Our early morning flight brought us into Oman wide eyed and excited for the weekend ahead. We were collected by a hotel driver as soon as we entered arrivals and set off on a 30 minute drive through Muscat to the secluded beachside location of the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa – Al Husn.
After driving through the city, passing the beautiful mosque, grand opera house and awe-inspiring Sultan’s Palace we cruised along the cost and up the mountain side until we reached the main gates.
Entering the grand lobby we were greeted with warm smiles and cold towels.
After checking us in with a welcome glass of sweet apple juice, the hostess navigated us through the labyrinthine halls of the opulent hotel to our sea view suite.
The grandiose one bedroom suite included a living room, large double door walk in closet, massive stone bathroom, beautiful bedroom, a second bathroom and balcony extending the length of the suite overlooking the Gulf of Oman.
Like a dream.
Shortly after the hostess left, we flung open our suitcases and quickly changed for some beach time before we were due for our first scuba lesson.
Hot sand, warm breeze and impeccable service.
Mr. Z off for his first dip in the ocean.
We tested out our snorkels and floated in the salty waves.
With a little more than an hour to spare before we were due for scuba we sat down for lunch at the breezy outdoor grill just a little ways back up the path from the beach.
Fully satisfied with our seafood lunch we made our way back to the lobby where a little shuttle was waiting to take us down to the marina for our lesson. Extra Divers Qantab was filled with pictures from past dives and like most ocean related establishments had a effortless relaxed vibe throughout.
We were warmly welcomed and set up. Photos for certification cards, safety wavers and of course the certification multiple choice test.
It was finally time to suit up. Wetsuits, BCs, fins, masks – the works! Down the dock and into the boat we went. The group was small, besides Mr. Z and myself we were joined by a gentleman who was just there for review (he had 200 dives under his belt!) I was really starting to feel like a totally lost newbie. Luckily our instructor was excellent; taking us through the basics, suiting us up, and having us dive right there in the open marina.
After sorting out a few mask issues of mine (which where making me feel quite overwhelmed at the time) the instructor patiently worked with me and I was able to finally collect myself. To end our first day introduction we went over some underwater basics, and tested our buoyancy control by manoeuvring through underwater hoops placed throughout the marina’s sandy bottom. By the time we surfaced the sun was just starting to set. We lugged ourselves out of the water (after being weightless those tanks can be really heavy!). I was still feeling a bit overwhelmed and unsure about tomorrows first real dive would be like. Our instructor ensured me it would be fine. Mr. Z of course was a natural and very excited about the whole thing. We rinsed off and hopped back onto the shuttle with growling tummies.
Discussing our introduction adventure we entered the room to find a surprise of high tea, cake, Arabic sweets and bubbles waiting for us. Turns out Mr. Z had told the staff that this was a special trip and they kindly arranged the delicate treats. What a gentleman he is. With a glass of sparkling, popping bubbles we changed for dinner.
Before arriving at the Shangri-La we made reservations for the evening at Shahrazad, the Moroccan restaurant at Al Husn. We were very glad we did.
Walking through the grand Moroccan entry way you immediately forget the brightly lit hotel behind you enter into what seems like a star covered room.
A star covered ceiling reflects onto the black marble floor where Moroccan musicians sit front and center.
The music was lovely (not the Moroccan music I know some of you are thinking of – aka Morocco travel 2013 – you know who you are) these songs actually carried a beautiful rhythmic tune and provided a main element in the restaurants presentation.
Taking our seats in a little booth just across from the musicians we ordered a bit of everything.
Small lamb rolls to start. These little morsels had been mixed with over twenty three different Moroccan spices and delicately wrapped in a thin, crispy shell.
For the mains we started with a assorted grilled dish of a full giant lobster, muscles, tiger prawns, and fish.
Of course how could a Moroccan meal be complete without a few tagines ? We went with another seafood dish of the most delicious muscles and prawns which had been coated in a rich spiced tomato sauce. The second was a traditional slow cooked lamb with cinnamon spiced onions and vegetables on a bed of spiced fluffed couscous.
Of course we couln’t conclude our meal without a pot of Moroccan tea and a sweet dessert. Mr. Z had a thick rice creamed pudding and for me an Arabic take on mille feuille. Light flakey layers with cinnamon, vanilla cream and crumble. Oh so yum.
Delighted with the meal we were feeling fully welcomed to the Shangri-La.
With an early morning ahead of us we set off for bed, eager to see what tomorrow mornings dive would bring.
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