Perched at an altitude of 2,000 metres on the edge of a cliff, the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort invites travellers to discover the magnificent mountain landscapes of the north of the Sultanate of Oman. This luxurious resort is the ideal base for exploring the surrounding wadis or trekking up Jebel Shams, the Sultanate?s highest mountain at 3,009 metres.
Al Jabal Al Akhdar: "The Green Mountain" in Arabic, is the highest peak on the Sayq plateau, which has long remained inaccessible. People generally come here to hike or mountain bike, explore the canyons, go rock-climbing or simply for a holiday during the summer months. Because of the high altitude, temperatures here are mild whatever the season. Wealthy Omanis and Qataris have built sumptuous villas in the nearby town of Al Aqur, where they come to cool off when Muscat is sweltering in the heat.
Built by French-Moroccan architect Lotfi Sidi Rahal, founder of the Atelier Pod agency which designs luxury hotels around the world, this resort is the highest five-star hotel in the Middle East. Its gardens offer a breathtaking view of a deep canyon on the slopes of which cling small traditional villages surrounded by terraces planted with pomegranate, pomegranate and olive trees.
Since the " Diana?s Point "Named in tribute to the Princess of Wales, who marvelled at the panoramic views from this site during her visit in 1986, there is a 360° view of the surrounding peaks and canyon gorges. It is also the best spot to watch the magnificent sunsets that set the northern plateau ablaze, where the Emir of Qatar has just built a palace.
The look of an Omani fort
"I designed the entrance with the idea of a fortress in mind. The exterior, with its large wooden doors, inspires strength and majesty. But inside, the delicate, voluptuous Arabesque curves and materials such as silk, leather, stone and wood create a break with the past," explains Lotfi Sidirahal. With this project, he won the 2017 Versailles prize for the best hotel in Asia.
From the purity of Bahla Fort to the elegance of Jabreen Castle, the iconic elements of Omani architecture in the region are integrated into the Resort concept. The interiors, inspired by traditional culture, are designed in a sophisticated contemporary style.
The communal interior spaces embody the surrounding culture, evoking a minimalist style with clean lines. The furnishings are in warm tones and the decor is inspired by local art: arabesque lanterns, hand-crafted pottery, stone from the surrounding mountains, cedar ceilings and moucharabiehs.
Roses, pomegranates and fossils emblematic of the site permeate the design choices, as do the décor and works of art.
A Mediterranean garden
The garden, a sort of botanical conservatory, contains 82 rooms (all with balcony) and 33 villas, each with its own private swimming pool. The most beautiful of these is certainly the " Royal Mountain Villa ". With its private entrance, 700 m² of floor space, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two Jacuzzis and a 14-metre infinity pool, this villa is the jewel in the hotel?s crown, often booked well in advance by families from the Gulf.
A happy reinterpretation of the oriental garden, this oasis of greenery features a bed of flowerbeds planted with olive and pomegranate trees, where numerous endemic species flourish. Botanical enthusiasts can discover agaves, various grasses and cacti, carpets of witches? claws, not forgetting the fragrant Damask roses transformed into essential oils for the treatments offered at the Anantara Spa.
The hotel offers floodlit tennis courts, archery, a fitness centre and a climbing wall for training on the nearby via ferrata. The hotel is also equipped to host and organise all types of events. Six restaurants and lounges, a vast spa and yoga areas are available to guests.
The hotel can be reached in two hours by car from Muscat International Airport.
Text and Photos (except villa Royal Mountain) : Brigitte Postel