Inside the Cliff Pool Villa at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar. Inside the Cliff Pool Villa at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar.

Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas is set to add to its portfolio with the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort in the north east of Oman, 2,000m above sea level. Initially pegged for a July 2016 opening, the website is now taking bookings from October 1, and is set on the Saiq Plateau on Oman’s ‘Green Mountain’, making it the highest five-star resort in the Middle East and one of the highest in the world.

The project is located on a 66,000m2 plot, and consists of 115 keys including 82 deluxe rooms and 33 one-, two- or three-bedroom villas with private swimming pools. Located two hours away from Muscat International Airport, the journey to the hotel passes date plantations, valleys or ‘wadis’ and historical forts, along with the ancient city of Nizwa, a 30-minute drive from the hotel.

Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar general manager Darren Darwin, who has more than 26 years of experience tells Hotelier that throughout the pre-opening, there’s “never a dull day”. “It’s the most challenging project I’ve ever been involved in — for obvious reasons. It’s 2,000m on top of the mountain on the edge of the cliff, but it’s the most rewarding by far because when things happen on this project, the results are amazing,” he enthuses.


The results are also down to the people working on the project. Indeed, one of the general manager’s personal milestones, Darwin admits, was recruiting the right team for the project.

Arriving at the resort in April 2015, Darwin interviewed nearly 200 people for 14 key pre-opening positions. “We’ve been very particular about having the right people that fit — not so much the role, but Anantara’s philosophy, service and attitude. You’ve got to have the attitude to drive a project like this,” he says.

The pre-opening team of the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar has also employed more than 70 Omani nationals, aiming to increase this to more than 95, which will represent 35% of the 291-strong team.

Led by director of human resources Sami Al Balushi, an Omani national, the resort works closely with government entities such as the Oman Tourism College and National Hospitality Institute to recruit newly graduated Omani citizens. Moreover, in cooperation with the Ministry of Manpower, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar held an Anantara Career Fair at the Nizwa Ministry of Manpower Hall, where candidates were selected and sent to be trained at the Oman Tourism College, before joining the resort.

Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort marketing & communications manager Ekta Gandhi says that as part of its recreation team, the hotel has hired a “mountain guru”, who will be leading excursions and tours through the local area.

“He’s from Jabal Akhdar, from a village down the canyon. It’s part of the Omanisation plan that we have; but it’s also a good guest experience to see locals on property,” she adds. Supporting Darwin’s emphasis on finding the right team members and the Omanisation efforts, Gandhi notes: “The most important thing with the local workforce is sustainability when it comes to meaningful roles — it’s not just filling the gaps.”

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