Barefoot luxury at Zighy Bay, Oman

May 4, 2016 0 comment

I remember watching the movie The Barefoot Contessa with Ava Gardner as a teenager, and thinking that the title was the most appealing oxymoron. I feel like mimicking the idea here, as barefoot luxury truly says it all about the days that we spent at the eco-resort Zighy Bay in Oman.

The hotel is located on the Northern coast of Oman, an easy 2hours drive from Dubai airport. Now, I am usually not a fan of all-inclusive resorts, I have written about my thoughts here before. They often bring to mind impersonal service, generic design and noisy gym classes in a banana-shaped swimming pool. A friend even told me “oh you’re not going to talk about this resort on BozAround, are you? You must stick to writing about the road less travelled!” But hey, once in a while, it’s good to relax, be told where to play and what to eat. And Zighy Bay, set on a remote bay in the Musandan Peninsula and hidden by mountainous desert all around, is far from being on a road much traveled.

above is the spa, and below is The March of the Penguins screening in the outdoor cinema, popcorn included

Ziggy Bay Six Senses is stunning, calming, and a perfect balance for families who want to have it all but sometimes want to do nothing at all. The list of activities available is very long and of really high quality.  I went paragliding…Yes, and I have a proof with the photos below!! The scuba diving is supposed to be stunning, yoga, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing, massage (is that an activity?!), yet one could also decide to do nothing at all and rest by the beach or in the villa. The hotel is only composed of (very) private villas and they all come with their own small swimming pools.

You are encouraged to go around the resort barefoot or by bicycle, and to live slow. Just what the doctor prescribed…

these are pictures of the resort that I took while up in the air paragliding (ok, ok..in tandem with an instructor)

The hotel was originally opened by the couple behind the Six Senses group. Their motto is eco-mindedness and slow living in stunning locations. We had spent a few days at Zighy Bay in 2011, on our way to Muscat and the sand dunes of the Wahiba Desert, which I wrote about here. But we had felt that the service and food were not really on par with the (high) bill back then. Clearly, it was a challenge to establish a luxury hotel in such a remote location. You have to drive on a long windy road up and then down a mountain, only accessible to 4×4 (Zighy Bay will arrange transport back and forth from Dubai airport, and administrative papers for the crosspoint at the border). They now have the financial support of a local Omani group and have stepped up the quality of their offerings a huge deal. They softened the bill for us so we would give it another try, and we could not have wished for a more relaxing Easter break.

We took a day trip with a guide, had a stunning sunset picnic on the edge of the mountains. We heard stories about how the rain turns into flooding in a matter of minutes when the water enters the gorges between the mountains. The children asked lots of questions about Pakistani man who has been living all alone for 45 years in the mountains, with no water and electricity, going down to the village with his donkey once a week to stock on provisions.  We also heard how he bottle-feeds his baby lambs and looks after the stone house of an Omani family.

And we learnt that close to 80% of the population in Oman is not Omani, but workforce brought in from countries such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India who sometimes lives in secondary homes of Omani families so that those homes are not lost to the government. The law is such that those houses can be taken away by the government if no-one occupies them, and it would be a major dishonour for an Omani family to lose properties.

 

The design of the resort is inspired by the stone houses that dot the mountains all around. The villas are quite understated, made of wood and stones, with a color palette of warm browns, cheerful oranges and calming beige.

Of course, there’s a kids club at Zighy Bay (children less than 4 need to be accompanied, which is a bit annoying because you have to pay for the services of a babysitter or tag along). Our children felt free to go in and out as they pleased and the program of activities was fun and educational. Amalya loved the Arabic classes in the morning, and the henna sessions. Marcelo enjoyed the crab race and the football matches in the sand. And Lior still talks about the massive Easter Bunny who landed on the beach with his hands full of chocolates.

This is a photo with super sweet Roda from the Kids Club, as we said goodbye on the last day.

And it’s not only clients who seem happy to stay at Zighy Bay. We heard spontaneous comments from the staff about how they all enjoy working there, how they are paid well above average and feel privileged to be part of the team. This was proof to me that Zighy Bay has achieved a rare balance between sustainability, excellent hospitality, business and style. Let’s keep fingers crossed that it stays as such as their business grows. Inch’allah.

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