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MENAFN - Muscat Daily - 26/06/2014
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(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Jutting out somewhere between a magnificently overbearing stack of lofty mountains is a flattened stretch of land which, from a distance, appears as barren as any other rocky heap on the Hajar range.

The indistinguishable blocks of craggy pile, haltingly punctuated with wild shrubs and dried juniper barks that ornament this levelled plate, can be mistakenly construed as the work of Nature or probably, an architectural marvel from another time.


While stones from the Jebel mountains ornament the exterior structure of the resort, local handicrafts embellish the interiors, offering an Omani experience for guests

But as the 4x4 navigates through the circuitous hairpin bends of Jebel Akhdar, drawing closer to a stoned-gateway on A'roos Plateau, you realise that your eyes may have played a few tricks on you.

''Welcome to Alila,'' a wooden-plank at the entrance reads, putting all those mind games to rest.

You drive further and the concretised pathway greets you to a series of isolated stone-clad blocks that stand erect, amidst the arid expanse of land. Solar lanterns hidden between neatly stacked boulders and broken rocks buried inside damp earth break the monotony of the surrounding.

The place, in many ways, exemplifies what Canadian artist and writer Emily Carr may have had in mind, when she spoke of ''perfectly ordered disorder in helter skelter magnificence''.

Because despite this outwardly show of disorder and wilderness, it is still luxury.


Sprawled across 3.8ha, some 2,000m above sea level, Alila Jabal Akhdar Resort a brainchild of Singapore-based chain Alila is Omran's latest offing in five-star luxury living, and Alila's first in the Middle East.

Costing Omran a little below RO20mn, the resort, which houses around 86 rooms, has already received several accolades, having won the Best Project Design award at the Dossier Construction Awards and Summit in 2013 and the Sustainable Project of the Year at the Construction Week Oman Awards 2014.


''Despite the many challenges we faced while building the resort like that of transporting the building materials through the harsh terrain to the site we are proud to have completed the project within two years, without really going overboard with our budget,'' said Abdul Wahid al Farsi, VP external affairs, Omran.

What sets this project apart is that it engages so beautifully with the rugged topography that it almost blends with the majestic scape. But the purpose is more than just to ''prevent the altering of a landscape'' as towering as Jebel Akhdar; a lot of thought has also gone into retaining its virgin surroundings, as well as the culture and heritage that have come to define the place.


An example being the Jebel rocks (local stones), which were pulverised when leveling the land for construction of the resort, but later chiselled piece by piece and fitted into the exterior structure. In due course, over 12,000 m2 of natural stone cladding from the mountain was used for the project. The result is a landmark most rooted to the topography.

''Manicuring the surrounding is not what we had in mind when building this resort,'' Jork Bosselaar, general manager of Alila Jabal Akhdar Resort, insists, while referring to Alila's vision of sustainable and eco-friendly tourism.

''All our projects have a strong focus on sustainability. And sustainable development has several facets; this includes how we use our land and retain the natural landscape in order to make the least possible impact on the environment. In the case of this resort, we wanted to retain the original vegetation as much as possible. So, all the trees and native plants that had to be initially cleared for the project are slowly being replanted. The idea is to provide luxury, but amidst the natural surrounding.''


If the unsullied external look of the resort is a welcome surprise, the primeval yet modern interior is no different, and closely reflects ''the experience of a traditional Omani home''. Hand-crafted and specially commissioned items made by local Omani artisans add flourish to the dcor inside.

Copper plates and jars from Nizwa, pottery from Bahla, hand-woven mats, mashrabiya panels with Arabesque designs, wooden cross beams, hand-carved doors and juniper branches are embellishments that every room, suite and villa at the Alila boasts of. Yet this Omani home is tempered with a modish sensibility that makes it difficult to locate the time and place of such an experience.

To give it a truly local feel, motifs of rose, pomegranate and juniper what Jebel Akdhar is most renowned for find their ways in stenciled panels in the lobby, or as components in food and personal care and spa products like shampoos, conditioners and soaps. The move is a very conscious one, which according to Bosselaar, is an attempt at ''sharing the hospitality of the region with the guests and also providing a market for the local produce''.

Alila Jabal Akhdar Resort which will officially open for its guests during Eid is now in the testing and commissioning stage. And though residing in such luxury will come at a price an overnight stay starts from RO145 the carefully chosen locale, overlooking gargantuan mountains and deep gorges, with breathtaking views of both the sunrise and sunset, are indulgences that are hard to forego and worth the


Muscat Daily

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