Hotel insider: Alila Jabal Akhdar, Oman
Alila has arranged a transfer from Muscat airport to the resort, a 2.5-hour drive away, but a mix-up means that I spend two hours waiting in the arrivals hall. The drive into the mountains takes me to the heart of Jabal Akhdar, more than 2,000 metres up in the Hajar Mountains. The resort is rather stark from the outside, fashioned from rock from the surrounding area, but inside it’s softer, with pale stone floors, high ceilings and an Arab-Asian blend of local materials and artefacts with Asian-style dark-wood floors in the restaurants and a decked terrace giving way to an infinity pool.
The hotel sits on a clifftop overlooking a huge, canyon-like wadi, surrounded by mountains. The property is only two storeys high throughout and seems smaller than its room count of 86. Within a short driving distance are small villages, on and below the Sayq Plateau; there are hiking trails, caves, abandoned villages, campsites and fruit farms in the vicinity. Closer to Nizwa than Muscat, this property can be reached by car from the UAE via Al Ain in a few hours – but a four-wheel drive is needed to get up the mountain, as the tarmacked road has a steep gradient.
My suite is on the first floor of a small block at the farthest end of the resort, with a good view of the mountains. It’s well-designed, with a separate dressing area, small hallway, large bathroom with a marble bath and a good-sized private terrace with a comfortable daybed. The bed is inviting and the large TV and desk well-placed. The Wi-Fi isn’t very responsive, but I’m on the edge of a mountain after all.
The location is blissfully quiet – combined with the stark surroundings, comprising mostly treeless mountains, large boulders and desert-like vegetation, it feels a bit like being at the Grand Canyon. Climate-wise, the area is much cooler than Muscat or elsewhere in the region, making it feel quite Mediterranean. Other guests are a mixture of European holidaymakers (couples, families and large travelling groups), Emirati families and couples, and Omani businessmen on retreats. Weekends see more families, while weekdays are quieter and suitable for honeymooners.
Apart from the pickup, service is gracious and thoughtful. Most of the staff are Omani, many from the immediate area. The spa and restaurant staff are mainly Asian and operate with slick aplomb.
The main restaurant is Juniper, and there’s a buffet both nights I stay (16 rials/Dh153 per person including taxes). It’s excellent, with mainly Arabic and Mediterranean starters. Mains range from beef in barbecue sauce to nasi goreng, kidney-bean curry and sheri fish in lemongrass sauce.
The general ambience, which is one of refined relaxation and sense of place (the cooler weather helps). The spa has a lovely Jacuzzi and steam room area – welcome, after a long day.
The mess-up with my pickup, and the fact that guests from outside drive up, wander into the resort, with loud children in tow, and disturb the peace.
One of the best resorts in the region. At this price, it should be.
The bottom line
Doubles at Alila Jabal Akhdar, Oman (www.alilahotels.com/jabalakhdar; 00968 2534 4200), cost from 228 Omani rials (Dh2,175) per night, including taxes and breakfast.
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Published: November 6, 2014 04:00 AM