Wahiba dreams


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Viability's Guy Wilkinson writes a monthly column for Hotelier Middle East Magazine. This article originally appeared in May 2011.
For more information about Viability, please visit http://www.linkedin.com/company/2347942 or http://www.viability.ae/

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Wahiba dreams

  1. 1. 36COMMENT Why authentic doesn’t mean Wahiba dreams uncomfortable in Oman, where experiences blend beauty, tradition and activity Photo by Guy Wilkinson. COLUMNIST he Wahiba Sands, Oman’s T The luxury desert tents are actually more like chalets — boasting electrical connections and air conditioning. sizeable slice of the great camp, starting with a late check- Empty Quarter (they occupy in and ending – alas – with an early 12,500 km² out of the Rub Al FUTURE PLANS FOR THE CAMP INCLUDE check-out. Khali’s total 650,000 kilometre sur- The room rates include dinner and face area), appear quite suddenly as THE ADDITION OF FURTHER CHILDREN’S breakfast, as well as a welcome drive one drives east along the old main PLAY AMENITIES, A SPA AND JACUZZIS up the dune before sunset, includ- road from Bidbid towards the port ing light snacks and soft drinks, and town of Sur. camel rides inside the camp. The typical gravelly landscape The more adventurous guests of the Omani interior gives way to Omani furniture, was a haven of air- fully tiled bathrooms with copper with time to spare can select from orange sand dunes that grow larger conditioned freshness after the des- basins and fittings, Omani rugs and quad bike rides, 4x4 and camel safa- and more majestic (not to mention ert drive, and the welcome juice was textiles, framed black and white ris, henna painting and a visit to the treacherous to four wheels) as one more than welcome! photos of local Bedouin, mini fridges nearby Wadi Bani Khalid. penetrates further into the area. At Our affable hosts, camp manager and tea and coffee makers. Another great tradition is a this time of year, they are accented Byron Smith from South Africa and The rooms do not have TVs, ‘shuwa’ Omani lamb barbecue. with a surprising amount of green. assistant camp manager Dushantha phones or internet, but these are Future plans for the camp include About two and a half hours drive Perera from Sir Lanka (respectively available elsewhere in the camp for the addition of further children’s from Muscat takes one to the Desert just two weeks and two months into those unlucky guests who are forced play amenities, a spa and Jacuzzis Nights Camp, established near the their new jobs), were nevertheless to forget they are on holiday. (outdoor pools being rather imprac- tiny desert village of Al Wasil in 2007 fully informed about the property The camp also boasts a restaurant tical amid the sand dunes!). by the Oman Holdings International and in Smith’s case, also a veteran of serving a buffet-style breakfast and The Desert Nights camp is under- Company (OHI), a leading group of working in the Kalahari desert. dinner, as well as the excellent set- standably closed from June to companies that includes five prop- menu lunch we sampled. August inclusive, due to the searing erties managed by Sri Lanka’s well- CAMP COMFORTS Another pair of larger tent units summer temperatures, but at other known Aitken Spence hotel chain. The camp, which sleeps 64 people, house the bar (open only in the eve- times of year can be much fresher When my wife and I visited the comprises 24 tented units for two, nings, in accordance with local than you would expect. camp with a friend, we were met by three or four people. licensing laws) and a cozy games The Wahiba Sands is a magical a guide from Desert Nights near the The rooms may be described room complete with easy chairs, a place and Desert Nights enjoys a petrol station in Al Wasil. We drove more accurately as chalet units, with TV and DVD player, Scrabble and very special location at the edge of it, onto an amazing ‘highway’ of salt a concrete base, tiled floors, solid other board games, and a selection just far enough from civilization to flats, heavily ribbed in places, which walls, full plumbing and mains elec- of books and magazines. The main feel away from the hustle and bustle, led between two gradually nar- trical connections, split air-condi- reception block has a gift shop. but close enough for comfort. HME rowing walls of sand dunes. Some tioners, and a double-skinned tent Ample outdoor seating is provided 11 kilometres from the main road, roof held up by a central pole and a around the camp in the form of bean we approached the castellated gate number of sturdy steel tensioning bags, cushions made from tribal rugs house and beyond it, the festive- posts at the sides. and low wooden benches. looking white tent roofs of the Desert The interiors are comfortably The camp, of course, lays on a Guy Wilkinson is a director of Viability, a Nights camp. furnished with traditional wooden range of activities. Many guests hospitality and property consulting firm in Dubai. The majlis-style reception house, doors, window shutters and furni- come with a tour group, the typical For more information, e-mail: guy@viability.ae which was fitted out with dark ture, rattan blinds, full-size beds, itinerary including one night at the May 2011 • Hotelier Middle East www.hoteliermiddleeast.com