By Binny Mary Paul
January 24, 2018
© 2018 Muscat Daily

Salalah‘s setting sun enlivens this place. Colours of dusk seem even more ethereal when the campfire is lit and desert songs of Bedouins fill the air, punctuated with the lapping of sea waves. At first glace, Souly Lodge looks like a hipsters’ paradise with graffiti-filled walls and camels lazily walking around the camp. But it’s much more than that. This places stands apart as a stark contrast to neighbouring five-star properties – mainly because of its atmosphere and inspiration – nature.

Nature at The Core

Located just around the corner from the sprawling Hawana Lagoons and the Hawana Aquapark, the eco-friendly Souly Lodge is akin to a tiny beachside kingdom with 15 wooden cabins by the sea, a wooden walkway leading to the water and Bedouin-styled tents spread across the beach.

The cabin interiors are an ‘escape within an escape’. Four-poster beds illuminated with rice lights, faux animal skin rugs and stone-walled roofless bathrooms bring one closer to the surroundings.

Sixty eight year old Mohamad Marzouk, the man behind this escapade, tells a fascinating story of how the lodge came to be. The Egyptian desertranger,with an extensive 40-year experience of conducting desert safaris, calls it a reflection of his ‘Bedouin heart’. This is evident in the elements used. “I came here two and a half years ago to create a nature-themed tourism property,” says Marzouk. While looking for natural material, he came across discarded wooden electricity poles.

“I thought these can be useful to build tents and for campfires. Then I made a cabin for myself with the wood and people liked what they saw.”

Souly Lodge’s blueprint got the backing of Muriya, the real estate venture of Egypt’s Orascom Development Holding whose head is Samih Sawiris.

Gradually, Marzouk and his sons made everything inside the lodge’s cabins – tables, beds, chairs, wardrobes etc – from the poles.

Erecting cabins near the beach wasn’t easy due to the loose sand. “I had to establish a very solid foundation for the cabins, so I dug 1.5m into the sand, placed four columns into the pits and bound them together with concrete.” Marzouk’s knowledge of the local weather and experiences from working in sandy areas helped. “A nature-themed hotel,” says Marzouk “is the ideal way to compete in the tourism industry in a sustainable way.” This environment-friendly property has solar panels to harness the Sun’s energy and reduce carbon footprint.

Lessons of The Desert

“The desert teaches you how to be wise,” he smiles on his ingenuity. “It teaches you how to protect yourself from nature, using natural things”. This principle of trying to be in harmony with nature is the guideline in all his projects.

Marzouk had created similar nature-themed projects in Eygpt near Lake Qarun. These were however destroyed during political turmoil. That, however, did not affect his will to find peaceful experiences within the vastness of nature and introduce others to them. With Souly Lodge too, he aspires to push forward the idea of more ‘natural hotels’.

“There are many pristine locations in Salalah and elsewhere in Oman. If the idea (like of the Souly Lodge) inspires people, it can be developed further.”