Oh Man, Oman!
Who’d say no to a luxury holiday in the sun? Not I!! So when the Lovely Husband suggested a 10 day beach treat at the Six Senses Zighy Bay resort in Oman, I couldn’t pack my suitcase fast enough.
It’s an easy seven hour night flight from Heathrow to Dubai and twice as easy when you’re whisked there in comfortable business class, involving first a quite delectable nibbly supper in the smart lounge and then a solid good sleep in a snooze pod upstairs on a Jumbo. Yes please and thank you very much! I can do that.
You might be wondering why we flew to Dubai instead of to Oman’s capital Muscat. The reason is that Zighy Bay is, in fact, on the Musandam Peninsula, the pointy bit which projects into the Straits of Hormuz on the Persian Gulf and is just 34km from the Iranian coast. Musandam is one of two Oman exclaves. It is surrounded by the UAE and it is only a two hour drive through an arid desert scape from Dubai.
Zighy Bay provides transport at not inconsiderable cost, US$390 return, so we were collected by a handsome dish dash clad Arab in his sparkling clean 4×4. There was little to see on the way, just seemingly endless sand dunes, rocks, the odd camel and the occasional stunted little trees either side of the highway. In Dibba we crossed the border. The somewhat stern looking official checked that we were not smuggling in any alcohol. Oman is ‘dry’ and booze is only available in the resorts. Finally we crept up a terrifyingly dizzying mountain, so steep that my fear of heights kicked in quite substantially, and I had to look everywhere except out of the window, quietly sing ‘lalala’ to myself like a child in a dark attic. I’m glad to say we made it without sliding off the mountain. At its peak, we could see the resort below us, which, to be truthful, from this great height, looked a little like a small oasis, palm trees interspersed with what from afar seemed like beige mud huts in sand gardens, bordered by stunning turquoise waters.
Before I could quite make up my mind about the first impression, we arrived at the main reception area and it was all one big Wow moment. Cool, contemporary and jewel coloured, it was instantly welcoming and we met our own personal ‘butler’ or GEM (Guest Experience Maker) as they are called here, the super efficient and charming Phillippina Myrna, who was there to fulfill our every wish. And off she took us in a golf cart to our little villa.
Zighy Bay has around 400 employees, more than half Indian and many others from the Phillippines, looking after around 250 guests at maximum capacity and all are superbly well trained to offer guests a super spoily experience.
So here we were in what was to be our home for the next 10 days and what a home! Beautifully interior designed, we had a sitting room area with plump sunshine coloured cushions, TV, Nespresso machine and bar, which opened up to a generous terrace and a large ‘plunge’ pool beyond, as well as two cabanas with matching cushions for lounging around in. My kinda world! Our bedroom had the most ginormous bed with soft white organic linen, the bathroom, aside from having his and hers basins, had the biggest bathtub I have ever seen, a separate indoor shower room and WC and, joy above joy, an outside shower too. Needless to say, there were plenty of fluffy white towels and luxurious bath products. Zighy Bay has an eco friendly philosophy, so all the products were in refillable jars and the unlimited supply of drinking water was desalinated seawater, processed in their own desalination plant and, which, perhaps surprisingly, tasted especially good.
The best bit though was the fact that our mini compound was completely walled in, offering a tremendous sense of privacy. Sure, if you felt that way inclined, you could open the doors at the bottom of the lower terrace and have pretty much immediate access to the long white powder fine beach but there’s a great deal to be said for total seclusion and the incredible silence that comes with it. Coming from busy London, it was the latter that gave me the greatest sense of luxury. No noise whatsoever, no voices, no clanging, clattering or traffic, just the water gently lapping the sand nearby and the fronds of the palm trees swaying in the lightest breeze. Utter bliss!
So what did we do with ourselves there on our own little Planet Sunshine day after day? Well nothing much, I can tell you. While the Lovely Husband went diving every morning, just him and the dive master/mistress with a delicious packed lunch on board as part of the deal, I splayed myself out in the cabana, fan on, cool drink in hand, and listened to my audio books. The air was still, the heat scorching, sometimes over 40 degrees, in which I melted, dozed, dipped, listened and, as the Germans say, let my soul dangle.
In the afternoons the Lovely Husband joined me with tales of seahorses, rays and lion fish but sadly, once again, no sighting of whale sharks, as yet his unfulfilled ultimate diving goal. We forsook all available activities, the microlite flights, the waterskiing, the sunset dhow trip, certainly the trekking, the visits to local villages, the paragliding, abseiling, raft building and fishing and even the beach cinema on some evenings, nor did we visit the legendary spa or make use of the bicycles that came with the villa. We just lazed and lazed and lazed. Heaven on Earth!
As the sun set, giving the rock promontories enclosing the resort and unearthly pink glow, and the ferocious heat abated, we strolled along the beach, hand in hand, the warm soft sand in our toes, passing the enormous natural seawater pool and later the rather beautiful conventional pool, into the heart of the resort, where three of its four main restaurants are located.
There’s the Summer House which offers European/Mediterranean type food, Spice Market, the Arab/Middle Eastern restaurant, and the Zighy Tapas Bar with bar snacks on offer to help those drinks go down. The fine dining restaurant, Sense on the Edge, where exquisite food is paired with wine and the view right across the Gulf of Oman is breathtaking, is just a short chauffeured car ride away right up on the mountain. All, except for the Zighy Bar, offer set menus or à la carte dining.
Ah, now this is where there is a tiny fly in the ointment, at least as far as we are concerned. Most guests, I imagine, would book a full board stay at Zighy Bay and take advantage of the truly spectacular buffets on offer or take their pick from the menus. The Lovely Husband and I, however, are not the biggest eaters. When you lie around your cabana all day in the sweltering heat, you are just not hungry enough to eat your money’s worth, so we opted for a ‘pay as you eat’ scenario. In the mornings I’d order fruit and croissants delivered to my terrace, at lunchtime the Lovely Husband would return with yummy bits left over from his copious diving lunch for me to devour. In the evening we just fancied a light bite rather than an almighty pig out, so it made sense to pay only for what we could manage to consume. Since there’s nowhere else to go locally and alcohol is only available in the resort, Zighy Bay’s prices are steep. My inner shopkeeper found a minimum of £50 for a bottle of wine or £28 for a plate of pleasant but by no means special spinach and ricotta tortellini hard to stomach.
After two meals at The Summer House, we asked ourselves why we would travel to fascinating Oman to eat relatively small portions of European food at vast expense which we could have just as well, or better, at home in London. For just a very small bite, the quite basic tapas selection, including some very tasty falafel, at the Zighy Bar did the trick, but mostly we indulged in the stupendously yummy Mezze platter and other Arabic delicacies such as the wonderful dessert Umm Ali at the Spice Market. This was no cheaper than the Summer House but the food was interestingly exotic, delicious and there was lots if it. Still, the menu was always the same and after having tried every dish we liked the sound of, things got a little monotonous in the dinner department. As romantic and fabulous as the Senses on the Edge fine dining restaurant on the mountain sounded, we gave it a miss, simply because the set menu, once again, was very European, a little overly complicated for our taste and required wine pairing with every course, which all seemed more of an overwhelming gourmet experience than we could face. All restaurants were very attractively presented with excellent service but personally, I would have welcomed more variety and smaller dishes at more easily digestible prices.
All this though is entirely negligible within the overall picture of this phenomenal holiday. Zighy Bay is a truly outstanding destination for anyone who wants to escape the woes of the world, bask in golden sun, swim in warm crystal clear, surreally blue waters and be spoilt rotten in a relaxing, secluded and unostentatiously luxurious environment. I’d happily go back in a jiffy.
Six Senses Zighy Bay, Musandam Peninsula, Dibba, Musandam 800, Oman. Tel.: +968 26 735555 www.sixsenses.com/resorts/zighy-bay/destination