There are two ways to arrive at Barr Al Jissah, a luxury resort in Oman that overlooks the Arabian Sea. One is in a chauffeured Bentley, which transports owners and guests from the nearby airport in Muscat. The other is by yacht. These can be parked at the resort’s private marina, which is currently the country’s deepest. Water taxis are also available for larger yachts that need to berth in deeper water.
Either way, the arrival is sure to be dramatic. The resort, which is nestled into the rugged folds of the Al Hajar Mountains, includes a marina, a Shangri-La hotel, a private beach and a collection of private homes. The first private properties launched back in 2009, but the resort recently released five additional villas and 11 townhomes with prices starting around 1.5 million Omani Rials (US $3.89 million).
The new townhomes are located on a hill above the resort, while the larger, two-story villas are perched cliff-side. These are more than 7,400 square feet in size and feature double-height ceilings, SieMatic kitchens, marble floors and Jacuzzi’s in the bathroom, an outdoor terrace, and a private granite swimming pool.
Developers also plan to build marina apartments. “These apartments will overlook the Barr Al Jissa private marina, which offers yacht owners the ideal base to explore the Omani coastline,” says Barr Al Jissah, CEO of Firas Matraji.
Oman has all of the ingredients of a luxurious second-home destination: warm, sunny winters; stunning beaches and mountains; and measured approach to development. But until recently the market was largely untried. Barr Al Jissah launched in 2006 to become the country’s first Integrated Tourism Resort (ITC), a property investment category that is open to non-nationals and part of the government’s plan to diversify Oman’s economic base and reduce its dependence on oil revenues.
The plan, which grants overseas buyers automatic residency rights, has drawn an increasing number of international investors to the country. Oman’s expat population rose by 12.6 percent per annum from 2004 to 2014, according to the National Centre for Statistics and Information.
While Dubai and Abu Dhabi routinely make headlines with their glistening towers and fabricated offshore islands, nearby Oman offers a quieter appeal. In place of air-conditioned shopping malls and artificial harbors the country has empty beaches, expansive deserts, crystal clear waters and a handful of luxury hotels that offer peace and pampering in remarkably isolated settings. At Barr Al Jissah, homeowners are given a three-year membership to the Shangri-La Resort and Spa and have access to the amenities at the three on-site hotels, including the spa, fitness center, fine dining, and private sandy beaches.
Prices in Oman are lower than other UAE markets, and the residential sector has proved more resilient than in Dubai, where new build supply and speculative off-plan capital flows lead to steep home value cycles. “Oman offers a more stable capital market with less risk to its investors and steady profits, and as a result, provides a sanctuary from other oversaturated and overpriced property markets,” Firas Matraji says. “In addition, the country is politically stable and there are continuous efforts made by the government to invest in infrastructure.”
The drop in oil prices has put a damper on Oman’s economy, though growth is set to continue this year according to a recent report from U.K. consultancy Cluttons. Property sales also remain active, particularly within ITC developments where a lack of fresh supply is putting an upward pressure on prices. But Faisal Durrani, head of research at Cluttons, says all of this is subject to the ability of the economy to sustain the current level of business activity against challenging headwinds.
At Barr Al Jissah, foreign buyers currently make up the majority of sales––around 40 percent from the U.K. and the rest from Europe and around the Gulf region.
Images courtesy of Barr Al Jissah