Poised 2000 metres above sea level on a cliff edge of Oman’s Green Mountain, otherwise known as Jebel Akhdar, is the Middle East’s highest five-star resort; Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar.
The bright shining gem of a desert hotel, which opened in 2016 after seven years construction, spreads out flatly across the top of a rocky outcrop offering stunning panoramic views from every angle, and is styled on the ancient fortresses of Oman that fill the canyons beneath – with elegant, sweeping curves, geometric angles and sleek pink surfaces.
Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar is reached by climbing several thousand feet rapidly on a brand new highway (which has police checkpoints at the slope to check you're in a 4×4 and was recently used as a racetrack by Top Gear). As one of the Anantara’s fleet of chauffer driven off-roader’s zooms you up the winding roads, to the tune of popping ears, the hotel appears on the horizon like a Bond villain’s lair overlooking the surrounding ancient tiered villages and farms. The powerful backdrop of limestone mountains and canyons almost feel like they could swallow you whole.
Pulling up inside you are struck by the hotel's minimal dark wood interiors and Arabic architecture. Outside the hotel is a myriad of paths that chicane between flowerbeds and olive trees and alongside water fountains and channels that echo the irrigation streams of the surrounding farms. The resort is built around ‘Diana’s Point’ – a serene vantage point named so after it was visited by Princess Diana and Prince Charles in 1986 while nothing but a mountain picnic spot. The couple were said to have been so taken with the views that they stayed for hours; he painted while she read her book.
The hotel has 115 rooms in total. 82 of them are housed in the double-storey canyon-view wings, while the other 33 are private villas that come with their own infinity pools – meaning that despite the hotel’s medium size, it never feels crowded.
The rooms and villas have hand-made touches; local hard-woods and fabrics finish the refined décor in spaces that feel light and airy. Each villa has its own individual nods too, whether it’s a giant marble bathtub or easel and painting equipment. The Presidential villa even comes with the sort of touches reserved for nobility, including bulletproof glass, staff quarters and private entrances.
The hotel has five restaurants and lounges to keep you watered and fed throughout day and night. Inside the main wing there is a lounge bar and a deli café called Al Maisan, which translates to ‘Amazing Star’, that is an all-day dining restaurant elevated above the courtyard at the centre of the hotel. From here guests are welcome to sample the breakfast buffet which includes local rose water delicacies, alongside an eye-popping international array. Later, à la carte lunch and dinner are offered to those wishing to take in the captivating views from the focal point of the resort.
There is also Bella Vista, meaning “Beautiful View” which is arguably one of the world’s most unique poolside restaurants. Overlooking the resort’s infinity pool it’s some seriously striking surroundings, and offers mouth-watering Italian cuisine throughout the day. Add to that Al Qalaa, the signature restaurant of the resort which offers an Arabic fine-dining experience not to be missed. Using the finest and freshest local ingredients to a five star standard, the food is the height of Omani haute cuisine.
‘Dining by Design’ also allows guests to experience bespoke private dining by selecting their own choice of cuisine to be prepared by a personal chef at a time and place of their choice. Guests can choose from a range of settings including the terrace of their villa or room, or the star gazing platform at Diana’s point.
The Al Burj Lounge bar and Al Baha café are the resort's most informal settings where guests can enjoy speciality teas and coffees whilst relaxing and soaking up the tranquil atmosphere.
If the relaxing nature of the setting isn’t enough to help you to truly unwind, the Anantara Spa at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar offers Arabian treatments and techniques using precious local elixirs. The spa capitalises on Anantara’s Thai heritage providing guests with the ultimate relaxation experience to revitalise and energise. The spa facilities include a private hammam suite, 5 luxurious treatment rooms including two couples suites, and a beauty salon.
There are also separate male and female thermal suites, both of which boast steam and sauna rooms, private indoor relaxation bed chambers and an outdoor relaxation suite with loungers, available to all guests for no extra charge.
The real jewel in Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar’s crown however, is the opportunity for guests to experience the Green Mountain physically. Everyone is invited to abseil on Oman’s highest protected climbing route located within the resort, which can be undertaken via a beginners or a more experienced climbing route. For the fainter hearted, beginner signature hikes and culture walks may be more appealing. Guests are guided around abandoned local villages including schools, mosques, allotments and traditional Omani village buildings. Local mountain guides provide insight into the history and culture of the surroundings. Other activities at the resort include stargazing, yoga, kids clubs, cinema under the stars, painting and cooking lessons.
Being a two-hour drive from Oman’s capital city Muscat, and only five hours from Dubai, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar is one of the world’s best hotels for recharging your batteries in dramatic surroundings and a luxurious atmosphere – all within easy reach. It’s little wonder then that it was selected to be featured in the BBC’s ‘Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby’ series – which covered only 12 hotels in the world across two series.
Oman has seen a huge rise in tourism recently, becoming recognised as one of the best cultural destinations in the Middle East, known for its stunning scenery, exotic history and arms-wide-open hospitality. The capital Muscat has seen a surge in new hotels open recently, with countryside retreats now following suit. And making the short flight from the UK even more enjoyable is the country's sleek new Muscat International Airport, which feels more like a five star hotel than arrivals hall.
Oman's national carrier, Oman Air, offers daily fights from London Heathrow on its new fleet of planes, offering some of the most luxurious Business Class seats going, and has a brand new lounge in Muscat to boot. It seems, there has never been a better time to visit.
Words by Alexandra Frances
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Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Nizwa, Oman. Prices start from £348 for a Premier Canyon View room, and go to up to £4,912 for the three bedroom Mountain View Villa per night.
Oman Air flies double daily from London Heathrow and daily from Manchester to Muscat Airport to Muscat, Oman. Prices start from £499 in Economy, £1,699 in Business Class and £3,499 in First Class.