Muscat may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of luxury living, but the people at Barr Al Jissah are doing their best to change that.
Located on the outskirts of the city in a concealed cove surrounded by craggy clifftops, Barr Al Jissah was one of Oman’s first integrated tourism complexes (ITC), which means it combines five-star hotels and all their associated leisure facilities with freehold residential properties – in the most breathtaking of settings.
The hospitality elements are managed by Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts and include three hotels: the palatial Al Husn, and the family-friendly Al Bandar and Al Waha, along with a Chi Spa and leisure amenities ranging from tennis courts and a lazy river to a multitude of restaurants.
And on an elevated clifftop at the tip of the Barr Al Jissah peninsula, overlooking the resort, are the community’s uber-luxurious Clifftop Villas. “There are only 15 of them, so when we say exclusive, we mean it,” says Firas Matraji, the chief executiveof Barr Al Jissah. “At the end of your garden is a drop, straight into the ocean. It’s phenomenal.”
The 691-square-metre, six-bedroom villas have been designed and built to the highest specifications. Set over two levels, the properties feature double-height ceilings, large gardens, outdoor terraces and private swimming pools finished in granite. Smart home solutions can be controlled via your iPad, while kitchens are fitted with high-end SieMatic appliances.
“Our style is very seamless and minimalist,” Matraji continues. “There are lots of straight lines and we have really tried to maximise the views. There’s a lot of glass and natural sunlight, and we’ve used top-quality marble – all of the bathrooms have marble on the floors and walls. Even the air conditioning grills are slick, with everything embedded into the ceiling. The bedrooms have en suite bathrooms fitted with rain showers, while the master bedrooms have Jacuzzis and walk-in closets.
“And you get uninterrupted views of the ocean wherever you are. At the same time, within 15 minutes you can be in the middle of town.”
With an asking price of Omani Riyal 1.5 million (Dh14.3 million), these prime properties don’t come cheap. But Barr Al Jissah has introduced a number of enticing value-adds to help sweeten the deal. These include a complimentary one-year membership with Quintessentially Lifestyle, which offers global luxury lifestyle management and concierge services (which can involve anything from Quintessentially making last-minute restaurant bookings and securing tickets to sold-out events, to booking the ultimate honeymoon, or getting your children into the right schools).
Villa owners are also offered a three-year exclusive membership at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa for up to six members of the family, which entitles them access to all three hotels and their facilities, and preferential rates at all restaurants. Barr Al Jissah has also teamed up with Bentley as its transport partner, so residents will be whisked to and from the airport in the comfort of one of the brand’s luxury vehicles.
But by far the most attractive benefit of buying here is that all residents will be granted a residency visa upon purchase of property, regardless of their nationality. “We will assist, as destination managers, in helping them get that sorted,” Matraji says. In addition to its Clifftop Villas, Barr Al Jissah’s residential stock includes town houses measuring about 390 square metres, which offer sea views and also vistas of the community’s marina. For the 11 of these town houses still on the market, Barr Al Jissah has formed an exclusive partnership with the internationally renowned British yacht designer, Bannenberg and Rowell, to create custom-designed interiors. “For these town houses, we are going to do something a bit different,” says Matraji. “We are trying to differentiate our homes by tying up with luxury brands that make sense. We are offering something unique. There are a few projects on the other side of town that offer a mix of apartments, and there are four or five projects with ITC status. But we were the first to build with a five-star rated hotel and we are positioning ourselves as the exclusive, luxurious lifestyle destination.”
A distinguishing feature of all the properties here is the way they blend into the natural landscape, which is entirely in keeping with Oman’s overall development strategy. The country is at great pains to remain respectful of the environment, as well as local culture and traditions, favouring low-rise buildings that meld into the country’s unique topography.
Even when the hotels were being built, much effort was made to ensure that they caused minimal disruption to local wildlife, particularly the endangered hawksbill and green turtles that often migrate hundreds of miles to nest in Barr Al Jissah’s secluded coves.
“The hotels had to be set 50 metre back from the sea, to protect turtle nesting sites; and all of the lighting used is inward lighting, so as to not interfere with the migration of the turtles into the sea,” Matraji explains. So far, the project has attracted a wide spectrum of buyers, highlighting Barr Al Jissah’s broad appeal. “We have a mix – people who live here full-time, or have businesses in Oman, those who live elsewhere and come for the weekend, and some who use these as holiday homes. We also have different nationalities, with people from Oman, from the wider GCC and from Europe.”
The stability and buoyancy of Oman’s property market also make Barr Al Jissah’s residential offering attractive. “There is an upwards trend in the property market,” says Matraji. “The country is politically very stable, there are massive efforts by the government to invest in infrastructure, and it is a safe, highly regulated and transparent market. Whether you are an expat or Omani, the rules are the same. Furthermore, the Omani people are very nice to deal with.”
“Humble, modest, serene and exclusive” is how Matraji sums up Barr Al Jissah’s residential elements. Make no mistake, you’ll find none of the Michelin-starred restaurants, super clubs and fast-paced lifestyle that are characteristic of some other Gulf States. Instead, there’s the opportunity to escape from it all, to commune with nature and to wake up facing an age-old archipelago that has been a part of Muscat’s seafaring heritage since time immemorial. Then throw into the mix the peace-of-mind that comes with having a beautifully designed property, a Bentley to get you there, an on-hand concierge service to take care of your every need, and hotel facilities to entertain you on those long, lazy afternoons.
A rather alluring proposition, methinks.