When Sultan Qaboos came to power in the 1970s, Oman was a backward and insular land. Only a handful of visas were granted to visitors every year and there were just 5 kilometres of tarmac road in the entire country.
Signing the contract for the Intercontinental Hotel, to be built by the beach in the 1970s, was a symbol of the Sultan’s vision for the dignified development of sophisticated tourism in Oman.
Muscat has a spacious new state-of-the-art airport, just 15 minutes from the Intercontinental, but Muscat has maintained its charm as a white low-rise city, dotted with minarets, against the red-tinged backdrop of the Hajar mountains. And I’ve yet to experience a traffic jam in Oman’s capital.
Although the beach is public it is one of the Intercontinental’s major attractions. Firm, white sands gently slope down into the warm waters of the Sea of Oman. You can walk for miles along Muscat’s gentle shoreline.
The Intercontinental is ideally positioned for exploring. Take a taxi to Muttrah and its Souk, on the beautiful crescent that is Muscat’s harbour, to haggle for pashminas, carpets, antiques and spices.
Almost equidistant north-east is the spectacular Sultan Qaboos Mosque with its golden dome, minarets and lush green gardens. Before you travel to Oman, check the programme of events for the Royal Opera House, recently its events have ranged from Cliff Richard through jazz to Puccini. The ROH rises like a vast white-stoned fort, with a slight blush of pink. It is a breath-taking architectural creation.
Built in the 1970s the Intercontinental Hotel is set in 35 acres of mature grounds where you can always find a quite spot to soak up the sun and watch the green parakeets flash between the trees. A lagoon-style pool and is tributaries meander through the grounds.
Not all of the Hotel’s guests travel from afar. At the heart of the Diplomatic District, the Hotel’s beach-club, gym, spa, tennis court and Friday brunch pull-in the local community. They linger-on to eat at Tomato a pool-side Italian restaurant, at Takara for Japanese cuisine or enjoy some classic pub-grub at an English style Public House. On top of those there’s Polynesian cuisine at Trader Vic’s and huge variety at the Musandam buffet restaurant.
Visit the Concierge and he will explain the range of excursions available beyond Muscat. You can board a boat to go dolphin and whale watching. Clamber into a 4 x 4 vehicle to explore the sand dunes of the desert or go wadi-bashing. Another day trip on offer is to the ancient capital of Nizwa, then onto Jebel Shams towering mountain and Oman’s version of the Grand Canyon.
Of course, Oman can become excessively hot from May through to September, but it stays pleasantly warm during “winter”. Taking that Christmas Day or New Year Day dip in the Sea of Oman is a pleasure rather than a masochistic ritual.
Learn more about the Intercontinental Muscat.Last modified: June 10, 2021