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How a two-in-one getaway to Oman and Dubai gives you the best possible of the Middle East

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Swinging from a hammock above a glistening Arabian sea on our own private raft, complete with double sunbed and spectacular views, my wife and I agreed, there was just one thing missing. 

Then, as if by magic, a transparent kayak got here paddling towards us bearing a beaming barman balancing a tray and two large cocktails.

Jumeirah Muscat Bay, Oman, the latest jewel within the crown of Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts, boasts ‘exceptional experiences’ for guests – they actually delivered for us. I’d requested the drinks via a Whatsapp message – but had no idea my request could be executed in such style.

Our afternoon floating just just a few hundred yards from the beach, within the tranquil cove of Bandar Jissah, felt ridiculously exclusive and opulent. 

Ian Walker stayed on the newly opened Jumeirah Muscat Bay in Oman, a hotel that is ‘awash with understated luxury’

We drew the road at having lunch paddled out to us, however the young and enthusiastic team made it clear that there could be very little off the table with regards to fulfilling guest requests.

Not for nothing is Oman generally known as the pearl of Arabia. With 2,000 miles of coastline it offers visitors spectacular scenery. An aquamarine sea shimmers below jagged mountain ranges along coastal roads, while urban areas radiate a serene orderliness with low-rise architecture, white-washed buildings and punctiliously tended carpets of lilac flowers covering the central reservations of dual carriageways. 

The oldest independent Arab state, Oman is steeped in culture, tradition and history, much of it interwoven with a substance over again worthwhile than gold. For hundreds of years the frankincense trade brought prosperity to parts of Oman, long before oil transformed Arabia.

Frankincense is produced from the resin of the Boswellia sacra and the Boswellia papyrifera trees, and Oman is certainly one of the few countries where they grow naturally of their desert habitat, producing the best quality incense on the earth. 

'Oman [is] known as the pearl of Arabia,' says Ian. Above is the pretty fishing village of Qantab, which lies near Jumeirah Muscat Bay

‘Oman [is] generally known as the pearl of Arabia,’ says Ian. Above is the gorgeous fishing village of Qantab, which lies near Jumeirah Muscat Bay

Muscat Bay had not had its official opening after we visited in October, however the elegant Talise spa set across two floors – one for men, one for girls – with eight light-filled, ocean-view treatment rooms and two for couples, was fully operational and upholding tradition by utilizing the best frankincense in addition to locally sourced and sustainable products.

Ancient Egyptians dubbed this precious oil ‘the sweat of the Gods’. After experiencing a couples deep tissue massage by expert therapists Budi and Gladys, with the ethereal scent pervading the air, it is easy to know why.

The hotel, awash with understated luxury, makes probably the most of the bay’s natural landscape, using the prevailing rock slope to form several split levels starting at reception, where creamy marble and an enormous wall of glass leave undiluted the impact of a magnetic azure cove with a pale gold beach, framed by sunbleached crags of the Al Hajar mountains.

All 206 rooms and suites have ocean views – splash out and you’ll be able to commandeer a surprising villa with a personal pool, butler service and access to a personal beach.

The oldest independent Arab state, Oman is steeped in culture, tradition and history much of it interwoven with a substance over again worthwhile than gold. For hundreds of years the Frankincense trade brought prosperity to parts of Oman, long before oil transformed Arabia 

Food is all the time a giant deal at Jumeirah and Muscat Bay isn’t any exception. Brezza, is the latest of 5 restaurants on site and opened shortly after our stay but we did get a sneak preview of its prime sixth-floor location and stunning roof terrace. 

It offers revolutionary seafood dishes and signature cocktails to enjoy while drinking in views of the dramatic coastline below.

Fortunately, the 4 eateries that were open, presided over by Sicilian chef Claudio Dieli, had their very own distinct style and equally inviting menus.

Peridot, named after the gemstone present in the serpentine rock formations of Oman, is the most important restaurant, with high ceilings, imposing bifold glass doors and an International ‘live’ kitchen. Breakfast here’s a lavish buffet or a la carte. Dishes cover all bases, from Indian and Thai, mezze, pasta, steak, burgers and pizza, to whole lobsters and native seabream. Our standout favourites were the tangy shrimp and mango salad and the spicy tuna and tiger prawn maki rolls. Tables on the small terrace are the most well-liked with the primary pool and bay beyond forming a striking backdrop.

Zuka, perched on the tip of a covered timber pier is the place for lunch with a laid-back beach cafe vibe and a menu including salads, pizza, chicken and chips, and tuna steak.

Nachos with fresh guacamole and the dinky beef sliders with pickled zucchini, tomatoes, melted cheese and a glass of Italian rose, while watching the waves crash onto the golden sands below was a tough lunch to beat anywhere on the earth. 

Anzo, more a bar than a restaurant, is ideal for a late supper a deux. It nestles on the fifth floor, an adults-only cocoon of squashy velvet seats, low tables and cosy corners. 

All luxurious 206 rooms and suites at Jumeirah Muscat Bay have ocean views

Small candle-lit tables on the balcony with twinkling lights reflecting off the pools and sea beneath lend a romantic touch to the evening and enhance any selection from the impressive wine and cocktail list. Food is Asian tapas style, with steamed edamame with Maldon salt and shichimi, and Korean fried chicken bao with cucumber and pickled ginger, being delicious decisions.

For anyone craving a snack or a high tea, Tarini is a spacious lounge and terrace just off the primary lobby, sharing the jaw-dropping view of the turquoise bay and sharp sandy mountains that greets recent arrivals through double-height floor-to-ceiling glass. We only sampled the superb coffee, however the savouries and pastries on show were a murals.

Our trip was a transient three nights – hardly time to do justice to the wealth of activities on offer, including tennis, cycling, climbing, boating, diving and water sports, in addition to just a few more original pastimes akin to glass-bottom kayaking, paddle boarding and plenty of types of yoga.

Complete yoga novices, but open to recent experiences, we tried a session of sound yoga with instructor Seema, who uses Tibetan singing bowls and her extraordinarily sonorous voice to help leisure and help relieve stress and anxiety. 

Lying still and following Seema’s voice, while attempting not to consider work/family/football or some other of 1,000,000 worries that recurrently fill my head, did seem a little bit alien, especially when small circular metal bowls were also strategically balanced on different parts of our bodies after which hit to make a resonant sound. I do not know how or why it worked, however the hour flew by and it left each my wife and I feeling incredibly rested.

Ian dined on dinky beef sliders while watching the waves crash onto the golden sands below at Jumeirah Muscat Bay's Zuka restaurant (above)

Ian dined on dinky beef sliders while watching the waves crash onto the golden sands below at Jumeirah Muscat Bay’s Zuka restaurant (above)

The kayak cocktail delivery service at Jumeirah Muscat Bay

The kayak cocktail delivery service at Jumeirah Muscat Bay

That feeling of serenity was enhanced by a wonderful boat trip that cemented our appreciation for the natural great thing about Oman. 

Inside quarter-hour, keen-eyed captain Yusef and first mate Eamonn had spotted a big sea snake. Suddenly they cut the engine and the ocean around us appeared to boil. It was alive with a superpod of at the very least 100 thrashing, leaping, playful dolphins so far as the attention could see. Young and mature dolphins swam and jumped alongside the boat seemingly unconcerned by our presence. 

We watched in awed silence before sliding away to drink within the sights of hidden coves and bays. We dropped anchor to snorkel within the crystal waters of a sheltered inlet, home to corals, a large number of vibrant fish and were amazed when two turtles swam inside inches of us.

This resort is the last word ‘chill pill’ of destinations and yet only a four-hour drive or a 70-minute flight away, is certainly one of the world’s biggest ‘adrenaline shot’ destinations.

Dubai is every little thing Oman is just not and would never wish to be, but combining each makes for an incredible two-centre vacation.

Huge shiny skyscrapers compete in a race to achieve the clouds, the thrill of commerce, cars and other people is in every single place. Designer boutiques, modern souks, gigantic aquariums in the midst of shopping malls, dune bashing, jetpacking, hoverboarding, Dubai has all of it. 

'Dubai is everything Oman is not and would never want to be, but combining both makes for an incredible two-centre vacation,' says Ian. He stayed in Dubai's Jumeirah Al Naseem, the newest of hotels at the huge Jumeirah Beach complex

‘Dubai is every little thing Oman is just not and would never wish to be, but combining each makes for an incredible two-centre vacation,’ says Ian. He stayed in Dubai’s Jumeirah Al Naseem, the latest of hotels at the massive Jumeirah Beach complex

Service is slick, quick and on a decent schedule at Jumeirah Al Naseem.

Occupancy was at over 90 per cent however the high ceilings and generous proportions of terraces, patios and lounge areas mean there isn’t any lack of private space. Service on the adult pool is impeccable with a superb bar and no shortage of sun loungers. 

There are 430 rooms at this the latest of hotels at the massive Jumeirah Beach complex. It opened in 2016, but is as spick and span as if it were last month. Creams, golds, blonde wood, floaty ceiling drapes, spa-quality bathrooms and toiletries and spacious rooms, many with balconies with a view of the long-lasting Burj Al Arab, complete the very handsome picture. 

The eye to detail this level of maintenance, repair and renewal requires is mind-boggling, however it is repeated at Arabian-summer-house-themed Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf, where we spend an evening, and throughout the resort facilities.

We last visited the complex three years ago after a comprehensive 18-month overhaul of Jumeirah’s food and beverage outlets by former global head of the Michelin Guides, Michael Eliis. 

Star chefs joined and every little thing from service to cocktail ingredients was forensically examined and improved. Ellis moved on in February 2021 and we were keen to see if the high standards remained.

Many rooms at Jumeirah Al Naseem offer a view of the iconic Burj Al Arab

Many rooms at Jumeirah Al Naseem offer a view of the long-lasting Burj Al Arab 

Al Naseem has eight restaurants, cafes and bars. Rockfish, certainly one of its hottest eateries, has a beachfront setting with al fresco bar and for dinner a ring-side view of the Burj in all its technicolour glory. It was a busy weekend with every table full, but the atmosphere and repair were on point.

Old favourites remained, but with recent twists. Yellowfin tuna with black garlic and mandarin and sea bass with pickled tomatoes and basil were beautifully executed, while spicy tuna tartare saffron arancini tasted as punchy and moreish as ever. The lobster risotto and tagliolini alle vongole with clam and razor clam emulsion were skillfully done and the wine list was detailed enough to satisfy most connoisseurs, with knowledgeable staff available to advise if asked. 

Seafood is the apparent selection here but wagyu beef and Angus tenderloin also make an appearance for committed carnivores. For dessert the tarte tatin – mouthwatering caramelised apple, served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream – was an ideal staff advice. 

Kayto serves Nikkei cuisine, which is Japanese-Peruvian fusion, and was only a pop-up restaurant on our last visit, serving small plates of exciting and surprising flavours. 

Nevertheless, it became so popular that it became a everlasting venue with a generous outdoor terrace and plush interior with floor-to-ceiling windows, great views and a strikingly impressive dark wood bar taking centre stage in the midst of the dining room, from that are distributed truly divine cocktails. The food is healthier than we remember, with chef Cristian Goya having grown into his role on the helm. 

From tuna sashimi salad to spicy tuna tartare, his touch elevates dishes to being exceptional – and his chocolate lava cake with rice ice cream was obscenely good.

Al Nafoorah, offering Lebanese cuisine, was recent to us. Set on the grounds of the neighbouring Jumeirah Al Qasr the inside is palatial with ornate picket carved arches and opulent drapes.

Above is the courtyard in the Arabian-summer-house-themed Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf hotel, where Ian spent a night

Above is the courtyard within the Arabian-summer-house-themed Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf hotel, where Ian spent an evening

The service was attentive and helpful with excellent mezze recommendations. Moutabel, grilled aubergine, with tahini sauce and pomegranate; lubia bil zaite, tender green beans, tomato sauce, garlic and onions in olive oil; cheese rakakat, Akawi cheese wrapped in filo pastry; meat sambousek, pastry stuffed with minced lamb and pine seeds, were all dishes we enjoyed.

Breakfasts were on the gorgeous terrace of the Palmery, which was certainly one of the few times the hotel felt busy, although there was still loads of selection from the breakfast buffet in addition to efficient table service. 

The gym was superbly equipped and an ideal place to work off the additional calories and the Talise Spa massage therapists are at the highest of their game. Treatment rooms are darkened cocoons of bliss where guests pause and recharge. 

One other great option to take a breather is to rise 50 floors above it and step into the nice and cozy opaline waters of Aura, the world’s highest 360-degree infinity pool at Palm Tower. The drama of Dubai stretches out on every side with awe-inspiring views of the Palm archipelago and each landmark for miles.

Back at ground level and lunch at Zheng He’s, named after a famous Chinese explorer and serving modern Cantonese fare, is as serene as Dubai gets. Sumptuous velvet and brocade seats look onto jade waterways where water taxi abras glide, while dynasty prawns, dim sum, and sago pearls with fresh mango create culinary highlights.

A beautiful tiled bathroom at the Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf. During his stay, Ian tried out the 'excellent' restaurants in the surrounding Madinat Jumeirah complex

A phenomenal tiled bathroom on the Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf. During his stay, Ian tried out the ‘excellent’ restaurants in the encircling Madinat Jumeirah complex 

A more moderen dining addition is the upscale Italian, Pierchic. Pretty terrace tables positioned at the tip of the private pier give a spectacular view of the Burj and the moonlit sea beyond at this most romantic of restaurants.

Chef Beatrice Segoni offers a ‘Nelle Mani Di Beatrice’ – in Beatrice’s hands – six-course tasting menu. Courses are tantalising morsels – yellowtail tartare with marinated cherry and quinoa and a deceptively easy ravioli del plin, with cognac, jus and parmesan cheese, were massive hits together with a silken, dark chocolate pralinato al cioccolato. A passion fruit cocktail with champagne foam sounds gimmicky, but was a liquid sherbet delight.

In our absence, it seems the extent of culinary consistency and particularly service at restaurants we tried has not only been maintained, but improved. Such a powerful achievement comes at a price. 

Jumeirah’s Dubai resorts are unapologetically positioned in the highest price bracket and yet they’re continuously expanding and their largest percentage of guests by country are from the UK.

Their latest five-star Dubai beach hotel, Jumeirah Marsa Al Arab, with over 400 rooms, suites and apartments, opens in 2023. It seems there remains to be some option to go before the world’s appetite for this most extraordinary of Gulf states is sated.

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