By THE NATION
Booking.com keeps updated with the trends by offering a selection of six dazzling destinations full of mystery and enchantment fit for a sultan
Agra, which makes up one corner of the Golden Triangle circuited by travellers alongside Delhi and Jaipur, is home to both the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort and is the perfect destination to feel like royalty. Translating as “Crown of the Palaces”, the Taj Mahal and perched on the bank of the Yamuna River, this ivory marble mausoleum was built for the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan’s wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Its intricate architecture and reflecting pool have become an iconic image, making it a top destination for a sultan selfie. The nearby Agra Fort was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty until 1638. Visitors can lose themselves in these regal surroundings to truly picture what the life of a sultan would look like.
Where to stay: The Oberoi Amarvilas Agra is a short walk from the Taj Mahal and boasts sumptuous 5-star accommodation. This lavish hotel combines modern interiors with large windows that capitalise on the beauty that surrounds the building. Visitors can feast at four dining options offering a range of international and local specialties. To indulge in royal treatments, guests can visit the Oberoi Spa for a body massage or treat themselves to a swim or exercise session at the gym.
Oman’s capital Muscat is home to a reallife sultan, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, who is the longest serving Arab leader, having held the office since 1970. As part of a visit to Muscat, you can bask in the opulent beauty of a landmark that also shares his name, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. An active place of worship, the mosque is the fifth largest mosque in the world and was designed as part of a competition that Sultan Qaboos hosted. The impressive boasts a 50-metre-high gold dome and white marble flooring. The men’s prayer hall, which can actually be visited by both genders, is especially captivating, with huge Persian carpets and chandeliers dominating the space.
Where to stay: Surrounded by the glimmering waters of the Gulf of Oman in the Bay of Barr Al Jissah, ShangriLa Al Husn Resort & Spa is the perfect destination. A short drive from Muscat’s city centre and the Sultan Qaboos’ Grand Mosque, the hotel’s decor is inspired by Arabian palaces and accented by authentic Omani artworks. Sun-worshipers can take advantage of the hotel’s private beach, which is set against a dramatic mountainous backdrop.
The capital of India’s Rajasthan state is founded by and named after Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amer in 1727. Today, this bustling city is popular with tourists for its pink-hued buildings that have secured it the nickname “the pink city”. One of these beautiful buildings is the Hawa Mahal, a palace of red and pink sandstone, also known as the Palace of Wind. This regal residence is best experienced after sunset as the lights illuminate and the building appears to glow. If pink isn’t your colour, Jaipur is also home to the hillside attraction Amber Palace at Amer Fort.
Where to stay: Relax after a busy day of sightseeing just two miles away from the centre at the palatial Taj Rambagh Palace, known as the “Jewel of Jaipur”. Boasting immaculately manicured gardens and beautiful Indian architecture, this hotel is almost as photogenic as Jaipur’s own palaces. Guests will be treated like royalty with palace butlers who can help guests arrange vintage horsedrawn carriage rides every evening and experienced gurus who host yoga sessions to help guests unwind after a long day of exploration.
A former imperial city, Marrakech is home to a large variety of breathtaking mosques, palaces and gardens. As part of your travels, consider taking a walkthrough Bahia Palace, which means “the Palace of the beautiful, the brilliant”. This nineteenth-century palace was built for Si Moussa, chamberlain of Sultan Hassan I and is a cultural hotspot for tourism in Marrakech. The beautiful structure covers almost eight hectares and features the first stained glass windows of the Maghreb, captivating visitors as soon as they set their eyes upon it.
Where to stay: Feel like royalty by booking at stay at the Riad le Clos des Arts surrounded by astonishing interior designs, with every room decorated with a typical Moroccan tile art form. Guests can embrace the peaceful surroundings in the inner courtyard and relax on the roof terrace, featuring a small plunge pool. Centred in the heart of Marrakech, Riad le Clos des Arts is also just a short walk from the Bahia Palace.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai is known as an opulent destination thanks to its luxury shopping opportunities and outstanding architecture. Visitors to Dubai can further indulge in relaxing treatments by embracing the traditional Arabian Hammam treatment, also known as a Turkish bath. The treatments consist of being soaked with water before applying black soap to the skin and exfoliating it with a kessa glove.
Where to stay: For a truly Arabian experience, opt for Palace Downtown. Located in the heart of a traditional Arabian Village, this luxurious hotel has everything you need on its doorstep, including Hammam monsoon showers, a hot tub and steam rooms.
Istanbul was once a city full of royalty in the Sultanahmet district, where chariot races used to take place and, to this day, Egyptian obelisks remain. Istanbul is also home to the historical and architecturally beautiful Blue Mosque, built by Sultan Ahmet I. The Mosque has a large prayer hall under a main dome and boasts six minarets and eight more domes. The mosque also features more than 20,000 exquisite handmade Iznik ceramic style tiles in a variety of tulip designs.
Where to stay: Soho House Istanbul is the place to stay for the modern traveller looking for new horizons to pursue. Featuring three unique buildings including the Chancery and the Annex, a brandnew glass building and a luxurious members club, the Soho House Istanbul has a lot to offer.