If you’re visiting Oman and you’re looking for places to visit in Oman or want to know the best Oman beach resorts, check out our expert hotel review of Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman in the Middle East.
What is the hotel’s USP?
A gentle – and indulgent – introduction to Oman’s astounding desert landscape, reached via a wadi lined with acacia trees and dusty, cinnamon-coloured mountains. A true destination resort in the country’s Musandam Peninsula, fringed by a long arc of sand (there’s nothing else in the immediate vicinity beyond a small fishing village), Six Senses Zighy Bay’s architecture reflects local building styles and menus fly the flag for regional dishes and ingredients.
The ultra-private beachside setting and the willingness to tailor-make the guest experience mean that, while families are a growing market, this is classic honeymooning territory. Six Senses Zighy Bay is also popular with European sun-seekers who don’t want to travel too far since it’s a relatively easy two-hour transfer from Dubai airport, (when the wadi floods the last half hour of that drive is swapped for a speedboat ride). If you want the full Mission Impossible arrival, you can also opt to leave the car 10 minutes before the resort and paraglide down to it.
And the general vibe?
Peaceful. Most guests aren’t here to socialise but to escape, soaking up the sun from their private villa pool rather than crowding around the hotel’s two communal swimming pools (one of them saltwater, a by-product not just of the sea but of the resort’s desalination plant). With no public access the resort’s beach never gets crowded either. In fact, with Six Senses’ reputation for wellness, it’s often at its busiest at dawn, when guests take to the beach for a sunrise dip or hike. The result is that the resort tends to feel quiet and sedate, even when it’s at full capacity.
While it draws a slightly older, professional crowd during term-time (a handful with babies in tow), school holidays see an influx of families. And, though dressing up for dinner is perfectly acceptable, the barefoot luxury label is taken seriously here; guests often rock up to their tables in a loose shirt and jeans, sometimes on one of the resort’s free bikes, which all come with padded pedals for barefoot cycling.
Which room should I book at Six Senses Zighy Bay?
Laid out in the style of an Omani village (or, rather, a luxurious reimagining of that) the resort’s 87 villas are all variations on a theme, blending stone, wood and woven palm matting to soothing effect. Standard Pool villas are open-plan, with fabulous bathrooms (there are outdoor showers, too), organic Naturalmat mattresses dressed with unbleached linen, and wine fridges that can be custom-stocked. All have a chic, tropical vibe, with dark wood furniture and bright citrus-coloured cushions, but if you want to wake up with a sea view, opt for one of the more expensive sunrise-facing Beachfront Pool villas.
Other distinctions are Spa Pool villas (these come with their own treatment rooms), Pool Villa suites (bedrooms and living rooms are separate), duplex Zighy villas (an extra bedroom and living area), Zighy Pool Villa suites (throw in a balcony and dining room) and Retreats (even bigger two-bedroom properties with two main bedrooms plus a third for a butler or nanny). If you’re a sheikh or an oligarch there’s also Beit Musandam, a three-building, four-bedroom “private reserve” tucked away at the far end of the beach with most of the resort’s facilities (spa, gym, wine cellar, yoga studio…) recreated on a slightly smaller, very private, scale.
Set among over 1,500 date palms, pomegranate and fig trees and connected by (immaculately swept) sandy paths, each villa comes with its own majlis (a shady outdoor lounging area) and private plunge pool. Cool off in your pool and you can swim in the light reflected from its shimmering grey-blue tiles with a flitting dragonfly or two for company.
Wooden keyrings for each suite are cleverly shaped like khanjars (traditional Omani daggers) and, on arrival, guests are greeted with a date smoothie made with dates from the resort’s own date palms. In each villa, platters of dates, fruit and honeyed Arabic sweets are laid out in welcome and, thanks to each property’s discrete Guest Experience Maker (think private butler), there’s always a supply of filtered, desalinated water in beautiful glass bottles. We were less impressed, at this eco-minded resort, by the provision of Nespresso machines complete with throw-away aluminium capsules.
What’s good to drink at Six Senses Zighy Bay?
It’s encouragingly easy to be abstemious at Six Senses Zighy Bay since, although alcohol is not illegal in Oman, it is governed by strict laws and high import tariffs meaning prices are eye-wateringly high, especially for wine. Brace yourself to pay £13 for a glass of Lebanese rosé with your dinner, £8.50 for a pomegranate mojito before it. As a visitor, crossing the border from Dubai, you cannot bring booze into the country (no surreptitious Duty Free purchases).
What’s good to eat at Six Senses Zighy Bay?
Under Executive Chef Tim Goddard, menus at Six Senses Zighy Bay’s three main restaurants, and its myriad other dining options, manage to cater for comfort food-seeking holidaymakers, wellness fans and those with a when-in-Rome approach to seeking out local flavours.
The Spice Market is the resort’s food hub, a surprisingly atmospheric buffet-style restaurant with indoor and outdoor tables that opens for breakfast and dinner (à la carte table service is also possible). The main influence is Arabic, with dishes such as house-made spicy lamb sausages with tomato, parsley and lemon juice, charcoal-grilled chicken, and fillet of grilled sharry fish with onion, peppers, chilli, carrot, coriander, potato and garlic, all served with a profusion of vibrant middle Eastern salads. I visited during a Southeast Asian street food-themed buffet night and, while I’m not generally a fan of buffet dining, this was unlike any hotel buffet I’d seen – no hot plates here but a series of beautifully styled stations each serving a different speciality cooked to order.
Also close to the reception area is the resort’s cushioned, open-sided bar, a wine cellar and wine tower (both also serving as private dining areas) and the Summer House restaurant, open for lunch and dinner and serving grilled fish and meats, pasta dishes, salads and homemade ices and sorbets (don’t miss the date ice cream, made with homegrown dates). Other lunch options include Mezzeria, an Arabic/Italian small plates restaurant by the saltwater pool.
For a blowout dinner, there’s Sense On The Edge, a fine-dining restaurant etched into the rock on a mountaintop overlooking the resort and reached via a free shuttle from reception. Open in the evenings on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, here you can sit inside or out to take your pick from a range of three- to nine-course menus, or book one of two private dining areas out on a rocky limb to eat à deux overlooking the bay. A chef’s table experience is also possible, or you can visit just for sunset cocktails. Menus at Sense On The Edge steer a flavour-packed course around the Arabian Gulf and further afield, refining regional favourites into elegant dishes such as saffron pearls with orange blossom and lavender, and crispy Karak pork belly with caramel miso.
The highlight for me, however, was the resort’s earthiest dining experience. On Friday evenings you can walk barefoot along the beach under a star-speckled sky for dinner at the Shua Shak, a breezy Bedouin-style restaurant with low tables and cushioned seating under a simple palm-leaf canopy. The set-menu ends with pistachio-flecked kanafeh and starts with a mezze-style spread of hummus, baba ganoush, pickles, olives, flatbread, chicken salad with a peppy date-lemon dressing, lamb samosas and filo-wrapped, deep-fried Akawi cheese, a feta-like cheese first made in Palestine but now produced across the Middle East. It’s the main course that everyone really comes for though: mounds of flaky lamb that’s been marinated for 24 hours in olive oil, date syrup, bay leaves, onion, garlic, carrot, cinnamon, anise, cumin and rosemary, then wrapped in banana leaves and foil and cooked on coals in a pit under the sand for seven hours. It’s the perfect partner for the buttery pistachio, cashew and cardamom-laced saffron rice it’s served with.
Other pop-up food experiences include a midweek seafood barbecue on the beach, and the anything-is-possible approach means a host of private dining experiences are available, from in-villa barbecues (the food team will do both the cooking and the washing up) to Dining Beyond the Bay (a private table for two in a secluded spot on the beach, away from the resort) and private cookery classes on board Dhahab, the resort’s luxury dhow. With the first oyster farm in the region having recently opened, there are also plans afoot to do boat trips where guests go out snorkelling, then return to the beach for a picnic of oysters and champagne.
Unexpectedly, much of the resort’s food is aligned with Six Senses’ general wellness philosophy. Menu options include choices that subscribe to the Eat With Six Senses philosophy (essentially food made from scratch using local, organic produce, avoiding trigger ingredients such as gluten but promoting gut health). If you want to take it a step further you can go for a wellness screening in the spa and the therapist will suggest a programme to suit you, from sleep-enhancing to fitness; each programme’s best choices are listed (discreetly) on menus throughout the resort so if you want to stick to the guidance you can (for the sleep programme, for instance, menu choices include lots of tryptophan-rich foods). One benefit of this “integrated” wellness approach is that one half of a couple can follow the sleep programme, say, while the other does an unofficial retox, indulging however much they like, while still eating at the same restaurant and ordering from the same menu.
What’s the breakfast like at Six Senses Zighy Bay?
Fantastic. A buffet includes the usual (well-executed) suspects – pastries, fruit, yoghurt, oat pots and cooked-to-order eggs (masala omelette anyone?) and pancakes – but also stretches to sumac-dusted boiled eggs, bowls of dates, pickles, seasonal juices and smoothies, congee, shakshuka, peppy ful spiked with chilli, parsley and olives. At one station a chef is there to expertly peel and chop your choice of fruit for you so that even the fruit salad is made to order (at super-fast speed).
Any other food experiences I shouldn’t miss?
Like all Six Senses properties, Six Senses Zighy Bay puts sustainability high on the agenda. In food terms, this is more challenging than at some of its sister properties because of its secluded location, and because so much food in the Gulf is imported. To combat this, the resort has recently developed its own farm, around 30 minutes’ drive away (see below). On site it also has a large, oasis-like kitchen garden. Together the farm, kitchen garden and local fish market currently supply around 30% of the resort’s food. They’re hoping to increase that to 60% as the farm develops.
All guests should visit the kitchen garden at least once. Not only is it productive but it’s also a beautiful garden area in its own right, backed by those cinnamon-coloured mountains. Visit in the late afternoon as the sun filters through palm leaves onto beehives and neat rows of water spinach, broccoli, lemongrass, sweet basil, crabapples, beetroot, tomatoes, marrows and flat-leaf parsley and it is magical.
Also recommended are cooking class at the Spice Market with Sri Lankan chef Waruna Amila, who has been a member of the Zighy Bay team since it opened 10 years ago. Taking place in the late morning, you get to cook some of the simpler Arabic dishes (fattoush salad with falafel wraps, a main course that pairs local sharry fish with tomato, pepper, chilli and pine nut sauce and Umm Ali, a moreish Arabic twist on bread and butter pudding that, here, is commendably made with leftover croissants from the breakfast buffet to avoid food waste).
Is it family-friendly at Six Senses Zighy Bay?
Yes. All villas will comfortably sleep a family of four though there are those two-bedroom villas if you’d rather the children were in a separate room. Under-sixes stay and eat for free, six to 11 year-olds stay for free and get a discount on food and drink. Babysitting can be arranged, children’s menus are available and there’s a kids’ club for four to 10 year-olds, offering everything from sandcastle building and treasure hunts to cookery classes. Teenagers have a separate club offering mountain biking, wadi swimming, table tennis, abseiling, archery, raft building and more.
What can I do while I’m there?
Head to the beach for a start. It’s fabulous with soft, flour-like sand and clear, warm water. There are also regular outdoor film screenings on the beach, showing family-friendly films and serving popcorn and drinks.
For active guests, there’s hiking, rock climbing, paragliding, diving and mountain biking. Wellness junkies can head to the peaceful spa building for expert massages, beauty treatments, rooftop yoga classes and hammam visits. As with the food at Zighy Bay, everything here can be customised. If you’d rather have a facial in your villa or a one-on-one yoga session with a specialist guest practitioner it can be easily arranged.
Foodies should definitely make a beeline for the resort’s six-acre farm (preferably on a day when the fish market in nearby Dibba is running so that you can take that in, too). Around 30 minutes’ drive from the resort, it’s well worth the journey. As beautifully styled as the resort itself (the chicken coop is more chateau than shed), it’s currently home to mango, pomegranate, lemon and fig trees, those ubiquitous date palms, greenhouses ripe with tomatoes, lettuce, kale, spinach, chillies, broccoli, cauliflower, basil, cabbage and watercress.
Livestock have also been introduced. Those laying chickens supply Six Senses Zighy Bay’s eggs while milk from two cows is used to make mozzarella to top pizzas in the Mezzeria restaurant. Then there’s a herd of labneh-coloured Saanen goats, their milk used to make yoghurt and a classic soft goats’ cheese. Apparently the goats were imported from Australia because they have a higher yield than local breeds but, as with everything at Six Senses Zighy Bay, with their sleek white coats they also look very stylish.
HOW TO DO IT…
Seven-night packages at Six Senses Zighy Bay cost from £1,675 per person, including flights, private transfers, breakfasts and accommodation in a Pool Villa. For the best deals on rooms at Six Senses Zighy bay, click here
For more info see experienceoman.om
Words by Rhiannon Batten
Photographs by Rhiannon Batten