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Turkish Delightby Rima Suqi | magazine | July 9, 2012
From the still waters of Mandalay Bay, a secluded spot off the storied Aegean Sea—stomping grounds for the ancient Greeks, Romans and their notoriously unpredictable gods—Amanruya resembles a small village. Nestled hillside amid olive and pine trees, the latest luxury resort in the Aman portfolio is an anomaly of sorts on a bay of the Bodrum Peninsula, a region often described as the Saint-Tropez of Turkey. Here, the high-season courts a sea of summering comers—yachts fill local harbors, upscale autos jam the roads and an amalgam of tourists and wealthy Istanbulis crowd the narrow streets of the region’s seaside towns. But just 15 minutes up a winding road from the town of Bodrum, Amanruya is blissfully quiet by design.
“We tried to create a small village with a local vernacular spirit,” explains Emine Öğün, who designed the resort with her husband, Mehmet. “But it is also modern; it doesn’t try to imitate exactly what came years before—it has to belong to our age.” The project is something of a family affair—Emine’s father, architect Turgut Cansever, purchased the 123-acre parcel of land in the Demir Valley more than 40 years ago. It sits across the bay from a village of 44 stone houses he designed in the 1980s, earning him the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture. It is no accident that, decades later, his daughter and her husband (also architects who once worked in his office) would use the same cues—elements of Greek, Byzantine and Ottoman architecture and design—to conceptualize Amanruya, their inaugural hotel project.
“Village” is the perfect word to describe the resort, as each of its 36 rooms is actually a freestanding stone cottage set along a multilevel labyrinth of stone paths, often accessed by narrow, sloping “streets” of stairs anchored by concretions of mineral archways. (Turkey is known for its impressive quarried stone supply.) When I mention getting lost several times, Mehmet admits, “The layout is like a maze. It’s also not good for high heels.” Truer words were never spoken. The craggy pathways are charmingly uneven in places and, in others, set with pebbles (laid by hand by women hailing from nearby villages). It’s a potentially hazardous-in-heels situation for even the most experienced stiletto wearer.
Truth be told, you would look and feel pretty silly traipsing about in Louboutins here. Aman properties, in general, are far removed from the party or any kind of related scene. Following suit, Amanruya stands as a reflection of its architects’ commitment, and their directive, to keep the resort’s design “as silent as possible.” As such it attracts solo and companionable travelers and a number of beautiful people (staff included) that all flock here for its calm allure. By emphasizing simplicity while simultaneously cocooning guests in the lap of luxury, Amanruya’s team configured a winning combination.
Among the sumptuous trappings of this contemporarily sparse (but hardly spare) hotel are stunning views, private pools, queen-sized daybeds situated poolside, outdoor showers and four-poster beds that float openly in the main room of the more than 1,000-square-foot guest cottages. (Note: Being alone here, while therapeutic on many levels, can be torture.) Other resorts displaying less conceptual insight might drape such sexy slumbering chambers with mosquito netting, but not so here. Curtains attached to all four sides slide open and shut at will, revealing or concealing as much as its inhabitants wish. Lay back and the bed’s “ceiling” reveals a maze-like pattern of woodwork inspired by divans nesting in summer mansions lining the Bosphorus. Return from dinner at turndown to find the curtains drawn and a come-hither glow emitting from the cube-like structure.
In addition to bedside shuttering duties, curtains cleverly serve as a soft substitute for doors leading to a generous dressing area and bathroom, a veritable shrine to Mugla White Turkish marble. It’s everywhere—blanketing walls, floors, showers and hand-carved architectural details—and looks like its more ka-ching cousin, Carrara, for what I’m told is a fraction of the cost. Discreetly positioned skylights in the bathroom ceiling are nearly undetectable. From the outside they look like little Fez hats propped on top of cottages, but they stream radiant beams into the space, supplying what Mehmet describes as a “super natural effect—it’s an intangible, immaterial play of nature.” This subtle touch delivers tenfold.
A few other accoutrements of note—and there are plenty others—include various places to perch around the property. Among this lot are several lounges, all with views of the bay, where one can read, nap or enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail while watching the sunset. One of my favorite spots was an elevated lounge I took to calling my treehouse—an extremely simple, open-air “box” of marble suspended over a courtyard from which to glimpse the goings on or simply stare out at the sea while having a glass of Turkish raki and remaining relatively hidden. Another private roost deserving of attention is the top floor of the library, a tower-like structure with a spiral staircase that leads to a tome-filled room appointed with rounded windows through which to once again admire the view.
It’s no wonder that as a brand Aman Resorts has garnered a number of accolades—Amanruya itself landed a spot on Travel + Leisure’s It List in “The Best New Hotels 2012” category—and a devoted legion of “Amanjunkies.” These fans will travel to any destination to visit an Aman property. After this stay, my first, add me to the list.