While I have finally come to the depressing conclusion I am not royalty (Harry, if you're reading this, call me!), my stay at Chedi Hotel Muscat made me feel like a queen nonetheless. If only for a few days.
I celebrated my 25th birthday in a drop dead, gorgeous postcard of place - one I had never heard of, frankly, until moving to Saudi. Hey, a quarter of a century is a pretty big milestone, so I went all out. And man, Oman, my present to myself didn’t disappoint. Just a 3-hour flight from Jeddah, the secluded beach-front property is on the southeastern coast of the Saudi Peninsula. A blinding white Benz swept me off my feet and delivered me to the Chedi where the “Club Benefits Package” had me livin’ large by my standards for a girl from Nashua.
Talk about a dichotomy. With binoculars from my beach cabana, I could see the coasts of Iran and Pakistan. Not your Top Ten Tourists Destinations. (Unless you’re into nuclear surveillance.) But in Sultan-ruled Oman, where tourism accounts for much of the economy (it has modest oil reserves), they pretty much treat us globe-trekkers as part of the family. The Chedi, part GMH’s group of distinguished global real estate, my temporary “palace” was some kind of awesome swank with beautifully decorated suites and villas, several delectable restaurants, oasis-like pools, and a spa menu for ordering your very own ultimate nirvana.
My idea of nirvana from the moment I laid eyes on the Chedi’s insane outdoor pool in all its splendor on the internet ad, was to get my b-day butt there, tear off my abaya, and decompress with a lovely swim and a poolside drink. NOT in the cards. A baby in their actual birthday suit was there screaming her head off whilst her parents gave not a fig. I stood my ground, however, and got the ultimate revenge: a 5-hour spa treatment including seaweed wrap and bath, Balinese massage, and foot reflexology. I felt so great afterwards that I didn’t even WANT to drown that baby.
I got dressed for the first of every evening’s “pre-dinner receptions.” A little old-school perhaps, but fun in a surreal, “let’s see who I strike up a conversation with today” kind of vibe. The Chedi served exotic libations and yummy canapés including an array of sushi and endless flutes of champagne.
You can have the most wow-worthy cover photo in the travel magazines, but if your food doesn’t live up to the billing, well, أراك لاحقا. I’d come back to the Chedi just for the food, people! As mentioned, they have three restaurants: The Restaurant, The Beach Restaurant, and the Long Pool Restaurant. At THE Restaurant, for my birthday, I was particularly hot for the Thai menu and indulged in the Tom Yam Koon soup with the Basil red curry duck and pineapple. The duck was tender and perfectly pared with perfumed jasmine rice. I shared it was my signature drink, a mojito, and it paired wonderfully. (In lieu of traditional cake – I didn’t need to see 25 candles and nobody around me needed to either – I ordered the salted caramel macaroons.) OMG! I could so get used to this . . .
And the icing on the cake? I mean macaroons? I went back to my room just in time for my virtual birthday party via Skype with my parents. You see, back in June I had my employer ship a bunch of stuff over from my parent’s house in New Hampshire for my home here in Saudi; mundane stuff like linens and a bicycle, a carpet for my room and pots and pans. Well, my thoughtful parents surprised me and included lots of wrapped birthday gifts all bearing the message: DO NOT OPEN UNTIL YOUR BIRTYDAY! I brought the booty with me and opened it with mom and dad looking on. Their little girl was back home for a few minutes anyway.
#25, here’s to ya! You’ve made #24 look like a yawner. Can’t to see what you’ve got in store for the next 11 months.