At one with nature
Salalah is a yearly pilgrimage for me like most residents of Muscat who wait for the first news of the mist and that ‘the mountains are turning green’. Every year, it is about re-experiencing this Dhofari city. This year, rushing against time, I found myself embarking on a two-day ‘girls trip’ to wash away the city heat and burnout.
Within an hour and a half of take off, three women and a teenager found themselves entering a white washed resort welcomed by a fresh drizzle of the khareef rains, far away from the scorching heat of Muscat. The Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara is in a picturesque location with a white sand beach and within proximity of the Al Baleed Archeological Park, a 60 acre Unesco World Heritage Site.
Imagine walkways lined along palm trees, the sound of water flowing alongside like a falaj system and the sound of crashing waves somewhere in the distance, too, as a nascent mist descends upon the land where you are standing. Right there at that moment, your senses know what a powerful rejuvenation awaits you in this tranquil and serene setting.
The 136-key resort is modelled after traditional villages found in Dhofar, sectioned off into villas with their own personal lagoons having temperature controlled pools along the walkways of the property.
While the world-class bespoke luxury of the Thai chain Anantara reflects in the service at the Al Baleed Resort, it has also borrowed from the sultanate’s impressive list of traditional elements and synergised the two. Carved wooden doors, communal seating areas, kilim upholsteries, lanterns and Omani artworks in the rooms enhance the richness of the ambience. Each room is also equipped with contemporary comforts including interactive LED TVs, spacious walk-in dressing rooms and luxurious Amouage bath products, showcasing the region’s indigenous fragrances.
The property also boasts of the world-renowned Anantara Spa, accredited by Conde Nast Johansens, a fitness centre, a cosy library to tuck into when its raining, a tennis court and a superb infinity pool that stretches out into the sea.
No pampering is complete without food and with the flavourful culinary offerings at the Al Baleed Resort, I firmly declared that ‘calories don’t count on a holiday’! Every item on the menu at the Southeast Asian restaurant Mekong is a treat for the palate and worth indulging in, especially the tenderloin beef. There are also the all-day dining restaurants Sakalan and Al Mina to choose from.
Evenings at the resort are particularly spectacular as dimly lit lanterns pave the way for a misty dusk to take over.
One of the many bespoke services that the resort provides is its very own ‘Salalah Guru’, who gives travellers an authentic taste of local life. Early the next day, our ‘guru’, a Salalah native Hussain Mosllam Balhaf, charted an itinerary for us based on our requirements. Since we were well versed with the terrain of Dhofar from our yearly visits, Balhaf suggested a more relaxing and sensory route. Just 40 minutes after setting off on a drive, our eyes were in for a treat. The mountains reflected shades of greens that were soothing. Since the khareef had just begun, we could see the metamorphosis of the eerie, yet beautiful, leafless trees as they sprouted fresh green leaves. We were on our way to Wadi Darbat, an idyllic picnic spot during the khareef season for travellers who come from all over the world to see the grassy plateau at its pristine best. Although the water is inviting, it is best to avoid swimming in the pools in Darbat as these have snails that cause bilharzia.
After the morning excursion, we headed straight back to our villas and floated in the private pool. A drizzle and firangipani flowers fell into the pool from the trees in the garden. There wasn’t much to speak about that afternoon as each of us soaked in the beauty of all that was around us. As the evening approached, there was a serenity in our camaraderie as we walked down the alleys to dine at Sakalan. The mist had blanketed the sea and yet we could hear its roar along with chirping crickets. Each of us realised that we had forgotten Muscat for those two days at the resort.
There was no mystery here that the natural elements such as the sea, sand, tropical trees and water channels designed intricately to fit in with elements of bespoke luxury, design and architecture brought out the best of rejuvenation at Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara.