Shangri La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa – Muscat, Oman: Situated in a dreamy desert surrounded by rugged mountains and alongside a beautiful bay, Shangri La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa attempts to fuse luxury and culture. Divided into three hotels, this large property preserves local heritage in its Middle Eastern castle-like architecture and Islamic art and aesthetics, while providing modern conveniences. It is no doubt that the scenery in Barr Al Jissah is absolutely spectacular, but it seems, from my stay there, that’s all it has going for it.
First Impression/Lobby: Upon our arrival at the Muscat airport at about 4am, the hotel’s driver picked us up in an Audi A8. Although he was efficient, he was not friendly at all and barely helped with our bags. It seemed that he was just there to drive. Apparently, making guests feel welcome was not part of his job description. The drive from the airport normally takes 45 minutes but because it was early in the morning, there was not much traffic so we made it to the hotel in 30 minutes.
The hotel architecture and interior was remarkable. Arched doorways, gold ceilings, lavish chandeliers, thick luxurious carpets, local artwork, sculptures, and museum-worthy pieces greeted us as we entered the hotel.
Reception: Check in was quick and easy. Unlike our regrettable driver, our receptionist made us feel very welcome. We got into our room early, even though check in was at two.
The Suite: Our room, a Deluxe Seaview Room, was nice but had no wow factor and was not as regal or royal as you would expect in terms of Middle Eastern lavishness. It was decent sized and had a nice layout with a sliding glass door that separated the living room. The interior motif, as you would have guessed, is centered on Middle Eastern sensibilities with its golden colored curtains, Arabic rugs, Islamic art and furniture, a small end table with a plate full of dates, and an overall blue and eggplant green motif.
Our king sized bed was covered with striped linens and plump duvets and pillows. Waiting for us were a three-tier tray of Arabic sweets, a bucket of ice (which had long since melted), bottled water, and a complementary mini bar stocked with beer, water, soda, juices, and potato chips, while their gin and scotch were for purchase. Free Internet was offered in our room but was not Wi-Fi.
Outside was the balcony overlooking the crescent shaped beach and rows and rows of beach chairs. In the balcony was two chairs and a small table, good for having breakfast or lunch, but not large enough for having a romantic dinner. On one wall was a small couch; not much of a view from it, but an additional place to sit nonetheless.
The marbled bathroom was spacious and had a standalone shower, private toilet, one sink, large soaking tub, and a separate dressing area. It was well stocked with luxurious L'Occitane bath products and Aigner toiletries.
TIP: When you book a room, tell them specifically to NOT book you in a room that is adjacent to the restaurant, which can be very noisy.
Room Service: The hotel offered 24-hour room service, but that’s already the best part of it, everything else is mediocre. The room service staff did their job without enthusiasm or sense of what good hotel service means—they simply do things because they need to, not because they want to.
Housekeeping: Housekeeping was as second-rate as the room service. There were no extra touches that made you feel like you were in a luxury hotel worth your money. They did the barest essentials of doing the bed and cleaning the bathroom and putting things in their proper places.
Pool: The hotel has a river pool that carries you from one part of the hotel to another without leaving the water. Their pool was probably one of the best I’ve seen in Muscat. They also had a private beach with lounge chairs and fabric umbrellas, perfect for admiring the sea.
Restaurant: The hotel had more than a dozen restaurants offering a variety of cuisines, from European to Asian, and of course Middle Eastern. Their breakfast buffet was extensive but nothing to rave about. Most of the ones we tried were lackluster, from the omelet to the pastries and baked goods.
Overall ImpressionThe Shangri La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa has a beautiful location, wonderful scenery, and a lot of potential. However, one crucial thing it is lacking is a soul. Our stay here was forgettable and I doubt I would ever come back. I rate it as Not Bombastic