Muscat, Oman

For once, the name is no hyperbole. This lavish retreat outside Muscat really is a palace – or was – having originally been built for Sultan Qaboos. Clearly no expense was spared in its construction. Golden domes surmount a grandiose, turreted façade, leading to a central atrium of cathedral-like proportions, filled with light, tinkling crystal chandeliers and swirling Omani incense. The rooms and suites come on different floors, in various categories, with sea, mountain or garden views. We particularly like the ones at ground level, which have private verandahs you can swim off directly into two convoluted lagoon pools. The colour schemes indoors are a soothing blend mixture of teal, silver and white, with free-standing underlit tubs in the bathroom. Don’t pass up the chance of dinner in the Beach Pavillion, where slow-cooked, melt-in-the-mouth ‘shuwa’ lamb and seafood platters are the signature dishes. 

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