We arrived at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah with high expectations. The one at The Shard in London is super-swanky, and a few friends had given this one a massive thumbs-up, especially, they said ‘with kids in tow’.
We had booked four nights as the second part of an eight-day trip to Oman; it was the ‘rest and relaxation’ leg, following a whirlwind four-day tour of desert, mountains and coast (read about it here).
The resort is about 20 minutes from Muscat and wedged spectacularly between the Gulf of Oman and the Al Hajar Mountains. It’s a nod to traditional Dhofari architecture, set against the towering sand-coloured rocks behind.
The complex is made up of two interconnected hotels; Al Waha and Al Bandar, and a third, separate, adults-only hotel. The best way to get between the two more family-orientated properties, when you’re five, is obviously via the lazy river.
Our ‘Superior Sea View’ room was in Al Waha, which means ‘The Oasis’. As well as a view of the Gulf of Oman, it also had a great view of the kids’ splash pad.
The room was spacious enough, even with an extra bed for our daughter. Plus, there was a small balcony to sit out on in the evening, once she was asleep. The bathroom was almost as big as the bedroom, with a separate bath and shower and own-brand toiletries.
It certainly had all the amenities you would expect from a five-star hotel room, just not quite the wow-factor I was hoping for. The furniture and decor felt dated and nothing stood out as exceptional. But what we did have were towels, and plenty of them; every day they multiplied.
Another thing there was no shortage of was complimentary bottled water; in the room, at the poolside and on the beach. There were water fountains being installed while we were there. A
With 15 restaurants and bars, we had some serious decisions to make. Among our favourites were Samba at Al Waha, for evening ease of access (no bookings required), and Circles at Al Bandar, for pizza by the poolside. The best we tried through was the fish restaurant halfway between the two hotels, straddling the lazy river. Beit al Bahr gave us a spectacular view over the Gulf of Oman, which twinkled at night with the lights of hundreds of fishermen.
The same kids’ menu is available across many of the restaurants, and although it has some firm favourites (pasta Bolognese, fish and chips…), done well, it was nice to see some variation on the kids’ menu at Beit al Bahr. But we opted to share a salt-crusted sea bass – the novelty of cracking it open with a mallet was a winner.
With a private beach, six swimming pools – one with slides – the splash pad and lazy river, this was five-year-old heaven. We popped into the Cool Zone Kids Club once, but it was no match for the watery adventures to be had outside. Apparently, there is a kids’ ‘Adventure Zone’ in the separate entertainment complex, but we never made it that far…
We did make it onto the free bus to Muttrah Souq, which gave us a couple of hours to get lost in the old, covered marketplace. Here, ancient artefacts sit alongside garish plastic toys; you can buy anything from Omani Khanjar – decorative daggers – and camel bone-carvings to red-white-and-green tutus and umbrellas to celebrate Oman’s national day. And everything smells of frankincense.
The hotel has plenty to keep you occupied; we tried a boat trip to see dolphins (didn’t see any!), kayaking and paddleboarding, but after a day or so we wished we were a bit closer to the city.
This is absolutely a great resort for kids, but I’m not sure the blow-out prices were matched by a blow-out experience for the grown-ups.
More info on our trip…
We booked direct with the hotel. If you sign up for their loyalty programme, you have access to special discounts – https://www.shangri-la.com/muscat/barraljissahresort/