In Conversation with Lubaina Sheerazi, India Representative, Ministry of Tourism, Oman
With its coastal beauty, towering mountains, enchanting desert and rich history and culture, Oman is the new luxury destination to say ‘I do’. You can plan a big Indian wedding or an intimate affair by the Omani shores or by the picturesque backdrop of the mountains. Or set sail on a luxury yacht with a small group and discover the dramatic coastline with its secluded coves and private islands. Oman is home to some magnificent and Arabian-palace like hotels & resorts, offering finest, modern infrastructure, with indoor and outdoor settings which are perfect for a 2 day or 3 day Indian wedding. We speak to Lubaina Sheerazi- India Representative of Ministry of Tourism, Oman, who tells us why many well-heeled Indians want to host a destination wedding in this Oasis of Luxury.
Tell us how and when Oman became the new international hot-spot for Indian Weddings?
Oman has gained significant popularity and fame as a wedding destination over the last two years. The first mega Indian wedding took place in November 2014, there was suddenly a buzz about Oman as a wedding venue in social circles, and since then we have witnessed more magnificent Indian weddings. This year a high-profile diamond magnate from Gujarat and later a prominent Mumbai-based industrialist hosted weddings at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa which has three hotels- Al Waha, Al Bandar and Al Husn. The hosts booked over 250 rooms across the three hotels with guests arriving from all over the world. So now its the word-of-mouth which is getting us enquiries from families all over India, and NRI’s in Asia.
Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa- Al Waha
Right now, Shangri-La is the venue which has hosted big Indian weddings, are any other luxury properties slated to open in Muscat?
Several international chains are slated to open in Oman in the next few years, some of them include– St. Regis, Ritz Carlton- the Muscat Reserve, Saraya Bandar Jissah Resort, Kempinski Hotel, Louis Vuitton Hotel, Fairmont Hotel, Alila Resort Salalah and The Fort Hotel. All these properties may be perfect for big or intimate Indian weddings. Besides Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort, the other wow venues for an Indian wedding are Al Bustan Palace – a Ritz Carlton Hotel and The Chedi for smaller, personal weddings.
Al Bustan Palace – a Ritz Carlton Hotel
Which are the best months to be there?
Any time between September to April is a good time and the weather is ideally suited for Indians who look for a pleasant and not-too-cold holiday climate.
Have there been any challenges with planning or managing Indian weddings in Oman?
We have not heard of too many. Right from talented mehndi artists to florists, entertainers and skilled Indian chefs, everyone is there in Oman, after all its a country with a big Indian population. If clients have very specialised or unique requirements, they fly down the experts or source the elements from India or Dubai. And the excellent flight connectivity between India and Oman makes it a fairly hassle-free affair.
Capri Court restaurant at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa
Which Indian cities have direct connectivity to Oman?
Oman is directly connected to 13 cities – Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Goa, Lucknow, Mangalore, Cochin, Trivandrum and Calicut. Several airlines including Oman Air (national carrier), Air India, Jet Airways, Air India Express, Indigo and Spice Jet fly to Oman. From most cities, the flight duration is approximately three hours. The frequency from Mumbai and Delhi is daily and for other cities like Ahmedabad, Goa etc it is weekly.
Tell us about the role of the India Representation Office.
Our office in Mumbai frequently receives enquiries from families and wedding planners wanting more information or support for Indian weddings. We provide assistance in terms of customs clearance, visa assistance and airline bookings. For venues, rooms booking and availability, negotiation on rates etc, the families have to take it forward directly with hotels like Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Al Bastan Palace- Ritz Carlton. We of course help them with suggestions on places to visit outside the hotel to explore Oman which offers an inspiring diversity of exceptional natural and man-made experiences- perfumes at Amouage where fragrances are handcrafted for generations, hikes to the Sultanate’s remote mountain villages and visits to places where artisans and skilled craftsmen are conserving the local art and traditions.
Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa- Al Husn
We’ve heard of some high profile couples coming to Six Senses Zighy Bay for their honeymoon. Which are the other honeymoon hot-spots?
The Sultanate of Oman is an ideal destination for couples seeking a romantic vacation, especially those wanting a unique destination, closer to home. There is Six Senses Zighy Bay, the secluded mountain getaway and Shangri-La’s Al Husn Hotel that offers Shangri-La’s highest level of service, amenities and privileges to the most discerning of travellers. The Chedi, a resplendent and elegant property set amidst a garden oasis with 158 Omani influenced guestrooms and villas is another good option. Couples can even choose to stay in the luxury campsites at Sharqiyah Sands which will provide them solitude, serenity and the beautiful setting of a starlit sky. Oman has a lot of activities for couples who are adventure seekers or water babies like snorkeling, scuba diving, dune bashing, kayaking, dolphin and turtle watching and for the culturally or historically inclined couples there are several forts, museums, castles and villages to explore.
The Chedi Muscat