Oman: The Call of Sand and Sea

Lovers of Old Arabia flock to Six Senses, a luxury resort disguised as a simple village by the sea.

Marie Antoinette escaped to a farm to live her fantasy of a simple, pastoral life. In Oman the idealized life would be a fishing village on the Musandam Peninsula. Not that the royalty of the Arabian peninsula go there: they favor Dubai’s Las Vegas-style fantasy resorts. Seasoned travelers look elsewhere for old Arabia.

At the entrance to the village compound, the Omani staff welcome guests.

I found it on Zighy Bay, separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. With its rugged, spectacular fjord-like bays and 7,000-foot-high mountains, Musandam is the stuff of fables.

 Six Senses Zighy Bay may be a luxury resort but that fact is well-disguised and well-hidden.

Responding to the morning call to sand and sea.

During the 90-minute drive to the resort, the scenery changed abruptly from mile-high skyscrapers and highways to herder shacks and empty sand dunes. Our driver turned off the paved road at the Six Senses Hideaway sign and slowly descended a dusty mountain road to a village on a crescent-shaped bay

If you arrange this trip as a surprise anniversary trip, right now your partner would be demanding, “Where are you taking me.”

You’d have to admit at this distance, it seems more fitting to arrive on the back of a donkey than in a Mercedes sedan.

But up close, Six Senses is a bustling Omani village with a date palm farm, organic garden and private villas laid out on the village lanes. It is set on a secluded bay between dramatic mountains and a broad a mile-long sandy beach which it shares with a a traditional fishing village.

Each villa is a private compound, built of  stone, wood and desert material you see around the area. We had a private pool and modern amenities such as an air conditioner which was hidden behind plaited palm leaves. Such painstaking effort to replicate a simpler life aligned us mentally and physically for the days ahead.

Health & wellness aficionados head to the yoga studio.

After a few days at Zighy Bay, I listed my favorite surprises.

…watching the sun set at Sense at the Edge restaurant while sipping a tangy chardonnay semillon blend from Margaret River. The mountain-top restaurant overlooks Zighy Bay and the three or five-course menus feature Arabic and Indian cuisine.

…running on the beach under a sickle moon when at 5:30 a.m. the call to prayer issued from the minaret in the neighboring village.

…meeting Alison Potter, the holistic healer, who peppered her talk with stories of living with an Emirati family. The husband recently presented his wife with a $67,000 watch, set with pink diamonds so she would have something new to wear to a party.

…skinny dipping in our villa pool.

…talking to hotel guests from around the world. I met a an Iranian man who was teaching his daughter to ride a bike. A British couple told me they celebrate their wedding anniversary each year at a different Six Senses property.

Whatever purpose brings you to Zighy Bay, rest assured no one will be able to find you. Which for Marie Antoinette would have been a good thing.

—By Donna Peck