Salalah Rotana Resort Image Credit: Manjari Saxena

We were greeted with hot towels, refreshing drinks and relaxing back massages in the lobby of Salalah Rotana Resort, even before we had checked in. The masseur’s hands on the back of my neck made me feel as if I’d been on the road the whole day, even though it was less than an hour’s flight from Dubai to Salalah.

My friend and I arrived at 7pm on board FlyDubai for a luxurious, completely relaxing weekend at the new Rotana property. After needlessly spending more than hour waiting at the airport, we were met by Jad Boulos, the assistant director of marketing and communications of the resort. Somehow we’d found ourselves the last two to be cleared from immigration. Well, we were requested to move to a shorter line at the passport control by an officer and we were quite happy to do it. As we moved closer to the counter, our officer and upped and walked away, leaving three people in the line. Initially the thought was he’d probably moved to check something or to use the rest room. Next we know we are standing in the line watching other passengers pass us on the left and right. Sometime later an official came from outside calling my name and to check if we had actually arrived. By this time, however, a jovial officer was issuing visas to us.

Twenty minutes or so later the three of us — my friend and I, and another journalist — found ourselves receiving the relaxing massages while check-in was being taken care of. The driveway feels more like the courtyard of an Arab palace. As you step off the car, a subtlely lit pool throws shimmering reflections on the sand-coloured walls around it. The sight will relax you right away and set the mood. The sand coloured resort has buildings no taller than three storeys and has a canal running through it, separating the main lobby and dining areas from the beach-facing rooms.

I’d requested for a beach-front room and wasn’t disappointed at all. The spacious double room opens on to an inviting patio facing the sea and if you left the doors open, you could hear the swoosh of the waves from your bed. The resort offers 400 rooms and suites built around the lagoons, water features and manmade canals.

But as we’d already been delayed, the patio would have to wait as we were expected for a “surprise” in half an hour. We met Boulos in the lobby and were quickly driven through the grounds towards the marina, which they share with a sister property, where we saw a few yachts.

Bobbing next to them was a tiny craft, a donut boat, which we rode a little way out into the lagoon. As we watched our “captain-cook” prepare mussels and shrimps, a squawking flock of birds descended around us, probably attracted by the smells of the freshly cooked seafood. So plan a fun evening for up to four people or a quiet romantic meal on the donut.

Satiated, we returned to our rooms. But the night was too beautiful to be indoors, even though we were told we had an early start the next day for our tour of the city and eastern and western parts of Dhofar. The patio was too inviting so we sat chatting there for a long time, listening to the waves and the buzz of night insects. We hardly noticed the mosquitoes biting us, though how good a time they had could be witnessed the morning.

The sights around Salalah were amazing, including the Sumhuram, the verdant Wadi Darbat and the imposing Al Marneef Cave and Mughsail beach. With a spot of souvenir shopping at the Haffa Souq, we returned early evening for a rest before dinner at the Silk Road. The hotel’s signature restaurant serves excellent Indian, Chinese, Thai, Arabic and European fare, indoors and on a terrace. We sat out on the terrace enjoying friendly banter and the wonderful food being brought to the table, which at the same time seemed like almost the entire menu. We savoured everything from grilled teriyaki chicken skewers to wasabi prawn tempura to sushi to dal makhani and butter naan.

And in all this time, we hadn’t stepped on the beach beyond our patio — you cannot not get into the sea when you come all the way to Salalah. So the next day we boarded a speed boat to find dolphins and we did find some but only a small school. Whales too are often visible in the region, but we were disappointed even though we drove way into the sea.

Horse riding on the beach was on the menu before a visit to the Zen Spa and lunch. One of our two horses refused to allow us to ride. A funny sight as one of our rides refused to let on a rider, cutting short our stroll on the beach. The spa treatment was just what the doctor ordered after an hour of horsy tantrums, and I fell asleep on the bed under the able hands of my therapist.

As hunger woke me up, I quickly dashed to the Beach Bar & Restaurant for a light, refreshing lunch before saying goodbye to Salalah.

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Salalah Rotana Resort is at present offering rates starting from OMR90 per person, per night in a double room. Call 00968-23275700 or write to res.salalah@rotana.com for more information and reservations. Air Arabia and FlyDubai daily to Salalah from Sharjah and Dubai. Log on to airarabia.com and flydubai.com for fares.