Photography, food, history
Destination: Anantara, Salalah, Oman. July 2017
Salalah is one of my favorite cities in the Gulf and Anantara is one of my favorite hotel brands so the fact that the city now has an Anantara hotel meant it was time for another visit.
Salalah is about two hours via a direct flight on flydubai whose schedule allows you to fly in on Thursday afternoon and fly out on Saturday evening to have more time to explore. Check out a previous post I wrote on why you should visit this city.
Anantara Salalah is one of the newest Anantara properties in the world, and has been open since late 2016.
ANANTARA IS A MEMBER OF THE DISCOVERY LOYALTY PROGRAMME, WHICH I HIGHLY RECOMMEND JOINING FOR FREE AS IT OFFERS YOU DISCOUNTS AND OTHER PERKS AT 35 INDEPENDENT LUXURY HOTEL BRANDS, INCLUDING ANANTARA, IN 76 COUNTRIES.
Strategically located between the ocean and a fresh water lagoon, Anantara Salalah, or Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara as it’s officially called, has 30 premier sea view rooms and 10 deluxe rooms with sea or garden views in addition to 96 villas, including 88 private pool villas.. The streets surrounding the resort are filled with coconut and palm trees which you’ll certainly notice as you’re making your way to the entrance. A plantation belonging to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos is also nearby so you know you’re in a good neighborhood
As with other reviews, I will not focus on the factual information which you can find on the hotel’s website, but I will list the things that I thought were special about this hotel:
1. The Maldivian vibe: Salalah’s location on the Indian Ocean makes it the closest to the Maldives that we will be from Dubai. The fact that Anantara Salalah has villas with private pools overlooking the turquoise/azure waters of the ocean and the nearby fresh water lagoon certainly adds to that exclusive Maldivian vibe that we all crave and often cannot afford!
2. Food: I usually avoid hotel food like the plague but at Anantara, I know it’s always different from the standard hotel food. On Thursdays, Anantara Salalah hosts a seafood night at one of its three restaurants, which features a seafood component in everything from the soup all the way to the succulent lobster and delicious fish tajine. The hotel is also home to the Mekong restaurant which is probably the most authentic Asian restaurant that I have been to. It serves Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese food (separately, so none of that “fusion” monkey business!). Do not miss out on their delicious appetizers!
3. Meet the Gurus: I keep being impressed by how pioneering and innovative the Anantara brand is and Anantara Salalah is no different with their introduction of the “gurus” who are individuals each specialized in a certain domain. They now have a wine guru, a healthy juice and smoothie guru, and *drum roll* the Salalah guru. And they do not take the word “guru” lightly — I mean these people are real genuine experts in their fields. My experience was with the Salalah guru, Hussain, a fascinating Salalahlite (is that even a word?!) who may or may not have been born in a cave and who knows the area better than the back of his hand. How well is the “back of his hand” you ask? A day before our excursion I showed him a couple of shaky extremely low resolution pictures that I pulled of the internet of places that I wanted to go to and it literally took him three seconds to figure out where they were and exactly where the photographers were standing when they took the pictures. So if you’re staying at Anantara Salalah, make sure you book Hussain, and even if you don’t do your own research, he has a ton of suggestions for you on where to go based on your interests so have a chat with him before you head out.
4. Learn about the local history: Dhofar, the name of the province in which Salalah is located, not only has a unique climate to the rest of the Gulf but it also has a bit of history too with studies saying that humans settled here even before the Neolithic Age. A 5-minute drive away from the hotel is the city’s largest archaeological site and a frankincense museum which tells the story of the city’s history as a trade hub in the ancient world. Anantara Salalah not only has a complimentary shuttle to the site and museum, but you’ll also get free access by staying at the hotel. I honestly didn’t have high expectations for the museum at first, but it turned out that they have some really fascinating artifacts with a lot of info on every piece.
5. Spa: The spa at Anantara Salalah is located relatively separate from the rest of the resort but right across from the main entrance for a quieter experience. The minimalist design and deliciously refreshing beverages served there prepare you mentally for the treatment you’re about to get. I highly recommend the hotel’s signature massage which includes in addition to the actual massage, some stretching and focus on your body’s pressure points. The spa is also home to an aesthetically gorgeous Turkish hammam which wasn’t yet operational when I visited.
6. The personal and quirky touches: I’m not gonna lie, I do like it when hotel staff remember my name especially if it’s a large hotel. The staff at breakfast even remembered how and when I’d like my coffee and how I liked my eggs! I also liked the quirky subtle touches around the resort, like a customized doorbell with your name on it, and a funny coconut-based weather indicator.