One of UltraVilla’s directors, Andrew Loyd of Loyd and Townsend Rose vividly narrates his recent voyage to Oman with bespoke luxury holiday specialists cazenove+loyd. Amble along the sandy dunes, wander the ancient cities and savor the culinary delicacies of this unique country with him below.
In early November we were lucky enough to experience a wonderful eight day trip to Oman organised superbly by cazenove+loyd. Flying club class anywhere is a treat and Oman air is no exception. Long flights are always a drain but they looked after us beautifully, although the cabin was a little stuffy. Arriving into Muscat from drizzly, cold London into that heat was a jolt but after the usual immigration muddle we met our drivers and embarked on a 2.5 hour drive into the mountains, for our first four nights in this amazing country.
The Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel sits in Al Hajar mountain range, one of Oman’s most beautiful regions. Perched over 2,000 metres above sea level, the hotel overlooks a dramatic gorge and is surrounded by awe-inspiring views of the Al Hajar Mountains. We returned down the mountain one day to visit the ancient city of Nizwa and some other local forts, stock up on dates & silver from the local market and had a very amusing lunch where we were put into a rather eccentric cubicle, with a bird chiming bell to summon the waiter. Otherwise we mainly stayed in the mountains to walk and explore the area, combined with some wonderful time spent in the infinity pool gazing across the gorge and the odd spoiling massage. Being in situ for the US election results was a bit surreal and I spent the early hours of the morning in the hotel’s gym watching its huge TV as the results trickled in. Our US guest was rather depressed at breakfast! We all thought the hotel was incredibly stylish, the food delicious and the staff delightful, especially our guide Ali, who was a very impressive man.
From here we took another long drive into the desert for a night under canvas and after another slightly eccentric but delicious lunch we arrived, having let some air out of the tires so our driver could put his foot down across the desert, at our camp suitably called Desert Nights. Each couple had their own tent/cabin which came with safari style plumbing but more importantly excellent A/C. We had time to freshen up before an evening camel ride to see the sunset, led by two charming Bedouin boys who encouraged a singalong on the way home. The sunset was a magical site dropping below the dunes and we all loved being in the desert. The open air dinner was rather magical and an amazing buffet was laid on, including a lot of very non Arabic puddings! After any equally delicious early breakfast, the next day we had a very exciting high speed quad bike ride across the dunes, which was a brilliant way to further explore the desert.
We then rejoined our drivers and guide and raced back across the desert, to the nearest town, refilled the tyres and then headed for Muscat. Another long drive but the Sultan has built fantastic roads, an achievement even more amazing considering that when he came to power in 1974, there were only five miles of paved roads in a country the size of Britain. Now you can travel in comfort across the country. We stopped off after a couple of hours for a much needed swim and some lunch in a famous wadi, where some of our party were led by local boys into diving into the pools from terrifyingly high rocks. After another 2 hour drive and a quick ice cream stop, we eventually reached Muscat and the famous Al Bustan Palace hotel for our final 3 nights. The Chedi is often spoken of as the city’s best hotel but the location of the Al Bustan is hard to beat, being a minute from the private yacht port, where we had hired a boat and five minutes from the dive centre. The hotel also has amazing beaches, although my wife and I managed to quite badly cut our feet on some rocks during low tide, which was a slight bore.
However the boat trip for snorkelling was amazing and we saw some wonderful fish. A later diving trip was equally successful. Another sightseeing morning spent in Muscat was equally enjoyable and the Grand Mosque was amazingly beautiful. We had the most charming retired policeman to drive us who kept on referring to the three McDonald’s we passed, as the ‘American Embassy’. The garden restaurant of Kargeen produced some of the best food we had eaten all week and is a must. The staff were incredible. The Al Bustan is a slightly faded hotel and not a place my wife would normally choose preferring less opulent places but they do look after guests brilliantly and the slightly dated rooms are large and offer great views over the gardens and out to sea. I have never eaten some much hummus as on this trip but it and indeed all the food was always so delicious.
We were incredibly impressed with the beauty of Oman and the warmth of its people. The Sultan seems genuinely loved and his oil wealth seems to have been wisely spent. We saw no run down housing and 84% of Omanis own their own home, the infrastructure is excellent and there is virtually no unemployment. The male section of the grand mosque is unbelievably opulent compared with the rather dreary ladies section but by middle- eastern standards, this seemed a well- integrated society and one confident about its future. Cazenove & Loyd organised a very special trip for us and arranged everything beautifully. – by Andrew Loyd of Loyd and Townsend Rose
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