Whatever your preconceptions about the Middle East may be, they will be banished within a two hour drive of Muscat, where the jagged limestone and towering rock faces of the Hajar mountain ranges form the backdrop to Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar. It’s as far from the glittering skyscrapers of Dubai as you could envisage: not for nothing is this region known as the Grand Canyon of the Middle East and the hotel, which is perched right on the edge of this gargantuan bowl, offers an unbeatable vantage point from which to marvel at it.
Not that you’re restricted to gazing upon the views from your balcony: the resort, which, at over 2000m above sea level is the highest in the Middle East, offers guests a range of activities via which they can immerse themselves in the landscape. For those who dare, the Activity Wall has you secured by way of a locked carabiner to a cable line that extends a lengthy via ferrata on the canyon’s inside wall; accompanied by a qualified guide, we inch our way along precarious edges with that vast chalky emptiness beneath our feet. So high are we that clouds drift in and obscure the village at the canyon’s base, above which we end the course in series of zip wires. It’s equal parts exhilarating and terrifying – and makes the indulgent luxury of the spa, where an enticing menu of treatments to soothe both body and mind awaits, an even more welcome prospect. Men and women occupy separate suites, in which you’ll find sauna and steam rooms, experience showers, relaxation chambers, outdoor gardens with loungers and refreshment stations at which to top up hydration levels and sample healthy snacks.
There are less adrenaline-fuelled ways to enjoy the landscape, too – a walking tour with a local Omani guide takes us through the all-but-uninhabited villages that cling to the canyon wall above terraced farmland, watered by an ancient irrigation system called falaj; so vital are these to the region that they are celebrated in a striking central waterway cutting through the landscaping of the resort’s grounds. Walking the uneven terrain is too much of an ask? Try soaking in the cliff-edge hot tubs, floating in the infinity pool, or saluting the sunrise with yoga on Diana’s Point, so named because she and Charles were once dropped here by helicopter for a few dreamy hours, long before the resort or the roads leading to it existed. By night, this area becomes a cocktail bar, complete with blazing fire drums to compete with the spectacle of the sunset, which floods the sky in an array of colours.
When darkness settles, we move inside to the cocktail bar at the top of the tower located at the far end of the main building. Illuminated by dozens of lanterns, it’s a wonderful place to play out your exotic princess fantasies, even before you descend the staircase to the Al Qalaa restaurant to feast on a range of locally sourced and authentically Omani dishes.
Rooms at the resort are best described as low key luxury: their elegance and simplicity leave nothing to be desired in terms of comfort and convenience (I loved having an entire dressing room at my disposal) but let the views of the canyon take an absolute and deserved centre stage. Elsewhere in the resort, beautifully secluded villas boast similarly epic views and private pools; my aspirations for a return visit are set.
- Oman Air (www.omanair.com) flies to Muscat, Oman twice a day from Heathrow. Return fares start from £420 economy , £2450 business class per person
- Nightly rates at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort start from GBP £203. www.anantara.com
- British passport-holders require a tourist visa, which costs around £10 and can be applied for online, for stays of fewer than 10 days www.www.evisa.rop.gov.om