I know that Richard has been in touch with you, but I want to write to you myself to thank you for all you did to make sure that we had such a wonderful holiday....We had the MOST lovely time - everything really exceeded all expectations and it couldn't have gone better. Al Bustan is a really special hotel - all the staff so beautifully trained and so kind and helpful. They seemed to enjoy having such a large family party, and although I hadn't wanted any fuss on my birthday they insisted on giving us a birthday tea party in a private room, with the most beautiful birthday cake I have ever seen, and about ten of them came in to sing "Happy Birthday" and to give me various presents - so kind.
Richard will have told you that we ended up eating in the hotel every night. This started because we couldn't face the thought of all the traffic jams in the city - they seemed to be just as bad whatever time of day we went in or out. (I wonder whether you have been there lately? ) We dined on the terrace of Al Khiran restaurant, where they kept us a special table for 14. The restaurant has a magnificent buffet, which suited the grandchildren down to the ground, as they could simply choose whatever they liked and eat as much as they liked, without having to wait for waiters to come and take orders, and then have to wait again for the food to arrive. The full buffet cost 18 rials per head, but you could have a half-pice half-buffet, which meant innumerable delicious soups and "starters", followed by a salad course, which included every sort of salad, prawns, lobster, etc, OR, alternatively, one (or more) of the main courses, of which there were at least eight to choose from, followed by desert. I ate very well indeed every night for 9 rials. As for Gus, our 11-year-old, I think he ate more than anyone, of every course, and, as a child, was also only charged 9 rials. It also suited William very well, as he is on a very strict, self-imposed vegan diet, and there were always lots of things he could eat. There was a different theme for main courses every night - Asian, Indian, Lebanese, Italian, etc.
I tell you all this in case you have other families booking their holidays - we thought it was the perfect arrangement for the young. For lunch we had very good beach snacks (cold soup, scampi, salads, burgers, etc.), beautifully presented in special wooden boxes and brought to us under our umbrellas and palm trees - for 3 or 4 rials each. The young really made the most of everything the hotel had to offer, snorkelling, scuba-diving, kayaking, and tennis in the coolness (coolerness) of the evening.
Our city tour, arranged for us by your local agents, was excellent - a very comfortable 16-seater bus, with a really good guide - Saha (?) who deserves special mention. Some of us also did a day's tour in two self-drive 4x4's booked by the Hotel, to Nizwa Fort and Wadi Mistal - a memorable drive up into the mountains.
We all loved our time in the desert, with the young, and not so young, all enjoying the various activities on offer. Philip, Nemone and I went for an hour-and-a half's camel ride to watch the sunset from the top of the dunes - not bad for an 80-year-old! Twenty-four hours later there we were in that amazing Opera House, all dressed up in our best clothes! It was a wonderful evening (William's birthday present to me).
All in all, a fantastic and utterly memorable holiday, and we do thank you so very much for making it all possible. We wouldn't have known where to start if it had not been for you.
Let me know if I can answer any questions either from you or anyone else with a family who is thinking of going there.
With very many thanks and all good wishes,