[MUSCAT, OMAN] — Thursday afternoons in Muscat are busy traffic days. Like in most Muslim countries, where the “weekend” consists of Friday and Saturday, Thursday is everybody’s Friday afternoon and they’re itching to get home to their families.
I’d arrived after a long but luxurious 13 hour Emirates flight from JFK to Dubai — that after taking a midnight redeye from Denver to JFK and a five hour layover — then, another five hour layover, then a quick forty minute flight into the sparkling clean, gleaming white city of Muscat. I was beat.
I’d only booked this trip two weeks before, so I wasn’t quite as prepared as normal. I was tired, in need of a shower. The hotel had sent a driver, who greeted me with a MR. FOGARTY sign and a smile, dressed in the traditional long dishdasha and Omani cap.
“Traffic this time, very busy. But not long.” he said, probably addressing the dreary look in my eyes… or smell of my body.
We weaved through the many lanes of pokey traffic, crisscrossing lane after lane a dozen or more times, finally pulled off the highway then circled several clogged roundabouts — even exiting one, then did a U-turn back through the same crowded roundabout, missing what would have been an interminable wait to cross traditionally.
“Ahhhhh, good move. You’ve done this before.”
“Yes, many times a day. This way better.”
After doing several more loop-de-loops through crowded streets lined with shops and cafes, with moving white pillars of dishdashas everywhere, we took a sharp right behind some luscious green berms that looked more like a Scottish golf course, not this arid land, then past a muted white brick wall with THE CHEDI carved out of a hunk of wood.
Ahhhh. Finally. We’re here.
Some people have expensive season tickets to sporting events, follow players religiously and keep stats in their head about every minutia. they spend fortunes on tickets to prime events or spend unquestionable sums to get concert tickets to their favorite acts, follow set-lists like baseball stats.
Me? I like hotels. And I follow them all over the world.
I’ve been stalking The Chedi since it kicked off about fifteens years ago — when it was one of the first grand Design Hotels that started a multi-decade trend in hotel design. I intercepted the first article I saw, ripped it out and put it in a crisp new folder titled “OMAN”, soon adding others to the pile, hoping to one day make it there. Years later, I’m now finally on my Dream Trip to Oman, here and a few other All Star hotels.
The Chedi Muscat was was one of the first Design Hotels that started a multi-decade trend in hotel design.
While my tastes have changed since they opened — now, I like smaller, more rustic places in wild locations — this remains in the Hall of Fame of cool design hotels. 21 acres of well-manicured, serene-fountained reflecting pool bliss. A quiet oasis huddled behind a wall of defense against this great white city. And the perfect spot to recoup and relax after 30 hours of traveling.
I really hate football. American football. But this, I like.
If I lived in Europe, this would be the perfect winter getaway. On the stunningly clear and emerald green calm Gulf of Oman, not far from the Equator. With five-seven hour direct flights from most European capitals, or a short hop from Dubai. I’d be here all the time.
For Americans, it’s a bit more arduous. Which, to me, is the attraction. Off the radar. Everything you want. Exotic, yet approachable. Every guide I said I was only their first or second American they’ve seen here. Most guides say tourists are 70% German, followed by the intrepid French, then a distant separation by Italians, English and grab bag of expats from Dubai.
The weather is good year-round in Oman, but best in winter, from November to March. Summers are scorchers, reaching 120+ degrees in July. Come in winter.
When I was posting my trip on Instagram whilst it was going on, most people asked: “Oman? Where is Oman?” Even more so when I got back and told people, they nod knowingly then say “Wait. Oman? Where’s that?” Which is music to my ears…
Let me Google it for you:
As you can see, Muscat sits on the calm seas of the Gulf of Oman.
Here’s where Muscat and The Chedi are. A quick forty minute flight from Dubai, with many direct flights from the London and several other European capitals. They’re about to open a brand new airport which should increase that as tourism becomes a major future part of Oman’s economy. Come here now, before everyone else finds out.
The Chedi is on 21 amazing acres of ocean front. Of course, you can lounge right on the beach of the lazy-lapping sea, but I loved how they created a vast expanse of shadowed lounge areas under the palms. No doubt to keep people away from the intense heat of the summer months. But in winter, can’t think of any better place to be.
CLICK ON THE VIDEO BELOW AND WATCH HOW IT FEELS TO BE HERE:
You gotta get up early to snag one of these prime chairs. My only complaint: it was hard to find an available chair. A sign of how popular this hotel is.
After a 30 hour trip, this looks like heaven.
It’s hard to find a hotel that really gets lighting. The Chedi certainly does. Stunning by day, at night the real details come out. Every square inch of its 21 acres is meticulously lit with dramatic lights, using the reflections from all its pools, fountains and endless pools.
You’ll love walking the shaded grounds during the day, discovering all sorts of nooks and crannies of good design. But at night, everything changes. Endless pools and columns illuminated by up-lights, candles and fires.
At night, everything changes. Endless pools and columns illuminated by up-lights, candles and fires.
This is where you have grilled Omani lobster on the beach — simply called The Beach restaurant. Rated one the best restaurants in Muscat.
A gentle breeze blowing in from the gulf. The quiet twinkling lights of an endless stream of lumbering Emirates 380s disappearing into the blackness.
The whole resort is picketed with those huge flaming firepots and candles and perfect lighting. Everyone’s faces lit like they were eating in a gilt-framed Caravaggio. #lobsterwithasideofchiarascuraplease
When you first check in to The Chedi, they first take you to have a seat in the candle filled lobby tent; no standing at some cold counter. All the stress of the outside world just sloughs away.
First, someone shows up with a chilled wet towel to wash your hands and face, then offers the Omani national drink — a cool glass of lemon juice and mint. You are offered it nearly everywhere as a Welcome Drink.
A kind man comes to check your passport and then whisks you to your room somewhere in the expansive grounds. Before you even get there, your bags are waiting.
They upgraded me to a free-standing suite! Its own building.
We took a speedy golf cart out to the western edge of the property, to THIS. They upgraded me to a gigantic free-standing suite with its own patio. I could live here.
Muscat is easy to get around, super clean and one of the safest cities in the world. The Chedi is an easy 20 minute drive from the airport.
Last visited November 2017
Here’s the booking page on the awesome Mr & Mrs Smith boutique hotel site. And a great overview of The Chedi on Scott Dunn Travel’s really thorough Oman website. And their own website.
A great review on The Chedi in The Telegraph. And a really good followup review in Harper’s Bazaar. And great pictures of The Chedi in Conde Nast Traveler.
Here’s link to a Google Map I made tracing the route I took over my two weeks in Oman. You can bookmark it to use for later. You can also zoom in to check out the incredible satellite maps of Oman’s changing geology.
I used Louise Brooks at Scott Dunn Travel to book my entire trip and she was amazing. They have a fantastic website that has tons of pictures and details and different itineraries for what you’re in the mood for. I wasted a year and a half trying to book through another well-known British travel company and they kept giving the run-around, or forcing me into a fixed two-two-two trip — which would have been a total waste. I swear, I spent half an hour on the phone with Louise Brooks and just got exactly what I wanted, full detailed two week itinerary in half a day. Easiest vacation I ever planned, a full two week trip planned in half a day, bought and then I left the following week! (DM me if you want my agent’s contacts).
Here is Conde Nast Traveller’s Oman Travel page. I think the UK version has a lot more destinations and detail in it than the US version… which just repeats the same 12 travel places every year. And an even better Oman Overview that has tons of stuff I’ve never seen before. Gotta go back!
Here’s a good overview article from the US Conde Nast Traveler on Why You Should Visit Oman, then Gulf’s Undiscovered Gem.
A brief article in Vogue on why you should go to Oman. If Vogue is suggesting it, you know it’s a safe country!
Here are some perfunctory facts and helpful info from Travel & Leisure on How To Travel to Oman.
Lonely Planet’s Guide to Oman. And a short article on 9 Reasons to Visit Oman from CNN Travel.
A terrific collection of articles from The Guardian on Oman. And from The Telegraph Top 10 Reasons to Visit Oman.
Here is the Alila Jabal Akdar’s website. And the Canvas Club Luxury Tents’ website.
And lastly Fodor’s deep guide on Oman.
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