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Nomad’s notebook: the best of Muscat

Our intrepid travel fixer, Timmy Coles-Liddle, opens up his reassuringly luxurious little black book

We arose at 6am, naturally, without an alarm, having slept soundly, and gazed for miles and miles across the dunes.

I fell for Oman the moment we stepped off the aeroplane. The immaculately presented airport staff, dressed head-to-toe in their neatly pressed uniforms, which swish elegantly as the warm breeze shoots across the runway.

A seamless two-hour transfer south-east from Muscat airport into Wahiba Sands and acres and acres of sun-scorched desert, finally locating our home for the night, Magic Camp.

This is something special; totally ecological – no running water or electricity – using solar power for the lanterns, so perhaps aimed at guests possessing an adventurous spirit.

The camp had been erected solely for our use and consisted of a spacious tent large enough to stand up in, thoughtfully arranged with a comfortable, neatly arranged camp bed, tea light lanterns and beautiful silver Omani table.

A chill-out, shaded from the blistering sun by a large teepee, housed a scattering of dark red cushions and intricately-woven Omani rugs.

While local villagers prepared a scrumptious dinner of chargrilled chicken and rice seasoned with herbs, Liv and I blended in with the locals, trotting happily around camp on a couple of moody camels.

Fast-forward eight hours and we arose at 6am, naturally, without an alarm, having slept soundly, and we gazed for miles and miles across the dunes, eagerly awaiting the morning sunset.

We arose at 6am, naturally, without an alarm, having slept soundly, and gazed for miles and miles across the dunes.

A simpler take on luxury at Magic Camp

If you’ve every wondered what it might be like to walk on the moon, the Hajar mountain range and the extraordinary scenery surrounding the sleepy, authentic village of Jabal Akhdar could conceptualise the fuzzy image in your head.

Alila Jabal Akhdar, perched atop the canyon, 2,000 metres high, is a place of intense serenity and beauty.

A sort of non-hotel, better described as a large, rambling home, it nestles comfortably into its surroundings, low-rise and with jaw-dropping panoramas, across miles of cavernous gorges and gnarly grey canyons. You would never know it but the resort boasts 84 suites and a pair of two-bedroom villas.

Upon arrival in November, we settled in to a superb horizon view suite, which benefits from the glorious afternoon sun, enabling us to make use of the very private wooden balcony.

Earthy shades of wood and local black stone are complimented by extravagantly designed Omani rugs and elegant but simple furnishings.

A private pool at the Alila Jabal Akhdar

The hotel’s devotion to ecological responsibility is simply staggering. Countless sustainability awards have been scooped up since its birth five years ago and a carefully considered engagement programme offers local villagers skills and jobs.

It corporates an on-site water treatment facility powering irrigation and landscaping; solar panels generate about 65 per cent of the hot water supply.

Metals, wood and other building materials have been recycled and used in the construction process. This is seriously impressive stuff.

Juniper, the resort’s main restaurant, a beautiful, light-filled space, elegantly decorated with Omani artifacts and traditional paintings, offers a creative menu that focuses on relationships with local farmers.

A (bath)room with a view at Alila Jabal Akhdar

Head chef Alex Ensor has turned traditional age-old Omani recipes on their head by injecting his global culinary wisdom. We wolfed down delights such as Omani spiced slow-cooked lamb with fresh al tzmat dukkud sauce, and roast chicken with bjarat spice, pumpkin and saffron and tomato-infused potatoes.

Scattered on the terrace surrounding the spacious pool, wooden sunbeds each possess a remote control, which, upon depressing, immediately summons one of the charming and impeccably turned-out waiters who will pander to your every whim.

For the truly adventurous, experiential traveller, an overnight stay at Misfah Old House, near Nizwa, is strongly recommended. Two sets of guests had gushed about a recent visit and we wanted to know more.

A pleasant change, I imagine, from the usual luxury hotel experience; our new friends described an evening of total Omani immersion. How wonderful.

A simple bed carefully arranged upon a mattress on the floor of a traditional mud house, dinner served on the rooftop, with miles of steep agricultural terraces in view. Minimal mod-cons available. And, wait for it: no Wi-Fi – bliss!

The Chedi is an iconic and opulent Muscat mainstay

Wrapping up our magical adventure, we checked in to The Chedi, an iconic and opulent Muscat mainstay, which has been wowing its international clientele for too many years to mention.

Set just outside the city, occupying a glorious spot beside the Gulf of Oman, it boasts a generous scattering of traditionally designed, bright white suites and rooms fill a 21-acre oasis – perfectly manicured gardens, towering palms and tightly-trimmed pea green lawns.

By day we could be found chomping away on Japanese sashimi and sliders beside the uber-glamorous long pool – we’re talking a whopping 103 metres here – hobnobbing with the Euro jetset and UAE-based expats.

By night we casually inhaled apple shisha from wacky-coloured pipes at the wonderfully eclectic Kargeen in downtown Muscat. Think of The Chedi as a sort of family-run Four Seasons but without the marble, possessing the familiarity and welcoming coziness of a private members’ club.

The Chedi is located next to the Gulf of Oman

A laidback, smiley but attentive team float around, methodically going about their daily chores. An invitation to dine at the resort’s main restaurant (one of six) with the charming sales director, Deepak, sees us wolfing down locally caught yellow fin tuna steak and authentic Arabic slow-cooked lamb.

The next morning, an appointment at the 15,000sqm spa, a serene space which blends ancient healing rituals of the East with ultra-slick design from the West, is an absolute must. The ultimate in spa wow factor.

The only thing to prise us away from the sheer comfort of our beautifully spacious Chedi Club Suite were the complimentary drinks and canapés served in the Club Lounge between 6pm and 8pm each evening.

A cosmopolitan crowd gathers nightly, elegantly attired, to sip expertly muddled gin martinis and sparkling wine while the music of the gentle waves hit the sandy shore close by.

Oman, I will be back!  

The writer is the founder of NINE, a private concierge club that provides tailored travel solutions to individuals and families globally

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