Oman: Living High at the Beach

Apero hour under palm trees, their trunks wrapped in golden lights. Reflections dancing in adjacent pools. Guests lounging in comfy sofas and chairs on an elegant, marble-floored courtyard. Multi-lingual, attentive waiters serving drinks and tasty snacks. It was impressive, pure posh.

As we soaked in the classy ambience at the Shangri-La Al Husn Resort, conversation turned to past travels. “I liked those places we went to where the roads were not paved,” Bob said. We have had many exciting adventures to third world countries where, not only are the roads not paved, but sometimes the electricity fails, hot water is non existent. We reminisced about some of our favorites: Trekking through the sand with only a flashlight to guide us through the blackness, dodging ruts and driftwood branches, to a tiny, primitive beach shack in Myanmar where the fresh fish was fabulous and the family proprietors became our friends; Riding ancient, rickety bikes through back roads of Senegal, following Abou, our congenial bicycle guide, who invited us to his wedding, a colorful, spirited event deep in the boon docks; Ducking out of our lakeside tent in Kenya for a middle-of-the night trek to the toilet on the other side of a field when a guide’s spotlight shone on a bloat (group) of hippos heading in our direction.

We saw lots of goats in Oman, including artistic versions at Al Husn.

So, what were we doing in this 5* plus beach resort in Oman? It was our last hurrah, a final fling. We knew that with advancing age and medical issues, those adventures we cherish were no longer feasible. Bob was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago. Arthritis is taking its toll on my aging body. We decided to treat ourselves to a first class voyage. (We traveled in January. The trip was booked long before Covid 19 changed the world. )

Bob tests the waters. Al Husn hotel in the background.

Everything about our two-week trip was ultra – except airfare. That was, per usual, economy with extra leg room seats. 

The Shangri-La Al Husn Resort and Spa is about a half hour from the new, state-of-the-art airport of Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman. The resort is part of a complex of three hotels. Our hotel, the priciest, was built atop a beachside cliff.

We booked half board at Al Husn. The all-inclusive price was expensive, but with all the over-the-top amenities, seemed reasonable.

Al Husn with the infinity pool and the Gulf of Oman
Our spacious room’s fruit basket was refilled daily. There was no extra charge for drinks, including beer and wine, and snacks from the mini bar. We rarely indulged as copious food and beverages were offered throughout the day.


Starting with breakfast: Mind boggling. Several rooms brimming with all manner of buffet selections to suit the tastes and customs of numerous nationalities, from Asian favorites, to smoked fish to sausage and eggs. The array of fresh fruit was gorgeous and intriguing – things I had never seen before.

There was also a breakfast menu, which, in addition to standard selections (scrambled eggs, pancakes etc.) featured specials that changed daily. I tried a different one each day. During breakfast a waiter or waitress came to offer the smoothie of the day, not to mention coffee refills.

No need for lunch after that, especially since breakfast continued until 11 a.m. You could linger on the terrace and enjoy sea and cliff views.

The private beach for Al Husn is small, nestled between the walls of cliffs.

More pampering at the pool or beach. As you arrive, an attendant greets you and leads you to a lounge chair, presenting you with, not just towels, but a mini cooler filled with bottled water, fruit juice and a refreshing facial spray. The lounge cushions are extra thick. Some of the lounges are king bed size. In the afternoon about 3 p.m., an attendant strolls by offering sherbet, featuring the flavor of the day – strawberry, mango, banana…

Bob found a poolside hideaway.

Since our hotel was atop a cliff, its beach, a walk down a pathway, was small, however, its infinity pool was huge. And, we could use the wide sandy beach of the adjacent hotels along the shore

High tea treats.

Not long after the sherbet pause, it’s time for a British break, high tea. Oman was a British Protectorate from 1891 – 1951. Tea (you can opt for coffee) is served from 3:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. on the same restaurant terrace as breakfast with the photo-perfect views. This time a waiter arrives at the table with a glass case enclosing three savory and three sweet treats. They were different every day, and  we ate them all.

No time to work up an appetite for the aperitif snacks. Apero hour is from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Fortunately the snacks are petite, but delicious. Music is normally featured during the apero hour, but in honor of the recent death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, who ruled the country for almost 50 years, music was banned in the country for 40 days. Even with music, Al Husn would be quiet.  No children are permitted at this hotel.

Cliffs at sunset.

Among the three hotels, we had our choice of six restaurants. Our package included dinner and wine at a buffet restaurant with amazing selections. We dined there a few times, but also tried the others: Italian, seafood, international, Moroccan and Middle Eastern. At these, we had had a budget of 25 rial ($65) per person. We had to pay for exceeding the limit which we often did. We like wine – very costly in Oman. A glass was about $19.50. But, hey, this was our splurge trip, and we did limit ourselves to one glass each.

Arabia influences the interior of Al Husn.

Al Husn means castle. We indeed felt like royalty during the 10 days we spent in this luxurious ambience. At times it seemed too much.   Yet, we enjoyed the serenity, the beautiful surroundings—not to mention all those amenities.

The complex of three hotels has 640 rooms, 180 of which belong to Al Husn. The staff, from 800 to 1,000 employees depending on season, represent 44 different nationalities.

Yes, it was a major splurge, but every penny well spent. As my wonderful husband often says, “You can’t take it with you.”  Covid aside, this was our last big trip and a perfect finale.

Orchids in the lobby at Al Husn
For more on Oman, use the search option above right for Oman.  There are three posts:  Oman’s Mighty Mountains, Oman: Luxury in the Desert and Introducing Awesome Oman.  Still more to come — Muscat, the fascinating capital.  If you want to know more about Senegal or Myanmar, do a search on those countries. I wrote several posts on each.

Today’s Taste, upper right,  features a refreshing summer salad, Cucumbers in Sour Cream Dill Sauce.  Click on photo for recipe and scroll down for more recipes.

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Oman’s Mighty Mountains

IMG_6620The view was breathtaking. Wisps of clouds drifted in a gigantic canyon sliced through walls of jagged rock. We had paid extra for this room with a view at Oman’s Al Jabal Al Akhdar resort. It was worth the expense. During our three-day stay at this mountain retreat, I was seduced by the dramatic, ever-changing view. I took far too many photos

IMG_7019Oman’s mountains are not like mountains I have known. These craggy, rugged walls of rock in all shades of brown are intimidating. No wonder they are popular with extreme adventure seekers.


Our resort offers “the ultimate Jabal Activity Wall: Use your hands and a series of strategically placed metal steps to trace your way along the vertical rock face before navigating jagged rock formations, ladders and vertical stairs. Below a vast canyon plunges to 1,000 meters at its deepest point, providing you with a front row seat as you soak in the peaceful silence.” At the end of the climb, you zip line, “fly through the air for the ultimate adrenaline rush.”

Maybe, only maybe, back in my much younger, wild and crazy days, I would have attempted this challenge. During our January visit, I was happy to soak in the peaceful silence from our room’s balcony. Just pondering that canyon gave me an adrenaline rush.

Native plants and herbs surround the resort buildings,

The Al Jabal Al Akhdar perched at above 2,000 meters in the Al Hajar mountain range is supposedly the second highest elevation resort in Arabia. In addition to the above IMG_6670adventure, all types of mountain hikes are available in the area. Most were beyond us. However, we did set out on a hike rated “easy,” only to turn back after about an hour. The trails, like the surroundings, are rocky. There are sections of steps, uneven, sometimes broken. We stopped at a clearing for photos. Two women with a guide were there. One of the women, far younger and no doubt fitter than I, fell. This made me nervous, nonetheless we continued on a bit until we came to a fairly steep descent which led to a dry creek bed – more rocks of all sizes. The trail on the other side climbed to an ancient village. We decided the view of the village from afar was enough.


The hike did offer more outstanding views of distant mountainside villages and terraced slopes. Jabal Akhdar is known as “Green Mountain.” Native trees and herbs once thrived in lofty orchards there thanks to the falaj irrigation system, rivulets coming from a stone cistern at the top of the mountain. Climate change has meant much less rain during the past ten years. Many of the terraces are barren of crops. Instead of pears walnuts, apricots, peaches, plums, figs, and apples, farmers are now planting olive trees which require much less water. A pipeline carrying desalinated seawater up the mountains is beginning to allow farmers to cultivate the terraces with other crops once again.


I planned our trip so that we could be in the mountains on a Friday and attend the weekly goat market in Nizwa, Oman’s old capital. It was wonderful, although there seemed to be as many tourists with cameras as farmers selling goats.


The vendors touted the merits of their beasts. Prospective buyers checked out the animals and did some serious price negotiating. Everyone took photos. The goats, many gorgeous varieties and mothers with babies, were irresistible. IMG_6734

Guide/driver Lotfi led us to Nizwa’s souk where we learned all about dates. Some 250 varieties of date palm are cultivated in Oman, and at least 12 different kinds of dates. We tasted several.

The ginger and cinnamon dates were my favorites.

Handmade Omani daggers are the de rigueur Oman souvenir, but not for us. At a shop in the souk, I found some interesting old silver jewelry – not from Oman, but Afghanistan. – my souvenir.

Date palms thrive in Oman,

From the mid 8th to the mid 12th century, Nizwa served intermittently as the country’s capital for a succession of Imams. The Nizwa fort, a citadel of monumental proportions, provided a safe haven in dangerous times. Dark and narrow passageways lead to the citadel. During a visit, we learned about the ingenuous traps to catch invaders off guard. Planks were placed on stairs over deep, gaping pits, many filled with hot oil. When the intruder alarm was sounded, the planks were removed.

Nizwa Fort

Salim was our trusty driver for our thrilling off-road adventure from the mountains to the coast. He negotiated narrow, rutted, dirt roads on the edges of vast precipices in the midst of jaw-dropping scenery. I kept wanting him to stop so I could take more photos. It was too risky. Occasionally an oncoming vehicle approached. This was another adrenaline rush. It looked impossible, but Salim skillfully maneuvered the Toyota 4WD and kept us from plunging off the edge.

IMG_7078During the long drive, we talked – about his life, family, job and more. He taught me lots about the way of life in Oman and Islam. (see previous post, “Introducing Awesome Oman” ) The religion has been given a bad rap in many parts of the world.  I gained respect and a better understanding of Islam thanks to Salim.

Salim and Bob

Our Oman trip began and ended at the beach.  I’ll write about that soon, as well as the capital city, Muscat.  Stay tuned.  If not a Tales and Travel follower, please sign up, upper right.  Your address is kept private and never shared.

I added a new recipe for Today’s Taste:  Smashed Carrots with Feta and Mint. See Today’s Taste 

Keep scrolling for more photos.



Infinity pool at Al Jabal.  The viewing platform marks Diana’s Point where the Princess of Wales and Prince Charles spent six hours on a day trip in 1986.






During a refreshment stop with Lotfi, we followed his recommendation and tried a refreshing drink: lemon juice with lots of mint and crushed ice. I will make a batch soon. Delicious




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