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Bedouin legacy at a luxurious desert camp
We traveled with our driver from the airport to the desert outside of Dubai. Along the way, we saw a few Oryx antelope roaming the magical dune and desert landscape with widesand dunes as far as the eye can see.
On the horizon, a green fabled palm oasis and the cream-colored tent roofs of the Al Maha, Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa became visible. Twenty years ago, the buried eternal spring, fed by ancient underground lakes, was given a new lease on life here.
In the style of a typical Bedouin village, now there are 42 dreamlike suites, each with its own pool, the mainbuilding with an excellent restaurant and a spa amidst the desert in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.
“Under the chairmanship of Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Emirates developed Al Maha as the first conservation eco-resort in the Gulf, preserving not only the desert and wildlife, but also the Bedouin heritage which developed within this environment. The Bedu have travelled this desert for over 5000 years. The legend of Al Maha, fact or fiction embodies our philosophy and we thank all who visit here for their participation on our history.”
The 5-star Al Maha, Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa, offers tranquility, a unique atmosphere, an authentic Arab cultural experience, attentive service, world-class cuisine, and unforgettable desert adventures. It is perfect for discerning travelers, couples and honeymooners!
Natural wonders & animal welfare
In 1997, the then crown prince and current ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, financed the first reintroduction of these symbolic animals into the desert of Al Maha, to save the Arabian Oryx antelopes from extinction and protect the fragile ecosystem of the desert.
„We are increasingly aware of the urgent need to take good care of our priceless natural heritage, all the more so as Dubai is expanding so fast. The Reserve protects our last unspoiled desert and unique Arabian way of life for future generations to enjoy.“ – HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman, Emirates & DDCR
In 1999, the Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, with its 27 km² nature reserve, opened under the direction of Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum. Almost 6,000 indigenous trees and shrubs were planted. Each one is watered via a water pipeline every 30 minutes.
The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR) encompassing 225 km², was set up in cooperation with the government in2003. It is the first national park in the United Arab Emirates. Since then, the Emirates has been funding its own conservation team of ecologists and wildlife specialists, and 100% of the DDCR’svisitor income goes towards the conservation and care of the animals.
Today, the population of Oryx antelopes is recovering, andabout a thousand Oryx antelopes and gazelles livehere. The desert is also the home to the Rueppell’s fox, the Arabian red fox, rabbits, the Ethiopian hedgehog, and majestic birds of prey such as ospreys, falcons, owls andeagles, as well as pigeons, colorful parakeets and many more.
The lovable Arabian gazelles can be found everywhere in Al Maha. You can experience them up close and watch them for as long as you like. They walk around freely and feel just as much at home here as the guests. We even felt a little bit observed by them.
Seductive retreat with views of the dune landscape
The stately main building is built in the style of an old fortress and offers greats view into the vastness of the desert.
Management of the Al Maha has since been transferred to Starwood (SPG), which is why it is now part of the Luxury Collection and the Marriott Hotel group.
At this all-inclusive resort, all meals, exceptalcohol, two activities per day (falconry, camel riding, Arabian horse riding, archery, game drives, dune rides, sundowners and desert walks) are part of the package.
The chic Bedouin décor lobby offers plenty of seating, traditional rugs, old Bedouin artifacts, antique rifles, copper pots, Arabic tea, a bar with snacks and coffee, a library and a small souvenir and antique shop.
General Manager, Arne Silvis, comes from South Africa and has now been leading the Al Maha, Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa for 15 years with so much love and passion, that it is tangible! No wonder then that the resort has 30% recurring guest rate. We have never experienced that returning guests are welcomed as warmly as here. Here you become part of the Al Maha Family.
Glamping with safari atmosphere
With a golf cart, we drove to our suite, of course, you can also walk, but we were told to relax, andso we did. The suites are scattered throughout the resort and offer plenty of privacy.
The Bedouin Suite is perfect for two people. The Royal and Emirates Suites are ideal for four people, andthe Presidential Suite can accommodate six people. In the small entrance area,you will find a Nespresso machine, water, a minibar, a kettle and free wine (for SPG members).
The Arabian design with its authentic antiques, dark wood, patterned Bedouin rugs and local artifacts under the big tent roof is absolutely stunning.
All doors in the light-filled suites can be opened. Gorgeous!
By the way, one is not only observed by the gazelles, but also by the countless birds. The dates and the tasty baklava pastries, which are available here as snacks, probably also have something to do with it.
Apart from the cozy sofas inviting you to relax and a desk, you will also find, binoculars and an easel with paper, pastels andpencils – such a special touch.
The bed is huge and super soft, as you would expect from the Marriott. You can sleep well and wake up to the fantastic view of the beautiful desert landscape.
The sound of birds chirping and the colors of the sky at sunrise are just spectacular! You simply have to open all the doors and become part of the magical desert landscape.
The suites are so far apart from each other and evoke the feeling of you being alone in the desert.
The view from the terrace and the infinity pool is fantastic! If there were not some exciting activities awaiting us, we could easily spend the entire day here watching the animals.
The humans are also observed.
In the beautiful bathroom with golden fittings, you will find two basins with exquisite BVLGARI products, a huge bathtub, a large rain shower and a bidet. Here you can enjoy loads of fresh air and marvel at the vast dunes.
Even though it cools down quite a bit at night, you can still use the pool, as it is heated.
Restaurant Al Diwaan
The restaurant with its large terrace has a magnificent view of the desert.
With birdsong all around, you can enjoy the scrumptious buffet-style breakfast while taking in the stunning view.
Room service is available at no extra charge. If you prefer so, all meals can be delivered to your suite. Perfect if you want to spend more time away from it all.
Hajar Lounge Bar
At the chic lounge bar, Hajar, you can enjoy delicious cocktails, fine wines or an aperitif before dinner, in- or outdoors. During the sunset hours from 18:00 to 20:00, you can even have two for the price of one.
At the cozy restaurant, 5-course, world-class international cuisine meals are served in- or outside in the evening.
The international team of chefs ranging from Poland to Kenya lovingly takes care of the culinary preferences of the guests. There is even a list where each guest is listed, noting their likes, dislikes and any food allergies. Amazing!
The food is out of this world! Chef Piotr is passionate about food, and this can be seen and tasted in the food he serves. Star-worthy indeed, but stars are not of importance to him; his guests are!
The terrace is very romantic with the blazing fire at night. If you decide to dine outside, you can also watch the gazelles.
The service is very attentive and friendly! Absolutely perfect!
The gazelle named Boriscame by every night. So sweet!
The desert activities are definitely not to be missed, even if you have to get up very early for some of them. Before any of the excursions,you meet in the lobbyand can enjoy some coffee and strengthen yourself with all sorts of delicacies.
At sunrise, 05:30 in the summer and 07:00 in the winter, when it is still cool, one can observe the guides working with the majestic hawks and owls.
After a little historical introduction, they showed us how to work with the falcons. Impressive! Previously, they were used by the Bedouins for hunting, and today they are the feathered darlings of the sheikhs.
The hawkstake a break for 5 months a year, as it is too hot for them in summer.
The guides cannot afford to make any mistakes, such as forgetting the food as a reward. Then the hawk could just fly away, and that will be saying goodbye to USD 5000!
Hawks and owls are beautiful and fascinating creatures!
At the end of the show,you can even hold the hawks on your own.
Wild Life Drive
By jeep, off we wenton a small safari. While listening to the fascinating anecdotes of the field guides, you can observe the Oryx, after which the Al Maha is named.
This ever-shifting desert is the largest contiguous sand desert in the world and covers most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula.
Field guide Gregg comes from South Africa. He has worked there at numerous game reserves and is exceptionally knowledgeable.
A ride over the dunes is pure adrenaline and quite exciting!
Camel Trek & Sundowners
The Al Maha has 16 camels. In pairs, you can ride on them through the desert.
When it starts in the afternoon, the sun slowly sets during the leisurely ride. The desert turns orange, and the atmosphere is incredibly romantic.
After about 20 minutes, champagne and snacks await the riders, and you can sit on the dunes with a sundowner and watch the sunset.
Relaxed and happy, we made our way back to camp on camelback.
If you do not want to join the camel ride, you can also go by jeep.
Of course,there are many other activities. You also have the opportunity to ride on the resort’s beautiful Arabian horses.
The luxurious spa has a sauna, steam room, whirlpool, plunge pool, a Rasul chamber, treatment rooms, for Ayurveda treatments, forinstance, a gym and an outdoor infinity pool with beautifulviews of the dunes.
Cleansing and revitalizing facials, massages, body scrubs, manicures and pedicures are on offer.
You can relax wonderfully at the huge pool with its desert views and in the relaxation room.
Events, Honeymoon & Wedding
Al Maha, Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, is the perfect location for weddings, family reunions, special celebrations, andgroup events for up to 300 guests. There are so many ways to celebrate special occasions. Private dinners hosted among the dunes are very romantic. A BBQ in the desert can even be arranged for largergroups.
The incredible attention to detail is evident everywhere. The service is personal and attentive. The activities are indeed an experience. The suites are beautiful, offer a lot of privacy and are absolutely perfect for relaxing. The tranquility and inspiring views are fantastic. The animals roaming freely throughout the resort are just magical – you want to watch them all day. This is an absolute paradise for nature and animal lovers!
Al Maha offers an unforgettable desert experience amidst the beautiful dune landscape combined with exemplary wildlife and nature conservation. It is a marvelous place to relax, which you miss time and again after leaving! Highly recommended for a relaxing, romantic and exciting break in the desert!
Rooms: 42 suites (Bedouin, Royal, Emirates andPresidential)
Flight duration: About six and a half hours nonstop from Germany to Dubai with Emirates
Transfer: 65 km from the airport, about a 45 to 60-minutedrive
Air Temperature: 13- 41 degrees Celsius
Time Zone: CET +3 hours
Vaccinations: Not required
Best Travel Time: November – April, in summer it can be up to 50 degrees Celsius
Price: Double room from 790 EUR per night (Low Season) including full board and two activities per day
Activities: Falconry, camel riding, Arabian horse riding, archery, game drives, dune rides, sundowner drive, desert walk, lunch or romantic dinner among the dunes
Specialities: Uniquely romantic atmosphere, beautiful suites with great private pools, excellent cuisine, fantastic desert activities
Perfect for: Romantics, couples, families (with children over the age of 12), honeymooners, discerning travelers, single travelers, nature and animal lovers
Resort of the YearMost impressive Hotel Feature
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Please note: Our stay was sponsored by the Al Maha, Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa.Thank you so much! Nevertheless, the opinions voiced in this article are 100% our own!