Darren Darwin, GM Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar. Darren Darwin, GM Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar.

It’s a long way up to the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort. Some 2,000m above sea level to be precise, on the Saiq Plateau atop Oman’s fabled Green Mountain on the edge of a curving rim of a great canyon.

“Elevated in both location and authentic luxury,” Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar claims, zeugmatically, the hotel is the highest five-star resort in the Middle East and one of the highest in the world. And with rooms and villas perched right on the cliff edge, the property is not for the vertiginous.

Neither is it for a faint-hearted general manager. The logistics alone involved in operating and supplying such a hotel require serious planning.

Everything has to come up the mountain by road. A cable car was once mooted but rejected. And civilian helicopters are restricted by the proximity of the hotel to an army base.

It is a two hour journey from Muscat in a modern 4x4 with good traffic and fair weather. And while the picturesque drive up the mountain is part of the experience for guests, fully laden supply trucks trundle up the steepest sections of Jabal Al Akhdar at no more than 20kmph, so nothing arrives quickly; including water, all of which is delivered by tankers.

“We once nearly ran out — and we’ll never make that mistake again,” says general manager Darren Darwin. “We simply have to make sure we always have enough.”

The same applies to all other supplies, and Darwin, who has been with the hotel for approaching three years (half of that time in pre-opening), quickly realised that self-reliance was the only way to ensure on-time deliveries. “Some suppliers just wouldn’t or couldn’t come here, so now we do it all ourselves. We have our own store at the bottom of the mountain and our own trucks, and that has improved our reliability of supplies.”

It was initially no easier to attract staff to work at the resort. “It was difficult to find people to work on top of a mountain two hours from Muscat,” recalls Darwin.

“But because we have built a good reputation we now don’t struggle with recruitment, and we actually attract a very high-calibre of applicants.”

Staff turnover is running at just 20%. “People tell me they’ll be happy to do five or six years here,” says Darwin, adding that he has only suffered five ‘moonlight flits’ since opening. “People respect the team and the ‘family’ too much to run away.”

Managerial transfers to other parts of the Minor Hotels group are more common, and while Darwin doesn’t begrudge that, the loss of experienced team members must be carefully managed. “The profile of our guests here [60% GCC, then British, then German] requires a world-class, senior team — they don’t want to talk to 20 year olds.” 

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