“But it’s so boring mummy” cries a young girl next to me, arms crossed, lower lip firmly stuck out as she slumps on the floor, back to view. “Why do we have to watch the sunset again?”
One day, she’ll understand that watching the sun set over the canyon at Anantara Jabal Akhdar is very far from boring. I’ve never seen sunsets like it nor, from the infinity pool of my private villa (well, not often one gets to say that), have I seen sunrises like it either.
The courtyard at Anantara Jabal Akhdar
With Hans Zimmer themes on loop in my head, I spend the whole 48 hours gawping at the scenery. It is truly filmic, but then, nowhere does epic panoramas like Oman. Opened late last year, this, they say, is the highest five star resort in the Middle East. I arrive late, driving up and up the dramatic, hair pinned pass. Finally, we arrive, air chilly, the stars luminous, free of light pollution. I’m shown to my capacious Cliff Pool Villa, floor to ceiling glass doors leading out onto the secluded private terrace and infinity pool. Then there’s the bathroom, almost as large as the living room and bedroom put together. Choose from the circular walk in, waterfall shower or the bath, both scattered with local Omani bath products. There’s even a soap menu.
View from a Cliff Pool Villa
I wake to the sunrise, padding out onto the terrace as it peeps over the craggy peaks of the Jabal mountains. Then, my first, inglorious attempt at rock climbing on the Jabal Activity wall. Or, in layman’s terms, a cliff. I’m coaxed down and then up it by three jovial guides: Maher, an Omani ‘mountain guru’ who grew up in a nearby village; Bikky, from India, and Mohammed, a tall Moroccan with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. Abseiling down seems rather easy. Climbing all the way back up, however, is more challenging, requiring real upper and lower body strength. Manicure, this is not your friend. But it’s good, shaky-limbed fun. As we walk back, the guys tell me all about the rich flowers and fruits of Oman, the pomegranates, dates, aloe vera, figs and roses, which feed into the country’s cuisine, beauty products and aesthetic. In April and May, says Bikky, the air is heady with the scent of musk roses, which are harvested before dawn to preserve their rich fragrance, distilled as rosewater.
After curling up my balcony with a rose infused tea, staring at that view again, I’m given a tour of the resort, from the three bedroomed Royal Mountain Villa, complete with staff accommodation, which has already played host to royals, to the affordably priced standard rooms, still with their own balconies overlooking the canyon. There’s a relaxed community feel and, although most of the guests are families and couples, as a lone female guest I feel perfectly at home.
Then, 90 minutes of utter relaxation at the Anantara Spa. The signature Rose Rescue Ritual is a head to toe treatment using the petals and oils of the Damask Roses cultivated for centuries in Al Jabal Al Akhdar. After, I lounge eating yet more sweet sticky dates and sipping Sultan tea, remembering just in time to don a thick woolen jumper to watch that sunset before dinner, relaxed Italian fare at the Bella Vista restaurant.
A couples treatment room
The next morning, just in time to sample local fruit and yogurt from the huge breakfast buffet before setting off on another excursion, to Wadi Al Bawaarid (‘cold water’ in Arabic). This 6km walk takes you clambering down a natural fossil staircase into a craggy valley full of natural caves and dramatic rock formations. The wadi riverbed is all but dried up, but along the way are peaceful little natural pools, with fish, frogs and dragonflies. We sit overlooking one, munching apples, in the shadow of abandoned dwellings, carved out of the rock, now long departed by shepherds for the nearby villages. All this a far cry from Dubai.
After a lazy few hours on the terrace, toes dipped in the pool, too soon, it is time to leave. I arrived exhausted and, less than 48 hours later, leave refreshed. Such is the warmth of the hospitality and the beauty of the place. Anantara Jabal Akhdar was enough to melt a cold English girl’s heart. Although, that could be the Hans Zimmer.
Prices start from around Dhs1,250 per night. For more information see jabal-akhdar.anantara.com