Dibba in Musandam has had a troubled past surrounding its ownership, which dates back to the time of the death of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It’s the site of one of the greatest battles of the Ridda Wars when, in 633, Muslim armies conquered the area and reclaimed Arabia. One fascinating site on the outskirts of Dibba is the cemetery that marks the battleground where more than 10,000 rebels died.
The region is split into three parts – Dibba Al-Fujairah, ruled by the emirate of Fujairah; Dibba Al-Hisn, ruled by the emirate of Sharjah; and Dibba Al-Baya, ruled by Musandam, Oman. Possibly due to its multiple ownership and varying laws, Dibba may feel like it has less of a solid identity than the places it’s ruled by, but the main attraction in this sleepy region is its traditional and simple Arabic way of life.
Another attraction is the scale of natural beauty in this small holiday enclave, with the craggy Hajar Mountains to one side and the Gulf of Oman to the other. Khor Fakkan, which sits along the Gulf of Oman, is renowned for its picturesque quality and great diving and snorkelling sites.Although Khor Fakkan is surrounded by Fujairah, it actually belongs to Sharjah, and is the emirate’s largest town, so expect the same laws and traditions here.
Unlike the hot, dry desert climate in the rest of the UAE, Khor Fakkan experiences rain and tropical storms in January to March. November to April is the perfect time of year to enjoy this quiet, charming town.
Arriving at Six Senses Zighy Bay
The Dibba destination of choice has to be Six Senses Zighy Bay, a luxury eco-resort nestled between the mountains and the beach, and blissfully cut off from the outside world. Our Six Senses experience begins a day or two before we even arrive, when we fill in a form to determine dietary requirements, our in-villa entertainment preferences and whether we’d rather a blend of lavender, bergamot and chamomile or ylang ylang, geranium and lavender gently dabbed on feathery pillows to assist a restful night’s sleep.
The choices and options hint at the attention to detail you can expect once you actually set foot in Zighy Bay. Arrival at this resort, just over the border from Dibba in Oman, is nothing short of breathtaking. Guests can choose from a speedboat cruise from a nearby port, a ride in a 4x4 up and over the mountains that screen the resort from the rest of civilisation, or an adrenaline-fuelled paraglide flight down into the bay. We opt for the free, more sedate overland option, leaving behind all worldly stresses at the car park on the other side of the mountain.
The resort is almost camouflaged, its earthy tones blending in with the rocky surroundings and, as with all Six Senses resorts, there’s a genuine effort to minimise environmental impact. Our beachfront pool villa is rustic, simple and unpretentious – a gem deliberately left unpolished, allowing guests to admire beauty in its raw form. There’s style, good taste and luxury everywhere you look, from the exquisite colour combinations and the state-of-the-art entertainment system to the private outdoor pool and traditional raised majlis for lounging with a view onto the beach and turquoise ocean. I especially like the old-fashioned fan by the pool and the low-tech bicycles parked out front should we wish to go exploring.
Dining options at Zighy Bay come in the form of Summer House, serving all manner of international dishes and seafood throughout the day; Spice Market, where breakfast is served as well as buffets and dinner; and Sense on the Edge, the resort’s stunning mountaintop restaurant boasting those dramatic views you’ll have marvelled at on arrival. Plus there’s always The Cellar for private dinners and grape tastings. Alternatively, consult your personal butler for in-villa dining recommendations.
Zighy Bay isn’t about activities, sightseeing or rushing about; the real attraction lies in its isolation, privacy and slow tempo – you can feel time decelerating as soon as you cross the border. Surrendering ourselves to this relaxed approach, we opt for a sunset cruise heading north along the spectacular coastline. We share the resort’s boat with two other couples, and settle down in a perfect spot on the spacious deck at the prow. With a cool breeze in our hair, tempering the heat of summer, we lie back to admire the views and enjoy the gentle sway.
At the halfway point of our carefree cruise, we pause in a sheltered bay on whose shore stands a lone hut, its owner living an isolated, yet no doubt peaceful existence, with ever-present goat herds for company. The boat’s crew bring out a selection of nibbles – smoked salmon, blinis and the like – and pop open a bottle of bubbly for each couple. Despite the lack of a sunset on the horizon (we’re on the wrong side of the peninsular), it’s undeniably romantic and we toast the occasion and take the obligatory photographs.
Next morning, there’s still time to unwind further with a treatment at the Six Senses spa. The menu is extensive and you’re in good hands – wellness manager Steve and beauty therapist and yoga instructor Pat boast a wealth of experience. While my wife enjoys a balancing facial with Pat, I stretch out for the 60-minute full-body Oriental massage, my therapist expertly applying acupressure and stretching techniques to leave me totally relaxed and rejuvenated.
A final dip in the sea and a soak in the private infinity pool, and our short break comes to an end. But with the resort only a couple of hours’ drive from Dubai, yet a world away from its urban stresses and crowds, I know we’ll be back before long. It may be on the more expensive end of the scale, but Zighy Bay is more than worth it.
Scare yourself senseless
Touting itself as the ‘most exhilarating mountain bike ride in the region’, Dubai-based Absolute Adventures’ Downhill Dash should quench any thirst for adrenaline. Starting from the top of Dibba’s spectacular gorge in Wadi Al Shamsi, 500 metres above sea level, you’ll find yourself hurtling down the hillside, enjoying every twist and turn. With quality bikes and a support vehicle on hand, what’s to stop you hitting the trail?
Dhs450 per person, minimum two people, bike and helmet hire included. Absolute Adventure, www.adventure.ae (050 625 9165).
Need to know
By car, Zighy Bay is about a two-hour drive from Dubai. Take Emirates Road (E111) through Sharjah, then take exit 119 towards Fujairah on the E87. Continue across the mountains, following signs to Dibba on the E89 (instructions can be found on the Zighy Bay website, below).
If you don’t own a car, try any major car rental company, such as Avis, Hertz, Budget and so on – smaller rental companies may not allow you to cross the border into Oman, so make sure this is specified when you book. I went with Gargash Car Rental, which charged Dhs130 per day plus Dhs200 for Omani insurance.
Where to stay
Six Senses Zighy Bay is currently offering a three-day ‘Sense of Oman Wellness Package’, priced at Dhs8,378 per couple.
www.sixsenses.com/sixsenseszighybay (+968 2673 5555).
Visitors holding a UAE resident visa are requested to send the resort a copy of their passport and UAE resident visa to process the border pass. A border pass s required as per the new regulation for all UAE residents crossing the Dibba transitional border. Border passes will be created by the resort (free of charge) and will remain at the Dibba checkpoint. You must ensure you carry your passport and UAE labour card. UAE or GCC citizens can visit on their identity card or passport (a border pass is not required).Visitors visiting on a UAE Tourist visa do not require a border pass as no Oman visa is required, but note that there is no stamping of entry and exit at the checkpoint.