Hot Spots

The 2006 It List

by Charles Runnette

Muscat, Oman

Now that the whispers about Dubai have crescendoed to a roar, expect other corners of the Persian Gulf region to start appearing on the jet–set map. But not every Western–friendly country on the Arabian Peninsula is as aggressively tacky and stuffed with sunburned Brits as that Vegas–on–the–Gulf. At least not yet. Oman, a laconic and friendly country of three million, fronts the Arabian Sea and is blessed with a forward–thinking leader, Sultan Qaboos, who has keen eye for tasteful development. Its capital, Muscat, is still a seductive and beautiful slice of the 1,001 Arabian Nights, with all the authentic sights and tastes of the Middle East—and a luxury hotel or two. Visitors will encounter the powerful scent of locally grown frankincense in the Muttrah souk; distinctively shaped fishing boats floating in the Gulf of Oman; 16th–century hilltop fortresses; and Bedouins wearing silver daggers. Skyscraper–free Muscat and the neighboring city Nizwa evoke a time when indoor ski hills and fake palm–shaped islands didn't rule the region. Refinement and restraint rule the lodging scene, too, with the coolly stylish Chedi—built by the same folks as the Amanresorts and Miami's Setai hotel—setting the standard (lots of mahogany and black stone, a minimum of gold leaf). This May will see the debut of the Shangri–La chain's Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, set in 124 acres of landscaped gardens. Next comes an enormous $800 million seaside development, The Wave, in 2007, with a golf course designed by Greg Norman, opulent hotels, and private villas. Just the welcoming "open sesame" moment enterprising Westerners have been hoping for.

The Chedi
Tel: 968 24 52 44 00
Fax: 968 24 49 34 85
E–mail: reservation@chedimuscat.com

Shangri La Barr Al Jissah
Tel: 968 24 77 66 66
Fax: 968 24 77 66 77
E–mail: slmu@shangri–la.com

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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