Al Bustan Palace, Muscat
There are plenty of hotels and resorts around the world you can say are 'fit for a king' but in the case of Al Bustan Palace in Muscat, there's no hyperbole involved. That's because it was originally built for Oman's Sultan Qaboos in the 1980s to welcome dignitaries and heads of state and since then, it has become a luxury resort under the Ritz-Carlton brand and continued offering that palatial level of service to all its guests.
If you had any doubts the royal stamp may have faded over the years, all you need to do is lay eyes on its jaw-dropping lobby. Its 38m-high atrium (the tallest in the country and a third of the Eiffel Tower's height) is cathedral-like in its size, coated in marble and with wafts of oud drifting through the air. To top it off, a sparkling crystal chandelier hangs elegantly from its centre.
The Al Bustan Palace's lobby is just the start. The regal themes continue, from the teal, silver, mahogany and marble used to bedeck the rooms to high tea served each afternoon and a Six Senses Spa that offers 24-carat gold facials. And, just like a palace should, it has areas only the Sultan can go: not even the resort's manager has a key to the ninth floor, which is exclusively reserved for Oman's ruler.
Even the beach, spectacularly hemmed in between the Al Hajar Mountains and the Gulf of Oman, is one of the best in Muscat. No expense has been spared and it really feels like the wealth of Arabian art, culture and landscapes are looking their opulent best. At the Al Bustan Palace, everything that glitters really is gold.
Al Bustan Palace
Staying somewhere that's palace by name and palace by nature, you'd expect an ultra-comfortable stay and that's exactly what you'll enjoy at Al Bustan Palace.
Spread across three wings and eight floors, all of the rooms and suites fuse traditional Arabian decor with art deco influences, with a regal colour palette of teal, silver and white the canvas for a sumptuous setting. Arabian art adorns the walls and shelves, while a thoughtfully placed writing desk means you can write your own Arabian tales – we're sure your creative juices won't have trouble flowing among this breathtaking location. The bathrooms themselves are unashamedly covered in marble and complemented with fresh flowers and Asprey London toiletries.
The smaller rooms are far lighter and airy in their colour scheme, while the larger suites have mahogany furniture and door frames for an added palatial aura. Depending on where your room or suite is situated, you'll also have a balcony overlooking the resort's emerald gardens, the Al Hajar Mountains or sparkling Gulf of Oman. Some of the ground-floor rooms are accompanied by a terrace with direct access to the resort's lagoon pools.
As you'd expect at Al Bustan Palace, the four restaurants all deliver cuisine of royal proportions.
The Beach Pavilion Bar & Grill arguably has the most atmospheric setting overlooking the cream-coloured sands and glittering Gulf of Oman from its beachfront deck. The sunsets which accompany the excellent seafood on offer are very special.
China Mood is like dining in the Orient of yesteryear, where age-old rituals and lazy Susan-style tables whip up regional favourites like Beijing duck and Yangzhou-style fried rice. The setting, with its dark wood-panelled walls and warm colours, is also an elegant throwback to the China of old.
For a luxury take on all-day dining, the Al Khiran Kitchen is an indulgent showcase of flavours around the world. The breakfast buffet is the highlight and the best way to start your day, with its live cooking stations, eggs to order, breads, cold cuts, fruit juices and plenty more. Turkuaz serves up fine Turkish cuisine in an elegant lounge setting, with turquoise splashes throughout the decor.
For a more relaxing affair, Blu is an open-air bar sandwiched between the beach and the resort's main pool. Light meals such as crispy hammour burgers, snacks and chilled beverages are served from here and can be enjoyed among the verdant gardens. During the day, The Atrium Tea Lounge serves a splendid daily afternoon tea, where you can treat yourself to a decadent array of sandwiches, scones and mini desserts in the spectacular lobby. At night, the Al Maha Jazz Lounge transports you back to the elegance of the 1920s and '30s with the soulful sounds of its musician-in-residence Abraham Kenner III. You'll hear jazz hits from the likes of Billie Holiday, B.B. King and Ella Fitzgerald as you enjoy a selection of gourmet snacks and drinks.
A stay at Al Bustan Palace isn't all about kicking back and lapping up this regal pad. There is lots to keep you busy, starting with the four lagoon pools and central infinity pool, where you could quite easily while away a few hours.
The resort's water sports centre offers a healthy range of activities, including snorkelling, kayaking, windsurfing and stand-up paddleboarding. Catamaran safaris are great ways for a wider exploration of the Gulf of Oman, too. A jogging trail and four tennis courts add to the sporty options you can engage in on your holiday.
The resort is also a 20-minute drive from central Muscat, a city that's well worth a day or two of your holiday. Experience the sights and scents of Muttrah Souk, be in awe of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (the second largest in the world) see fishermen sell their morning catch at Muttrah's fish market.
The spa at Al Bustan Palace is operated under the Six Senses brand, one that's well known for its wellness expertise. A short buggy ride away and set within what we can only describe as a building inspired by a grand Omani fort, the spa boasts three levels of cave-like treatment rooms. This includes six hammam rooms, ice fountains, saunas, steam rooms and an indulgent roster of rejuvenating treatments. It's a Middle Eastern sanctuary where you'll come out feeling completely reborn.
Where is Al Bustan Palace?
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