Departing Sydney and Melbourne on Etihad's A380 service, the group arrived in style at Al Husn (The Castle) at Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa. Nestled in between the dramatic backdrop of rugged mountains and the pristine waters of the Sea of Oman, the resort is set on 124 acres of stunning scenery and home to three spectacular hotels: Al Waha, “The Oasis”, perfect for families, Al Bandar, “The Town”, is at the heart of the resort and is ideal for leisure and business travellers, and Al Husn, “The Castle”, is the most exclusive retreat providing the highest level of luxurious and elegant hospitality.
With over twenty-two bars and restaurants, the hotels dedicated MICE and leisure facilities were perfectly showcased to the select group. A short distance from Muscat and with 640 rooms, there are a myriad of choices available for MICE groups and leisure travellers.
During their stay, they took in Muscat's major cultural and architectural sites, such as the Grand Mosque. The Mutrah Souk, one of the oldest in the Arabian world, proved a delight in its hidden treasures and myriad of team building activities. Golf is another enjoyable add on option with the Muscat Hills Golf and Country Club the site of a pristine 18-hole course, one of three PGA championship Golf Courses in the country.
The PCO's had the opportunity to experience the impressive marine life and natural beauty of the Gulf of Oman on a dolphin-watching cruise followed by a bespoke lunch at pristine snorkelling and dive spot Bander Khayran, before the group cooled off with a swim & snorkel near a nest of 10 sea turtles.
The next day had an architectural focus, capturing some of the striking cultural and historical landmarks of Oman with a visit to the Oasis city of Nizwa. Nizwa was once the capital of the Julanda Dynasty in the 6th and 7th Centuries AD, and its imposing structures comprise just a fraction of Oman's estimated 500 forts, castles and towers.
The group then headed towards the green mountain region to the newly launched Anantara Al Jabel Al Akhdar Resort, home for the second part of their adventure.
Newly launched last month by Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas, the five-star resort takes its name from the towering massif of Al Jabal Al Akhdar (Arabic for 'Green Mountain') on the vast Saiq Plateau. Perched at 2,000 metres above sea level, on the rim of a great canyon, Al Jabal Al Akhdar proved to be a perfect jumping off point into the rich local culture and indulgent adventures of northern Oman.
The adventurous drive to the resort – only two hours from Muscat International Airport or four and a half from Dubai – takes guests past date plantations, historic forts and dry riverbeds, or 'wadis'. The surrounding fortified architecture has clearly had an influence on the design of the Anantara's latest addition, which re-imagines the commanding mountain citadels into sophisticated contemporary spaces.
Among these spaces are 82 Premier and Deluxe Canyon View Rooms, boasting some of the most spacious bedrooms in the country and spa-like bathrooms complete with rain showers. The 33 One- or Two-Bedroom Villas provide an alternative escape with personal host services and private infinity pools overlooking the cliffs or hidden in an exotic garden.
The six restaurants at the Resort offered each member of the group a culinary experience to suit their tastes, including live cooking stations at Al Maisan and inventive Omani cuisine at Al Walaa. The jewel in the crown is the 'Dining by Design' concept at Diana's Point, which allows guests to dine on the same spectacular cliff-edge platform as did the Princess of Wales in 1986.
After departing the Al Jabal Al Akhar, the group was treated to a final day of shopping, making some final purchases from the beautiful craft works, copper pots and jewellery on offer during a tour of the Oman Heritage Gallery. Founded in 1995, the Gallery aims to “perpetuate and promote Oman's living heritage and culture though the creation of income-generating opportunities for traditional artisans”.
The partnerships between Etihad Airways and Oman Tourism along with Anantara Hotels and Resorts, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts made it possible to discovery the beauty and potential of Oman as a MICE destination in 2017 and beyond.