Jebel sifah forges ahead


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Viability's Guy Wilkinson writes a monthly column for Hotelier Middle East Magazine. This article originally appeared in July 2010.
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Jebel sifah forges ahead

  1. 1. 12COMMENT Jebel Sifah forges ahead Viability director Guy Wilkinson reports from Oman, where the Muriya Tourism Company’s sustainable tourism development is set to put rural village Jebel Sifah firmly on the map particularly impressive collection Image: Guy Wilkinson. of hotel brands. Oman’s first Four Seasons will offer 200 rooms and 70 real estate units. There will be a 133- room Banyan Tree Hotel and a 150- room Angsana Hotel, opening in 2011 and 2012 respectively, which will have 77 related real estate units. Rezidor’s Hotel Missoni will offer 250 keys and open in 2014. The hotel is being designed by top American architect Michael Graves, who also created the Nubian-style Sheraton COLUMNIST in El Gouna, while Rosita Missoni is the interior designer. uscat’s hotel sector seems Muriya has also signed an MoU M Muriya is trying to create a sensitive, low-density development wherin only 25% of the land is used for building. to have largely avoided with the Omani Ministries of Tour- the ‘boom and bust’ syn- ism, Manpower and Education to drome that has afflicted MURIYA HAS ALSO SIGNED AN MOU WITH create a hotel school on the site. cities in places such as the UAE. THE OMANI MINISTRIES OF TOURISM, For those who decry the filling Certainly, a lot of new hotels have MANPOWER AND EDUCATION TO CREATE of this lovely beach with concrete, opened over the past few years, but the pace of development has been A HOTEL SCHOOL ON THE SITE it must be said that Muriya is tak- ing particular pains to create a sen- relatively sedate and in the context sitive low-density development, of the recession, this has been an ad- wherein only 25% of the land is vantage. The only ‘mega’ tourism Player golf course, still has a web ing rural road, the 6.2km² residen- used for building. According to the real estate project to have really got site, but construction seems unlikely tial resort project is to be spread developer, the architecture takes its going there has been The Wave, on to start in the near future. along 5.6km of previously pristine design cues from the local culture the beachfront near the airport in Part of the challenge in these beachline, next to a quaint, goat- and environment, involving local Seeb, where the seventh tranche of mountain sites to the immediate frequented fishing village occupied building techniques, materials and several hundred houses has recent- east of Muscat is surely to flatten out by Omanis of Zanzibari descent. the employment of local craftsmen ly been well-received by the mar- the jaggedly rocky terrain enough Despite being largely unknown in and artisans. All Muriya’s projects ket, and Fairmont and Kempinski to build on. Local developer the the other Gulf countries, the ele- — which include others in Sala- hotels are planned to open by 2012 Alargan Towell Investment Co has gantly curving, often deserted As lah, Sodah Island and Muscat — and 2013 respectively. responded by creating an impres- Sifah beach with its dramatic moun- are being developed in a ‘socially Other large projects, however, sive double rock terrace along two tain backdrop has been voted one of responsible’ manner. For example, have fallen by the wayside. Work sides of a small bay at Kheiran, just the top 10 beaches in the world by vegetation clearing is being mini- on Salam Yiti, the huge 4.2km² beneath Yenkit Heights, where they the UK’s Guardian and Telegraph mised to reduce habitat loss. There tourism and residential develop- are planning what will eventually newspapers, as well as by many will be an on-site recycling plant, ment planned by Sama Dubai become a most dramatic 82-room other travel writers. while a supermarket will be oper- with Oman’s state tourism devel- Oberoi boutique hotel. I have seen All that is about to change thanks ated by the local people. As part of oper Omran, over the craggy hill this project and can vouch for its to Muriya, a joint venture between the project, a mosque in As Sifah from the Shangri-La Resort, has slow but apparently inexorable Egypt’s Orascom (of El Gouna village has been rebuilt and Muriya been stopped pending discussions progress. The website promises fame) and Omran, who are building will work with the Ministry of Heri- between the governments of Dubai operations will commence in 2011. a ‘marina town’ there; with shops, tage and Culture to renovate the and Oman, although some impres- restaurants and cafes, hundreds of historic citadel of Sifah. HME sive progress has been made in terms MURIYA’S MARINA TOWN houses and apartments for freehold of road-building and marine earth- Most impressive of all the ongoing sale with 100% foreign ownership works. The nearby Yenkit Tour- projects, however, is the Muriya — the first phase will be delivered ism Development, a planned 950- Tourism Company’s Jebel Sifah next year — as well as four five-star hectare hill-top project part-owned development. Located 45 kilome- hotels and two boutique hotels. Guy Wilkinson is a Partner of Viability, a specialist hotel and real estate consulting by Majid Al Futtaim offering four tres from Muscat at the end of what Planned as a self-contained resort firm in Dubai. Email him at five-star hotels and an 18-hole Gary is currently a dangerously wind- town, Jebel Sifah has amassed a July 2010 • Hotelier Middle East