The half-hour drive from the airport to Shangri La Hotel on the outskirts of Muscat takes you through a dusty sandy-coloured landscape of mountains and valleys. Although the Middle East that I pictured had sand, this land looked completely different with its winding mountain paths through sand. After a tunnel takes you through the last mountain, you find yourself in a veritable oasis. Really. It’s all green and lush with palm trees, traditional Dhofori architecture and the sparkling sapphire of the Arabian Sea under a cloudless sky. My family and I were more than ready for some winter sun at the Shangri La Muscat!
The Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort
The Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa in Muscat is deceptively big because there are actually 3 hotels in one location. The hotel does have a mini-bus that takes you into Muscat which we did use one day. It’s really not practical though to go into Muscat every day. If you go to Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah resort, be prepared to spend most of your time at the resort itself. Not that it’s a hardship!!
Al Husn, the most-exclusive hotel, is reserved for adults. We were told later that children can technically stay there but they are not allowed to use any of the facilities. We were joined on this trip by a friend who had stayed at Al Husn previously. She thought it was exceptional with its own private beach and pools. We couldn’t even take a peek at Al Husn because it is perched on a cliff overlooking us mere mortals who had the temerity to bring children on holiday.
The other two hotels are walking distance of each other. We stayed at the Al Bandar Hotel which is the hotel in the middle-location. The Al Bandr Hotel has most of the restaurants. The rooms are spacious and the hotel itself is well-laid out. The architecture is traditional Omani and the hotel encircles a courtyard area with restaurants.
In the evenings, we sat outside in the balmy night air and listened to the live traditional music. Many people were hanging around smoking shisha pipes. The sweet smell wafted through the air around us. When the night air got too chilly, we’d go inside and listen to Pamela, the resident piano bar singer. A fellow American, Pamela even took us out during her free time to go shopping at the big mall in the area.
The third hotel, the Al Waha, is the largest of the three hotels. The Al Waha is billed as the most ‘family-friendly’ because it has a lot of suites and interconnecting family rooms. We did notice that most of the families staying at the resort stayed at the Al Waha. As you can expect, this part of the resort was the least quiet.
Family Fun at the Shangri La Muscat
The Shangri La Muscat has a lot of facilities in two of its hotels for children. First and foremost, the beautiful beach is in a sheltered location with gentle waves. My kids can play for hours in the sand and waves.
Each of the Al Waha and the Al Bandr Hotels have a selection of pools. The lazy river runs between the pools. In the ocean, the hotel has a bouncy castle-type of thing that lets you jump into the water. My children played at the cute little mini-golf every single day.
The restaurants have a children’s menu which is excellent. Even without a children’s menu, you do have a choice of places to eat, including an outdoor buffet option. We thought the buffet breakfast was extensive and delicious. There was a choice of traditional as well as a full-Western repertoire of food at the breakfast buffet. The choice of restaurants at the resort includes Moroccan, Lebanese, Italian and Asian. We found ourselves drawn to the Spanish tapas place a couple of times. Not only was the food great and everyone could find something they liked, we could sit outside in a casual atmosphere.
We had a children’s pack waiting in our room which had a cute stuffed toy camel and a colouring book and pencils. The colouring book had an excellent overview of the culture of Oman.
My son went snorkelling with his father and had a grand time. My daughter and I had some quality spa time because my daughter refused to snorkel because she considers fish swimming near her face ‘creepy’. She had her first mani-pedi and felt like a princess.
The therapy rooms are all built like little houses with a seating area, double massage beds etc. She hung out on her massage bed while I had a very relaxing massage next to her.
Our Opinion of the Shangri La Muscat
The Shangri La Bar Al Jissah Resort (well the Al Bandr and Al Waha specifically) is great with young children. My children enjoyed it tremendously. It was definitely a different atmosphere from the adult sophistication of The Chedi Muscat. After all the running around playing and late nights they had at the Shangri La, even my children were ready for a few days of quiet time in the sunshine. We went in December and the weather was near perfect. It wasn’t too hot in the daytimes and there were not pesky mosquitoes bothering us. We had some great winter sun before we went back all refreshed and geared up for the end of year festivities.
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