Driving to Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa, is a relaxant in and of itself. After entering the conservation reserve’s gates, there remains an 11-kilometre sand-blown track to navigate. Stopping to photograph snow-white oryx that graze roadside and the requisite rolling amber dunes, one can feel their shoulders start to unknot.
The resort stands on a dedicated conservation reserve an hour outside of Dubai, with nature and privacy two cornerstones of the property.
On arrival, a full welcome awaits from the safari-clad staff, one of the highlights of the stay. Guests are assigned their own field guide to organise desert activities, and staff are generally ever-present and happy to tailor activities to each guest.
Golf buggies wait to whip you to one, two or three-bedroom private suites, all of which are equipped with private plunge pools with views of the desert. With Arabic accoutrements, including bowls of dates and nuts, the suites ultimately aim to relax and recharge. Painting easels are on hand for aspiring artists inspired by the view of the Hajar Mountains, and binoculars for ornithologists hoping to catch a closer glimpse of a rare Bluethroat or Lapwing flitting over the dunes.
If you decide to emerge from your suite at all – although in-room dining options are easy enough for those seeking total seclusion – a large infinity pool and spa at the bottom of the property awaits, typically occupied by the odd guest and gazelle lapping from its edge. Seconds from this modern watering hole is a spa offering amenities including a private Rasoul chamber or hydrotherapy bath.
For dining options, guests can opt to have food brought to their room for a private meal out on the deck, or take advantage of alfresco dining on the veranda, with flame-lit torches flickering, and a desert full of untold riches on the horizon.
In the neighbourhood
Out and about
Full-board guests can avail themselves of two free activities during their stay that include archery, a falconry display – where eagles and Arabian falcons circle in figure-of-eights as the sun crests over the dunes – and nature walks to fully appreciate the desert reserve’s inhabitants. As well as gazelles, one may chance upon the odd snake
The eco aspect
At the heart of Al Maha is a desire to protect and preserve, owing to its truly unique location in the midst of a desert conservation reserve. Seventy endangered Arabian Oryx were reintroduced into the area in 1999, and have since blossomed into a herd of over 400 – the largest free roaming herd of its kind in the UAE.