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Global Expert And Author Mary Gostelow Highlights Oman’s World-Class Facilities

Date: 14 Jun 2009

There are many travel writers who come to Oman and almost all of them without fail mention their mesmerized experience with frankincense, Muttrah Souq and the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. This time around, noted travel writer and elite travel expert, Mary Gostelow, the Editor-in-Chief of WOW.travel, the online magazine of www.kiwicollection.com visited Oman and produced a report on the world-class facilities and infrastructure that are available in Sultanate. She said that The Sultanate of Oman has plenty to offer, and this gorgeous destination is well worth the trip.

Usama Karim Al Haremi, of Oman Air’s Corporate Communications and Media brought to notice that the monthly online luxury travel magazine is designed to support the luxury sector of the global hospitality industry by targeting sophisticated luxury travelers worldwide. He mentioned, while most of the visiting writers and journalists to Oman wrote about the essentially Omani elements, Mary Gostelow, a leading authority on the best luxury hotels and travel experiences around the world who spends about 300 days in a year travelling, brings the readers' attention to the infrastructural facilities available in Oman. A renowned travel writer with her encyclopedic knowledge of the luxury hospitality industry, Mary also has her own global market intelligence, Gostelow Report, for the travel and tourism industry, "Al Haremi noted.

She writes: "First, Oman is a serious business venue, with travelers who have meetings well looked after, wherever. At the same time, it is becoming a popular leisure destination: for many years incredibly difficult to access without ministry or diplomatic assistance, now visitors from most countries can pick up visas on arrival at Muscat airport."

Mary also writes about the geographical extremes that Oman is so notably famous for. "On this quick trip, we went right to the south of the country, Salalah, 600 miles south of Muscat and close to the Yemen border. It is lush and green as you fly in. Right now, there are only two noteworthy hotels, although many big developments are planned. We stayed at the Hilton Salalah Resort, unique in that it was once a bowling alley with restaurant attached. Now it is a four-floor, 151-room pleasant oasis. There are no other buildings in sight. To your east is the sea of Oman, thirty yards away. To your west is the busy two-lane highway leading from Salalah city, three miles to the north, to the port at Raysut, five miles south (more, below) and immediately to the north and south of the resort is barren land, with literally dozens if not hundreds of camels roaming by day. The resort, run by Klaus Schack, is really comfortable, with very agreeable rooms, a good gym and lovely curvilinear outdoor pool and surrounding gardens."

Al Haremi noted that the writer’s observations on the strategic development of Salalah Port and its distinctive advantages highlights the well-carried out plans of the government in developing the commercial potential of the region, through building world-class ports.

"Well, the Omanis are cleverly building up Salalah Port as a useful logistics hub. Just in case anything should happen at the Straits of Hormuz, which separates the north of the country from Iran, supplies can still be got in and out and transported by land to Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE, which would otherwise quickly be starved. Dubai's own Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority has also signed to manage what will be a massive free zone. Soon, I am told, there will be other hotels; the mighty Egyptian Sawiris family, who literally made the multi-brand El Gouna complex on the Red Sea, are, via their Orascom holding company, partnering with the Oman government as Muriya Tourism Development Company. This plans several new resorts and a championship golf course in the Salalah area.

"Mary has undertaken a truly cross-country journey from Salalah to Muscat and then to Musandam Peninsula. This trip surely has given her a first-hand experience of the geographical versatility of Oman." Al Haremi said.

"From the south of the country, we flew back to Muscat and were driven nearly five hours to the extreme north of Oman, to the Musandam Peninsula, bordering the Straits of Hormuz. The Peninsula is actually cut off from the rest of the country by Fujairah, one of the seven Emirates of the UAE, so you exit Oman, enter UAE, exit UAE and re-enter Oman, but all you need to do is show your passport."

"Honestly, the main reason for going to the Peninsula these days is to visit Six Senses Hideaway at Zighy Bay, an amazing Heath Robinson-like 'village' built on one mile of sandy beach at the north end of the three mile-long crescent bay. Look out to sea and you have Huffa promontory to your far left and to your immediate right, along the beach, is the tiny fishing village of Zighy Bay and at the far end of the bay there is a marina that will shelter over 30 yachts, including mega-yachts. The bay is only about half a mile across - with the 2,000 feet barren Hajjar Mountains behind - and to reach it is quite something. Yes, you can come in by sea, and if you are really intrepid you can - as Six Senses' marketing people suggest - paraglide from the top of the mountain pass but most people are driven, by one of the resort's 4x4s. It is under 20-minute' drive from Debba dam, and once at the top of the pass, you are awestruck by the vista far below you. You are also amazed by the skilled driving, negotiating the steep Z-bends of the rough road.

It is dark when we arrive - note, for a reason known only to themselves Six Senses Hideaway at Zighy Bay operates on Zighy time. We are told that we are one hour ahead of anywhere else in the entire Gulf. This will, apparently, give you an hour extra in bed in the morning, an hour extra before starting your evening. It means, on arrival, that you are an hour later than you thought - but you do admittedly gain an hour if you are going on to Dubai, which is under two hours' drive, or back to Muscat. You have superb food here, be it an Arab barbecue on the beach, or private dining in your compound or the buffet breakfast, with fruit cut to order, in the main dining room.

Usama Karim Al Haremi further informed that Mary Gestolow, a regular broadcaster on hotels to over 4.5 million people throughout South America, is also the Chairperson of the advisory board for the annual International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes, France. "Her words spell the ultimate authority in luxury hospitality market," He noted.

Mary writes in her report that Muscat does, as one would expect, have a range of luxury hotels, though on this visit she did not find time to return to the magnificently-tiled Al Bustan Palace Muscat, however she finds the Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, an ideal resort-for-everyone.

"The 124 acres hug the Oman Gulf, with the other three sides rising immediately to rugged, barren and strikingly beautiful mountains. The campus itself, however, is lush and green. There are three hotels, Al Waha, Al Bandar and Al Husn (Castle). This is more exclusive, and we loved the calm around the pool, and the beach here. Do not miss the Chi Spa Village, a separate complex with the variety of treatments that Shangri-La always offers: the spa is so popular it is expanding from 12 to 19 treatment rooms. Another must-do is learning about Omani handicrafts and pursuits at the Heritage Village, a couple of minutes by shuttle. We were bidden farewell by the doormen. We were so sad to leave."

Mary Gostelow is president of Gostelow Travel: Hottest Hospitality News Worldwide and is a contributing editor to HOTELS magazine out of the USA. She is also contributing editor to Air Canada's in-light magazine "enRoute" (both hard copy and online), and to Elite Traveler magazine in the US.