Jabal Samhan is a powerful, dominating site in the sprawling simplicity of Mirbat. With the start of the khareef, the usually caramel mountain has started to shed its earthy tone transforming to the lush green of the monsoon.
It has rained sporadically in the last few days and while the strong, foggy breeze from the Indian ocean continues to hammer the coasts of Dhofar, the now 112 rooms—strong, 96 of which are guestrooms while the other 16 are pool villas, sprawling complex of Alila Hinu Bay has started to add luxury and sophistication to the Mirbat landscape.
There was an air of refined confidence when Martin Dennis Persson met the media on a playful — sometimes cool, sometimes humid —Thursday afternoon in July. From his home country of Sweden, Martin has travelled the world managing and opening luxury hotels in some of the world's most remote yet astoundingly beautiful locations including Fiji. When he landed in Oman nearly eight months ago as the general manager of the property, he has before him another set of challenges but nothing he has not done successfully before — how to sell Mirbat and Dhofar as a destination and how to convince the rest of the world that it is worth coming to the remote shores of Oman.
With the final details of the property being set into place, Martin has spent many weeks looking at Mirbat and Oman with the critical eye of an entrepreneur and "experience concierge." Alila, after all, is all about integrating and building upon the local culture and making sure that these cultures are not changed or curated but are presented in their most authentic form.
As an action-loving executive who also enjoys exploring new countries, discovering food trends and working on his personal fitness, it didn't take long for Martin to realise that Mirbat and Dhofar have something truly unique and special to sell — one that makes the venture of hospitality in Dhofar a potentially profitable one and truly enjoyable for the guests.
The Omani's DNA for hospitality
Martin and his team are busy curating different experiences unique to Mirbat and Dhofar. They are looking into tapping the beauty of the ocean, the spectacle of the mountains, the stealthiness of the diverse lifeforms in this side of Oman, the superbly interesting history of the place, the colourful day to day living of the villagers around the property and the richness of the food not only on land but also in the sea.
"What we wanted to do is to set the tone of the experience. We wanted our guests to see the nuances of this location, from the time that our Omani colleagues pick them up from the airport and upon their arrival to the property and their selection of unique experiences," he said.
"What a lot of Omanis don't realise is that some of their daily chores are really spectacular to see from a guest's point of view. The nearby fish market, for example, offers a glimpse of how dynamic their relationship is with the ocean," he shared.
"Our colleagues, whether it's Ali or Khalid, invited us once to join them as they visited their farms in the mountains. They don't realise how potentially mind-blowing it was to see and experience how they drew honey from their apiary," he gushed.
From visiting one of the deepest sinkholes in Oman, to the frankincense farms, to historical sites, Martin believed that the collective experience Mirbat as a location offers make the trip down Dhofar worth it.
"What Alila Hinu Bay offers is this opportunity to integrate with the landscape, to get the authentic experience — something that you usually will not have the opportunity to do when you're in the city," he said.
"Also, for the Omanis, this humble form of hospitality is already ingrained in their DNA. We are trying to also offer the people of Dhofar an opportunity to see their culture and heritage in a unique light — one that celebrates their uniqueness and authenticity," he said.
Located around 87km from Salalah Airport, Alila Hinu Bay is a contemporary fusion of local architectural traditions with modern aesthetic sensibility rising between the Jabal Samhan mountain and the Indian Ocean. It is a stone's throw away from a town of Mirbat known as one of the richest historical and cultural spots and fishing destinations in Oman. Some of the property's current offerings include 'Journey for two to a thousand stars' where guests can "indulge in a romantic dining experience under the starlit sky with tasty, mouthwatering dishes. They also have a plethora of activities including Yoga by the beach and visits to local attractions including a journey to Wadi Darbat.