ANANTARA AL JABAL AL AKHDAR RESORT, OMAN
Clutching to a canyon mountain cliff in the Al Hajar mountain range in Oman, the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort soars 2,000 metres above sea level, making it the highest luxury hotel in the Middle East. Tonje Odegard from SPACE had a closer look at how the country’s rich cultural heritage was effortlessly combined with sublime five-star indulgence…
A secluded haven hovering over the dramatic and rugged landscape of the Al Jabal Al Akhdar mountain range, Arabic for ‘The Green Mountain’, the resort is part of the towering massif on the Sultanate of Oman’s vast Saiq Plateau. With extreme mountainsides and high peeks, the view is raw and breathtaking.
Designed by French-Moroccan architect Lotfi Sidirahal from the French architecture and interior design studio Atelier Pod, the resort has been designed with careful attention to the resort’s surroundings and heritage. Atelier Pod is renowned for its ability to create harmony between architecture, interior and landscape, something Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar definitively reflects. With the help from S&T Interiors and Contracting, who describes the project as one of their most wide-ranging and unique interior fit-outs, the resort stood completed in October 2016. S&T Interiors and Contracting partnered with UAE-headquartered Al Jaber Engineering & Contracting (ALEC).
Balakrishna R.P., Managing Director of S&T Interiors and Contracting said: “We are very proud to have been chosen for this complex project and congratulate MODPF on the successful launch of the impressive resort. It is one of the most comprehensive projects of S&T Interiors and Contracting that reflects our turnkey contracting capabilities (construction, interiors and procurement), a fruitful JV partnership with ALEC and ability to accomplish large-scale complex projects to client satisfaction. Executing a distinctive project like this reaffirms our ability to manage formidable challenges with tight deadlines and deliverables. We have once again proven our pursuit for excellence and commitment to quality and best creative output.”
Cradled by soaring mountains and dramatic canyons freckled with wild fig and olive trees, the resort’s true spirit lies outdoors. Set amidst juniper shrubs, rose bushes and scattered, ageless rock, the resort’s design plays homage to the mountains and is inspired by surrounding ancient forts, mud-brick villages, and the dusty riverbeds. The colours and architecture of the area has been integrated into the design, offering modern ramparts inspired by the commanding indigenous citadels, re-imagined with sophisticated contemporary interiors.
Lotfi and his team spent considerable time exploring the local area, meeting with the mountain residents and visiting abandoned villages to immerse themselves into the culture to ensure the resort stayed true to the charm and intrigue of its locale. This is evident in all 115 luxury rooms and villas, the public areas, the six restaurants and lounges, and the world-acclaimed Anantara spa.
Inspiration has been drawn from the layout of the local villages to create a peaceful landscape filled with fragrant rose bushes, indigenous fruit trees, lush green terraces and falaj water features, which mirror Oman’s typical system of irrigation channels. Constructed using traditional building techniques and local building materials, including stone taken from the mountain, the resort is an alluring blend that reflects Omani history and culture, with contemporary flair.
The sanded earth-coloured façade blends seamlessly with the rugged mountainscape with signature touches such as fort-like doors carved from solid wood, gently curving archways and decorative latticework resulting in a unique setting that is respectful of its surroundings and enhances the magnificent views.
Lobby and public spaces
The hotel’s entrance is a relaxing and inviting area with a circular pool housing a fountain that trickles soothingly. Guiding you up to this place is a long walk with a lit central pool running the entire length of the path, lined with Moroccan lanterns and trees.
The central courtyard of the hotel operates as the heart of the property, largely due to its huge centre fireplace.
Guestrooms and villas either provide views of the dramatic canyon or the tranquil gardens, and feature custom-made Omani furniture. Designed to incorporate authentic luxury, the elegant interiors echo the surrounding culture, exuding a minimalist style infused with warm, rich colours alongside traditional additions such as local artwork, Arabesque lanterns and handmade pottery.
Indigenous mountain icons such as roses, pomegranates, butterflies, juniper trees and marine fossils permeate design choices and are reflected through choices in the décor and artwork.
The 82 Premier and Deluxe rooms all have spa-like bathrooms carved out of sustainable material from the local area, complete with a rain shower and separate bathtub alongside a balcony. The rooms are positioned to offer views that encompass ancient villages clinging to the side of the vast canyon, allowing guests to marvel at the mountainscape while, for instance, lounging in the bath.
The 33 villas have a private infinity pool either overlooking the cliffs or hidden in the exotic garden. The eleven Cliff Pool Villas and two-storey Royal Mountain Villas overlook the deep canyons forged by ancient rivers that plunge into the valleys below. Its master bathroom is the definition of luxury using white marble tiles to cover floor, walls and surfaces. With dark wooden finishes, details hinting at Arabian heritage and fresh flowers in vases, the bathrooms are lavish and fresh. The tub is encased by Moroccan wall screens and accessed through marble steps, so guest can lay in the bath while appreciating the view through floor-to-ceiling windows.
The Cliff Pool Villa bathrooms have a classic Middle-Eastern feel to them with beige colour pallets, pottery water basins and details in brass and wood. Minimalistic, effortless and elegant – a winning combination. Similarly, the bedrooms are modern and simply designed with gentle nods to the Arabian location; Arabesque lanterns, pottery and brass decorations.
Restaurants and bars
The resort’s six restaurants and lounges, including the rooftop shisha lounge are all different in their design and offerings.
The signature restaurant, the Arabian grill Al Qalaa, is housed in a free-standing tower that takes inspiration from the iconic architecture of Khasab Castle in Musandam in northern Oman. Situated in the heart of the resort, the name translates as ‘The Fort’ from Arabic and features a chic dining room dressed in distinctive Omani details and softened by a constellation of lanterns hanging overhead.
Al Maisan, otherwise known as ‘The Rising Star’, is elevated above the central courtyard and has an elegant and comforting indoor dining area with a spacious and breezy outdoor terrace. With the entire eastern wall covered in glass, the spot is perfect for viewing the golden sunset, which blends in effortlessly with the brass accents of the interiors. An impressive diamond-shaped pattern breaks up the glass wall and indeed the rest of the room. An assembly of beautiful Moroccan lanterns in various shapes, heights and sizes hang from the ceiling in small groups, creating a playful balance to the area.
Bella Vista, meanwhile, offers panoramic views stretching across the canyon, which is reflected in its name that translates to ‘beautiful view’. This restaurant possibly provides one of the most unique fine dining poolside restaurants in the world – the pool reflects the overarching sky with a backdrop of the extreme mountain range. The interior is minimalist and sophisticated with light wooden floors, simplistic dining furniture and tall ceilings. Intricate ceiling details and modest lighting make the room comfortable and fresh.
Al Shourfa, meaning ‘The Balcony’ in Arabic, offers a traditional Omani experience. Al Shourfa is the rooftop shisha lounge where the region’s traditional water pipes or a choice of cigars is on offer. Surrounded by the mountain range and the open starry sky, the simple interior pays respect to the overwhelming natural surroundings.
Al Burj, or ‘The Tower’, the circle-shaped Moroccan lounge, draws its inspiration from Oman’s traditional forts, in particular the Al Jabal Al Akhdar. Once a natural defence, prized for its lofty height, steep sides and inaccessibility, it was used as a fortress in the mid-20 century. The shimmering lanterns hovering over the tower’s centre reflect a playful and atmospheric light onto the walls and ceiling, transporting you to the Moroccan bazaars and souks. The room is completed with details in brass, dark wood and sandy stone, and mosque-like doorframes.
Another special dining experience the resort offers is ‘Dining by Design’, where guests get to enjoy dinner at the spectacular cliff-edge platform, Diana’s Point, named after Princess Diana, who visited the exact spot in 1986. Surrounded by flickering candles and the breathtaking view, it creates a truly unique environment.
With five treatment suites, private outdoor relaxing areas and lush treatment rooms, the spa is a real attribute to the area. Featuring falaj-inspired waterways that gurgle quietly throughout the resort and the infinity pool, which stretches along the curve of the plateau, it is a relaxing and pretty space.
The entrance is a geometrically pleasing area with a solid stone wall soaked in a still and tranquil pool. Giving off a blue effect, the surrounding patterned walls make it interesting and inviting.
With separate women and men relaxation areas, the designated spaces have been individualised. The men’s spa section is open and breezy with stone floors and a large, oval-shaped pool. The female section’s pool is rectangular and resting under a huge silver dome with a funky, circular chandelier. With stylish wooden walls and stone floors, the area is sophisticated and feminine.
Bringing luxury hotel design to new heights, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar is an accomplished resort with exquisite detail. Surrounded by majestic mountains, this cultured desert treasure boasts of authenticity and uniqueness and is a really inspirationally designed destination.