Things are changing rapidly in the Middle East. And for once, it’s not bad news. In the past few decades, Oman has shed its isolationist policy. The Sultan of Oman, an absolute monarch, has been modernizing and opening up the country. Tourists started to explore the mountains, the deserts, and the coastline of the Arabian Sea. Now one of those waterfront destinations, Jebel Sifah, is set to become the next riviera for the jet-set crowd.
Jebel Sifah is only a 45-minute drive from Muscat, the booming capital of Oman. On one side of the fishing village, you’ll find the Hajar Mountains, where rocky ravines and low shrubs turn into woodlands with fig and olives trees as you hike. Still higher, there will be junipers. Vultures–Lappet-faced and Egyptian–live here, as well as Mountain gazelles and Wadi Kharrar Rock Geckos. On the other side of the marina: sandy beaches and clear, turquoise water. This picturesque oceanside oasis is no longer an Omani secret.
Luxury hotel brands are circling, just like those vultures, so spas and golf courses are on their way. But for now, at least, the area remains relatively undeveloped. Check in to the Sifawy Boutique Hotel. The exterior is traditional Omani architecture. You’ll be greeted with freshly squeezed juice upon your arrival. Your modern room overlooks the pool with the Gulf of Oman in the distance. After a quick breakfast at Al Sabla, the social hub of the small resort, take a water taxi along the coastline to Bandar Khayran. You’ll pass rock formations, mangrove swamps, and tidal creeks. Fishermen stand waist deep in water and cast their nets out in front of them. They look surprised to see a passing boat.
When the humidity increases, return to Jebel Sifah. Rent bikes to ride north along the promenade toward the beach. You’ll pass men in white, ankle-length dishdashas. Despite their traditional dress, they are friendly and welcoming. Eat lunch, the biggest meal of the day, at As Sammak, a seafood restaurant near the water. You’ll be served an assortment of mezze–salads, dips, and bread–and then the catch of the day with fish rice. So simple, but so tasty.
Sifah, the beach in front of you, is gorgeous. And empty. Small waves lap against the golden sand. A handful of rocks sit along the waterline. Palm trees pop out from the sand. In another few years–maybe five, definitely 10–Sifah will be packed with sun loungers, water sports, and beach bars. But right now, at this moment, it’s all yours.