ETH­I­CAL TRAVEL

An eco re­treat in oman’s Al ha­jar moun­tains de­liv­ers A box-tick­ing blend of out­door pur­suits And in­door pam­per­ing. con­sider Alila ja­bal Akhdar one for your bucket list.

Good (UAE) - - CONTENTS - Words: sarah Gam­boni

Visit an eco-re­treat in the rugged heart of oman.

It’s not ev­ery day you find your­self scram­bling over a cliff face 2000 me­tres above sea level one minute, and then face-down on a mas­sage ta­ble the next. At Alila Ja­bal Akhdar, the thrills and chills come in equal mea­sure, de­liv­er­ing a high-oc­tane blend of out­door ac­tiv­i­ties and ul­tra-luxe pam­per­ing.

In fact, you’ll feel your pulse rac­ing be­fore you’ve even ar­rived at this lofty re­treat in oman, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Mus­cat, or a six-hour stint from dubai. No mat­ter which di­rec­tion you’ve come from, the fi­nal hour of the jour­ney be­gins at a po­lice check­point near Nizwa. Here, an of­fi­cer checks over our SUV and our in­sur­ance de­tails, warn­ing my hus­band to take it easy. then, it’s a hair-rais­ing as­cent of hair­pin turns, with jagged rocks on one side and noth­ing but blue sky on the other.

In­spired by an­cient forts and built from lo­cal stone, alila Ja­bal akhdar has been de­signed to blend in with the sur­round­ings, so it comes as a sweet re­lief when we fi­nally spy the low-slung build­ings at the top of the al Ha­jar moun­tain range. In the soar­ing re­cep­tion space, we’re greeted by a roar­ing open fire­place, cool tow­els and warm omani cof­fee, be­fore be­ing shown around the prop­erty.

any thoughts of a re­lax­ing stay are im­me­di­ately dashed as we watch our tod­dler run full-pelt first to­wards the in­fin­ity pool perched above the gorge, and then to­wards the edge of the sheer cliff. We’re not the only fam­ily here with a young one in tow, though. In fact, for those whose chil­dren are be­yond the hy­per­ac­tive tod­dler stage, the ho­tel prom­ises a mem­o­rable fam­ily get­away, with the Play alila kids’ club that boasts but­ter­fly walks, movie ses­sions and a games room, a choice of in­door and out­door pools, and a thought­ful wel­come kit that in­cludes qual­ity toi­letries, a stuffed toy, and swim­ming di­a­pers. We meet fam­i­lies who’ve spent the past two weeks here, their chil­dren rel­ish­ing the chance to play and ex­plore in the cool moun­tain air.

We de­cide to lure Frankie back from the edge by strap­ping her into a high­chair for lunch at rose lounge. While Frankie in­hales her ex­cel­lent kid’s meal of penne bolog­nese, Si­mon and I share a plat­ter of soft-shell crab, se­same-crusted tuna and spring rolls, paired with rose-scented cock­tails us­ing pe­tals from the dusty-pink damask rose bushes that cover these ranges.

Known as the ‘green Moun­tain’ in ara­bic, Ja­bal akhdar is an ad­ven­ture lover’s par­adise – and alila en­sures you get the most out of your stay by of­fer­ing an ar­ray of free ac­tiv­i­ties each day. dur­ing our visit, there’s a vil­lage trek and that cliff-face scram­ble, known as the via Fer­rata Cave af­fair – I send Si­mon off to tackle this one alone, and he re­turns 90 min­utes later, sweat­ing and puff­ing, fol­low­ing an in­tense rock-climb­ing ses­sion that cul­mi­nates in a ropes course across the mouth of a cave, dan­gling high above the canyon.

there are more se­date pur­suits on of­fer, too, in­clud­ing a de­mon­stra­tion by the dessert chefs, sun­rise yoga ses­sions, and af­ter­noon tea as the sun sets each day. af­ter Si­mon’s breath­ing has re­turned to nor­mal, I hand over Frankie and high­tail it to Spa alila, clearly hav­ing drawn the long straw in this ar­range­ment. For the next hour, I’m treated to a tra­di­tional ‘sayang sayang’ mas­sage, us­ing grape­fruit and ve­tiver oil to soothe and detox­ify.

By the time I re­turn, my rookie rock-climber and tot are champ­ing at the bit for din­ner, so we make our way down­stairs to Ju­niper restau­rant. the menu of­fers the choice of an omani set menu or mod à la carte of­fer­ings in­spired by Mediter­ranean and Mid­dle east cuisines. We choose the omani feast, start­ing with warm­ing bowls of len­til soup, a pomegranate and feta salad, and a plat­ter of lab­neh, car­rot dip, and mama ghanoush (with zuc­chini stand­ing in for egg­plant). Main cour­ses are the sig­na­ture omani shuwa of gen­tly spiced lamb cooked in an un­der­ground oven, and a pi­quant curry of fish, toma­toes and onion. Frankie for­goes most of her chicken and chips for a bowl of pomegranate ar­ils, which the staff hap­pily re­fill each time she reaches the bot­tom. they also oblige our re­quest to have dessert sent to our room, so the three of us snug­gle up in bed to watch movies and share the restau­rant’s sub­lime choco­late Umm ali pud­ding with car­damom ice cream.

our morn­ing is spent lin­ger­ing over the sump­tu­ous buf­fet in Ju­niper restau­rant, be­fore slip­ping be­tween the in­door and out­door pools. then it’s time to tackle that drive back down the moun­tain, re­sult­ing in high fives once we reach the bot­tom.

While Frankie may have kept us on our toes dur­ing this stay, we both agree that a re­turn trip – once she is a bit older – is in or­der. Who knows, I may even tackle that cliff climb my­self...

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