This was my birthday weekend so we wanted to go somewhere extra special and we’d been advised to visit this mysterious land by many friends throughout our time in Dubai who had all returned with incredible tales and pictures of their adventures there. Two things stood out for me immediately from looking through their snaps and listening to their experiences. Firstly, was the beauty and diversity of the country’s natural landscape from the lush green mountain plateaus, to the technicolor coral kingdom’s in the South which bustles with aquatic life. The second was of the warmth and humility of the locals who are rich in culture yet humble & gracious in their ways. It was almost peak summer in Dubai so we opted to head for the cooler mountain region of Oman….the prospect of a chilled breeze running through my hair was sheer bliss!
(Al Ain Village)
As a child I always remember being told to ‘never judge a book by its cover’. In reality however it’s tricky not to at times, one such moment being the instant you arrive in a new country. A simple smile from the first local you meet in the airport can instantaneously set a positive vibe which lasts throughout the entire trip. Equally, a rude or abrupt attitude from those first few encounters in a new land can really put a dampener on the whole experience. Having met the good, the bad and the downright awful during my travels, I can honestly say that Omanis rank amongst the friendliest I’ve met.
( View from our hotel villa’s balcony )
The ‘Sultanate of Oman’ is located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and has a rich history matched only in splendour by its incredible culture & traditions. The country was an integral part of both the Portuguese and British empires as they sought for dominance across Persia many hundreds of years ago, this makes the country a treasure trove for those with an appetite for history and architecture. We chose the Alila Jabal Akhdar, (meaning “The Green Mountain” in Arabic) because it offered a uniquely fresh cocktail of ingredients which we’d never quite come across before, absolutely perfect for a long weekend escape.
We were collected by the hotel’s concierge from the airport and began our journey through the countryside and into the foothills of the mesmerizing Al Hajar mountain range. One thing that’s worth bearing in mind is that if you do decide to escape the summer heat for this idyllic mountain retreat, make sure you take a 4×4 as there’s a checkpoint at the foot of the mountain where they only grant passage to four-wheel-drive vehicles. We were lucky enough to make our mountain ascent during sunset, and as we hugged the mountainside trail, the sun’s rays pierced through the misty mountain air like shards of pure gold, illuminating the landscape all around us.
(Rose plantation in Al Ain Village, flowers bloom on September)
We arrived at the Alila Jabal Akhdar resort around dusk. The resort itself is perched atop a breath-taking mountain peak that proudly stands 2000 meters above sea level. Cavernous valleys, carved millions of years ago by glaciers sprawl below the cliff edge for as far as the eye can see. The mountain’s face itself is beautifully bleached in multitude of horizontal stripes, all of which are different colours and shades. This is the result of water coursing through the landscape over millions of years and what’s left is a stunning visa which can only be described as resembling the world’s largest layer cake… so it’s safe to say we were off to a good start!
The exterior of the Alila Jabal Akhdar buildings are actually made with the very same rocks from which the mountains are formed, and the interior decor is truly some of the best I’ve ever seen. The walls are tastefully adorned in local arts and crafts with exquisite attention to detail with every texture & feature, the experience is designed to make you feel at one with the land; the people and the history, this is something Alila lovingly incorporate into their resorts across the world. Our room looked right over the cliff edge itself where we watched eagles soaring at dawn break and the intrepid mountain goats skip effortlessly from rock to rock. The personality of this exceptional and unique hotel embodies the very essence of Oman. The exterior is endearingly wholesome, the rich culture, character & warmth which exudes from within truly is the encapsulation of this country and its people.
( Yoga Deck overlooking the grand canyon)
On our way back to the airport, we were asked by our local driver from the hotel if we’d like to see the village where he was born and still lives. We told him we’d love to see so he took us there, showed us the house in which he was born, introduced us to members of his family and took us around the lush date gardens that they tend to. The thing that resonated most for me was just how proud the wonderful Omani people are of their heritage along with their day to day traditions. They have a real zest for life and are genuinely happy to share this with everyone they meet. I can’t recommend Oman enough and I would seriously encourage everyone put the Jabal Alila Akhdar resort high on their bucket list!
( Our local driver’s home )
Until the next trip,