Who it would appeal to:
The stressed. The tired. Those looking for a complete contrast to home - with GUARANTEED sunshine. For holidaymakers, R&R is not an option in a place like this. It’s a way of life.
Who should avoid it:
Anyone looking to party. Magaluf it ‘aint.
Situated on the white sands of Salalah’s beach (with Zen inspiring views over the azure Arabian ocean) the Salalah Rotana is upscale. Don’t let the fact that there are 400 rooms put you off; its size is a plus. It means visitors are spread far and wide, giving it a quiet, almost village like vibe, made all the more so by canals running through it and quaint bridges connecting you to different parts of the Arabian inspired property…
Our favourite time of day turned out to be…
The mornings. We don’t need to tell you that the Middle East is redders
(that’s very hot to you and me.) It’s that ‘getting off the plane and being hit by the blast of a warm hairdryer’ scenario (and this is at night time.) But even sun worshipers like us would start to get all fidgety by the pool after midday. So, after a couple of days, we drifted into a pattern of getting up early (we’re talking 6am, but this came after an early night – hey, we never claimed to be rock ‘n’ roll) being poolside until 9am and then having breakfast.
But before we go any further, can we just talk about the pool? DESERTED.
Hardly anyone by it. And, yes, we were very much digging this scene until midday, by which time it would have been rude not to go for an ice-cold beer at the beach bar, overlooking the sea.
Which brings us neatly onto the food…
It’s true: extreme heat acts as an appetite suppressant but a pack of wild camels wouldn’t have stopped us from taking full advantage of the food on offer. Whilst you can enjoy a buffet style breakfast in the all-day dining restaurant Saffron, we soon got accustomed to having it delivered to our room. Not that this had anything to do with a need to be waited on hand and foot, you understand. Rather, the balcony was the size of a small ballroom. Therefore, it would have been churlish not to make use of it whilst it was at our disposal - and it was the perfect temperature at this time in the morning. From the room service menu, you can choose from a variety of option, including simple pastries, a more traditional Arabic breakfast or a sophisticated version of a full English– and they cater on the large side, we found. But we tended to start each day with a cinnamon swirl and a freshly made beetroot juice followed by a carrot and olive oil chaser.
Because we’re crazy that way.
The rest of the time, it was impossible not to err on the healthy side. Silk Road is their signature restaurant, which serves the most delicious selection of sushi whilst, at Saffron, there’s an international buffet on offer for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But we found ourselves returning time and time again to the beach bar, an outside restaurant right by the sea.
Here you can get a delicious array of fresh salads (we’re pining for the watermelon with spiced feta salad) pizza and the more traditional mezze, which was polished off by a good selection of wine (the Salalah Rotana is not a dry hotel.)
So what about the rest of the day?
Naturally, a siesta followed lunch (have you seen how early we were up in the morning, plus an afternoon beer instantly equals zzzz) and we’ve already mentioned that, for us, it was too hot to go out in the afternoon sun. The spa, then, proved to be a lovely way to waste a bit of time.
Air-conditioned to within an inch of it being too cold (as, of course, was the rest of the inside of the resort) it meant you could enjoy the sauna and steam rooms and start your evening’s feeling yet a bit more relaxed. On the last night we had an aromatherapy massage, which was like an hour long exhale.
Whilst we didn’t think it possible to chill anymore, it completed a week where relaxation was nothing but standard.
What if I’m the kind of crazy dude who needs more than a pool and spa?
You can venture out to Salalah itself, which is a short car journey away. Even though it’s a city, it couldn’t be more opposite to the more famous Middle Eastern destinations, such as Dubai and Qatar. It definitely doesn’t have the bling that you associate with these places, but that made for a much more authentic ‘real life’ experience. In ‘Bin Ateeq’ the no frills, oldest traditional restaurant in Salalah, for instance, we ate with our hands on the floor in our own private room, which is custom for woman in this part of the country (so they can remove their hijab or burqas.) Later, there was relief from the heat in the shape of chilled coconut water - served directly from the fruit, and now the only way we’re ever going to drink it (in our dreams, anyway.) Meanwhile, the Souk Haffa is very simple compared to say, the Souk Waqif in Qatar. But this is all part of the charm. Salalah represents the Middle East in a much more paired down style.
What should I buy?
Salalah is the land of frankincense - it was a trade that flourished in this part of the world for many centuries. The Souk is full of it and you can purchase it at different levels of quality. I found out that frankincense oil has many health benefits – it’s anti-aging, relieves symptoms of indigestion and is a natural cold and flu medicine (who knew?) – so it’s well worth picking up some of the better stuff.
I also took these guys home with me:
The staff. Properly lovely people who couldn’t do more for you. I’d broken a bone in my foot before I flew out and they were more than happy to ferry madam round in a buggy whenever I needed it.
Stay at the five star Salalah Rotana Resort from approx. £119 per room, per night, inclusive of breakfast based on two adults sharing a Classic Room. To book or for further information, please visit www.rotana.com
Enjoy a 60 minute personalised aromatherapy full body massage at Zen the Spa by Rotana for approx. £50
Award-winning Oman Air offers regular flights to Salalah via Muscat from London Heathrow, with return economy tickets starting from £676 per person, including taxes and pending availability. To book, call 08444 822309 or visitwww.omanair.com