Muscat, the capital of Oman is one of our favourite destinations. It provides a safe experience of Arab culture and is a stark contrast with the bling of Dubai. Travellers who have visited the UAE previously, may be surprised by the lack of shiny high-rise buildings in Muscat but Sultan Qaboos’ plan is for slow steady development. Whilst it is rare, on visiting the UAE, to meet Emiratis, in Oman the people work in normal jobs, so it is likely that your taxi driver will be a native Omani. It is also likely that he will proudly insist on taking you to see some favourite site in his home country at no extra charge. For the uninitiated it can be intimidating to be surrounded by the men in their Dishdashahs. There is no need, Oman is a relatively relaxed and liberal country and the people are the friendliest and warmest we have experienced in the middle east.
Oman offers a fascinating mix of history, culture and natural beauty. Those who love the Great Outdoors will have plenty to do – from hiking in the mountains of Jabal Akhdar to scuba diving off the Musandam Peninsula where the turtles are often plentiful . Muttrah Souk in old Muscat provides an outlet for shopping addicts, with saffron, perfumes, silk scarves and incense making ideal mementos or gifts. The beautiful Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a peaceful retreat and does an absolutely fantastic job of presenting the authentic face of Islam as distinct from the extreme versions often peddled by the extremists and the Western press. A visit to view the architecture and learn more about Islam is an absolute must on your first visit to Muscat. In fact, we go back every time, the coffee and dates are superb. If you love wildlife, Oman offers many opportunities for dolphin watching or seeing nesting turtles – even the Shangri-La has a protected turtle beach. In fact, an estimated 20,000 turtles nest in Oman each year, including the Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley breeds. Leatherback turtles also swim in these waters, but they don’t nest here.
At the time of our latest to trip Oman, there were only six 5* hotels in the capital Muscat, although many are planned for opening over the coming years. We had previously stayed at the Grand Hyatt and had really enjoyed the hotel – we had fond memories of the pool, the lobby and the Grand Club. As such, it was a natural decision to return to the hotel for a full review (any excuse will do!) especially given the excellent value offered by using Hyatt Gold Passport points here (using their points+cash, the hotel is only $100 plus 7500 points per night vs $450+ per night for a cash stay).
So, to our room, a Grand Suite King on the 4th floor (one floor above the lobby and the Club floor) overlooking the pool. We arrived to find housekeeping just putting the finishing touches to the room, including arranging a vase of beautiful lilies and setting our welcome amenity – a bottle of wine, a fruit bowl and some yummy dates.
The suite itself is a good size (84 square metres) with guest cloakroom, spacious lounge, decent size bedroom and a good bathroom with twin sinks, very powerful shower (one of the best we’ve ever had) and a separate bath. We like that the decor of the room is not typical Grand Hyatt and you do feel the Omani influence. However, rooms are due for a refit – there are small areas of wear and tear and the general feeling is tired. There is currently little competition in Muscat for 5* inventory but with, a number of new hotels due to open over the next 3-4 years, including Starwood properties and Jumeirah the hotel will refurbish before these competitors open (according to The GM Garry Friend). In the meantime, soft refurbishment is a continuous process. Overall though, the rooms are homely and comfortable.
Club Lounge Review
Breakfast in the club lounge at the Grand Hyatt Muscat has a small buffet selection with cold cuts, fresh fruit and bakery items with eggs available to order. In general service is good and the club gets big plus points from Mrs d2t for having Jing branded tea (if you like green tea, try the Jade Sword).
In the evening, a good choice of leaves and vegetables are available to make a hearty salad. A daily-changing selection of cold dishes adds variety and there are also small deserts available. We would have liked to see a few hot dishes available as well, perhaps showing some Omani specialties or tasters from Tuscany, one of the in-house restaurants advertised as the best Italian restaurant in the city. There is a good range of beverages, with top-ups frequently offered. Mrs d2t was very impressed that her room was provided with complimentary Evian water after she requested it in the lounge – that is true personal service.
Despite the hotel having four dining outlets (you have the choice of a grill house or restaurants offering Italian, Arabic or Indonesian cuisine) we have always dined in the Grand Club. We did, however, view the lunch buffet set out in Tuscany, which had a huge choice and looked delicious. Tuscany, known as the best Italian restaurant in Muscat, also offers a la carte dining and fine wine in the evenings, an absolute joy on the warm terrace. During the cooler months, the Safari Rooftop Grill offers a range of options at an all-inclusive price, from the terrace overlooking the Arabian Gulf. Alternatively, lovers of spicier fare can enjoy Marjan Indonesian Restaurant or choose something more local from Mocha Cafe.
For those who fancy a drink, the hotel has a number of options including the John Barry bar, Copacabana nightclub and the buzzing three-storey Club Safari and Havana Sports Bar. More to Mrs d2t’s taste is the Sirj tea lounge, located in the opulent lobby.
Although the gym isn’t immediately obvious, we were very impressed when we found the fitness facilities – a well equipped workout room with plenty of different cardio and strength machines is complimented by excellent changing rooms complete with sauna, steam room and jacuzzi (although unfortunately only segregated facilities). It seems strange that the hotel doesn’t have a treatment spa – perhaps this will come with the refit.
Outside, in a private, sheltered garden is a large pool, complete with lazy river and separate jacuzzi (very warn) as well as a swim-up bar. It is surrounded by gardens and sun beds. Outside the main hotel complex, there is a large sun-bathing lawn with ranks of sunbeds and the hotel’s private beach. With golden sands, warm water and not another person in sight, this has to be one of the best beaches in the region.
The Grand Hyatt Muscat is a business hotel at the heart of the diplomatic centre of Oman, but that shouldn’t put the leisure traveller off. For those with families in tow, we would recommend staying in the Shangri-La, as there are many more activities on offer to amuse children. However, for the more sophisticated traveller, the Grand Hyatt has a great gym, nice swimming pool and private beach, so there are enough leisure facilities available. Rooms are a decent size, but in need of a refurb – however, they are clean so they are still pleasant to relax in. We will definitely be returning to the hotel and look forward to seeing how both the property and Oman in general develops over the coming years.
Grand Hyatt Muscat features in my top 5 best luxury beach hotels in Oman.
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Review by my friend Andrew Price at Driven2Travel.
Disclosure: Our property, service and product reviews are sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own and are in no way influenced by the sponsor.