Start the year on a high note and re-calibrate at this peaceful luxurious resort.
My Middle Eastern adventure started off after leaving Muscat airport, where I was greeted with lush foliage and stunning mountainous views, surprising for a rather barren city. Our driver stopped by a wholesale fruit and vegetable market to get fresh coconuts for us before we set off for our 2.5-hour uphill drive to Alila Jabal Akhdar, which is located at an ear-popping 2000-metres above sea level.
Jabal Akhdar is known as the “Green Mountain” and is the highest and wildest terrain in Oman. The sight of the resort is something to behold – a LEED-designed fortress built with local wood and stone that blends in effortlessly with the magnificent mountains.
The lobby is perfumed with the welcoming scent of frankincense – which I learnt, is Oman’s signature scent. After sipping on warm tea and nibbling on dates at the reception, we were ushered to our spacious room equipped with a luxurious bathroom. Just like the resort, it boasts of a rustic and raw decor that marries traditional Omani architecture (copper ornaments and handmade pottery) with contemporary design. Although remote and away from civilisation, Alila Jabal Akhdar ensures that guests are still pampered with first world amenities like a Nespresso machine, rain shower, WIFI and Alila Living’s heavenly signature toiletries.
Being a foodie, I couldn’t wait to sample the cuisine here and was not disappointed. Dinner couldn’t come faster and a blanket of stars accompanied us on our chilly walk to the main restaurant, Juniper, which serves classic Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. The Juniper tree is emblematic of the Jabal Akhdar mountain and whole tree trunks are used as decoration in the restaurant as well as the amazing spa (which I will cover later). We started our dinner with warm bread served with salt, za’atar and olive oil. This was followed by a mouthwatering mezze platter, fresh pomegranate salad dressed with sweet Jabal Akhdar honey and a savoury mushroom salad topped with a soft poached egg. For mains, the beef tagine and seafood platter with cous cous hit the spot. For a sweet ending, choose from an exotic selection of desserts with Middle Eastern flavours like the fig beignets (donuts) served with sour cherry sorbet and cardamom ice cream. Yums! To top off the awesome meal, the staff handed out fleece blankets to keep us warm at our table outdoors. “This is like eating in bed,” my companion cooed happily.
The next morning, we awoke to the most beautiful sunrise from our balcony. I took in huge gulps of fresh mountain air and for once, felt completely at peace – no frantic thoughts about work and future plans. But, my growling stomach quickly brought me back down to earth, and my companion and I made our way down to the restaurant. Breakfast is a wide selection of a la carte dishes featuring intercontinental favourites and Arabic specialties. I went for the Shak Shouk – Arabic scrambled eggs with cumin, tomato and onion, fresh fruits and pancakes served with fig mascarpone and spiced nuts. I couldn’t get enough of the refreshingly sweet pomegranate juice, which I guzzled throughout my stay there. Later in the day, we dropped by the Rose Lounge for a light meal of yummy mezze platter with vegetable bisteeya (a vegetarian pie served in a puff pastry). Instead of hunching over our phones, we treated our eyes to a stunning view of the sun setting over a dramatic gorge in front of the infinity pool. There is also an indoor heated pool where you can do laps (to work off all the delicious food!) or catch the sunset lounging on a cabana with a pre-dinner aperitif.
No holiday is complete without a trip to the spa. In keeping with tradition, Alila Jabal Akhdar’s spa is designed like a modern souk with seven treatment rooms including a couple room and a Vichy shower room. From the array of Asian-inspired treatments, I chose a therapeutic 60-minute massage that incorporated deep tissue massage with relaxing strokes. The spa also had a steam room, jacuzzi and sleeping pods – no guessing where we spent most of our time! If you desire something more active, guided tours and treks to the nearby rocky mountains are villages can also be arranged.
What made our stay truly outstanding was the attentive housekeeping who noticed that we drank green tea and peppermint tea from the mini bar and gave us an extra tea bag each daily. There were also presents and treats every night like candles, pickled olives, chocolates and even a thumb drive in the elaborate form of a khanjar, a traditional dagger originating from Oman. This resort truly checks all the boxes for city dwellers – solitude, nature, fresh air and the most amazing views everywhere you turn. Alila Jabal Akhdar is truly the pinnacle of luxury and I can’t think of a better way to get high! — Pearlin Siow, Contributing Editor
Alila Jabal Akhdar
Plot No. 4 Al Roose, Jabal Al Akhdar, Nizwa
Tel: +968 2534 4200