Beyond the beeline for visas and immigration checks at the recently opened Salalah International Airport, lies a city that is both welcoming and unhurried. The second-largest city in Oman, Salalah transforms itself into a tropical paradise between June and September as the rains come pouring down and holidaymakers soon follow. The Khareef season welcomes guests from around the region and European countries, who fly in to marvel at the green mountains, seasonal fresh water springs and ancient frankincense trees.
With great expectations, we headed out of the airport towards Salalah Rotana Resort, our home for the weekend. After a relaxing half-an-hour ride into the dusk, we arrived at a serene, calm breakaway for the senses for anyone residing in a bustling city – not too far so as to become a tedious journey, yet not too close, making it a special treat.
All of the waterfront resort’s 400 rooms and suites are built around waterways, seamlessly fusing Rotana’s five-star service with traditional Omani hospitality. With four restaurants, the resort offers the perfect mélange of East-meets-West hospitality while its four fully equipped meeting rooms, Grand Ballroom and Business Centre makes it the perfect destination for both leisure and business travellers.
The 95 sqm Premium Ocean Front Suite, complete with luxury amenities of freshly squeezed juice, chilled white grape beverage and hand-crafted chocolates, turned out to be true to its name. Come morning, we realised just how close to the ocean we were when we stepped out onto the balcony for coffee. A large living room and two bathrooms are also part of the suite, as are tea and coffee making facilities, a daily turndown service, two LCD televisions and more.
With relaxation being the most important activity on our agenda, we were able to spend a lot of time in each of the hotel’s food and beverage outlets. Saffron, the all-day-dining restaurant and speciality restaurant Silk Road were both decent eats, but the stand-out outlet for us turned out to be The Beach Bar & Restaurant, with different daytime and evening menus – easy on the eyes and the stomach during the day, and a haven for grill enthusiasts by night. The service is impeccable and the food, fresh and delicious.
Enjoying a meal in hearty company is always pleasant, but a taste of the candle-lit destination-dining concept on a secluded beach listening only to the waves is another thing altogether. The destination dining concept at Salalah Rotana Resort is a must-try for couples and friends. Personalised destination dining menus can be furnished by the hotel depending on client preference from all the restaurants on the property, and a personal butler is assigned, who takes over the strings of the evening as a grand three-course meal complete with beverages of choice, arrives.
Rotana properties usually have a Bodylines Fitness Centre with professional instructors, two swimming pools, sauna and steam rooms, two tennis courts, massage treatment rooms at Zen the spa and a Flipper’s Kids Club for junior guests.
The spa menu at Zen the Spa is great, there is a separate relaxation room for both men and women after the treatment where guests are allowed to unwind with a beverage of choice. Both beauty and rejuvenation treatments are at hand and are quite popular with in-house guests, so advance booking is advised.
A treatment can be followed up with a leisurely walk down the pier that gives the feel of walking into the middle of the ocean. And if the time is right, you will witness the beauty as well as the alarming strength of the ocean.
Our solitary stroll down the pier saw the ocean turn from blue-green to dark blue and finally a steely grey as the sun set, and gentle rolling waves become loud and angry as the high tide rushed in. It was a sight to behold, perhaps making a deeper impression when contrasted with the surrounding tranquillity.
When in Salalah, it is imperative to spend a day outdoors exploring the destination. The hotel can arrange for air-conditioned vehicles with guides and itineraries according to guest preference. For a whole day tour, insist on including the dolphin viewing point, the Taqah Castle, Wadi Derbat, natural blow holes at Mughsail Beach, frankincense trees, a lunch in an authentic Omani restaurant, a stop at Sultan Qaboos Mosque, a visit to coconut plantations and a taste of tropical coconut water, and finally a look at the Haffah Souk.
You won’t come away disappointed.
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