Here’s a post from our guest bloggers….Barbara Govednik and Tom Wolf
Mountain resorts in Oman? You betcha!
Admittedly, when my ex-pat cousin who lives with his wife and three children in Muscat mentioned that we should spend at least one night in the mountains, I thought he was joking….or at least exaggerating the word “mountain.”
After all, he’s from Texas and the only mountains they have there are, well, they simply don’t have any! But when we arrived in Muscat it was clear my cousin was not exaggerating. The mountains surround Muscat. Real ones. Real old ones! These are some ancient mountains that date back millions and millions of years – a hot spot for international geologists. But since I’m not a geologist what’s in it for me (or you)?
Well I have to say for my wife and I it meant two days of great scenery, wonderful hikes and a fantastic resort that will make all your tensions float away.
I’m talking about the Sahab Hotel in Sayq, Oman in the Jabal Al Akhdar mountain region — just a two-and-a-half hour drive outside Muscat and more than one mile above sea level. The road from Muscat is scenic in and of itself (including stray goats and camels), and then you get to beyond the city of Nizwa and start the last leg the journey…up one of the steepest paved roads in the world. You start at about 1500 feet altitude and the road climbs 7,000 feet in about 14 miles – at up to 10% grade! They actually have a checkpoint before you start going up to ensure you have a four-wheel drive vehicle. You won’t need it for snow and you won’t need it for an unpaved road (neither exist), but you will need it to get up and down that marvelous engineering masterpiece.
Once you get to the top you see the beautiful views of old hillside villages where they carved out agricultural plots that have fruit and nut trees to green onions. You’ll see wonderful mountains and valleys….they are not lush, but very rocky and somewhat barren, but still incredibly beautiful.
Once you get to Sayq, you’ll arrive at the Sahab Hotel — a luxury boutique hotel. We splurged for a stand-alone, two-story townhouse with separate upstairs and downstairs accommodations that surround the pool and whirlpool areas. The rooms were spacious, the beds very comfortable and each had an inviting small porch or deck.
Once you check in you’ll feel cool and refreshed. It’s usually 10-20 degrees cooler here than along the Arabian Sea so you will need a jacket if you go in February like we did. But after 80 degree (F) days in Muscat, cool 50 degree (F) nights with wonderful views of the starry sky did not disappoint.
You’ll want to take one of several hikes in the area to get a first-hand view of the region. Our entourage of six (four adults and two kids) took one of the marked paths that lead us through and around several villages along the mountainside…mainly along a downward path (but not always!). It was a blessing that you can call the resort and they will send a car to come get you so you don’t have to walk back up (don’t judge, I’ve hiked plenty of times but when you hit the first day of high-altitude I have no problem taking the ride!).
The dining area of the resort is very pleasant with indoor and outdoor seating serving a mixture of middle-east and western fare. Though they do not serve alcohol you can bring it with you and enjoy it by the pool and hot tub or in the comfort of your room.
Because of other commitments on our vacation in Oman we only had the pleasure of spending one night at the Sahab Hotel. If we had to do it again we’d spend the weekend, two or three nights to get our hiking legs and high-altitude hiking lungs back, unwind under the afternoon sun or evening stars and enjoy the hot tub that looks over the cliffs a few more times.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to Oman, but it’s safe, fun, intriguing, interesting, beautiful and filled with people and tourists who seem to know they’ve found something few people know about.
So when you venture to Oman: the “Switzerland of the Middle East,” go up into the mountains, bring a book (or two), your hiking boots and leave your tensions behind.