The First Resort
The Dead Sea welcomes its only luxury day beach club
From a narrow, long and steep piece of land on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan has risen the area’s first luxury day beach club, OBeach.
Designed by Lebanese designers GM Architects, the company behind upmarket beach clubs such as Lebanon’s Edde Sands and Knotica Island in Dubai, OBeach is located 55 kilometres from Amman and serves tourists and residents from the capital.
“We wanted to create a luxurious beach club atmosphere on this very odd type of land,” said founder of GM Architects Galal Mahmoud, who designed the site with partners Anwar El Hajj and Randa Chahine.
“People have nowhere to go for the day, unless they go to existing hotels. But hotels manage hotels, they don’t really manage beach resorts.”
The Dead Sea beach club is the first offering in the OBeach brand, with more properties scheduled to open in the Middle East soon.
“The characteristic of the brand is the lifestyle,” said Mahmoud. “It’s about creating a destination where guests are offered real beach club experience; where everyone is catered to – single people who want to party, families, and those who want their own private space.”
While the attraction of the site lies in its Dead Sea location, the landscape provided Mahmoud with significant design challenges. “It’s quite hostile land;” he explained, “it’s a desert, it’s rocky, and the sea is so salty you can’t just jump in and swim. Getting all these challenges into the formula and trying to create a real destination was our main focus.”
Featuring a 250 metre beach, the 33,000 m2 plot of land is also located on a slope, with an incline of 50 metres from the sea to the entrance. “This was actually the biggest challenge in this project,” added Mahmoud.
“At the end of the day, walking up 50 metres is like 10 floors of a building, so we had to do it in a way that people don’t feel they’re walking up that much.”
GM Architects used steps to stagger the multi-level site. “It was done like a path,” he continued. “It’s not one big staircase that goes up and down – there are levels.
There are different stops, there are shops; always something happening to distract you from the fact that you’re going up 50 metres. The walk up and down is not really a walk; it’s more of a promenade.”
Yet for all the challenges this hostile land provided, it also offered exquisite natural scenery and views. “It’s got this biblical type of view,” said Mahmoud.
“The scenery is quite amazing. It’s very relaxing and soothing when you get there; the sea is like a huge lake and you can see mountains on the other side.” Taking full advantage of this landscape, the design ensures that customers can enjoy the view wherever they are on the resort.
“Whether you’re sun lounging, or eating at the restaurants, or having a massage, every single component of the project has a direct sea view, so this was the main focus.”
Making sure that beachgoers could find their way easily around the resort was another priority for the designers.
“We wanted to provide a sense of discovering something new and exceptional, and at the same time give people an understanding of how things work.” Visitors enter the resort through a car park leading to an open-air lobby situated on a raised platform in the middle of the site.
“It’s like a bird’s eye view,” explained Mahmoud. “You can see all the different aspects of the whole project beneath, so you have an immediate vision of what’s waiting for you, and you don’t need a map to get around.”
Natural, locally-sourced building materials were used throughout the project.
“We tried to avoid importing materials as much as possible, so all the stone is local,” added Mahmoud. “We’ve recycled a lot of locally-sourced wood as well, mainly old telephone poles and thin bamboo strips that we used to build the pergolas and shading structures.”
The flooring is made up of a mix of concrete and sand, resulting in an ochre shade that blends naturally with the rocky surfaces of the beach club’s surroundings.
Stone was used in all the bases and walls of the resort, which were finished with local stucco made of sand and vegetable matter.
“The stone wraps around everywhere, which gives a protective feel,” said Mahmoud. “The inner walls of the buildings are all in stucco – a local adobe – that you can see in the castles of Jordan.”
The design of the platform walkways and buildings was inspired by the curved lines of desert sand dunes and the geometric shapes of salt crystals.
“We took a modernistic approach and tried to be as contextual as possible,” he explained. “The buildings have odd shapes, which seems a bit random when you look at them. But actually they have a geometrical pattern, though it’s not a composed geometry.”
The food and beverage outlets, ranging from pool bars to more formal international restaurants, were designed to blend in with the rest of the resort, all the while maintaining their own unique character.
“They are all integrated within the general scheme of the project,” said Mahmoud, “but when you look at the furniture, colour scheme, menus and signage, each one has its own identity.”
The resort’s Italian restaurant was inspired by the eateries perched on the cliffs of the Amalfi coast. “We had the same configuration of terrain,” he added.
“The terraces of the Italian restaurants are all very narrow, and all their furniture is red.” Tiled red table tops decorate the outlet, while painted ceramics and red and white curtains add to the authentic Italian feel.
“You really get that feeling of having an Italian experience without it being too kitsch; without the Italian gimmicks that some tend to use to create that atmosphere. We stayed away from that.”
The Lebanese seafood restaurant, also open during winter months, uses warmer, more intimate shades and textures. “It’s got an indoor space with a fireplace, so we needed to give it more of a cosy feel,” said Mahmoud.
“We used lots of browns, blacks and burgundies, and lots of dark wood.” Furniture and floor tiles were designed and hand painted by Lebanese artisans according to the designers’ specifications.
The resort boasts five infinity swimming pools, including a 65 metre pool in the middle of the property.
“This has all kinds of entertainment zones within it,” explained Mahmoud, “like a bar and an integrated Dead Sea pool.” Each pool is finished with tiles the same shade of green as in the Dead Sea.
“Because the Dead Sea is a very dark green, we wanted to have a connection between the sea and the pools and to have them blend in with the same colours.” The VIP pool, available to customers who rent cabanas or day beds, features a bar and commanding views of the setting sun.
“Dream villas by the sea,” is how Mahmoud described the 12 luxury cabanas designed for VIP customers at OBeach. Designed to accommodate 10 to 12 people, each 80 m2 cabana is a tented structure with both indoor and outdoor areas, and includes a private pool, a dining area with bar, valet service and day beds.
Each cabana also has a private entrance, shower and toilet facilities, outdoor air conditioning system, sea views, shaded lounging areas and day beds. Cabana guests also have access to the VIP pool.
“They’re like a private suite by the beach,” he continued. “They’re extremely successful, and get booked out for the season.”
For guests who prefer a simpler experience, 100 king size day beds are also available for hire. Located around the VIP pool, the day beds are a child-free zone and include a valet service and welcome drinks.
“If you don’t want to rent a cabana yet still want your own environment, the day beds are perfect,” said Mahmoud.
A children’s area, catering to two to six year olds and staffed by childcare professionals, includes two pools, a grassed playground with games and activities, and a sand bank.
“The resort covers the whole range of clientele that would like to go to a day beach resort with entertainment,” added Mahmoud. “In the afternoons there are live DJs and bands, and an open air nightclub for later in the evening.”
The spa offers signature Dead Sea treatments and massages in each of its seven open air treatment rooms. “The spa was like a project within a project,” explained Mahmoud.
“It’s on the far left side of the property facing the sea; we’ve tried to hide it away as much as possible so that it’s not affected by noise.”
Guests walk through narrow village-style streets to the treatment pavilions - stand-alone, semi-open structures that directly look out on to the Dead Sea.
“The rooms are completely open to the sea – there are curtains for privacy, but no one can see in,” he added. “It’s protected against the wind, and it’s very flowery, there are lots of plants around. There’s a real sense of calm and relaxation there.”