Anantara Jabal Akhdar is not like other luxury hotels. This is not a property where you are going to be coddled with robotic niceties, it is a resort where you will be offered the best of everything—from the bedlinens and toiletries in your room to the expertly crafted cuisine at the restaurants to the pampering treatments in the spa, all provided along with a healthy dose of humour.
When my husband and I visited the new 5-star property, our every desire was indulged, and then we were thrown off a cliff and sent on an army-style march down the mountainsides of the great Green Mountain. They knew that as local residents, we had surely seen a lot of Jabal Akhdar, but the mountain gurus had a new perspective to share with us. It was memorable. It was an adventure. And isn’t that even more vital than 600-thread count sheets when it comes to having an amazing holiday? (Well, the sheets are pretty great too). At Anantara, they realise that gone are the days of stuffy pretention being the benchmark of the premium hospitality market. And thank goodness for that.
As it turned out, our ride for the weekend had a similar perspective.
Lincoln, a brand with a long history of fine crafted, personalised luxury, is built on the engineering of one of the hardest working car brands in the world. The Lincoln MKX has the heart (and engine) of a rugged Ford—able to tackle anything thrown its way with safety, fuel efficiency, and comfort. But it is, at the end of the day, a Lincoln, which means that no detail was overlooked with regard to comfort, on-road entertainment, and styling. Sitting in the interior felt like lounging in the cockpit of a private jet, surrounded by premium leather and wood grain, curvaceous lines, and a massive entertainment display. The audio was perhaps the most dramatic of the high-end touches, with a 19-speaker Revel Audio sound system so all-encompassing that it eradicated any other thought from my mind as I was submerged in the sounds of my favourite jams.
We rolled down the windows, turned up the volume, and opened the panoramic sun roof to let in the cool air as we ascended Jabal Akhdar, switching to the paddle shifters to put the six-speed transmission through its paces. The paddles are so ergonomically located on the very manageable-sized wheel, that playing with the gears going up and down the hills was effortless and exhilarating. We reached the resort late in the evening, and I noticed that as I exited the MKX, the welcome lights illuminated the door handles and cast the Lincoln logo like a doormat on the ground beneath my feet.
Upon entering the Anantara, we were greeted with the soothing sounds of the sleek Moroccan fountain bubbling in the entryway where we were met by smiling receptionists who showed us to the waiting lounge while they prepared our check-in documents. After signing for our keys, we were escorted through the lantern-lit paths running between villas and modern falaj water features to our cliff side villa.We pushed through the oversized door and found ourselves in a living room overlooking our softly lit infinity pool, beyond which we could see only darkness and stars. In the next room the bed was strategically positioned in the centre of the space facing the floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, a desk set behind it. Behind the bedroom, dual vanity sinks occupied the spacious bathroom. As I explored the area, I found one door lead to the toilet, and the other, I assumed, would lead to the shower. Pushing through the door, I caught my breath.
This was no ordinary shower. The door opened like a secret passageway, the space behind it seemed impossibly large. It was a circular, tiled, hammam-style room with a rain shower built into the ceiling. In this shower room, a built-in tile bench overlooked a small outdoor garden and, on the other side, a deep soaking tub. Though I was dying to take a long, lingering shower in my own mini-hammam, it was getting late and we were starving, so we left our villa in search of Bella Vista restaurant.
Perched on another cliff, adjacent to the main pool, the self-proclaimed casual Italian eatery is run by Francesco Cutino, the property’s executive sous chef. Looking at the menu, I was filled with cautious optimism. Half Italian myself, I am usually hard-pressed to find “paizano” food that lives up to my expectations (or fantasized memories) here in Oman. I took a deep breath and ordered us the osso bucco with saffron risotto and butternut squash ravioli. Then we waited.
With the temperatures hovering around 10 degrees, it was pretty chilly, but the accommodating staff fired up the tall heat lanterns and soon we were enjoying the crisp air and fresh-baked ciabatta bread from our warm cocoon. A short while later, our meal arrived. The osso bucco melted off the bone, so rich and deeply flavoured that each bite warranted a close-eyed, slow-chewed moment. The delicate, perfectly cooked risotto provided the perfect foil for the luxurious meat. The ravioli were likewise cooked to perfection, each toothsome pasta packet housing warm sweet-savoury squash filling, the entire dish draped in a luscious parmesan cream and dotted with sweet, aged balsamic vinegar. So utterly surprised and delighted by our discovery, we ended up eating at Bella Vista three more times during the course of our stay. The daytime boasted especially fabulous views and excellent white sauce pizzas. We had finally found authentic Italian in Oman. Who knew we just needed to head to one of the highest mountain ranges in the country to find it?
The surprises were just beginning. The next morning we awoke to find that beyond the glass wall of our infinity pool, our villa overlooked nothing but the sprawl and dive of the awesome Jabal Akhdar peaks. At the spa, the pre-treatment experience showers, plunge pools, and saunas were almost as spectacular as the expert treatments. The room service, in a villa with a view like ours (spoiler: All 33 villas aside from the garden villas boast the same awe-inspiring scene) is perhaps the most picturesque and perfect breakfast-in-bed imaginable. And then there are the local attractions. Having visited Jabal Akhdar many times, I assumed that there was little this new property, even with its local “gurus” could show me. I’d been to the villages, met with locals, seen rose water made (all of which Anantara can arrange for guests). So what was it they had in store for us?
Told to report to the recreation centre, home to a fantastic kids club and a great teen lounge with billiards and foosball tables, my husband and I were shown to an indoor rockwall. We were given pointers and after a few successful trips up the wall, we were handed helmets and carabiners before being marched passed the infinity pool, past the cliff side view deluxe rooms, and right over to the edge of the aforementioned cliff. From there we were walked through the safety procedures, and then, with the patience and encouragement of seasoned coaches, our climbing mentors coaxed us right over the edge. It was unexpected and exhilarating.
Feeling quite proud of ourselves, we spent the rest of the day indulging at the spa and back in our villa, but the biggest adventure was yet to come.
The next morning, we met another local expert in the lobby, a man who was born and raised on the Green Mountain. He was going to show us a wadi that his family discovered when he was a boy. With packed lunches and bottles of water, we set off on what was to be a seriously challenging hike. We bouldered down steep inclines, scrambled up rock, and then found ourselves on the placid banks of a small wadi. As we ate a picnic lunch, we heard stories of his misadventures in the valley, like when sudden rain washed away his camp, then he pointed out his family name, carved high above us on the rock face.
Upon our return the grinning staff was waiting with cold water bottles to see how we had enjoyed our trek. The hospitality at Anantara is as authentic as the local experiences they offer to guests, and that authenticity changes everything. It is a resort where you feel comfortable and relaxed, pampered but not pandered too. It is just plain fun. Likewise, the comfort and styling of the Lincoln MKX is far from precious, with a practicality underlying its fine trappings. On our weekend escape, we discovered a rough-and-ready side of luxury in Oman, one in which the playfulness in no way diminishes an absolute commitment to excellence in quality, but instead enhances it.
STAY AND PLAY
Anantara Al Jabal Akhdar Resort
+968 2521 8000
• In room dining (especially if you book a villa)
• Authentic Italian food at Belle Vista
• Rock climbing or trekking adventures with the mountain gurus
• Expert facials and massages
• Excellent wet and dry spa facilities including experience showers, saunas, and plunge pools
• A warm (or warming) beverage in the fireside courtyard
• In-room sleep rituals
Current Special Offer
Anantara Al Jabal Short Breaks Special
Book a minimum two night stay to receive daily breakfast for two, upgrade to the next room category (subject to availability), one signature cocktail, late check-out time of 4pm (subject to availability), 20% off dining throughout stay for two persons (soft beverages only), 20% off 90-minute oil massages, starting at OMR184 per night.
DRIVE LIKE A BOSS
Trims available in Oman: Premier/ Select/ Reserve (reviewed)
Engine: 3.7L twin turbo Ecoboost
Transmission: 6-Speed SelectShift® automatic transmission with paddle activation
308 Net PS (227 Net kW) @ 6,500rpm
379Nm of Net Torque @ 4,000rpm
• Active noise control
• 4-Wheel anti-lock disc brake
• AdvanceTrac with roll stability control
• Specially designed dual stage front airbags, driver knee airbag, and side air curtains to minimise trauma when deployed
• SecuriCode keyless entry
• Inflatable rear seat belts
• Adaptive led headlamps
• Revel ultima audio with 19-speakers
• Adaptive cruise control
• Active park assist
• Front camera with 360-degree view
• Automatic wash and wipe rain sensing wipers
• Automatic headlamps with auto high beam
• 10-way power driver seat, heated and cooled
• Door handle illumination
• Approach detection with Lincoln logo welcome mat
• Hands-free power lift gate
• Remote start
• Voice-activated entertainment system
• Authentic wood trim inserts
Starting Price: OMR18,500
Authorised Oman Dealer
Arabian Car Marketing
+968 2457 5900
+968 9288 0658