REVIEW: Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa
Meeting a new friend at the pool isn’t altogether unheard of when on vacation (or ‘staycation’ in this case). But when we looked out to our private pool at Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa to see we had been joined by a gazelle, it was definitely a first. The view from our whopping great king-sized bed in the resort’s Bedouin Suite consisted of a sundeck surrounded by birds, a gazelle drinking from our pool, and desert occupied by camels and Arabian oryx. If Mary Poppins was set in the Middle East, this is where it would be filmed.
Although Dubai is famous for its five-star hotels, this place is different. Occupying a small chunk of Dubai’s desert conservation reserve, the resort is unimposing, blending in with the environment rather than dominating it. This is the confidence of Al Maha shining through – yes, there is no ‘wow factor’ entrance, but the location and its sweeping dunes are all the wow you need. Better yet, once inside the main lobby you see the quality and attention to detail. Antique furniture, traditional Emirati weaves, bespoke artwork… There’s nothing mass produced in sight.
There are four different types of villa, each with its own private infinity pool. We stayed in a Bedouin Suite, which is made to look like a lavish Arabian tent, complete with hand-carved dark wood furnishings and 180 degree views from the desert. Although you could easily never leave this bubble of calm, there are plenty of Arabian activities to try. We opted for a camel ride into what felt like the middle of nowhere, where we stopped to drink mocktails and watch the sun set over the horizon. You can also try falconry, horse riding, archery and dune bashing, to name just a few, but the quiet nature of the reserve begs for plenty of time doing nothing.
Although the simple nature of Al Maha is what makes it special, there’s nothing simple about the food. We ate our way through a three-course lunch and a five-course dinner, not to mention the never ending breakfast. Far from being an extension of the resort, Al Diwaan restaurant’s organic fine dining is renowned in its own right. Expect dishes like Wagyu beef fillet with cauliflower puree, chocolate jelly and pomegranate jus. You can also opt for butler service in your villa, or make things extra romantic with a desert dining experience.
It’s hard to critique Al Maha in a balanced way because it’s such an incredible place. If you only have a couple of days to spare and need to escape everything concrete, modern and glitzy, while still being treated like royalty, this is the only place to go.
During Eid, stay for three nights, pay for two. Rates start at AED2,800 for a Bedouin suite including breakfast, lunch, dinner and two desert activities.
Dubai - Al Ain Road, 800 0441 3231, www.al-maha.com