With just 42 tented villas, Al Maha is Dubai’s most exclusive, intimate, and authentic luxury desert experience. The resort is an hour’s drive from downtown Dubai, deep in the Desert Conservation Reserve.
Blazing sunsets, red sand dunes and private infinity pools await at this top-class oasis. One of the most exclusive resorts in the world, Al Maha is set against the backdrop of the Hajar Mountains and was designed to resemble a traditional Bedouin encampment like those that dominated the United Arab Emirates a century ago. Every villa enjoys stunning views of the desert and blends beautifully into the natural environment.
This elegant suite-only retreat offers beyond five-star luxury and is a cooling oasis of peace, calm and tranquillity in the desert and a welcome retreat from the hubbub of Dubai.
Opened in 1999, Al Maha was created as a nature reserve and is named after the Arabian oryx (a local type of antelope), extinct in the wild until just a few years ago. You can often spot these majestic beasts – resplendent with their white coats and black spear horns - appearing out of the shimmering heat haze and patrolling the horizon. They roam free among other indigenous wildlife - like camels and inquisitive gazelles - who often mosey up to the villas to laze in the sun by the pool.
With decadent food & wine and exotic holistic spa treatments at the resort’s Timeless Spa, a stay at Al Maha is a one-of-a-kind experience filled with Middle Eastern promise.
Al Maha is situated an hour’s drive from downtown Dubai in the 225 square kilometre protected Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. While it offers a great sense of getting away from it all, it is actually not a huge distance from the airport or indeed the City - around 50 minutes by car.
From the resort’s main security gates - only accessible to guests - it is a 8-kilometre journey down a sandy, dirt road to the fortress-like resort reception/welcoming area.
Al Maha is 77 kilometres (48 miles) from Dubai International Airport.
From the airport: The Al Maha resort offers air-conditioned luxury limousine transfers. Alternatively, there’s complimentary on-site parking with limited spaces available at the main building and more parking at the security gate, electric car charging stations and complimentary valet parking.
The 42 luxury appointed suites (all single level) are tent-like in look – and all feature canvas roofs. They spill over the desert surrounding the main building in Bedouin style and are cleverly ensconced among palms, shrubs, and bushes, affording privacy to guests.
Commanding views across undulating sand dunes from the floor to ceiling windows of the villas are unforgettable especially at sundown where the sun sinks in a fiery hot red ball over the horizon.
All villas have large wooden decks and plunge pools – all enjoying fantastic views of the desert. Huge studded wooden doors open into your own private paradise. Inside each suite, opulent in atmosphere are handcrafted furnishings and antiques, plump sofas and Persian rugs covering cool tiled floors.
Make-up or study areas lead off bedrooms, which are flooded with light and have extra-large king beds – some mahogany four-posters with sails and all boasting crisp white linen.
Mini bars are pay as you go, though there is a cut-glass carafe of complimentary wine refilled each day and fruit bowls, nuts fat dates are served in small silver trays.
Easels with canvas and paints are provided in each suite, should the dramatic desert landscape inspire artists to a spot of creativity.
Spacious and well-lit bathrooms feature huge tiled soaking baths, double vanity sinks and rain showers. Arabic urns and decorations add to the spa-like appeal with terry cloth luxury robes and fluffy towels. Luxury bath products are from fashionable luxury Swedish brand, Byredo.
While Al Maha is an all-villa, suite-only resort, families or groups can book larger spaces, including the two-bedroom Royal Suite or the spacious three-bedroom Emirates Suite, which comes with its own staff quarters and kitchen.
A staff-to-guest ratio of 2:1 translates into the sort of personal service that goes way beyond five-star. Friendly, courteous & discreet staff members are certainly one of the resort’s special treasures with butler service second to none, adding to the exclusive feel of the property, which starts on arrival at the Main House.
Guests are welcomed into the cool light-filled lobby, hung with lanterns, and decorated with traditional swords and artefacts. Persian carpets are dotted with lemon-coloured velvet chaises and carved wooden chairs. Welcome drinks of fruit juice and smoothies, delicious fresh dates or nips of sherry appear in seconds after check-in and cold towels are a welcome refreshment.
The resort may be set literally in the middle of nowhere, yet there is a concierge who can arrange transfers to Dubai and other trips - though there is little incentive to leave this magical place. There are plentiful onsite activities – two are included in each night’s stay – including falconry, horse riding, archery, desert drives, and guided nature walks among the sanctuary’s unique flora and fauna.
A sunset camel ride into the desert as the evening cools, the temperature dipping ever-so slightly, makes for a perfect end to the day and is a real highlight. Guides in traditional robes (kandura) lead the train of camels into the dunes where waiters greet guests at a pop-up bar, complete with refreshments of champagne and hors d’oeuvres.
The Al Maha’s Timeless Spa sits amid lush garden and the main infinity pool area overlooks the shimmering desert. Huge ornate wooden doors open into the cooling space, where the spa menu is extensive including treatments of relaxing massages and body treatments like mud bath and algae baths. There is a sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi and manicure-pedicure room. The Arabian Rasoul experience - using steam and mud - in private chambers is a popular treatment.
Tailor-made packages are organised to soothe problem areas with individual therapists appointed to looks after guests for their whole stay. The jetlag treatment works on the central nervous system with a hot stone massage – to balance chakras and also includes a delicious mix of rejuvenating facial, pressure point shiatsu or aroma massage, reflexology, full body scrub and an eye treatment containing frankincense.
There is an air-conditioned fitness centre with state-of-the-art gym equipment and exercise machines including treadmills. Each machine faces the desert.
Only children over the age of 10 years old are welcome – and older children and teens will love the desert adventures from dune bashing to camel rides. Handy rollaway beds in are available for the villas.
The resort is accessible for disabled guests. Pets are not allowed.
The exterior of the villas are painted in light, creamy tones and each boasts a chilled temperature-controlled infinity plunge pool, tiled in blue mosaic tiles, over which a tented sail strategically shades cushioned sun loungers on the private wooden decks from the sun during the day. Each suite is spaced out and feels private.
In-room style is lavish blending traditional local artwork and handcrafted furnishings, silver teapots and clay urns, chaise lounges with modern comfort and technology. Heavy drapes are swept back to appreciate the views from floor to ceiling windows.
While there is a conservative dress code – collar and long trousers (for men) in the restaurant and public areas, the villas remain private retaining a barefoot casual vibe.
All villas offer full-board packages (breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are included in this rate).
There is only one restaurant on site - Al Diwaan – that serves all the à la carte meals.
The restaurant has a smart/casual dress code. Although Al Diwaan features starched linens and dishes served with silver cloches, the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming. If preferred, all meals can be enjoyed in the privacy of guest’s villas or on private verandas.
Breakfast options are endless with pancakes, fresh fruit, Arabian delicacies, made-to order-eggs, French toast, salad and freshly baked bread and homemade butter and jam. Lunch might comprise of lighter dishes and traditional salads or shawarma.
Afternoon tea includes scones, pastries and macarons served with traditional mint tea at the Hajar Terrace Bar. The terrace bar is found above the restaurant and is also the location for sundowners and cocktails.
Dinner is a decadent affair and dining-out in the desert looking up at the stars is the stuff of dreams. Dinner typically includes a five-course meal with mezze platters and Sri Lankan specialities, like butter chicken, lentil dhal and prawn curry.
Wonderful freshly-squeezed juices are made from around twenty different types of exotic fruits that comes in daily from local markets including clementines, apricots, dragon fruit, lime & juniper – included in smoothies blended to suit your mood.
The Al Maha is an eco-retreat and eco-conscious guests will be pleased to hear the property uses sustainable materials such as date palm fronds. Water is recycled and purified, solar panels to generate electricity and LED lighting is used.
The Desert research centre has a full-time team of researchers (assisted by universities) who constantly monitor the Dubai Desert Reserve around Al Maha, establishing conservation and scientific projects to ensure the future of many of the indigenous species of Arabia.
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