Orascom Groups alluring hotels across Oman

When my dear old friend Eihab Attia moved as head of marketing – UAE and Oman for Orascom Hotels, he got me interested in his properties. As I was flying to Germany on Oman Air, I thought it a great opportunity to include his hotels into my schedule.

Sifawy Boutique Hotel
On arrival into Muscat, my first hotel was Sifawy Boutique Hotel. An hour’s drive it is located along the Jebel Sifah Marina. With 68 guest rooms (25 Sifawy rooms, 29 suites and 14 apartments) Sifawy has been designed by renowned Italian designer Alfredo Freda. Each room is designed in 3 unique colour schemes of white, blue and yellow and all boast a private balcony with beautiful views of the marina or swimming pool.

They were kind enough to provide me with a nice suite with a very spacious bathroom. In the mornings the balcony was ideal for relaxing and enjoying the view from the balcony as it was facing the Marina. Sifawy’s restaurants use fresh, locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. The cuisine at Al Sabla (which means social centre of an Omani village) an all-day dining restaurant was delicious. The chef was kind enough to provide Indian vegetarian dishes. Al Sabla also offers a unique blend of international and regional flavours. The Breeze Bar located alongside the swimming pool offers pool-side snacks, fresh juices and cool drinks. Gastronomy can be a plus point at Sifawy for those who enjoy food.

Sifawy also features a large swimming pool, an outdoor Jacuzzi, a fitness centre, and a treatment room, apart from a wide range of activities and excursions. In the evening, I took a short walk down the stunning marina, passing by residences, cafes, and shops. I was informed that Jebel Sifah is spread over 6.2 million sqm and is designed to include world-class hotels. It also houses freehold residences, which are available to own or rent, an 84-berth marina, and a wide range of dining and leisure facilities. Sifah’s nine-hole par 36 golf course is the first-ever seaside golf course, which can also be played as a varied 18-hole par 72 course by utilizing second pin flags.

“But that’s not all, you must visit the Dunes Beach which would be ideal for your Indian readers,” said Tarek, the GM at Sifawy Boutique Hotel, who was kind enough to take me there. A bit far away from Sifawy, the Dunes can be a perfect destination for a luxury beachfront wedding and top corporate events. I loved the place with both the majestic Al Hajar Mountains and the pristine beach as a backdrop.

“Developed by our tourism developers Muriya, we offer a stunning location for not just luxury weddings but also MICE. We have a nice restaurant (which was closed during my visit) with chefs who can provide a lavish feast of international and locally inspired cuisine along with our mixologists,” said Tarek.

Alalah Rotana Resort

On my return from Germany, I flew into Salalah to cover two more resorts of the group. The added bonus for me was that my friend Eihab Attia was also going to be there. Located 35km from Salalah International Airport, Salalah Rotana Resort is a perfect place to spend a week relaxing and visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites and other attractions.

The resort has 422 deluxe guestrooms and suites, and all 422 rooms and suites overlook the beach, lagoons, water features, or the hotel’s man-made canals. The upscale hotel’s Omani-inspired architecture features a series of clusters surrounding the main building. The resort has six dining venues, with the most popular one being Saffron, the all-day dining restaurant. The buffet spread is amazing and features an array of authentic cuisine from around the world, including India. Apart from this venue, the resort has The Beach Bar & Restaurant, Club Rotana Restaurant & Lounge, Far East at Silk Road, Arabesque Lounge & Terrace, and Coco-Shack Beach Bar.

“If you are on your honeymoon or a romantic couple and want to spice up your romance, then we can arrange an intimate beach dinner with private butler service,” said Eihab Attia.

The resort is also ideal for a business meeting, conference, seminar, or special event, with state-of-the-art facilities, outstanding dining and leisure offerings, and 400+ rooms to cater to even a huge gathering. Due to its incredible location and romantic atmosphere, Salalah Rotana is also a popular wedding destination. The Al Hajar Ballroom is the ideal venue for a large reception.

Apart from this, the resort’s Bodylines Fitness & Wellness Club features world-class facilities, including a fully-equipped gymnasium, two swimming pools, two tennis courts, saunas, and steam rooms, while Zen the spa is the place to relax or rejuvenate. Youngsters will love Flipper’s Kids Club, which features more than 450 sqm of play areas, four playrooms, and a raft of activities.

Fanar Hotel & Residence

My next visit was Fanar Hotel & Residences, a five-star beachfront resort close to the Rotana. With 577 guestrooms and suites, it offers rooms that open to an outdoor balcony area with seating or ocean view rooms with panoramic views of the Indian Ocean and marina.

There are plenty of restaurants and bars that guests can access, though room service is also available 24 hours a day. Guests have access to three different restaurants for breakfast: Al Souk: Main Restaurant All Day Dining, Sindbad: Second Restaurant All Day Dining, Aubergine: Mediterranean Cuisine Breakfast. Then there are Breakers: Beach Restaurant Lunch &
Dinner; Cocos: Pool Bar; Dunes: Pool Bar; Sandbar: Beach Bar;
Zanzi Bar: Beach Bar; Horizon: Rooftop Bar and Ivory lounge:
Lobby lounge.

The resort can be a dream destination if guests are able to use all the facilities and offerings. It has two main pools (one of them heated during winter), one children’s pool for families, an outside Jacuzzi, motorized and non-motorized water sport activities, beach volleyball, beach tennis, beach football fields, and a fully equipped tennis court. Bikes are available at a nominal charge.

Bikes are available at a nominal charge.

The El Gouna meeting room is a multi-purpose banquet room with a private entrance and garden. It is a unique venue that can be used for meetings, press conferences, product launches, business presentations, cocktail receptions, private gala dinners, or intimate wedding receptions.

About the Group

Orascom Development

With over 20 years of experience, Orascom Development is a leading developer of integrated towns with a strong foothold in Egypt and the Middle East. The Group offers hotels, private villas and apartments, leisure facilities such as golf courses and marinas, along with all related facilities and supporting infrastructure. Orascom Development has a diverse portfolio of stunning destinations in popular tourist areas across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, covering more than 100 million sq. m.

As a hotel owner and operator, the group has 33 hotels with more than 7,000 rooms in six countries. They operate with internationally renowned strategic franchise partners, including Rotana, Steigenberger, Sheraton, Movenpick, Radisson, and the ultra-high-end luxury brand The Chedi, or as independently branded properties.

The resort also has private beaches (1.2 km total) equipped with lounge chairs, umbrellas, and beach bars, including one beach dedicated to Premium Package guests with special beach beds, hammocks, and a dedicated bar.

Hawana Aqua Park, which I missed, is Oman’s first water theme park in Salalah. Spread over 65,000 sqm, it offers gigantic waterslides and high-speed rides, playgrounds for the kids, boomerang slides, and wave pools, making it the perfect place for families. There is also a food court with cafeterias and a restaurant.

During my visit, another property adjacent to Fanar Hotel & Residences, Juweira Boutique Hotel, was getting renovated. “We are planning to make it an Adults Only hotel. Many will love the picturesque marina promenade of Hawana Salalah, which will be designed in a classic oriental theme,” said Eihab Attia. With 82 rooms, it will offer a variety of recreational facilities and services, including two large swimming pools, a state-of-the-art wellness center, and intimate guestrooms.

 

What to See in Salalah

Holidays in the Middle East typically evoke images of deserts, sand dunes, heat, and mountains. However, in the Arabian Peninsula, there is a city in Oman where tourists can experience cold, lush greenery, rains, and even waterfalls, all of which are natural.

“There’s a lot to see and do in Salalah. It even has a UNESCO site. The ideal time to visit Salalah as well as enjoy our resorts is during the Khareef (Monsoon) season from July to September, as one can experience refreshing light rain showers, cooler temperatures, seasonal waterfalls, and much-needed greenery,” said Eihab Attia.

Eihab was kind enough to arrange a sightseeing tour for me.

Waterfalls at Wadi Darbat are located in a lush green valley with a river running across the mountains, providing tourists with a spectacular view of a valley with pools and an impressive waterfall. There are a few small restaurants, and boats are available for rent.

The Land of Frankincense, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000, is where the frankincense tree (Boswellia sacra) thrives naturally. Long-distance trade in frankincense was ongoing by the 3rd millennium BCE and included links to Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley Civilization, and ancient Egypt. In recognition of the importance of the frankincense trade across the ages, four sites have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list: Al-Baleed Archaeological Park (worth walking through the excavations), Khor Rori (Sumhuram), Shisr (Ubar), and Wadi Dawkah.

Khor Rori, also known as Sumhuram, is a river mouth lagoon at the mouth of Wadi Darbat and was an important harbor for the frankincense trade. It has many archaeological ruins that date back from the 4th century BC to the 4th century AD. The remains found include fortifications, temples, residences, and frankincense storage rooms.

The Frankincense Land Museum, part of the Al Baleed Archaeological Site, recounts the city’s maritime history and role in the spice trade. The displays are gorgeously presented, taking tourists back to the origins of frankincense discovery in Oman.

Apart from this, one can visit the Sultan Qaboos Mosque, the largest mosque in Salalah. It has a colossal structure with an elegant mix of Arabic and modern architecture.

Salalah truly is a beautiful destination with three wonderful properties to stay at.

Oman Air’s incredible business class experience

Oman Air remains one of my favorite airlines, and I was able to experience Oman Air’s incredible business class on both international and domestic sectors. I traveled on four sectors: Mumbai to Frankfurt, Munich to Muscat, Muscat to Salalah, and Salalah to Mumbai, says Chandragupta Amritkar.

The Apex seats and amenities

The flight from Mumbai to Muscat was good, with quick boarding, warm hospitality, and nice food. However, it was the Muscat to Frankfurt leg that was par excellence. Oman Air (WY) operates a fleet of around 50 aircraft, with long-haul flights operated by a mix of Airbus A330-200, A330-300, Boeing 787-8, and 787-9 aircraft. Most of these feature the same Business Class seats—the APEX Suite, a denser 2-2-2 cabin configuration but cleverly designed by staggering the seats along the sides of the cabin and providing a passageway from the window seats, ensuring all seats have direct aisle access.

While all Oman Air Business Class seats are good, the window seats are preferred as they almost feel like enclosed suites, thanks to adjustable privacy dividers. They also benefit from extra legroom due to the positioning of the seats. Personally, I miss their old business class 1-2-1 configuration, where all seats had direct aisle access and baggage space attached to your seat. With a pitch of 80 inches and a bed length of 76 inches, the seat turns into a fully lie-flat bed. There’s a nice ottoman to place your feet with storage underneath for a handbag. We were provided with quilted duvets, fluffy pillows, cotton sleeper suits, and slippers for this 7-hour plus flight. Each seat has a 17-inch personal monitor and two USB ports. While there are many movie choices, including Indian movies, I opted to watch the map for most of the flight.

Guests also enjoy a set of unisex Amouage kits (the Omani luxury fragrance brand), which contain body lotion, facial moisturizer, and lip balm, along with a dental kit, mouthwash, shaving kit, silk eyeshades, hairbrush, socks, and earplugs.

The inflight dining

The ‘dine on demand service’ means you can eat at your preferred time, which is an advantage for those who had sufficient food in the lounge. We were offered pre-departure Omani coffee (‘Kahwa’) with Omani dates. Pre-departure beverages also include champagne, water, or juice. After take-off, they have an À la carte menu with varied dining options accompanied by fine wines. Vegetarians can book their choice of meal in advance. During the meal, we were offered specialty coffees—Espresso, Cappuccino, Mocha, or even hot chocolate, which I prefer. By the way, Oman Air serves one of the best hot chocolates that I have tasted.

The lounge experiences

For frequent travelers, Business Class lounge facilities are an ideal antidote, especially for those who don’t want to wait in a crowded airport terminal. At Muscat International Airport, Oman Air First and Business Class lounges are located on the 5th floor of the terminal. On entering the lounge, the soft brown and gold hues are soothing to one’s eyes, and the marble floors are pleasant to walk on. The lounge has two self-serve buffets (hot and cold food) and a bar in between. For those opting for a quick nap, there are curtained nap pods, and for longer rest, there are four sleeping rooms, private showers, etc. A spa provides an assortment of treatments (those were the good old days when it used to be complimentary, though Wi-Fi still remains complimentary).

On the Salalah-Muscat flight, the Oman Air Salalah Lounge is located past security and has comfortable couches and leather chairs. In a relaxed environment, I had some snacks and a juice as I waited for my flight to depart.

At Frankfurt and Munich airports, Oman Air partners with other airlines and third-party lounge providers.

 

Wi-Fi

While Wi-Fi is available, it’s a bit on the higher end. Quite a few airlines offer free Wi-Fi for social media messaging apps (even in economy) and a limited amount of data for free in business class. I believe Oman Air can also do the same and bring a smile to the faces of their passengers. It would also be great if frequent fliers could redeem miles for free Wi-Fi.

Oneworld alliance

Oman Air is expected to be implemented into oneworld soon. “This is a big step moving forward. We will provide more options and destinations to customers with our alliance’s members. Ours is the third airline in the Middle East along with Qatar Airways and Royal Jordanian to be part of oneworld. Oman Air’s Sindbad frequent flyer program will be able to earn and redeem miles on all oneworld member airlines, with top-tier members receiving additional benefits including lounge access,” said Sunil V A, Regional Vice President ISC & FE.

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