Dunes by Al Nahda

Top choice boutique hotel in Barka

Many residents of Muscat are unaware that there are sand dunes just 45 minutes west of the capital, and this luxury camp has made the best of their hidden location. With an open-sided reception and restaurant surrounded by lily ponds, a sand-therapy unit and attractive rooms designed to resemble tents, this dune-top establishment makes for a peaceful retreat.

With a day's notice, breakfast or a barbecue dinner (an extra OR15 per person) can organised at the top of a private dune. Activities include quad biking (from around OR20 per person per hour for a 100cc vehicle), camel rides (OR10 for 15 minutes), a one-hour visit to a camel farm (OR75 per vehicle), and a lesson in making shuwa – a local favourite involving marinated lamb, wrapped in banana leaves and slow 'roasted' underground in a sand pit (OR17). There are also opportunities to explore Wadi Abyad (OR40 per vehicle), famous for its pools of opaque white water.

Access to Dunes involves 1km of gravel track from the expressway and is best attempted with a 4WD. Transfers from Muscat International Airport cost OR53.