The Middle East region boats of beautiful properties to satisfy a wide range of travellers looking for refuge in unique properties with adjacent experiences and service. As a mission to try and list you the best properties in the world, we had to visit the iconic Al Maha by the Luxury Collection. We provided below some extra content and thoughts than what currently can be found on the internet, to hopefully inspire your next vacation spot.
Al Maha is hidden within an oasis in the middle of the United Arab Emirates desert. If you want to feel like one of the nomadic bedouins with a dash of luxury, then booking a stay here is a must as you will be right in the middle of a conservation area. Al Maha is Arabic for the Oryx, an icon of the resort as dozens of them run free around the property. It has the feel of a giant luxury farm with many species of animals roaming free.
Where is Al Maha located
To get to Al Maha from Dubai, you will need a car or a driver. The property provides a pick up service from Dubai International Airport, which is about 45 minutes away. It is located within the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve and you have to sign in to get to the hotel. At the gate, and once you have dodged all the animals that are slowly creeping out, you will have to leave your car at the car park. The Al Maha team will pick you up and drive you to the main hotel. Very exceptionally and when requested by VIPs, you can drive up to the door of the lobby.
How to get around Al Maha
Once you are on the property, you are hidden from the rest of the world. There is a 15 minute dirt track to get past before you even enter the property and Al Maha has cars that will take you forth and back to the front gate. Sorry if you are a huge off roader, but someone else will be doing the driving this time around. Take a back seat, enjoy the scenery and see how much wildlife you can spot. Some VIPs and regular returning guests that insist on off-roading do request the back and old entrance that is literally in the dunes.
To get to your room, there is a buggy service on demand to bring you to places. There are no bikes to roam around, but you surely would enjoy a walk to bump into Oryxes the way! If you want to go deeper in the dunes, Al Maha organizes camel walks in the dunes at sunset which is accompanied by bubbles and what not.
Dining experiences at Al Maha
Dining is such an important aspect of a property, mostly if guests have no choice to eat there!
We were certainly in for a culinary adventure at Al Maha. Getting in the afternoon we were greeted to a platter of Arabic fruits and treats, which we sat down at our private pool to enjoy. Fun fact, but also very great for bourbon fans, each room has a complimentary carafe of bourbon, which we really enjoyed.
We were lucky enough to run into a few friends and planned on having dinner later in the night at Al Diwaan, just after our Sunset Camel Ride. Al Diwaan is situated on a deck so we had a view of a clear night and the stars shining down on us. Many couples are there dining around you and everyone was somehow very quiet, we could almost hear each other eating. The food we ordered was tasty and the portion size was generous. We made sure to share our starters and we were nearly full before the mains came out. The main meals were much more appropriately sized and filled us to the brim. By the time desserts came out we were so full that we all shared the sugary treats.
To make sure to enjoy our experience at Al Maha to the fullest, we had breakfast in the room. The breakfast will be set up on the table outside, right by the pool. If you are lucky, you will see some Oryx wander around, they are known to walk on guests’ deck. Please do not feed the animals around you. In saying that, if you want to, you can also go to Al Diwaan to have your breakfast to get few extra selection of food served on a buffet setting.
Shisha and cocktails are also served at the Hajar Terrace Bar. There are great deals for all. If you get a cocktail, aperitifs, wine by the glass or beers at the lounge, you will enjoy another one with Al Maha’s compliments. Afternoon tea is also available from 3 PM until 5/6 PM at 160 AED (~42$US). Get 10% off as a SPG Member and 25% as an Emirates EK Platinum Member.
For romantics, you can organize Dune dining, an experience of fine dining under the Arabian sky with a clear view to the stars. They will arrange flame torches, Persian carpets and great food & drinks for an experience to remember. Maybe a proposal set up idea as well?
Facilities at Al Maha
Gym, pool and Spa is available as expected. To end the day, we had to use the spa facilities from the hydrotherapy bath, to the sauna and steam room. There is a cold plunge pool, jacuzzi and, of course, the great large swimming pool. We made sure to come 1 hour prior our treatment at the Timeless Spa to enjoy the facilities to the max!
We went for wellbeing treatments which are all tied up with different Neom Body products. They are intensive Skin Treatment Candles which repairs and protect dry, tired and stressed skin in need of extra nourishment. We chose the “Sleep” treatment, a 60 minutes experience for 482 AED (~130$US). The all was completed by a relaxation moment at the lounge facing the desert with dates and tea.
Activities at Al Maha
The property has a lot of activities for couples and also families. There are several evening activities that you can partake in. We made sure to experience the camel riding with sundowners. So we hopped on our camel who we gave the name Jessy and headed off into the dunes. We got to the back dunes in time to have a glass of champagne as the sun set back over the resort. We also had a huge drone fail as Mitch tried to land his drone while riding his camel. Usually we are quite good catching to drone for landing, but in movement, it is sure a huge challenge! We really recommend you to not do that as camels can actually fear the sound of the drone.
The next morning we got up at sunrise for the four wheel morning experience. Our driver got us out in the dunes quickly and she absolutely flew around. We told her we loved going hard on the dunes so she stepped it up a notch. Of course if you are not as bold as us on this, they can always tone it down a little. We went out to the tallest dunes around and soaked in the view of the sun coming up.
If you like these two activities, you might want to have a full view at all their other activities:
- Falconry — Falconry dates back to the 13th Century BC and is very popular in the Arabian region. You will witness a demonstration of the traditional Arabic art of falconry during this activity. (Duration: +/- 1 hour)
- Nature walk — Book a free guided walk where your guide will interpret the amazing diversity of life in the desert. You can bring your binoculars provided in the suites. (Duration: +/- 1 hour)
- Ghaf tree walk — The guides will bring you to a ten minute drive into the conservation area to a grove of Ghaf trees for a walk around whislt learning about those trees. (Duration: +/- 1 hour)
- Horse riding — This activity is unfortunately only recommended to experienced riders (maximum weight limit is 85kg). Al Maha has a selection of Arab and Thoroughbred Endurance Race horses. This is another chance to see the dunes on the back of a horse! (Duration: +/- 1 hour)
- Desert drive — You should totally enjoy this adrenaline rush and experience the dunes this way! They are not the highest in the UAE, but they will be a fun experience. (Duration: +- 1.5 hour)
- Wild life drive — This is a great way to chase the Arabian Oryx and other indigenous fauna and flora. You will be guided by an experienced field guide who will explain all that for you in an air-conditioned 4×4. (Duration: +/- 1 hour)
- Camel trek — Jump on the camel for a 25 minute camel journey from the resort into the dunes, to watch the sunset and toast it with a drink! The camel safaris are in the evening where you will stop for sundown drinks in the dunes before heading back to the resort. No experience is required which is great. (Duration: +- 1.5 hour)
- Sundowners — If you don’t feel like a camel ride, you will jump in the 4×4 for a short trip into the dunes to join the others for sundowners!
- Archery — If you feel like testing your aim, book a session for archery. You will be taught how to do it properly and have many gos at it until you hit the target to perfection! (Duration: +/- 1 hour)
Rooms at Al Maha
We stayed in the Bedouin suite which has its own private infinity pool over looking the dunes. The room has an influence of bedouin style with everything designed to keep the cool in. The walls facing out are all made of glass so you can enjoy the view of the rolling dunes and wildlife that streaks across the plains. Getting a room here is not in the cheap bracket, but in saying that 2500 AED (~680$US) is a bargain for the luxury and serenity you are in for.
We also had a little tour around the property and got to spend some time lounging at the royal bedouin suite. This is where the Sheikh of Dubai used to come and stay with his family to get back to those desert feels. Talk about luxury, it has 6 beds, its own kitchen and a huge infinity pool.
Check out some of the best prices you can get on Booking and Agoda.
Sustainability at Al Maha
Al Maha is an cco luxury resort, which means it prides itself on sustainability practices and securing the environment. It is located on the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, they control human impact in the area to protect the flora and fauna in the ecosystem. They have a full team of researchers who monitors the Conservation Reserve daily to improve the area for everyone. They also offer 2 charging stations for electric cars right at the front of the reception, rewarding drivers with “healthy” cars, hence you can drive up to there 100% if you have an electric car!
When to go
High season in Dubai is from November to April as the temperature is simply enjoyable with beautiful clear skies. May to September can be uncomfortably hot, but you can benefit of better rates and, of course, if you can tolerate that heat and humidity, that wallet of yours will thank you to save hundreds of dollars! In saying that, Marriott international’s loyalty program members booking at Al Maha until September 30, 2018 can get a 30% discount across suite stay, dining and the Timeless Spa. Non-members get 20% discount and are encouraged to join the loyalty program to get more exclusive benefits and get the initial discount for members!
Our experience at Al Maha
With a 24 hour concierge service and all the staff knowing your name and taste, we really felt like we were in a second home in the desert. Make sure to share your preferences at your arrival if you want to expect the service to be personalized. Being surrounding by all the wildlife as you walk around the property is a special feeling and you have that feeling like you are blended in the nature. Not many times will you be able to stay in a conservation area unless you travel all the way to Africa. As much is Al Maha is very luxurious, it doesn’t have that feel at all as most of the decor is kept original and low key so guests can feel the history behind it. A perfect Dubai escape from hustle and bustle, but also an experience to do for anyone visiting the region. We suggest you to spend a minimum of 2 nights to be able to enjoy your stay perfectly.
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