The Chedi Muscat in Oman is one of the fixtures in a country that has been making a name for itself. With Oman on the up-and-up in travellers’ planners, we take a look at one of the hotels that represent Muscat, and Oman, the most. A combination of old-world traditional and new-world class, The Chedi Muscat, established in 2003, has been showing travellers what true Middle Eastern luxury is all about for the better part of a decade.
Sipping on sundowners poolside with a view over the sleepy Gulf of Oman isn’t how I envisioned a trip to the Middle East, then again, the 21-acre Chedi Muscat isn’t exactly in the business of adhering to the norms. Bringing sexy to this coastal city mired in historical opulence, The Chedi Muscat has successfully blended modern lux with old-world charm in a resort that is the definition of a desert oasis, and the antithesis of what many assume they know about the region.
As such, fashionable women and svelte sunglass-toting men often call poolside home at The Chedi Muscat’s Chedi Pool, both a pool and restaurant that lines the beach, and can regularly be seen sipping drinks while bronzing under the desert sun.
Established in 2003, The Chedi Muscat has done nothing but impress since opening. Landing on an array of Best Of lists which include the 7th best hotel in the Middle East in 2015 according to Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, one of the ‘Best Hotels in the Middle East’ by The Villegiature Awards 2015, and TripAdvisor’s 2015 Certificate of Excellence award, The Chedi Muscat has its fair share of accolades, but they don’t stop there. Aside from a healthy 2015, The Chedi Muscat has also earned itself awards ranging from Esquire’s Top 10 Restaurants in the Middle East in 2012, The Ultimate Spa Award from Bespoke Magazine in 2011, a spate of restaurant awards through Oman Today as well as a number of wine-affiliated recognitions and awards from Wine Spectator – to say The Chedi Muscat is decorated might just be an understatement, and the awards have been rolling in as early as 2004 upon the resort’s opening.
And while Dubai and Abu Dhabi have certainly been playing monopoly with the fanciful in the gulf region, it is Muscat that has been quietly climbing the ladder of preferred Middle Eastern getaways, gaining enough steam to help land Oman on the New York Times’ list of 52 Places to Visit in 2015. A city that doesn’t permit buildings to top eight storeys, and requires all of which that are built to prioritise Arabic-influenced architecture, the culturally rich and traditionally grounded Muscat is the perfect subdued counterbalance to the likes of its eccentric Arabic neighbours who have continued to build upwards and outwards. But don’t let the low-lying skyline and lack of man-made islands fool you, Muscat knows luxury well, and if you don’t believe me, step into The Chedi Muscat, a 158-room ultra-lux resort that will capture you with its unique blend of luxury and tradition.
Situated in the Al Ghubra region of Muscat, 15 minutes from Muscat International Airport, I am welcomed into The Chedi Muscat in its tradition-rich lobby which features a melange of red, white and cream-coloured lanterns which hang over a throw of cushions and pillows that are sat atop a large Arabic rug. What I notice next is the tented roof which houses the lobby and adds an extra desert caravan feel to the seaside retreat. And while it is here that I immediately recognise what part of the world I am in, it’s only the beginning of my trip through Muscat’s paradise.
From here I make my way through the permeating frankincense to The Restaurant, a multiple-award-winning fine-dining experience under the direction of French-born-and-trained executive chef Sebastien Cassagnol that features four different open-kitchens specialising in Western, Indian, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also featured in The Restaurant is the heralded bakery, which has a dedicated head baker and staff that specialise in churning out some of the most delicate chocolates, ice creams, sorbets and pastries this side of the Gulf. But The Restaurant isn’t the only dining option available, and for those who want something truly Muscat-lux, head down to The Beach Restaurant, the resort’s sea-view restaurant that sits on a private 370-metre beach with both indoor and alfresco dining, and dive into some of the freshest local seafood fares in the Middle East.
But food isn’t the only draw to this Arabian treasure. Designed by Jean-Michel Gathy of Denniston Architects in traditional Arabic fashion blended with Asiatic influences, the smooth white-walled villas that stretch across an expanse of falaj-inspired waterways and micro-oases bring a certain element of old-world peace to the serene Muscat resort. Villa interiors are decked out in dark teak woods that combine Arabic and Asian influences, and traditional Omani art, both of which blend well with the modernity that manifests itself as the most up-to-date tech bundle there is. And with terraces adorning each of the suites, a view of the Gulf of Oman or the towering Al Hajar Mountains is never far away to calm my senses.
And speaking of calmed senses, there is perhaps nowhere better to find them at The Chedi Muscat than the resort’s otherworldly pool and spa facilities. Home to one of the longest pools in the Middle East at 103 metres, The Chedi Muscat’s infinity pools, of which two run right up to the edge of its private beach, offer visitors a tranquil escape from the desert heat that can easily reach scorching. But what to wear in the Middle East while sunbathing? That’s entirely up to you. Because, as a country itself, Oman is quite relaxed in that regard, and has no laws requiring women to wear headscarves or anything of the like so long as both men and women are reasonably dressed in public spaces. As such, fashionable women and svelte sunglass-toting men often call poolside home at The Chedi Muscat’s Chedi Pool, both a pool and restaurant that lines the beach, and can regularly be seen sipping drinks while bronzing under the desert sun.
Though when a day in the sun is too much to handle, as I’ve found out can be quite common, make your way to Muscat’s largest wellness facility at The Spa at The Chedi Muscat (1,500 square metres total of spa and health club). The creation of which was overseen by GHM spa maven Brenda Ramen, the spa here too elicits the Middle East in both form and function with an Omani interior and an individualised line of Omani-influenced essential oils. With 13 individual treatment rooms that feature top of the line ‘Living Earth Crafts’ massage beds, a bathroom, and a massive central shower, and a spa lounge that overlooks the Gulf of Oman (a great place to catch the sunset indoors), this aromatic escape from the heat serves up a lengthy list of treatments that are sure to leave you simmering.
A city undergoing a subdued revolution, Muscat is soon to leave the territory of un-trampled retreat, and for me, I’m just happy I got in before it did. A city toeing the line between opulence and tradition, The Chedi Muscat is a perfect microcosm.
In my time at The Chedi Muscat, however, it was the staff who stole the show. Headed by general manager Morton Johnston, the diverse staff – ranging from predominantly Oman to India, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East – at The Chedi Muscat never failed to make me feel at home. Whether it was taking me to the Muttrah Souk without notice, driving me down the coastline to show off the severely underrated coast of Oman’s capital, going out for shisha with me at Muscat’s famed Kargeen, or even just delivering handmade chocolates in the evening with a smile in the scorching heat, the staff here knows how to deliver world-class quality, and I find that it is always this that truly makes a stay. And while The Chedi Muscat has got more than enough in the way of facilities to catapult itself atop the Middle Eastern hospitality world, it is the staff which truly does so in this Middle Eastern gem.
The Chedi Muscat has done much for me to change my perception not only of what the Middle East is, but of what Muscat more specifically is. A city undergoing a subdued revolution, Muscat is soon to leave the territory of un-trampled retreat, and for me, I’m just happy I got in before it did. A city toeing the line between opulence and tradition, The Chedi Muscat is a perfectly decorated microcosm. And while a trip to Kargeen will fill you up with sites of young Omanis liberally dressed sitting across from dishdasha-clad members of wealthy Omani clans puffing away on the intricately designed shishas, the smoke isn’t hiding the fact that Muscat is developing in the right way. They aren’t spending billions developing a mirage as many of their Middle Eastern neighbours have done and are continuing to do, they are spending to cultivate an oasis, and The Chedi Muscat is just that.
(Featured image: The Chedi Muscat features an award-winning 1,500-metre spa facility, on left, alongside its 103-metre pool, one of the longest in the Middle East – both of which overlook the Gulf of Oman.)