If you have ever watched Citizen Kane, the portrayal of the palatial Xanadu on top of a hill would no doubt be etched in your mind as one of cinema’s most memorable movie images. An allusion to Kubla Khan’s palace, Xanadu is also immortalised in Samuel Coleridge’s eponymous poem. Described as a “stately pleasure-dome” and “deep romantic chasm”, Xanadu conjures an image of great beauty, love and mysticism, and is reminiscent of a period long-gone.
As we approached the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa in Muscat, I was reminded of Xanadu. The drive up to the resort was by itself quite spectacular. We turned off the busy main Sultan Qaboos Highway, away from the zooming traffic, onto a quieter stretch between the mountains. A road has been tunnelled through the mountains, and the drive though this valley to the Shangri-La leaves one in awe of the natural landscape of rocks. Coming from a country often characterised as a concrete jungle, the dusty view and winding road was rather exciting for me. On approaching the resort, you get glimpses of the blue waters beyond the walls bordering the road and palm trees greet you on either side.
We were headed to the resort for a day outing. During the month of October, we had a one-week break due to the Eid celebrations. Since we had just arrived in Oman, it didn’t seem rational to go away on holiday when we hadn’t even finished exploring Muscat. We toyed with the idea of staying at a local resort but it seems that everyone had gotten ahead of us in the the game and most of the hotels were either fully booked or had high-season rates.
Since staying at the hotels was out of the question, we had to look for an alternative. There are so many activities to do in Oman, for example a dolphin-watching boat trip, snorkelling, diving, or trekking in the wadis (dry valleys). However, finding something that’s also suitable for young children can be challenging. As such, when I had contacted the Shangri-La for their hotel rates, I was happy to find out that we could enjoy the hotel’s facilities with a day pass. The reservation agent at the hotel was prompt and informative in providing extra details for this option. With the day pass, we would have access to the pool and water facilities, and a generous buffet lunch was included as well. Seeing that TT loves playing in the water, and the warm weather was still holding up, we decided that this was a great way to spend a day out during the Eid break.
Upon arriving at the hotel, we got our rather aptly named “Day in Paradise” vouchers from the Al Bandar Hotel concierge. The Al Bandar Hotel (“the town”) sits in the centre of the resort. On either side of this are the Al Husn Hotel (“the castle”) and the Al Waha Hotel (“the oasis”). The former is the more luxurious option for guests, while the latter is oriented towards families. We found that besides lunch and pool facilities, we could also use the beach and lazy pool. In addition to this, any services at the Chi Spa would have a 20% discount for the day. Since it was nearly noon, we opted to have lunch first at the Al Tanoor restaurant, located in the Al Bandar Hotel. There was a good selection of foods at Al Tanoor, and as in accordance with most buffets, included a variety of different cuisines.
Following the meal, we changed into our costumes and headed to the beach. Overlooking the Sea of Oman, the hotel beach lay on a crescent stretch between two cliffs. We found some deck chairs to lounge on, and exchanged our passes for beach towels and a cooler filled with ice and bottled water. Perfect! And if you require something a little stronger, drinks can be ordered from the friendly servers walking around the beach lawn. We played with TT in the kiddy pool for a while before resting under the huge umbrellas shading our deck lounges; despite slathering on SPF 50 sunblock, we didn’t want to risk leaving her in the heat for too long and getting dehydrated. For slightly older kids, the lazy river (where you float on inflatables down a river running through the centre of the resort) guarantees loads of fun. There are also tons of other activities for kids such as the Cool Zone, Adventure Zone and SplashPad, all located at the Al Waha Hotel. It’s a pity we didn’t have enough time to try everything out. Maybe we’ll bring TT back for these the next time we head to the Shangri-La Resort. She spent the rest of the afternoon playing on the lawn with a ball that a friendly hotel staff loaned to us, and must have enjoyed herself for she slept blissfully for the whole ride home.
Looking at the various areas of the hotels offering a multitude of activities for children, it certainly promises hours of activities and excitement, if only for a day. For non-resident guests and for families looking for a fun day out with an unforgettable view, the Shangri-La’s day pass is a terrific option. For myself, I’d gladly return for an idyllic day and that “vision in a dream”.
p.s. Should you be looking for activities this Christmas in Muscat, the holiday programme at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa may have something for you. Here’s the link – http://online.flipbuilder.com/xplo/icyg. Especially appealing to kids will be the Christmas tree light-up on 16 December (their huge tree on the lawn is particularly magnificent) and a special appearance by Santa Claus on Christmas Day!
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