Stuart Forster outlines what travellers can expect at the Al Bustan Palace hotel in Muscat, Oman.
It’s not often that I murmur a ‘wow’ upon arriving at a hotel. I’m not the most demonstrative of travellers but the grandeur of the Al Bustan Palace’s 38-metre high central hall raised even my eyebrows a centimetre or two.
Natural light slants into the atrium, adding to the illumination thrown by a 19-tonne chandelier. Designed in Austria and produced in the Czech Republic, the huge centrepiece is over 18 metres long and 8.5 in circumference. To secure the chandelier, the hotel’s central dome was re-engineered by design architects Heitz, Parsons and Sadek, as part of the hotel’s 22-month renovation, undertaken in 2007 and 2008.
Arches and arabesque carvings
A crystal fountain stands below the chandelier, providing the calming sound of water cascading into its octagonal base; it represents a jewellery box, apparently. On arriving at the Al Bustan Palace I was so overwhelmed by design features encompassing pointed arches, arabesque wood carvings plus mother of pearl and gold leaf inlays around the octagonal walls that I probably didn’t give the 3.5-metre fountain the attention it deserved.
This luxury hotel has 200 rooms and 52 suites over eight floors. The lobby, incidentally, is on the fourth floor. The hotel, however, has nine floors. Yet not even the hotel manager has a key to the upper floor, which is reserved exclusively for the use of Oman’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Sa‘id al Busaidi. It’s said that the cleaners, who maintain the ninth-floor suite, come directly from the royal palace
Staying at the Presidential Suite
The best that most people can hope for is a night in the 300m² Presidential Suite, on the eighth floor. The suite comprises a sitting room, dining area, a library, office, service kitchen plus two master bedrooms. The balcony provides views over the blue waters of the Gulf of Oman. The 46th Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, counts among the politicians and dignitaries who have stayed here.
The hotel was originally opened in 1985 to host visits by foreign heads of state at that year’s Gulf Cooperation Council Summit and at the celebrations marking the 15th anniversary of Sultan Qaboos bin Sa‘id al Busaidi’s accession to power.
The Jewel of the Sultanate
Locals are proud of the hotel’s grand reputation, describing it as “the Jewel of the Sultanate”. The interiors convey a sense of Middle Eastern tradition while oozing contemporary luxury. It’s hard to imagine this place ever even approaching my definition of shabby but in 2006 a major refurbishment was started, lasting as long as the initial construction of J&A Philippou’s design back in the 1980s. Remarkably, initial building work required a 35-metre high mountain to be flattened.
Staying here gives you the opportunity to stay in various classes of room. The interiors of the executive suites are similar in design to the deluxe rooms, yet the former are almost twice the size and host separate living rooms. The colours vary from earthy through olive greens to soft golds. Even at the lower end of the scale guests have access to a butler and private balcony. Additionally, 12 types of pillow are offered, ranging from anti-ageing to hypoallergenic.
Dining on the terrace
You can dine at six different restaurants within the Al Bustan Place hotel. China Mood is regarded as one of the best Asian restaurants in Oman while the Al Khiran Terrace Restaurant provides opportunities to enjoy Middle Eastern cuisine overlooking the sea.
Guests have access to a kilometre-long stretch of private beach centred around a 50-metre-long infinity pool surrounded by a landscaped area of more than 70,000 plants including shade-giving palm trees.
The hotel has four tennis courts and also offers water sports such as kayaking, sailing, snorkelling and wind-surfing to guests.
The Majan Ballroom houses an antique organ, owned by the Sultan, which only he or a member of the Royal Omani Symphony Orchestra is permitted to play. The orchestra perform regularly in the hotel’s Oman Auditorium.
The Al Bustan Palace hotel is, in every sense, palatial.
View the Al Bustan Palace hotel website to see rates and learn more about the hotel.
See the Oman Tourism website for information about the sultanate’s attractions.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.
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