Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay
Commission: 10 percent
Emirates offers daily nonstop service to Dubai from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston. The aircraft servicing these three U.S. cities is the Boeing 777-200LR.
For guests who want to drive, Dubai is the city closest to Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay, but the resort can also arrange transfers from Abu Dhabi and Muscat. Zighy Bay charges $300 per car (one way) from Dubai, $400 per car (one way) from Abu Dhabi and $500 per car (one way) from Muscat.
Six Senses Hideaway, Zighy Bay
You can get to Zighy Bay, the first Six Senses Hideaway resort in the Middle East, by driving two hours east of Dubai on a modern, four-lane freeway. The resort, which nestles on a beach with a huge mountain range behind it, is designed to look like a traditional Omani village, or at least as traditional as a luxury resort can be.
The next part of the drive is spectacular, if a little scary. After arriving at the outer entrance gate, you then drive up a curving dirt road that goes up and over the forbidding Hajar mountains, then down again switching back and forth until you arrive at the main building of the resort itself.
There, you are warmly greeted by a smiling staff, a cool drink and a wet towel, and right away you know you’re in very friendly hands — which applies to almost everything about this resort. The staff, more than 300 strong, can’t do enough for its guests, and you even have a private butler on call 24 hours a day for big and small things alike — if you forgot your toothbrush, he’s the man to call, or if you want a buckwheat pillow, just call the butler. Magically, my butler always arrived at my doorstep within minutes.
Make no mistake, Zighy Bay is remote, on the rugged eastern coast of Oman, and if you’re looking for a traditional resort and spa experience, this may not be the place to go. But if you’re up for the adventure, albeit of the luxury variety, then this is for you. You can also arrange to get there by speedboat.
One thing I didn’t do was paraglide down from the top of the mountain into the resort, a gimmicky but fun way of introducing new guests to the property. I would have done it, but the paraglide instructor, who rides in tandem in the harness with you, had injured himself in a bicycle accident. (I was assured that it wasn’t a paraglide accident.)
Once on the property, you are shown to one of 82 villas. Some are right on the beach, looking out over the bay, and the others are scattered back along the crescent-shaped property. All the villas have private plunge pools, traditional Omani day beds outside in the pool area, indoor and outdoor showers and, mercifully, air conditioning. When I was there, it was very hot, but during the autumn and winter months especially, the temperature cools down to a manageable 80 degrees or so.
From the top of the mountain, as you drive down to the resort (or paraglide when it’s available) the resort looks like a stone village, and in fact it was built to resemble a neighboring fishing village, which is all that stood there before Six Senses decided to build the property. Fishing is still an active and flourishing business here, despite an occasional red tide.
Ah, yes, the spa. It is understated, with muted light and excellent, experienced therapists who want to know, above all, if you’re comfortable. And thanks to one of the resort’s customized “spa journeys,” I was quickly asleep on the table, a combination of fatigue and relaxation from finally getting away from the grind of everyday life.
The spa is an entirely separate building, apart from the villas, and because of the heat, I often called for one of the property’s ubiquitous golf carts to take me the short distance to it. Why not? I was there to relax, right? Some of the bigger villas have spas built-in, as well as kitchens and even total fitness centers.
The rooms are all designed to reflect Omani culture — tall ceilings, dark wood and traditional whitewashed walls. Of course, there are all the usual amenities you expect in a luxury property, no matter how far away it is (and we were literally 50 miles across the water from Iran), including flat-screen televisions, DVD players, high-speed Internet and 24-hour laundry service, among other things.
There are a lot of activities on and off site: mountain biking, 4x4 excursions, hiking, game fishing and snorkeling. Or you can take a leisurely cruise along the coast in a dhow, a traditional Arabic sailing boat.
I took a jeep ride up into the nearby mountains, and after climbing another very steep dirt road, I was looking out on an amazing vista — spread out before me was the Strait of Hormuz, a little hazy off in the distance, and dotting the rugged landscape were the stone ruins of homes that had belonged to tribes that once lived in villages scattered between the peaks. Now, the only remaining inhabitants are goat herds.
Back at the resort, I took an Arabic cooking class from Chef Ali. Now, everyone knows that I’m a lousy cook, but I like to do this wherever I go just to have the fish-out-of-water experience of trying to be a chef. Maybe I was especially careful because I had to eat what I’d prepared, but with the real chef’s cheerful guidance, I made some delicious hummus and baba ganoush. He even gave me written instructions if I want to try it at home.
There is a conscious effort on the part of Six Senses to incorporate more of the local traditions into the resort’s programs. (Several times a day, while lounging in my villa or getting a spa treatment, I could hear the call to prayer.) This effort includes a small souk (marketplace) located right across from the entrance to the main building. It’s a real treasure, and I loaded up on some local handicrafts to be brought home as proof that I had had an unusual experience in one of the more unusual areas of the Middle East.