Driving up Jabal Akhdar in Oman requires a four-wheel car and experience to go with it. Anyone reading this can be forgiven for thinking I’m about to describe an adventure holiday but instead, 2,000 feet up at the Alila Jabal Akhdar Hotel, is paradise. The air feels different, cleaner, fresher and one immediately feels connected to nature.
Although we arrived just after sunset it already felt like the middle of the night. There was no noise or light pollution, a million stars twinkled above our heads. We entered the quiet foyer, absorbing the calmness around us, a fire flickered further into the hotel and soon we were being shown to our room.
Candles lit the path and stone steps marked the way to our cabin; we would have to wait until morning to see the view from our balcony. In the meantime we unpacked, reclined on our beds complete with the pillows we have preselected and discussed dinner plans. Perhaps I should back-track; before we even arrived in Oman Alila had established that our stay with them would be an unforgettable experience.
Once our reservation was confirmed we were sent a link to fill out about our preferences; everything from why we’re travelling and our interests to how often we wanted our sheets and towels changed and dietary requirements. We were also able to pre-book our spa treatments and, most delightful of all, arrange excursions to see the surrounding area with a local tour guide.
During check-in, the staff informed us that everything was booked; our excursion would be the following morning at 10am and our spa treatments would be in the afternoon. With little to think about, we enjoyed a casual dinner before an early night.
We awoke to the most spectacular view; our room overlooked the vast mountain range and few words can express the beauty of this sight. Although the weather was chilly in January, we sat on the balcony taking in the majestic landscape while sipping green tea.
Wanting to make the most of our stay, we headed to breakfast and again were overwhelmed with the view; as delicious as the food we ate. It should be noted that the hotel sources food as locally as possible, the freshness of their ingredients really shines through and makes the food so much more enjoyable. As we reclined, waterways designed to mimic the local landscape created a soothing song and a small hard on goats bleated their way along the fence.
After a hearty breakfast with eggs cooked many ways, we met with our guide for the morning. Ali greeted us with the warmth all Omanis give guests and for the rest of the morning was our fountain of knowledge. Having studied tourism at an Omani University, he continued his studies independently to learn more about the mountains of Oman so that he could share his passion for his country with Alila guests. He knew the area well, telling us history dating back thousands of years, taking us to villages that otherwise we would have thought abandoned, and told us about the rose and pomegranate terraces, famous in the area.
One of the main attractions in Jabal Akhdar is the rose season that starts in mid-March to the end of April when the mountains become alive with blossoming rose buds. The petals are then harvested and fermented to make rose water, producing the highest quality in Oman and used by perfumers from around the world.
Back at the hotel, we arrived at the spa with plenty of time to relax. We were welcomed with soothing ginger tea and taken to our private treatments rooms with en-suite changing area and bathroom. The spa was incredibly serine and my masseuse began by washing my feet in the traditional way before my Balinese massage. After the massage I was shown to a private relaxation area.
Back in our room, my friend had arranged for a rose-milk bath. The staff arrived early to set everything up, using fresh, local milk and rose petals to fill the large stone bath over looking the mountain area. I left her in peace to enjoy her bath while the sun set between the mountains.
That evening we dined at the restaurant, again a scrumptious feast of locally sourced food; the famous Omani lobster served as a machboos and grilled octopus with radish and foraged herbs. Kanafa shrimps provided a welcome twist on a Khaleeji classic and my favorite dessert, which I ordered both nights, was a mouse prepared using feta cheese and local honey to sweeten with a pine nut crunch and fresh fruit.
Once we returned to the bottom of the mountain our stay at Alila Jabal Akhdar felt like a dream in the clouds, a fitting memory for such an ethereal getaway.
Images courtesy of Alila Jabal Akhdar