing this school skipping and jumping through the sea in front of us, playing amongst the waves and daring one another to jump a little higher, and somersault a little more.
Dolphins are so intelligent that some Scientists believe that they are able to make immediate, and often complicated judgements that are well beyond the scope of human ability. And they’re really fun to watch.
As we turned around and headed for dry land, I held Rich’s hand all the way back to shore, salty tears running down my face (it was the wind, honest).
Have you ever visited the romantic city of Muscat? What would you recommend to see and do?