Lavish new hotel promises a vacation immersed in natural beauty, locally sourced food, pottery and textiles, and wellness and local experiences.
By: Abigail Klein Leichman – Israel 21C
The Thailand-headquartered Six Senses hospitality chain chooses exotic out-of-the-way settings for its luxury hotels, resorts and spas from Brazil to Vietnam. Six Senses Shaharut, opening on August 5, marks the brand’s first foray into Israel.
Where is Shaharut? The tiny, remote community – population less than 200 — sits on a ridge above the Arava Valley in the far southeast, 45 minutes north of Eilat near the scenic Edom Mountains.
This resort isn’t for travelers on a tight schedule or a tight budget.
It’s a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, or a 50-minute domestic flight from Tel Aviv to Ramon International Airport (which also directly serves several European markets) followed by a 45-minute transfer. The cost of a one-night stay begins at just under $1,000, and some blocks of time require a two- or three-night minimum.
For those who can swing it, Six Senses Shaharut promises a vacation immersed in natural beauty, locally sourced food, pottery and textiles, and a big emphasis on wellness and local experiences.
The 46-acre resort’s 60 suites and villas — plus a three-bedroom private reserve — are separate structures partly submerged into the ground; two of the units are wheelchair-accessible.
Everything was built from onsite materials, including rough-hewn limestone and flint, to be in harmony with this locale along the ancient Nabatean Incense Route.
“Equally important was the involvement of the neighboring community, Kibbutz Neot Semadar, the supplier of glass reinforced concrete used for the project, and local carpenters, welders, masons and ceramic artists,” said architect Daniela Plesner. (The same kibbutz supplied building materials for the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem opened in 2014.)
“All interior walls are made from Tadelakt, a waterproof plaster surface used in Moroccan architecture,” Plesner continued.
“The furniture and fittings have all been carefully curated and sourced to complement the unique weathered rock formations, utilizing natural stone, wood and copper, inspired by the Edom mountains. The entrance and interior doors are custom made from reclaimed teak rescued from disused boats, houses and footbridges.”
As for amenities, Six Senses Shaharut will have a main restaurant, cocktail lounge and poolside bar and grill (not certified kosher); Six Senses Spa with hamam; 262-foot (18-meter) indoor pool, 80-foot
(25-meter) outdoor lap pool (six of the suites and all the villas also have private pools); gym and yoga studio with desert views; Nail Bar for mani-pedis; wine cellar; and Alchemy Bar where guests can concoct herb-based scrubs and facial masks.
A desert activity center incorporates the Earth Lab, where guests can learn about the hotel’s sustainability initiatives to reduce consumption, produce locally and support communities and ecosystems.
Guests will be able to groom and ride camels kept onsite, walk through a date palm orchard and enjoy “Cinema Paradiso” nights in an open-air amphitheater. The “Grow with Six Senses” hangout is available for younger guests who may not want to join their parents’ adventures.
Notwithstanding its multiple swimming pools, Six Senses Shaharut aims to be a zero-waste hotel and has an onsite water-use adviser and sustainability manager, says spokeswoman Naama Ben-Dror.
“We provide vendors with reusable packages for our food. We have our own composter. We have our own water treatment plant and water bottling plant; no plastic comes into the hotel,” she tells ISRAEL21c.
“The core idea is reconnecting with nature, wellness and sustainability. Wellness surrounds how you sleep and eat as well as our crafted activities. We have Natural mat mattresses made from natural fibers, and the food is healthful, seasonal and local — homegrown as much as possible,” she adds.
From the moment an electric buggy picks guests up from the bottom of the hill to take them to reception, they’ll hear a specially composed desert soundtrack that is available in each room as well.
The hotel will have limited capacity until the High Holiday season beginning the night of September 6. Ben-Dror explains that corona delayed the opening of the hotel, which turned out to have some advantages in terms of getting all the extras ready.
“We were supposed to open a year ago, when we had just planted seeds in our organic garden. Now it’s fully ready,” she says.
“Six Senses is an international brand with 19 resorts all over the world and another 25 in the pipeline, as well as standalone spas mostly in Asia,” Ben-Dror says. “We adhere to Six Senses standards and will have trainers from abroad to train the staff to deliver that level of service.”