Dispatch, Dubai 4: A desert trip to Oman

jeriOMANUAE162x120Travel Weekly's Jeri Clausing is on a trip to Dubai and Oman. Her fourth and final dispatch follows.

It’s been so many years since I spent any time in the Middle East that I forgot how interesting --and sometimes magical -- it can be.

In the States, the region is often associated with the just the negative: terrorists and Third World conditions.

Dubai is certainly a contradiction of those things. The clean, huge, modern and luxurious city is especially interesting because it has such a mix of nationalities. Nearly everyone you meet is from somewhere else: Germany, Italy, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka.

The big question for Americans is why travel so far when you get the same luxury and pristine beaches closer to home?

But there’s no question that it's well worth the 12-plus-hour trip (16 from Houston or Los Angeles) if you take the time for an excursion to one of the remote, authentic points of the region.

We headed two hours east through stunning desert to Oman and the very remote Six Senses Hideway in Zighy Bay.

Talk about contrasts. While Dubai -- and the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel where I stayed – certainly lived up to the Dubai and Jumeirah reputations for the finest in modern luxury, Zighy Bay is built to be environmentally and culturally sensitive, blending in with its surroundings.

The resort is a replica of an Omani village, with villas built of stone in the local tradition, wooden shutters, wood and rope fences around the private pools, and outdoor showers next to date palms.

OMAN-PoolVillaZighyBayAt the same time, the resort offers all the amenities of modern luxury, with private infinity pools, espresso machines, 24-hour butler service and the brand’s famed spa service.

Situated on a remote cove over the mountains from the main highway, there are three ways to get in: four-wheel drive over a dirt road that follows a dry wadi (riverbed), boat from the border town of Dibba or paraglider off the mountain.

I was scheduled to paraglide in. Fortunately for me -- afraid of heights but hesitant to forgo a new experience -- the flight had to be canceled because the pilot was recovering from a knee injury.

On the first evening there, I took a Dhow cruise to watch the sunset over the mountains. The next day, I took a four-wheel-drive roadtrip through towering mountains of red, brown and sand-colored jagged rock to a village that had been abandoned about 100 years ago.

Along the way, there are small, remote villages where a few Omanis still live, tending to hundreds of goats that wander the road and the mountains (as well as the resort.)

To see the culture in its pure form makes the long trip well worthwhile. It also makes it easier to understand why the modern Dubai has become such an attraction for those who live in this region.

Americans may scoff at the seeming outlandishness of an indoor ski hill. But for the young Sri Lankan man led our mountain tour in Oman, it was the only time he had ever seen snow.

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