Long before there was anything here local Omanis would come to the peak of Al Jabal Al Akhdar – Arabic for the Green Mountain – to picnic, relax, and take in the views over the sprawling Saiq Plateau.
Legend has it sultan Sayyid Qaboos bin Said Al Said himself visited the site and decided to build a hotel, joking that if people were so taken with the location the government should start charging.
In November 1986 Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, honoured the spot with a visit, invited by the sultan to come and take in the scenic views.
Its reputation only grew from there and, after more than a decade of planning, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort welcomed its first guests last year.
To say praise has been superlative since then would be to sell the resort short.
World Travel Awards recognised the property with the title of Oman’s Leading Luxury Hotel Villa in the autumn, while many others have offered accolades.
On arrival, it is easy to see why.
After a two-hour drive from Muscat along the winding mountain roads – itself a fantastic experience – the resort appears over the crest of the hill.
Guests enter through dramatic, Jurassic Park-style gates, to be greeted by serene calm.
The silence – exquisite, unbroken, and all-enveloping – is the defining feature of the resort.
There is also a unique microclimate here in the mountains, some ten-to-fifteen degrees below the temperature down in the capital Muscat.
This contributes further to the feeling of calm, as gentle breezes brush away the cares of the world.
Designed by French-Moroccan architect Lotfi Sidirahal, the layout echoes that of a traditional Omani village, placing guests in modern ramparts inspired by the commanding indigenous citadels.
A water feature, based on the traditional ‘falaj’ irrigation system, runs through the hotel, tying the 115 rooms to the central courtyard.
As general manager Darren Darwin tells Breaking Travel News: “Everybody wanted to manage this resort, but Anantara was selected for our design.”
The owners, the pension fund of the Omani department of defence, wanted a resort which was true to the local culture, and the Thai-based company delivered.
Darwin continues: “If you look at our brand, we are authentic luxury; Anantara is very good at blending in with, and capitalising on, local culture.
“If you think about the treatments we offer in the spa, in our food and beverage offering, the recreation, it is all very much based on the local culture.
“There is no cookie cutting in this resort.”
Among the rooms are 33 villas, some overlook the valley floor 2,000 meters below, while others are centred on a personal pool, offering guests an intimate escape.
We stayed in the latter – and the feeling was very much of cloistered luxury.
Privacy was guaranteed behind the walls of our exclusive space, while to catch a glimpse of a fellow guest in the public parts of the property was a rare surprise.
The location is geared toward those seeking seclusion.
Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort also capitalises on its connections to the UK.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said attended Sandhurst Military Academy, deepening the historic connections between Oman and the British establishment.
This led to an invitation to the Prince of Wales to visit – and his arrival with Diana in the 1980s.
Honouring this visit, Diana Point juts out over the valley below, offering spectacular views over the surrounding mountains.
The spot is also used to showcase Anantara’s Dining by Design.
Surrounded by flickering candles, guests can enjoy an unparalleled private culinary experience, courtesy of their very own chef, as they revel in the soothing sounds of the great outdoors.
Diana’s love of painting is also represented in the easels that dot the resort.
Darwin adds: “Diana’s Point is not a gimmick – it was just a viewing platform – and we decided to link it to her visit.
“It has now become quite a big feature for the hotel; more people have heard of that than perhaps the area.
“We are quite proud of that.”
Given its remote location you could be forgiven for thinking Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort might suffer from a lack of things to do – but this is not the case.
The property presents travellers with a range of authentic experiences, allowing them to explore the nearby culture, history, and landscape.
During our all to short time, we abseiled off a cliff on the door-step of the hotel and hiked through the nearby valleys.
Our local guide showcased the captivating traditions of Oman as we wandered through ancient villages and heritage sites – a real eye opening experience.
This being Anantara, the spa experience is also well developed.
Guests are enveloped by a soothing sense of peace as they relax under the healing touch of trained therapists in one of the five beautifully appointed suites, before being invited to take a dip in the Jacuzzi.
I enjoyed a signature treatment at Anantara Spa, with the therapist using frankincense oils, combined with purpose-designed movements, to stimulate the circulation in my ailing body.
With a selection of six restaurants to choose from, guests have plenty of options when it comes to fine dining.
We ate at Al Maisan – otherwise known as The Rising Star – which is elevated above the central courtyard.
With an elegant indoor dining area and a spacious outdoor terrace, it offers the perfect setting to soak in the views of the vast canyon surrounding the resort.
Here guests embark on a gastronomic journey around the world, from authentic Arabic and contemporary Thai to fresh sushi and fiery Indian, plus an assortment of freshly made breads, sweets and pastries.
Not bad for a resort miles from the nearest town!
The hotel also secured an alcohol licence within the first week of opening, a major asset in this largely dry community.
Pointing to Emirates Palace and the Burj Al Arab as leaders in their markers, general manger Darren Darwin argues Anantara is the top resort in Oman in terms of its nature product and location.
“We are very conscience of the local environment and we work with the people here – the hotel is good for the economy, and I think they are very pleased with the reputation the hotel is building globally.
“There is a beacon now in Oman which shines throughout the Middle East.
“This is just the first year, remember, so it is quite an achievement.
“This is nature – it is on the edge of a cliff, 2,000 metres up; and our guests appreciate the location and the effort we have gone to.”
They certainly do.
The Anantara experience was born in 2001 when the first luxury property opened in Thailand’s historic seaside retreat of Hua Hin.
From that day forward, the Minor Hotels-owned brand has expanded throughout the world to cosmopolitan cities, lush islands, desert sands, heritage destinations, uncharted beaches and contemporary resort destinations.
Today’s portfolio spans Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Maldives, Mozambique, Oman, Portugal, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Zambia.
Find out more on the official website.