If I say to you 'Oman', a whole host of things might come to mind that sadly aren’t reflective at all of the stunning landscape, warm and proud people, the beautiful culture and creations - both traditional AND modern. Here at Glamour, we've already celebrated how the women and bloggers of the Middle East are carving a stunning beauty culture built around female empowerment and artistry, so when Oman Aviation Group and Edelman offered to introduce me to their beautiful country, I decided to get a taste for Arabic and Middle Eastern tradition for myself.
Many of my friends have lived in and visited Middle Eastern nations, I’ve seen beautiful bloggers and the extreme opulence of Dubai ten times over on Instagram, but I was still quite unaware of the beauty secrets and traditions I would discover. Fresh from a recent breakup, pent with work anxiety, I boarded the cabin for a direct 8 hour flight in the deluxe, but not over-stated, business class. Cleansing, toning and moisturising like a good Glamour gal, with the lovely in-flight travel essentials provided on-board I balanced my well-practiced beauty routine with a glass of complimentary Omani coffee (fragrant and light, but not so floral that it tasted as if I was drinking toner).
We arrived to be hosted in the Oman Air arrivals lounge of the new Muscat International Airport, ahead of its imminent launch, an open and inviting space of comfort that echoes the peaceful nature of everyone I later met. I barely had time to think about keeping my light coat draped around my shoulders, respecting anyone’s religious traditions, before I was informed that Oman is a country that is exceedingly welcoming, celebrating individualism and promoting the right to be comfortable in your own natural beauty and style (as with many countries, I only needed to cover myself for entering religious buildings). Looking around, I noticed a variety of personal style and beauty looks, in particular an enviable mulled-wine red lip that made me feel instantly at home.
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Oxygen Facial Review
Our international group was taken straight to the stunning , into a hotel lobby that looks itself like a deluxe Middle Eastern spa: towering pillars, an open, clean space, and a huge glass window straight ahead, showcasing the serene pool view of palm trees, white sand and gloriously inviting blue ocean. The problem with taking the red-eye, as many a working holiday-er will appreciate, is that waking up every 2 hours to apply a hydrating sheet mask, a nourishing moisturiser, anything that prevents the feeling of air con, isn’t quite as appealing when sleep is necessary to prevent jet lag. Thankfully, I had an appointment with the spa to get right down to trialling their trademark .
Catering to all four seasons, the Kempinski Hotel Muscat luxury spa was a delightful tranquil retreat just off of reception, providing the perfect way to recover from airplane air con and whatever weather you’ve been facing at your previous destination. The extensive menu that I was lucky enough to sample during my stay offered everything from the full Omani experience - complete with sea salt and frankincense scrub, a date and honey body mask, a facial of your choice and a frankincense oil full-body massage - to glycolic peels. Like the country itself, this menu juxtaposed Middle Eastern traditions and modern innovations to cater to all.
Skin in autumn and winter is no joke. As soon as that cold snap begins, the jumpers come out and there are hand creams flying left, right, and centre as we struggle to protect our skin from bitter British winds. Your face is one of the most important parts of this, of course, and nobody wants to end up dry, cracking, and crumbling better than any ‘best mince pie’ you can name (sorry, Aldi). I practically begged to book their ‘rejuvenate autumn face’, an hour-long procedure of relaxation complete with oxygen facial treatment.
The lovely Jelena began the facial with a traditional facial massage before gently cleansing my skin from any leftover dust, dirt and resins. She then applied an enzyme peel with beeswax; quite sticky but very effective, my pores and lips tingling with joy at the moisture they’d been craving. The treatment was completely non-invasive, gentle and hydrating, tailored to my sensitive skin to help heal its exposure to colder climates. Next, I had the 30-minute Intraceutical rejuvenate oxygen facial, applied from a tiny air gun that lightly blasts the skin’s surface gently with pure oxygen mixed with their serum, a combination of low weight hyaluronic acid, vitamins A, C and E and green tea that promotes collagen retention and anti-ageing. The cool air instantly lifted and toned my skin.
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Finally, my facial ended with a three-step layering of moisture: first a reviving serum, followed by a replenishing hydration gel and finishing with a light moisturising cream to protect and lock in the nutrients. The result? A heavenly, hydrating facial experience. Once finished my pores were tighter than they’ve felt in months and I felt thoroughly refreshed from my journey, barely stopping to indulge further with a stint in the calming relaxation room. I was entirely re-energised, just in time for a glamorous celebratory evening celebrating the opening of the stunning new Muscat International Airport, hosted in an extremely welcoming and stylish event hosted by the government and royal Sultan. The airport itself is stunning, though I sadly didn't have time to experience the , I've made a mental note that it's worth visiting! Smooth transitions, modern technology, calming ambience, and understated, minimalist opulence? The airport is a perfect summation of Oman.
Omani Traditions: Frankincense as a beauty ingredient
From a beauty perspective, the Middle East has brought us so much in the way of rich ingredients, and Oman is no exemption to that. Frankincense in its purest form (boswellia sacra) only grows in the climates of Oman, and to say it is prevalent there would be an understatement. Almost every place I was lucky enough to visit in Oman: each high-arched architectural wonder we stepped foot in, from restaurant Roshna’s grand opening to the Royal Opera House Muscat and its neighbour Angham (offering a culinary smorgasbord of traditional Omani delights); every traditional Omani location from the historical Nizwa Souk nestled in Fort Nizwa to the ancient harbour's Muttrah Souk, was exhibiting the luxurious, woody and grand aroma of burning frankincense.
Many of us would recognise the natural ingredient for this, or its use as a rich addition to any perfume (deepening a scent with its sweet, smokey notes). Adele Mayo, expert at , told me how they embrace frankincense’s traditional uses during relaxation rituals , saying “ it can help create a moment of mindfulness”. A stunning 84% of women in their recent survey agreed that inhaling the aromas of their Frankincense Intense™ Lift Serum combatted everyday stress, helping them to feel more immediately relaxed.
In Oman, however, I was further exposed to the vast array of beauty and wellness benefits boasted by frankincense. It’s not only widely used in medicines and insect repellent, but also in our every-day toothpastes and deodorant. I was encouraged to chew on a crystal-sized sample of fresh, pure frankincense after my meals, the bouncy texture (close in experience to gnawing raw gum fresh from a tree in Mexico) slightly sticking between my teeth. My mouth certainly felt cleansed of all other food, and I didn’t catch any illnesses for a few weeks, but the strong, acquired taste lingered in my teeth for hours. While I certainly appreciated the olfactory use and wellness benefits I think, to be frank (sorry), I prefer it in my perfume...