If you’re flying Emirates to Europe stop for a couple of days at one of these three amazing locations. They are all within two hours of Dubai – The Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa is in Dubai and Zighy Bay Six Senses Resort and The Chedi Hotel are in Oman.
I’ve stayed at all three and have had a different, but divine experience at each and would go back in a heart beat. They might not be your cheapest experiences but they are unique and I promise you’ll have no regrets.
Al Maha – (65 Km from Dubai -1 hour drive)
The Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa is in Dubai’s Desert Conservation Reserve, United Arab Emirates First National Park.
Imposing Jurassic Park like gates mark the entry point to the reserve where the desert and dune landscape literally takes your breath away. The resort, located on the reserve is a private, romantic, luxury sanctuary with 42 individual tented villas.
They are beautifully appointed with their own pool which overlooks the desert. The reserve is a protected haven for many species of Arabian mammals and birds and is heavily supported by the resort. They have contributed to the large-scale rehabilitation programme including the propagation of over 6,000 indigenous trees, shrubs and grasses and the re-introduction of free-roaming herds of the endangered oryx and other desert wildlife.
The National Park is also sponsored by Emirates Airline and is managed by a dedicated team of Conservation Officers on behalf of the Government of Dubai.
Food at Al Maha is exceptional with culinary flavours sensitively combined from the east and west. There are a variety of eating locations and my favourite was at Al Diwaan, alfresco style dining on the veranda, overlooking the reserve. You can also dine in the dunes under the Arabian sky on Persian carpets.
The resort also offers a number of activities included in the package. The choice was easy for us and not long after we arrived we were on a camels back meandering in the desert watching the sun go down behind the golden dunes. Like everything at Al Maha it is done with style and as the colours changed on the serene landscape I had a glass of champagne in hand.
Up early the next morning we saw a falcon display, from the seven falcons at Al Maha.
All the Al Maha falcons are kept ‘wild’ and it is only through the careful balance of a food-based relationship with their carer the birds choose to fly at all. They can fly off at any time (and sometimes do) and remain successful hunters for the rest of their lives.
After a delicious breakfast we headed out to the dunes (all couples have their own SUV). The steepness of the vast terrain kept me on the edge of my seat but what an experience.
The rates for two nights is about NZD3800 (includes full board and activities).
Zighy Bay Six Senses Resort ( 185 km from Dubai – 2 hour drive)
The Six Senses Zighy Bay Resort is in Oman located on the tip of the northern Musandam Peninsula. It is geographically separated from the rest of the country by the United Arab Emirates hence its close proximity to Dubai.
Enormous barren mountains, inhabited only by goats create a cove for the resort. Arriving by car we zig zagged to the top of the mountain and as we tipped over the summit we could see the magnificent view of the bay below. It is so high you can hang glide down to the resort but with a fear of heights and highly developed sense of self-preservation, I declined even though I would have been greeted with a glass of champagne!
The indigenous village-style accommodation, with infinity pool, blends in beautifully with the environment and is made from date tree fongs and local stone, very much in keeping with the Six Sense philosophy of conservation and preservation and -SLOW LIFE.
No details are overlooked in their endless endeavours to encourage holistic wellness. With a pillow menu of 14 to choose from, the resort philosophy is all about bringing peace and harmony.
The Arabic savoury unleavened bread for breakfast was so different from anything I’ve had before. Cooked over a hot round dome and spread with soft cheeses and accompanied with humus, salsa, beans, humus and tabouli salad was a sensational start to the day.
Six dining locations, ensures a different vista accompanies every meal. “Sense on the Edge”, the fine dinning restaurant, is high up the access road hanging off the rock looking out to sea. Lit with candles and lanterns it is a very romantic setting to enjoy the Arabic degustation meal.
Like many luxury retreats we can do as much or as little as we like from mountain biking, a four- wheel drive into the Dubai desert and diving into an extensive range of spa treatments.
We mostly chose to do very little and savour the moment in the privacy of our villa, (when we were not eating). With sand between our toes, the sound of the ocean wooing us into unconsciousness – I can promise you’ll arrive in Europe in better shape.
The room rate for two nights at Zighy Bay is about NZD2,500.
The Chedi – Muscat, Oman ( 1hour flight from Dubai)
Muscat, the capital of Oman is only an hour’s flight from Dubai.
The hotel is contemporary with a modern, Arabic influence and is right on the Gulf of Oman. It’s one of the most visually beautiful hotels I’ve stayed at and with many water features giving it a strong Zen ambiance.
The food was fab especially this seafood restaurant looking out to sea. But just remember, it’s a Muslim country and there are restrictions on alcoholic beverages. They are sold for two hours over lunchtime and are available again after 6pm. Like many other thirsty hotel guests we got wise and pre-ordered our aperitif to beat the rush and to ensure a drink was in-hand at six sharp!
The Chedi Hotel is a great base to explore Muscat or go further afield and see the rest of the country.
Some photographic highlights………from our 10 day tour with the delightful Masoud, our driver and guide.We loved everything about the country but to get the real oil on politics, Sultan of Oman, his successor, life, religion, marriage, polygamy and everything in between you need a guide. After several days with Masoud the boundary were broken and it was great to be able to ask the difficult questions and get honest answers.
The room rate for two nights at The Chedi is about NZD1,200.