The Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa is set in the desert.
PHOTO BY BAB AL SHAMS
In 45 minutes the surroundings changed from urban to desert without us leaving Dubai. We were on our way to the exclusive Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa.
Expat Media was recently invited to review the luxury desert resort in Al Qudra, a huge expanse of desert and wildlife reserve right in the heart of Dubai. We were expecting a five-star desert adventure. We got that and more.
The last three-minute drive into the resort is an adventure in itself: a narrow, winding road through the golden desert dramatically framed by silky thread grass dancing in the breeze. At night this road takes up a dreamy glow; lit up by Arabian lanterns hung low and petroleum-fueled bamboo torches.
The hotel resort feels like a sheikh’s palace in the middle of the desert; a sprawling Arabic mansion with five stars to its name. The place features stucco walls painted in warm desert hues, ornate rugs and heavy wooden furniture, including Middle Eastern bronze ornaments. A labyrinth of passageways leads to secret spots, cozy rooms and the beautiful, expansive outdoors.
Our beautiful, Arabic-inspired room is part of a network of accommodations in the property. It’s the perfect retreat, with a day bed by the corner and comfortable twin beds in the cozy bedroom area. It even has its own patio.
The bathroom was another delight and featured an Arabic-style shower and bath area. The first thing I did was run a warm bath.
Fat bike ride. For a resort in the middle of the desert, Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa holds a lot of surprises for those looking for an adventure. First on our itinerary was a fat bike ride in the desert area surrounding the hotel. It’s the perfect introduction to the desert expanse surrounding the resort.
After going through safety checks with our guide, Michael, our group of three headed out into the desert. Extra big tyres helped our bikes glide easily on the sand. While I was just happy to pedal away, we were given the opportunity to cycle our way to the horse and camel stables before heading back to the resort just before sunset. It was an exhilarating adventure!
Archery class. The next day, we signed up for an archery class by the dunes. “All you need is focus,” the instructor said as he showed us how to use the bow and arrow. I felt like Katniss Everdeen for 60 minutes. It was super fun even though I only managed to land three arrows on the target out of a few dozen!
Desert safari. Right on cue, an open-air Defender with real wooden trimmings stopped by to pick us up for a desert safari after our archery session ended. In 10 minutes we were on offroad mode and before we knew it, the driver was gliding our vehicle on towering sand dunes. Now this is how you do desert safari in style.
On the way back to the hotel, he also drove us to the Oryx and gazelle reserve where the beautiful animals freely roamed the desert.
Spa treatment. To detox after a hard week’s work, we checked in for a couple’s massage treatment at the resort’s award-winning Satori spa. We didn’t have time to try the fragranced steam room and sauna but what awaited us at the treatment room was just as relaxing. The whole body treatment was probably one of the most indulgent massages I have ever had, with the therapist gently kneading away the tension in my muscles using a light aromatherapy oil that left me feeling the most relaxed I have ever been in weeks.
Swimming pool. The pool here is something we couldn’t miss. The staff reserved a cabana for us, and we spent some time just enjoying a lazy lie-in until it was time to hit the water. The resort’s pool area is a three-part wonder, with a children’s pool area and large infinity pool overlooking the desert. The pool has plenty of shaded areas. Be careful with your step though as the flooring rises and falls in some areas.
We also spent time at their hidden gem. At the centre—rising like a citadel—is the shaded relaxation pool area where you can soak in cool water as well as enjoy a bird’s eye view of the desert.
Al Forsan. Heading to the all-day dining restaurant is a good way to wake up. Pat the copper camel on your way in and get a table by the window so you can gaze out the verdant lawn. They have a delicious breakfast selection spread across three rooms. The bread and cheese counter is extensive, along with various cold cuts. I could not get enough of the chef’s special health drink concoction of the day.
Al Hadheerah. I can’t count the number of times I have been to Al Hadheerah, and it never fails to amaze me each time I am there. If you’re looking for a five-star version of a desert safari buffet, this is it. The outdoor desert restaurant has an expansive and luxurious buffet that features live cooking stations and beautifully crafted Arabian-inspired dishes. There’s even a live play featuring actors on horses and camels, tanoura and belly dancers and singers to entertain guests while they’re enjoying the delicious spread.
Masala. The resort’s signature Indian restaurant is authentic to the core—starting with the staff beautifully dressed in traditional Indian wear, as well as the menu featuring authentic delights. We tried al fresco dining on our visit, old-fashioned ceiling fans keeping the heat at bay and creating an old India feel.
Service was stellar, and so was the food. The delicious buttered chicken paired with garlic naan is a must-try and along with the koh e awadh—leg of baby lamb slow cooked for 12 hours it just falls apart at the touch of your fork. Delicious!
Al Sarab Rooftop Lounge. This is an al fresco rooftop wonder, with live Arabic music keeping us company over signature drinks and delicious bites as the sun set. Other guests were also enjoying a round of hubbly bubbly while gazing out to the desert. For the first time in a while, I saw stars in the sky.
Pool bar. Dining in the water or near the pool? We opted for the latter, which turned out to be a good idea for lunch. We were expecting simple treats, but were surprised by meals like sirloin steak with a side of mashed potatoes and mushroom sauce. My companion opted for fries (served in a platter big enough for two!) and their signature Very Berry drink that put a smile on my travel buddy’s face.
Everything! We’re already thinking of when to come back here next.
Hotel: Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa
Stars: 5 stars
Location: Al Qudra Road, Opposite Endurance City, Dubai
Phone:04 809 6100
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