Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be moving to a foreign country to live, let alone a country in the Middle East. Over the 2009 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my husband Roger and I discussed what we wanted the next part of our life to be like. He thought that before retiring, he would like to do one more airport project but only if he could find something very interesting. I half-jokingly agreed that would be fine but could he try for an exotic location? As usual, Roger came through and soon we were headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This blog is a recap of our "leap-of- faith" wanderings around the Middle East and beyond. We joyfully share these expat experiences.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Chedi Muscat . . . A Weekend Excursion to Oman


Chedi Muscat
There is something about the lure of a new road that sets Roger’s motor humming! The recently opened highway from Dubai to Fujairah #102 is calling his name.

“Up for little road trip this weekend?” Roger asks.  

I am thinking, why go for just a "little" ride when you can go for a "real" ride and enjoy an entire weekend away?

Responding with a wry grin I offer, “Good Idea. How about a run to Muscat, Oman? I hear the Chedi Muscat hotel is very nice.” 


It's a plan. Reservations made, ‘vette’ loaded and we're off  to find the new E102. We take E311 towards Sharjah and just before the Dubai Sharjah border, we take the road towards Kalba and continue following signs to Kalba over the Al Hajar Mountains.

Al Hajar Mountains
The ride is really enjoyable; even for the passenger. I can see Roger’s grin widening as we approach the first of the Al Hajar’s crusty ridges.

Rising from the desert like the scaly backs of big dinosaurs, this mountain range guards the Gulf of Oman coast from the hot blowing sands of the Empty Quarter Desert.

First you enjoy a flat desert run on a new straight highway with no speed cameras and definitely no police; then you climb the switchbacks into the mountains over the top and down the backside, in third and fourth gear, the Corvette loves this. As we descend. Roger and his ‘vette are one! 

Me? I am white-knuckling it – once in awhile I open my eyes to check on them. The road isn’t actually scary but Roger loves speed; hence my anxious moments.

Once we hit the end of E102 we take E99 towards Oman a short distance to the border crossing at Khatmat Milahah. Be sure to see postscript about border crossing hints.

The ride along highway 01 in Oman is a very pleasant drive but the scenery we have witnessed before. Collections of one story residential compounds, all with the obligatory TV "dishes” on the roofs, occasionally accented with a grand mansion compound guarded by ornate tall gates; some dense date palm groves; the occasional Arab rendition of a “strip mall” - three to five story buildings with an electric mix of retail shops on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors. You know these are apartment by the laundry drying on the balcony railings.

This is the typical Arab landscape we have seen all over UAE. There is one difference, no camels, but lots of goats and cattle.

We stop for lunch at Sohar Beach Hotel. An interesting imposing old fort looking resort that sits on the shores of the Gulf. The building is so striking that our hopes are high for nice lunch. Not to be! The only offering is the Friday Brunch which is way overpriced for what we want and get, but we enjoy its limited offerings and move on.

Finally, approaching Muscat we begin looking for the Chedi which is on the Gulf of Oman on the western outskirts. First of all it turns out to be on the other side of the street making necessary the usual u-turn down the road some. And the entrance isn’t exactly imposing so it is easy to miss. But as we drive through the winding road towards the entrance we begin to feel our tensions ebbing with the anticipation of a relaxing weekend at a 5 start boutique hotel.

The hotel’s entrance is an enchanting white stucco building of arches and domes resembling what certainly could be a grand Omani palace. The circular driveway is ringed in majestic date palms and a calming pool in the middle brings a welcoming gentleness to the scene.  

Chedi doorman
with "Flat Stanley"
We are greeted at the door by the Omani doorman. He wears the traditional white dishdasha gown. Tucked into his shall (a cloth belt) is his khanjar, a silver hand carved dagger – the distinguishing feature of Omani dress. His head is covered with a kummar - a beautifully embroidered cap. During the weekend we also see men wearing the muzzar, a square strip of cloth wrapped into a turban.

The check-in is conducted in the main lobby, which is quite a nice touch, as we relax on couches and sip our welcome drink of fresh juice.

Naseem escorts us to our suite explaining the amenities of the hotel to us as we stroll along the immaculately manicured grounds. This includes the private Chedi Club Lounge that is at our disposal for the evening cocktail party or to enjoy its library.

And . . . we arrive at our Chedi Club Suite. Oh my!  

Chedi Club Suite living room
Decorated in “a neutral hued Asian style minimalism with Omani accents,” the peacefulness of the room is evident the minute you enter. 

The living room, stocked with its complimentary bar, has low couches that are surprising comfortable (and if you are traveling with children these can be used as their beds).   A 32” flat screen TV sits opposite the couches where our maid service keeps us supplied in fresh fruit which is sweet and cool. A sizable private terrace is accessed off the living room that has chaise lounges which offer a great view of the Long Pool and the Gulf. 

Chedi water garden
Out the over sized windows see a portion of the 21 acres of highly manicured lush gardens and numerous water ponds that creates the property’s serenity.

The bedroom, with a king size bed and tall ceiling dome, has a soft, calm, restful feel to it. Is this what feng shui is all about? Roger and I exchange approving glances.


But then there is the bathroom!

Chedi Club Suite sunken tub
No room is more important to me than a bathroom and this one is worth replicating. First you see the sunken terrazzo tub that can easily accommodate two . . and then some. We start the water running right away!

There are matching sinks, dressers and ample clothes cabinets on opposite ends of the bathroom. A private rain shower – oh how I love these – and a private enclosed commode room completes this perfect package.

Naseem has safely ensconced us in our serene suite, made certain that our luggage arrived, made our dinner reservations (we find out the second night how important this is) and ordered us a bucket of ice. Worth the five hour ride from Dubai.

The weekend exceeds our expectations.

The Long Pool
The Long Pool just outside our suite reminds me of the one at the Delgado Hotel on Miami Beach, FL, USA. The length lends such grandeur and expanse that the infinity pool truly goes go on forever.

Oh! Another surprise – complimentary champagne served pool side.


We begin to discuss when we are coming back to the Chedi!

The Beach Restaurant
Dinner at The Beach Restaurant, situated tranquilly on the edge of the 370 meter private beach, is the perfect romantic setting. We are seated on the patio where a warm sea breeze keeps this open air restaurant just the right temperature.

The seafood is outstanding with my grilled Omani lobster one of the best lobsters I have ever had. Nothing fancy done to it just absolutely fresh lobster grilled over an open fire. As usual, Roger has found just the right wine to make the meal superb.      

The second night we dine at The Restaurant. This is a grand dining room with four show kitchens that serves international cuisine. Our meal and service is divine. Once again, the very nice wine list permits Roger to select just the right vino.

After dinner we move to the piano bar to finish our wine. Only negative was my error in not making a reservation, something that was suggested when we checked in. We wound up tucked into a back corner missing the show kitchens. Will remember this on the next visit.     

Muscat fish souq
Early Saturday morning we visit the fish market which is very rustic and bustling. I read they are about to renovate the area - what a shame to loose the aura . . and the aroma!

At the Muttrah Old Souq we find an interesting antique shop, The Heritage Centre, and make a few purchases.

Because the navigator, that would be me, made a few miscalculations, as such, we get a grand tour around the outskirts of Muscat which allows us to see how pretty the city is. The architecture is such a contrast from Dubai. Muscat has only a few high-rises and the architecture has maintained a subdued Omani arabesque tone. Quite charming. 

Chedi Balinese Spa treatment room
One afternoon I visit the Balinese Spa and get an absolutely delightful Balinese massage. I should have checked out the spa menu before going as it offered an interesting sounding Romantic Bathing Ceremony. Wonder if Roger would have been up for this? Maybe next time! 

We spend the remainder of the late afternoon at the beachside Chedi Pool, yes this is a second pool at the Chedi, relaxing and soaking up the salt air. There is also a third pool for children; isn't that great a great concept.

Muscat Opera House
This quite possibly has been one of the nicest weekend trips we have taken since moving to Dubai. The Chedi is superb and gets our highest recommendation.

We will be going back in the Fall to catch an Opera at the Muscat Opera House.


Thanks to the Chedi Muscat for furnishing some of the photos in this blog.

Postscripts . . . . 
Summer specials at Chedi . . .  http://www.ghmhotels.com/en/chedi-muscat-oman/home/#home be sure to check out the Chedi Muscat web site for their specials and promotions. They are quite generous

Border crossing hints  . . .  Be Patient. You need our passports and evidence of car insurance for Oman. Don’t take any alcohol. While we have not been searched in the two trips we have made to Oman, it is against the law to bring in alcohol. Be patient. When we went through the check point (April 2012) both the Omani and the UAE side were under construction. If this is still the case when you go, you may need to go look to find the office to validate your exit and entrance to the either country. It is always a good idea to check online for any procedures or fee changes that may occur.  


Two Mohammeds with "Flat Stanley"
Special Guest . . . We had a special guest with us on our trip to Muscat. Our granddaughter Riley‘s class is engaged in a “Flat Stanley” geography project. 

For those of you who do not know “Flat Stanley,” he is  a character used in primary grades in the US to teach geography. The each member of the class sends “Flat Stanley” to someone who is living far away. The recipient takes pictures of “Flat Stanley” in the city he is visiting then sends the photos back with a letter telling the class about the city he visits. 

Riley’s “Flat Stanley” visited Muscat, Oman and Dubai, UAE.   





6 comments:

  1. Go for it. I wish I could ride along in the back seat!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Stephen, alas the vette's back seat is rather small. Unless you are the size of "Flat Stanley" I don't think we have room!:(

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love Flat Stanley!!! I'm so glad he was able to enjoy one of your amazing adventures. Riley's classmates will be jealous. We had him with us years ago on a trip to Rome for one of our nephews. Good to see he's still jetting around. He'll be qualifying for seniors discounts soon :)

    Cheers,
    Anne

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for describing your Awesome weekend, Katie. - Can't wait to go to the Chedi Muscat. We will need to borrow the sommelier.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dubai Desert Safari i will love to visit this place. it looks so amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am currently writing a research report on Scope of Economics and Economist and I have been exploring your blog for a few hours. Thank you for your post it proved helpful for me. desert safari in dubai

    ReplyDelete