The imminent arrival of a new airport terminal, the increase in direct air links and a plethora of hotel openings have attracted the attention of the Sultanate of Oman over the past year. Often referred to as the Middle East’s best kept secret, its well-preserved historic buildings, stretches of pristine coastline and vast deserts offer a taste of old Arabia.
For those wishing to explore beyond its capital Muscat, the Al Hajar mountain range, just a two-hour drive away, is an increasingly attractive alternative thanks to a growing number of hotel options, including the most recent. comes from the Thai luxury hotel brand, Anantara. Perched on the Saiq plateau of Jabal Akhdar, the five star Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar overlooks a vast canyon dotted with pockets of terraced farmland fed by ancient irrigation canals.
With 115 luxury rooms, a spa, a cliff-edge infinity pool, an observatory, a hookah bar, and three restaurants, the hotel rivals in size with its neighboring villages. While London is practicing Pilot Hyland Edgar finished landscaping and that of Madrid Lighting design collective worked on the lighting scheme, master plan, architecture and interior design were carried out by PoD workshop, a firm with studios in Casablanca, Paris and Dubai.
Boasting a portfolio of hotel projects for global hotel groups such as Radisson, Pullman, Novotel and Paramount, the studio is used to working on such an ambitious scale. âWe define the type of experience we want to create, and then we look for local elements that can help us achieve that experience and make it unique,â ââsays Lotfi Sidirahal, founder of Atelier PoD, of the cabinet design approach. In Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar, this meant basing the design on a traditional Omani fort, many of which can be found in the surrounding area. Spread over more than 700,000 square feet, the sprawling resort sits at the bottom of its mountainous landscape, but its grand, defensive exterior belies the tranquil gardens and tranquil terraces within.
A stone interior courtyard cut by shallow streams (a reference to the mount’s Aflaj irrigation channels) acts as a central hub, where a fireplace draws guests in when the temperature cools. Along with the infinity pool and observation deck, the majority of the hotel’s opulent rooms, furnished in antique brass, walnut and marble, are set around the perimeter of the site, making the most of the spectacular views of the canyon. In addition to the deluxe rooms, 33 one and two bedroom villas have their own private swimming pool. In the villas, the feeling of luxury is enhanced by generous living and dining areas, small kitchens, spacious walk-in closets, and spa-like bathrooms with rainfall showers and tubs overlooking the mountains.
Where possible, local materials such as gray stone from Jabal Akhdar and beige stone from Nizwa were used, and when this was not possible, they were closely matched. âThe Omani limestone was not homogeneous enough in terms of color, so beige-colored Turkish limestone was used in the bathrooms to create a similar effect,â says Sidirahal. A similar approach has been used when it comes to furniture. âIn Oman, there aren’t that many sofas and armchairs, because traditionally Omanis used to sit on cushions or rugs,â says Sidirahal. âSo we had to create almost all the furniture from scratch. “
Describing the 80 custom-designed and locally-made pieces of furniture as “contemporary interpretations of traditional Omani design,” the studio drew inspiration from patterns and architectural details found in local forts, citadels and villages. As Sidirahal says: âWe tried to continue the DNA of Omani design, to invent the missing genes. “