DUBAI: After a two-hour drive from Dubai, crossing the border at Dibba into Musandam, Oman, we found ourselves, alone, surrounded by mountainous rocks only made visible by the full moon. The headlights of the car showed a long stretch of endless rough road ahead to us, and no sign of the highly exclusive, luxury resort to which we were headed.
But this is just one of many ways to enter Six Senses Zighy Bay, the holiday resort that has hosted the likes of Bill Gates and Arab royals. You can make a James Bond-style entrance by speedboat from Dibba Marina or, if you’re feeling extra-adventurous, by paraglide tandem.
On our more prosaic road trip, we finally reached the resort, where we were welcomed by Six Senses’ friendly staff, and a 4x4, into which we climbed for the drive up the steep mountain to the resort.
Six Senses Zighy Bay is located on a bay near a small village, shielded by Al-Hajjar mountain range, giving it the privacy most VIPs look for. The story goes that, before the owners were able to build the resort, they had to strike a deal with the villagers, building them new homes and a school, and offering them employment at the resort.
The aesthetics of Six Senses are simple and practical, using stones, wood, and cool desert tones, blending into the natural surroundings. It has the feel of an authentic Omani village — fitted with modern-day luxuries. There are 82 spacious beach villas with their own private pools — fashioned to resemble stone huts — and high walls for privacy.
Inside the open-plan villas, there is a lounge area with glass doors that open out to the infinity pool area, complete with loungers and a majlis. In the bathroom there is a large stone bath and a shower (there’s also a shower outdoors).
For anyone caught-up in the hustle-and-bustle of city life, the first thing you notice is the deafening silence. The distant sound of waves crashing ashore and background birdsong only add to the peaceful tranquility.
The brand’s identity is based on a stripped-back, organic lifestyle in tune with nature and the outdoors. And the whole operation seems effortless. This, in fact, is far from the reality as the resort has a staff of just over 400 to keep things running smoothly.
When it comes to food, the resort is committed to the brand’s philosophy of making food “healthy by default.” They do this by growing as much of the produce as possible in their organic garden or sourcing from local farms.
During our stay we had a taste of their newly launched menus, created by celebrity chef James Knight-Pacheco, in the mountain-top restaurant, Sense on the Edge, which offers breathtaking views. The menu uses French and Japanese techniques with regional flavors for a fine-dining experience. The principle idea behind the menu stems from the concept of “land and sea.” It consists of five- and seven-course “journeys” of meats and poultry (a personal favorite), “voyages” of seafood, or “expeditions” for vegetarians. There’s also a fresh tapas menu at the Zighy Bar, the shining stars of which are their chorizo empanadas.
But the real feast is at the “Spiced Market” breakfast buffet: All types of seasonal fruits, a selection of cheeses, eggs cooked to your taste, or Middle Eastern favorites shakshouka and foul medames.
Aside from its traditionally themed luxury and the variety of food on offer, the real highlight of a stay at Six Senses is the range of activities available. After paragliding over the resort, we went scuba diving (spotting Nemo the clown fish three times). We didn’t have time for rock climbing, mountain biking, or — sadly — a treatment at the resort’s signature spa.
Overall a stay at Six Senses is bound to be unforgettable, with a laid-back luxury that makes it stand out from the high-end competition. Along with its dramatic mountain setting, calming sea views and accommodating staff, it makes for a perfect romantic getaway or an ideal holiday for a young family. But it doesn’t come cheap: Expect a bill to match the exclusive luxury.