In our household, non-religious holidays are not a big deal. We can easily bypass birthdays and national holidays but one occasion that we do make an effort to celebrate is our wedding anniversary. June 5th is the day we professed and committed to be a family, in full view of our loved ones and friends. As each year rolls by, we look back and express gratitude for our past and present life as a union. Last year, our anniversary weekend incidentally overlapped with a religious holiday and this year it overlapped with a delayed observance of that same holiday. For our three-day weekend, we found a perfect retreat in Jebel Sifah.
Jebel Sifah is home to a huge development resort about an hour south of Muscat. A stretch of winding road ascends and descends in both directions, through small villages and mountain valleys. With the road to Sifah being mostly unlit, driving is only recommended during daylight hours. A four-wheel drive vehicle isn’t required but an experienced, careful driver is. After entering the village of Sifah, an unpaved road leads you to Sifawy Boutique Hotel, adjacent to the Jebel Sifah Marina. What attracted us to this destination was largely the discounted summer price. A weekday double room on a half-board basis with a free suite upgrade was a total of 60 OMR or $155 USD. The same accommodation at this four-star hotel would’ve cost more than double during the high tourist season, without dinner included.
Entering our suite, Lil’ Z was immediately drawn to the inviting bed and couldn’t wait to sleep in it. After reviewing their “green hotel” policy and examining all of the features, we were thoroughly satisfied with our selection. The hotel fixtures were sturdy and obviously selected for beauty and longevity. Quality wood furnishing and soothing hues of purple and green comforted us on arrival. After enjoying our welcome platter of fresh fruit and herbal teas, we dressed up for dinner that evening.
The large dining room was empty when we arrived but each table was prepared with candle-lit lanterns and purple drinking glasses. Our waitress greeted us with a tall bottle of water and our prix fixe dinner menu. We scanned the options quickly and looked up at each other. The only included vegan option was Mango Noodle Salad. Obviously, our meal request upon booking hadn’t been communicated to the kitchen but our able waitress quickly came up with a plan to swap the salad for lentil soup, the chicken or fish entrees for veggie pasta, and the cheesecake dessert for fruit sorbets. To round out the protein content, we ordered some additional hummus dishes on the side.
After our evening prayers, we turned in for the evening, anxious to get a good night’s rest after the long drive and wake up early for some time on the beach. Our breakfast buffet was a more veg-friendly affair, with fresh fruit, stewed fava beans, hummus, vegetables, hash browns, breads, teas, and dried fruits and nuts on the spread. We ate well and then hitched a ride on a zero-emission golf cart heading to the sea.
Beyond the hammocks and thatched roof umbrellas, we stood on a shore of glittering smooth rocks and crystal clear water. The pull of the tide was felt but not overwhelming. Without a single fish or crab in sight, we could see the finest particles of sand sparkling like fine glitter in the sea. We had a contention with the swimming dress code which forbade long swimsuits but with no other guests or enforcement in view, I was determined to enjoy the sea in my modest swim attire. After more than an hour of swimming and wading, we returned to the shore to dry off and hailed our golf cart back to the main hotel grounds.
We returned to our room to clean up and prepare for departure. Our less than 24-hour stay came to a close but we really couldn’t imagine spending much more than a day or two longer. Aside from the pool, private beach, and fitness center, there wasn’t much else to see without a cost. The hotel offers a variety of tour packages for sailing, snorkeling, and day trips. The cheapest sea activity would’ve been an 8 OMR or $21 USD round trip on their water taxi service from Muscat’s Marina Bandar al-Rowdha. But that’s only available on weekends when the discounted summer room rate goes up to 70.2 OMR or $182 USD without the option of a free suite upgrade. Other than these activities, there are plans to make Jebel Sifah a shopping and entertainment destination, neither of which sounds appealing to us. Regardless, we had an enjoyable weekend getaway and would happily return, as long as the price is right.