As the city of Muscat is left behind and the landscape becomes sparser, a spectacular Jabal Akhdar mountain range drama begins to unfold, as well as some beautiful wadi’s that have lush palm tree plantations along the two hours drive in a powerful four-wheel drive Land Cruiser, just over halfway it takes on a surreal turn where you begin a mountain climb that takes you above the clouds and all of a sudden you can see infinity and beyond! Welcome to the jaw-dropping arrival experience that is Alila Jabal Akhdar Resort at over 2,000 metres above sea level.
When it comes to creating unique points of view in the luxury resort world of hospitality, Alila does it better than most, first thinking about a location that is very special and then creating structures that either blend into the surroundings or establish a stunning counterpoint to its environs and local culture. Alila Jabal Akhdar blends right in but in the most stunning location that you could not imagine and it has to be experienced to be believed!
You can only access this resort in a four-wheel drive, as the mountain is very steep and winding and extremely precipitous in the road construction, but that is part of the unfolding drama in the arrival experience - at one point you look behind to realise that you are actually higher than the clouds and you can see for hundreds of kilometres across many mountain ranges and it is truly breathtaking.
Of course this just heightens your level of excitement, but once you reach the top of the mountain, there is still a few more kilometres to navigate until you spot a series of low stone buildings “mirage” in the distance and see the entrance driveway sign and your heart begins to beat faster in anticipation of that quintessential Alila hospitality.
The long driveway is an Alila hallmark and the entrance itself transports you to another dimension – think rustic, romantic and referencing the local Omani mountain architecture that is evident in certain design elements that are Arabic, but more specific and special and sophisticated.
The simplicity of it all draws your attention to every detail and once you step into the lobby you cannot help but notice the spectacular views through the cathedral height windows opening onto the steep mountain canyon at the other end and you realise this is going to be an amazing experience.
The gracious lobby is composed of a flagstone floor to reference the exterior environs, seating upholstered in local Kilim style fabrics, studded furniture that showcases local Omani artisanship and a showpiece gas fireplace.
One of the recurring motifs is the rose, as Oman is famous for its rose oil, hence a beautiful cut out screen of black roses separating the lobby from the main restaurant, which gives the lobby such an open feeling, along with the high wooden beamed ceiling.
The lighting is deliberately toned down to create a cooling effect away from the bright glare outside. The main focus, however, are the floor-to-ceiling doors at the far end that instantly draws you to the view.
The topography is mainly rocks, hardy bushes and plants and gnarled tree trunks (the trees have to send their roots very deep to find sustenance), resulting in an otherworldly landscape that is not spoilt by this resort as it just blends right in.
The resort is a series of buildings perched on the edge of a cliff edge, so every room and outlet faces the canyon (with the mountain view or horizon view) so that you do not miss this stunning vista and you cannot stop staring, because it is unbelievably mesmerizing, plus the element of silence to stun you even further – if you can’t deal with silence, then this resort is not for you.
The only noise is the odd circling eagle or the wind and it takes you a while to adjust, so if escaping the madness of a metropolis is your goal, then you will relish the lack of noise and probably find a vantage point to just sit and stare into the beyond.
Omani hospitality is relatively warm and we were greeted by Mahmoud who offered local coffee and dates together with his grandmother’s secret creamy Tahini dipping sauce for the dates (delicious combination by the way). We then quickly popped our heads out to the lobby terrace to soak in the atmosphere while the formalities were being done and then a surprise meet and greet from the resort General Manager, Karl Marshall.
After that we were escorted to our upgraded Jabal Terrace Suite and what a complete surprise this was, as it is one of the best views on the resort situated on the upper floor (that elevation is a bonus), with a balcony looking over the canyon/gorge both left and right and down and then an outdoor terrace with views over the canyon again as well as the resort main buildings and swimming pool.
The views are drop dead gorgeous and all you need is ample time to slow down your pace and soak in every visual in front of you. This is surely the suite to book to maximise all that is on offer from a visual perspective and visuals are king on this mountain!
The suite was extremely spacious in size (104 m2) and understated in design, with the indoor living area furnished in a contemporary style with touches of local inspiration and a lot of creature comforts. The bed is incredibly comfortable, the attention to detail most welcome and given how cool it was outside (it was winter after all), the warmth inside was comfy, although we ended up turning off the heating overnight, as the duvet is plenty warm enough!
The equally spacious bathroom is all stone, with a massive free-standing bathtub that looks out the window to those views. In typically Alila fashion, they have thought of everything and the Alila Living bathroom amenities are divine – a particular nod to the Juniper berry soap (our favourite) – and from lip balm to sunscreen lotion, all is catered for in this suite.
A hot bath in the suite is an absolute joy.
The moment you step out of your suite you keep looking at the flora and fauna and marvel at the architecture – each room block is made of stone that is carefully placed according to its shape, so each gap is filled by the correctly shaped stone. It is local limestone and is not easy to cut, but you can see that much effort has gone into creating a resort from local stone that blends into its environment, and as you explore throughout your stay, the more that is revealed to the naked eye.
One interesting element are the water channels (which double as water features), which reference how the villagers irrigated their crops and developed their own farming techniques based on the ability to get water to the trees and crops.
It is a beautiful element that runs here, there and everywhere around the main building and always takes your eye in a moment of contemplation.
The temperature controlled indoor pool.
The mountain air always stimulates an appetite, so food does tend to be on the agenda and this resort has an all day dining, Juniper Restaurant that serves Arabic and Mediterranean inspired food and Rose Lounge serving light bites, Asian delights and drinks. It is enough for a few days stay and each day there is always something new to explore the cuisine.
The food is genuinely tasty and cooked to order. Breakfast is a set menu that is served to your table, but you get to choose certain components of the menu and you have a choice of indoor or outdoor enclosed seating – the outdoor section has a retractable roof and a panelled glass wall that is not fully enclosed, so you have a feeling of outdoors without experiencing all the challenging weather (a hat is required on sunny mornings).
Each outlet has a wonderful interior design with plentiful detailed touches, so ensure you check it all out and take the time to sit back and admire over your favourite beverage.
Activities must loom large on your agenda when you are up in these mountains and there is a surfeit of things to do within and outside the resort. Being so high up the mountain, stargazing has to be seen to be believed with some of the clearest nighttime views of the stars, moon and planets and they have a resident astronomer in-house and we were able to see the moon up very close, so not to be missed.
There is a butterfly trail to enjoy in the summer and there are fossilized rocks on the same trail that date back hundreds of millions of years, with some information boards to get you up to speed with the fact that this whole mountain was under water in some prehistoric age before the rise of dinosaurs, so there is some pretty awe-inspiring facts to digest!
There are walks to the local villages and dam that give you more insight into why this mountain has been inhabited for so many hundreds of years.
Lastly and not for the fainthearted, there is the jaw-dropping Cave Adventure Via Ferrata, where you are walking on 20 high metre ropes traversing a cave mouth and staring down the canyon below if you dare – simply not to be missed.
The resort forces you to look inward as you contemplate the silence and wonderful views, so Yoga is a natural fit to add to your daily relaxation and there is a spectacular Yoga deck for this that is perched on the edge of the gorge, where you can either catch the first rays of the morning sun or a stunning sunset that drenches the mountains in subtle hues at the end of the day.
There is no better way to achieve that zen moment while breathing through slow flowing movements that stretch the body, improve your balance and elevate your spirit, all of which is encouraged by the in-house Yoga instructor, Ami, the Spa Director that has it all planned out for you.
Alila is also renowned for their spas and this one is just as special as the more mature properties in Bali and elsewhere. Once again the details are to die for and this spa has so much feeling of space that becomes its own luxury point of difference.
Do not miss the Spa Kitchen activity where you get to learn how to make your own spa products to use at home and also check out the meditation garden, simply stunning! To get this far up the Jabal Ahkdar mountain, you need to partake in activities that let you enjoy the fresh mountain air and the sounds of silence. Otherwise, soaking up the winter sun by the heated swimming pool that sits in front of the Rose Lounge and gives you the perfect cliff side perch is not too shabby.
We only had the luxury of two nights, but another two would have been more energizing and given us the chance to partake in all the activities, as we spent quite a few hours just sitting on our terrace gazing into the canyon and using our terrace for our daily yoga practice, as being able to do this in an atmosphere of silence in such breathtaking beauty is very rare to come by. Absolutely powerful!
The service overall was excellent, with only a few moments of ‘lost in translation’, but every room request was met in a timely fashion and every team member in the restaurants paid attention and were quick to react if something needed addressing or changing.
Our driver was polite and ensured that we did not miss those moments of awe-inspiring vantage points and made the journey pass effortlessly – the two hours each way seemed a lot less. We did place some wake-up calls in case we overslept for breakfast, but somehow these did not eventuate despite the reception noted it was placed in their system, so a little perplexed as to why we did not get one each morning. Not too worry as we woke up earlier than expected each morning and managed to watch the sun rise as well as the mist transforming the mountain views.
An Alila Jabal Ahkdar stay is the epitome of doing something very special and accessing hospitality in a location that is unique and rare. You simply must take a break from your busy city lives and head up that mountain for peace and quiet in an environment of absolute silence that will reenergize your senses and give you a new perspective on how life can be enjoyed….in natural wonder. After all, a “surprisingly different” staycation – as the name Alila suggests in Sanskrit word, is what you need.
Reviews are based on actual day of visit and experience. mylifestylenews reserves the right of final decision in case of any disputes. All images are photographed by mylifestylenews team without any photoshop enhancement and are the property owned by mylifestylenews unless otherwise stated.