The drive from Salalah’s relatively new airport to Rotana’s waterfront resort takes about 45-minutes. The 20-kilometre journey is what’s intriguing. For city dwellers like myself, being in an open space is unnerving. Unnatural even.
I say this because as I looked out of the window during that drive – pretending I was in a music video with my head resting on the glass – I saw a total of three other cars. The landscape beyond the road was empty with desert sands turning into mountains. On the few occasions I saw any semblance of life, it was merely little mini-marts and row houses no more than a storey high, some of which were still being built.
The five-star Salalah Rotana Resort is set on a long, palm-fringed beach in the southern province of Dhofar, famous for its summer monsoon, tropical fruit plantations and ancient frankincense trade. No need to do a double take, you read that right. At a time when the rest of the GCC is practically marinating in July-August temperatures, Salalah is shockingly green with its Khareef monsoons.
A freshwater lagoon separates the resort from the rest of the land, giving it that island-like feel. It’s the resort’s way of telling you that once you enter, you’re quite literally separated from the rest of the world. The driveway itself feels like the courtyard of an Arab palace. Just before you enter the lobby, you cross a Hamam-like subtlety lit pool that throws shimmering reflections on the sand-coloured walls. Tranquil.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that I had a tiring journey – after all, it’s only a one-hour flight from Dubai to Salalah – but I’d like to think that I deserved the ocean front suite. If for nothing else, then to fall asleep to the sound of the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean.
Each of the 400 rooms at the Salalah Rotana is located on lagoons. An elaborate network of manmade Venetian waterways connects the property to the Indian Ocean. The rooms themselves feature high ceilings, internally-lit handmade red clay domes and decorative Mashrabiya latticework windows. The biggest throwback to the yesteryears, if you will, is the furniture that is carved from desert rock and is one with the room. Sidenote: stubbing your toe is going to hurt a whole lot more.
From the Silk Road Restaurant to The Beach Restaurant, dining venues are so varied and satisfying that one really never needs to leave the property. Although should you have the inclination to step out of what we can only presume to be a version of heaven, we suggest you make the trip to Mughsail Beach and the UNESCO World Heritage Site called Land of Frankincense.
The land of Frankincense because there’s a lot to learn here. The second largest country in the Middle East, Oman is thought to be the ancient civilisation of Majan. The history of the Sultanate can be traced back to 12,000BC. When you stop to think about the fact that Salalah is responsible for producing the best frankincense in the world, it could make you theorise that maybe one of the Three Wise Men were from here.
Mughsail Beach because in the Middle East, we love talking about the turquoise waters and white sands that Maldives and Seychelles have to offer. We tend to not pay attention to things closer to home. Take a look at that picture of the beach and tell us it isn’t on your wishlist of places to visit. Go there before it becomes mainstream.