Weeks before Adrian Zecha's Amanbagh resort opened on February 4, the legions of Aman groupies who go wherever the hotelier breaks ground were briskly booking rooms, sight unseen. They won't be disappointed: Principal architect Ed Tuttle was given the charge of building an authentic but ultramodern hotel on a long-disused campground (the maharajas of Alwar rested there between tiger hunts) in India's northwestern state of Rajasthan. And he's struck the perfect balance. On 16 acres adjacent to the Sariska Nature and Game Sanctuary, Tuttle has scattered 16 pale pink domed villas, a three-level reception hall, and an arcaded swimming pool among date palms and 300-year-old mango trees. For every arch, column, and finial, he called on the region's master craftsmen to carve the traditional architectural details out of sandstone and marble. (Particularly breathtaking are the lacy wall screens called jalis; in any other resort they would have been made from a wood composite.) Inside, the flourishes are kept to a minimum, receding as they do into the Aman's standard minimalist design ethos—long lines, few furnishings, all done in a palette of delicate pink, beige, and brown.
Just as impressive as the construction of this particular nirvana is its philosophy of service—in every sense of the word. As you would expect from any of Zecha's resorts, Amanbagh is flawlessly run. It goes deeper than that, though. "We are the newcomers," the colorful and borzoi-tall and thin general manager, Francois Richli, told us. "We believe in being a good neighbor." Richli, whose standard dress is a kurta and a Buddha-head pendant, says Amanbagh intends to hire 40 percent of its staff from nearby villages, directly benefiting some 400 families. "We are very much about leaving this place better than we found it, and our guests, we feel, will be better for it, too." Rates, $550-$900; 800-477-9180; www.amanresorts.com.