As one of the biggest emerging destinations in the Middle East, Salalah and the surrounding Dhofar area is an escape brimming with history, picture perfect moments, seasonal weather, souks, mountains full of camels and cattle and sandy shores fringed with crystal blue waters. Last weekend I was lucky enough to visit this exotic destination and got the chance to visit Dhofar’s scenic beaches, dramatic sink holes and stunning landscape. The trip was also a special one as I got the opportunity to stay at Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, the first five-star resort in the region plus Anantara’s first appearance in the Omani market.
Conveniently located just 15 km from the airport, the resort sits within easy reach of Salalah city centre and an abundance of cultural treasures. As the oldest independent state in the Arab world, the region is defined by a rich history, with a wealth of archaeological sites, imposing forts, frankincense trees and vibrant souqs for those looking to tune into the spirit of old Arabia. Guarded by indigo mountains and trimmed by the opal blue waters of the Arabian Sea, the resort has been designed with the simple grandeur of the region’s iconic coastal fortresses in mind.
The arrival ceremony is definitely a sign of great things to come, starting with a smooth transition from car (complete with TVs, cold towels and water) to the gorgeous Pool Villas. As we strolled through the resort we were engulfed by striking and authentic architecture which was framed by lush tropical gardens, walkways surrounded by 750 palm trees and eye-catching water features to create an instant air of tranquillity and serenity. We were greeted with a sizeable private pool, outdoor cabana and plenty of seating (perfect for lazy afternoons) before moving into our lovely living space, where we enjoyed a foot scrub and massage – the perfect antidote to flying!
Our room was full of handcrafted furnishings which enhanced the contemporary Middle Eastern ambience. Overlooking picturesque gardens, the room was equipped with contemporary comforts including interactive LED TVs (one in the bedroom and one in the living area), spacious walk-in dressing rooms and luxurious Amouage bath products, evoking the region’s indigenous fragrances. Our room also came complete with a personalised villa host who checked in every day to ensure our stay was comfortable and relaxing – Quang was also on hand to book reservations and activities. To add, our villa was just a short stroll to the stunning sandy beach, the perfect spot for a coconut on a beanbag, a few sun salutations and an afternoon of SUP.
There is no fear of being hungry at this new resort, with a choice of delicious dining venues showcasing an array of vibrant cuisines. All-day dining restaurant Sakalan presents world flavours served by open kitchens, while South East Asian restaurant Mekong takes guests on a journey along the legendary river with vibrant Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, and Al Mina, a relaxed Mediterranean beach bar and restaurant serves well-crafted cocktails, barbecue delights and shisha. There is a vast selection of ‘free-from’ foods, including fantastic gluten free breakfast muffins, a gluten free pizza and many dairy free, nut free and gluten free Asian dishes. They also excel when it comes to superfoods, with a selection of smoothies, juices and healthy inspired options to see you through today.
Another important aspect of the hotel is their amazing spa. Rooted in Thai philosophy with influences from Arabia, the world-acclaimed Anantara Spa takes you on a holistic journey, offering the only hammam in Salalah alongside rejuvenating treatments using indigenous ingredients such as pomegranate, coconut and frankincense. There is also a state-of-the-art fitness centre, water sports centre, tennis court, beach volleyball court and stunning infinity pool, surrounded by huge four-poster day beds. Mini sun-beds are available for children as well as hammocks sporadically scattered around the resort.
Those of you who like to explore must make friends with Hussain, the resort’s brilliant Salalah Guru. Having grown up in Salalah, he has unsurpassed knowledge of the area, giving an authentic taste of local life and putting you directly in touch with the surrounding culture, history and landscape. Whether it’s trekking through the mountains, catching fish for dinner, visiting ancient ruins and heritage sites or sauntering around a souq, Hussain is the man full of plans! Also visible from the resort is the Al Baleed archaeological area, which includes the Land of Frankincense museum with a dedicated section to the region’s legacy, and an epic stretch of 8th to 16th century ruins running along the coast. Just a short walk from the hotel, a visit to the UNESCO Heritage site is a must (with free entry included in the stay).
This was an experience like no-other and I came back to Dubai feeling full of fresh air, healthy food, sun and energy – there is no city break quite like it!