I have booked a hotel transfer for the two-hour drive from Muscat International Airport up into the Hajar Mountains, and it’s a great relief to settle back into a comfortable new Lexus four-wheel drive, equipped with entertainment screens, snacks and drinks, and relax until we get there. By the time we arrive at the hotel, it’s dark, but the entrance and interior courtyards are pleasantly lit, and it feels like a relief to step inside.
The hotel is situated at an altitude of 2,000 metres on the side of a canyon on the Saiq Plateau. It is built around “Diana’s Point”, named after a visit by the late British royal Princess Diana in 1986, and a viewing platform has been built to take full advantage of the sights. A small town is situated behind the resort, but once inside, you can’t see it. Nizwa is a 57-kilometre/30-minute drive away, and Jebel Shams a further 134km on winding roads. There are various walking trails close to the resort, and the roads make for scenic driving.
The hotel has 115 rooms, including 33 villas. Mine is a one-bedroom cliff-pool villa with a private pool, close to the edge of the cliff, which makes for a spectacular view during daylight hours. The villa is homely and luxurious, and everything works.
Given that the hotel is new when I visit, staff are surprisingly confident and intuitive. I take part in some rock climbing and abseiling with Maher, a local mountain guide, and Ali, from Kenya, and both are extremely personable and well-trained, as is Maulim from India, the in-house yoga guru. As you would expect from an Anantara spa, staff there are excellent and the interiors opulent. My 90-minute revitalising pomegranate journey (95 Omani rials [Dh907], including taxes), which included a foot scrub, pomegranate and salt body polish and Arabian massage, flies by.
When I visit, other guests are mostly western expatriates living in the GCC and European families on holiday. Despite the cliff, the hotel is relatively family-friendly, with a children’s pool, a kids’ club and various activities.
When I visit, all-day dining restaurant Al Maisan is serving an average breakfast buffet and lunch. Better is the Italian restaurant Bella Vista, which offers traditional dishes with high-quality ingredients; as in most hotels, prices are fairly high once you add the 12 per cent tax and service charge, but it’s still impressive what you can get on the side of a cliff: Murgia burrata and tomatoes (8 rials [Dh76]) and mussels in garlic sauce (8.50 rials [Dh81]) make good starters; squash ravioli with Parmesan fondue (8.50 rials [Dh81]) and salt-crusted sea bass with potatoes (16 rials [Dh153]) make for a decadent feast. Pizzas cost from 8 rials (Dh76).
Waking up to a great view, the spectacular sunsets and gazing at the clear night sky through the hotel’s outdoor telescope.
Being verbally abused by another guest who objected to me taking photographs of the canyon from well outside the boundary of his villa.
After the opening of the Alila Jabal Akhdar resort a couple of years ago, this hotel has a lot to live up to, but its exceptional location and atmosphere justify the trip.
The bottom line
Rooms at the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort (www.jabal-akhdar.anantara.com) cost from Dh1,410 per night, including breakfast. Return transfers from Muscat International Airport cost from 165 rials (Dh1,575) per vehicle.
This review was done at the invitation of the hotel.