Your flight leaves late at night and it’s a shame the journey from Italy is just a bit too short – instead of the eight hours it takes from other cities around Europe. You land in the morning – try to make it on Friday, if you can, and stay until Monday evening, as the return flight also departs late in the evening. It is the definitive last-minute escape for lovers to indulge themselves in their lust, four days in the haven of sensuality that is Oman.
The Chedi serves brunch on Friday morning for those coming after prayers at the Mosque – the equivalent of Sunday lunch in Southern Italy. The tables and counters are fit for a wedding banquet for Aladdin with every imaginable fruit and vegetable juice, a selection of oysters, scampi and sashimi. There is an area serving hot Japanese food, another with American hamburgers, pizza, and Ligurian or Tuscan focaccia bread, French cheese… we could go on, like a film that moves us with an old ma listening to a child singing the virtues of his mum’s cooking. Pastries and macaroons – and here it goes slightly downhill because it you want to be at the top of your game there is no room for pruderies. If a guest has a longing for a flavor of macaroon that is not among the table, at these heights of luxury, there is no room for a no.
The gardens are a modern take on an Italian scheme incorporating Islamic diagonals: fountains in low, square pools connected to one another with channels forming a geometrical lagoon – manicured lawns contrasting with the white buildings, long grass, and sand dunes. The hotel is divided into two wings, the first is for regular guests, the second is the club whose deluxe qualities we are describing and depend on: looking out towards the beach, turn left as you leave the lobby. The rooms are like pavilions for the offspring of Sultans: a living room, a bedroom and an en-suite complete with a sunken tub in opaque marble like a hammam hidden amidst the grey and the green, nuts, dates, and almond milk. The interiors are reflected in the glow of the parquet, the furniture and mirrors in solid wood, candelabras that remain lit all night long, sofas outside to enjoy the wind rustling through the leaves: opposite the beach and the flora of the coast. The sea doesn’t count here – it’s not about the sea, you don’t come to The Chedi for the beach. The pool is one of the longest in the Arab world, its strikingly modern design is a hundred meters long, like a corridor stretching up towards the sky, with a sort of graphic temple in front and a fire lit in the center – braziers line the sides as if marking the path to the gates of Olympus. The health club and gym – which is well worth every effort – are designed in wood and parquet, with the utmost attention to detail and the dimensions of a living room – in the changing rooms, sauna and Turkish baths. Four days of sport and sex are enough to rekindle every notion of pleasure – in Oman.
The Sultan of Oman is an elderly man – a king who is adored by his people. You can sense the gratitude of his people. There are no male heirs – no-one can know for certain who will ascend to the throne after him, but it may be just as well, considering he came to power after his father was deposed by a coup d’etat, and in turn he also came into power using the same method to the detriment of his father before him. Technology has made it possible to desalinate the seawater (causing problems due to the huge amounts of desalination brine to be disposed of). You can sense that the government of Oman has turned to innovation in its drive forwards in recent years. Trees and flowers emerge from the arid rocks. Once upon a time, tourism in Oman was the reserve of rich Swiss visitors whose wealth held the promise of a suitable clientele – and even if it has opened up in recent years, you still get an idea of the strategy.
The Chedi is the best hotel in Muscat – one of the best on this page. Don’t even consider any of the accommodations offered by the Shangri La for your trip to Muscat – it is like a 1990’s holiday resort. The Bustan Palace is also no match: this antique royal residence might be better than a holiday resort but it still has a feeling of a sort of Disneyland. Tourist guides talk about the Wadi, places you can visit provided your trip doesn’t coincide with international holidays, as the experience would be ruined by the crowds. If you come to Muscat for the beach you won’t find it – you should take a flight further south. If you are looking for the mountains, that’s quite another matter – and it is a dream you can even make real in the summer, reaching Alila, near Jabal Al Akhdar.
133 18th November St, Muscat, Oman
+968 24 524400