Oman tourism: Stay at Six Senses Zighy Bay in Musandam
December 27, 2017 | 7:00 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan

Musandam. It’s a name like no other I’ve heard of. Until very recently, it wasn’t a place I’d been to either. I’ve been in Oman for 27 years, but had never had an opportunity to travel to this exotic sounding region. To me, the name ‘Musandam’ conjures up memories of a land that is mysterious yet proud, ancient yet noble.

When I did get the chance to go there, though, it wasn’t one I was going to pass up in a hurry, not, at the very least, when Oman’s most prestigious resort asks you to drop by. Because just like Musandam, Six Senses Zighy Bay is also a world like no other.

Located on the far reaches of the town of Dibba, which is split, by the way, between three governments – Oman, Sharjah and Fujairah – Six Senses Zighy Bay named after the secluded village it is situated next to, over the daunting mountains of Musandam, on the other side of a wadi. Getting there may have been tedious, but I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, it was so, so worth it.

Six Senses Zighy Bay have earned their place as the best resort in the Sultanate of Oman because of the superb hospitality they are now known for, and are surely the gold standard in luxury tourism.

The Journey

It’d taken quite a while for me to assemble this most memorable of journeys together, but as the old adage goes, nothing that’s ever worth doing is ever easy. Nurhayati Mohamad – SSZB’s super-friendly and awesomely lovely manager of communications – had developed an excellent working relationship with me since I had returned to Muscat from my two years in Dubai, and having heard so much – all of it good, I promise you – I couldn’t help but go all aflutter when invited to check out this awesome property.

My bestie (who after this point will be named bestie) and I piled all of our stuff into our four-wheel drive – lent to us that morning by the good folks at Sixt Rent-a-Car, part of the Travel Point tourism network in Oman – and we set off on this epic 400 kilometre journey, with the sun at our backs and hope (and our GPS system) pointing the way forward.

As evening turned to night, we’d had to navigate the dangerous hair-pin bends and precipices of the mountain path into Zighy Bay, negotiating it at no more than 20kph, with no guardrail and only the occasional light to guide our way, but as we trundled into the welcoming gates of the resort, there was a certain intangible, excitable rush we felt at what we’d accomplished, and what lay ahead.

The Experience

Our guide, Julius, and his colleagues, excellent hosts that they are, quickly ushered us deeper into the twinkling fairy lights that gave the resort a gentle glow, and deposited us at our two-storey villa.

The resort is meant to reflect the rich culture and tradition of the Sultanate of Oman, which has been an icon of Arabian trade and commerce and civilisation for millennia, and Six Senses Zighy Bay has reflected that to brilliant detail. Styled in the form of an Omani village, complete with mountaintop fortresses and its own organic farms and apiaries, what we were about to experience in Zighy Bay would surpass any other holiday I’ve been on.

The outside of our villas may have been quaint and rustic, but its gorgeously crafted interiors were anything but: spotlessly linen sheets covered beseechingly soft bed, its small mound of cloud-like pillows only further tempting me to abandon all pretence of propriety and jump headfirst into an otherworldly land of bliss.

The question, though, would soon be not when to jump, but where: Beckoning me from beyond the expansive wood-and-glass windows of the villa was our very own private pool, its water shimmering and dancing in the playful moonlight.

And if that wasn’t enough, a hand-hewn sandstone-crafted bathtub, which could comfortably seat me (and a bit more) complete with Jacuzzi nozzles awaited me in the far recesses of the room. How could I choose between that, and the rustic, yet modern, outdoor shower unit?

That, however, would have to wait. A more basic necessity would have to be fulfilled. Six Senses Zighy Bay, though, don’t do basic, even when it came to the sumptuous dinner we eagerly headed towards. Themed nights are all the rage at SSZB, and we were glad to show up on Arabian night. The sheer scale of what was to follow cannot be sufficiently described in words, but I will try my best.

A good third of the Spice Market restaurant had been reserved for just salads. To adequately sum up the fare on offer, I’d require to use a globe and a set of pins, because salads from every nation had been beautifully and bounteously presented to all of Zighy Bay’s diners, and if it wasn’t presented, the courteous chef Ramcharan and his colleague Nina ensured that it would be: bestie wanted a Caesar salad, and it took but a few minutes for his lovingly whipped-up request to be deftly placed, with an accompanying shanklish cheese wrap.

We couldn’t fill up on salads, though: that meant there’d be no room for their super-succulent main course, a variety of meats so tender and juicy you couldn’t help but scarf them down, curious stares from fellow onlookers be damned, only pausing to practically inhale the flavourful rice and pasta on offer.

Bestie and I were stuffed, but you know what they say: there’s always room for dessert, and with such an eclectic offering of sweet delicacies, how could I say no to English apple crumble, Arabian Umm Ali, Fudgy brownies and creamy custard, and the most wonderful of baked confections?

As we meandered back to our room, I couldn’t help but feeling that I had forgotten something. And then, in wondrous elation, it hit me. I’d left my troubles behind, on the other side of the mountains of Musandam, and as the clock struck midnight and I lazily paddled my way around our private pool, I couldn’t help but feel that this was a feeling of such wonderful bliss that I just didn’t want to let go of.

After a most sound sleep, as I lay soaking in my Jacuzzi the next morning, I contemplated what needed to be done first: would it be the GCC’s only saltwater pool we’d check out, or the stunning spa that offered the most relaxing of massages? Bestie went one way, I went the other, as we took in the gorgeous greenery and natural beauty that made Zighy Bay a place you never wanted to leave.

‘Natural’ sums up everything Zighy Bay do: the resort has been designed not to exist alongside nature, but in tandem with it: all of the materials are sourced locally, the water you drink is made from their sustainable plant, and nothing is wasted. Broken glass is not thrown away, but melted down and re-made into something more wondrous. It is an ethos that highlight the Six Senses brand’s commitment to sustainable tourism in more ways than one.

After a leisurely lunch of the finest Angus beef burger, replete with fries and a tantalisingly tasty cocktail, I was ready for one of my most treasured holiday traditions: the afternoon nap. I remember going to bed in the afternoon, but it took several gentle taps from bestie to wake me up, as he very kindly told me I’d slept well into the evening.

After a good hour (or three) spent in Zighy Bay’s vast rock-cut swimming pool, we’d developed a rather healthy appetite for dinner, which today featured some of the most exotic seafood fare I’d ever seen. You wouldn’t think we’d be capable of a repeat dining performance, but bestie and I surprised ourselves once again. How could we not, when the awesome staff at the Spice Market kept effortlessly whipping up custom-made dishes for us to taste?

The Hospitality

Having decided to skip breakfast the previous day – one can never have too much of a good thing after all – bestie and I decided to go all out and dig in to a sumptuous smorgasbord before making our long journey back to Muscat. Over fresh fruit, Nutella and honey crepes, fresh-made shakshuka and some carrot cake oatmeal which only scratched the surface of the breakfast buffet, bestie and I made plans to depart this hidden paradise.

Little did we know, though, that fate had other plans in store for us. As we began the climb up the mountain, our 4WD seemed to meet with a hitch, and we were unable to go forward. To get service technicians to such a remote place would take time, and that is when Zighy Bay showed us the true value of hospitality.

Not only did they go out of their way to fetch technicians and a service lorry from the UAE side of Dibba, they also unhesitatingly put us up for yet another night, at no charge. While Nurhayati and Julius made sure we wanted for nothing in attempt to reduce our very obvious anxiety, resort management also made several trips across the mountain to ensure we’d be able to travel at the earliest. While this was happening, the good folks at Sixt Rent a Car also sent us a replacement vehicle which would reach us the next day, should we require it.

We did stay the night – enjoying a magnificent Indian thali that evening – and as I headed back to the Omani mainland, I couldn’t help but feel that I had been taught a lesson in treating people not just the proper way, but the right way, an ethos that certainly sums up the honourable, memorable, hospitable way in which Six Senses Zighy Bay treats everyone. An experience that will stay with me for a long, long time. — [email protected]

Sixt Rent A Car

While it was indeed a memorable journey to Musandam and Six Senses Zighy Bay, it would not have been possible without the aid of the good folks at Sixt Rent a Car, part of the Travel Point umbrella of tour operations, which offer excellent tourism services to residents and tourists who are looking to explore the Sultanate.

Sixt Rent a Car operate a wide variety of vehicles, ranging from stately saloon cars and sedans for those who are looking for a luxury trip, to more rugged and hardy 4x4s, which are capable of completing even the most arduous of journeys.

They are also known for their excellent customer service: not only where they very prompt when it came to providing us with Toyota Prado for our journey to Musandam, they were also very quick to act when our vehicle unfortunately developed a minor hitch on the way back to Muscat.

In a matter of minutes, they’d gotten in touch with the Toyota Service Centre in Oman-controlled Dibba, and also organised a transport truck for us, from the UAE side of the town. Sixt also sent us a replacement vehicle, which wasn’t necessary in the end, because we were able to fix the 4x4 quite easily in the end, but that shows the extent to which Sixt do things the right way.

To hire a vehicle from Sixt Rent a Car, call +968 2451 0224 or email them at [email protected]

Six Senses Zighy Bay

Located in Oman’s northern Governorate of Musandam, Six Senses Zighy Bay is an exclusive luxury resort nestled among Dibba’s wilderness, flanked by craggy mountain peaks on one side and the sparkling, clear blue sea on the other.

All of Zighy Bay’s villas come equipped with private pools, and visitors have a choice of booking villas that either face the beach, the spa, or the resort’s vast pool.

Rate for one night: Approx. $1,155 to 1,800 (OMR 450 to 600)

Getting there: Six Senses Zighy Bay is located after the Omani town of Dibba in Musandam. Road journeys from Muscat to Dibba will take you through the UAE and require proper travel documents. SSZB also operate car services from Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Resort Amenities: The resort is home to three restaurants, a bar, a spa, the GCC’s only saltwater pool, and a vast swimming pool for guest use, in addition to several other entertainment options, and free Wi-Fi.

Contact: To enquire about reservations, call +968 2673 5555 or email [email protected]

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