The beauty of the United Arab Emirates’ natural landscapes hits home when you venture outside city limits to sleep among golden dunes, under thousands of stars, in the deserts. Of course, this is a country with an unabashed love of luxury — so in Dubai and its neighboring emirates, you can sleep like royalty, even in the sand.
At these lavish UAE desert resorts, find yourself with Arabian oryx and gazelles for company, and partake in Bedouin traditions that make you feel right at home among dunes and oases.
You’ll discover Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort in one of the most striking terrains in the world: the desert known as Rub’ al Khali, or the Empty Quarter, parts of which also fall in Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It’s a 90-minute drive from the city of Abu Dhabi into what is the world’s largest sand desert in the world — an area with a history that spans thousands of years and is still home to Bedouin tribes.
Built to resemble a small fortress city, the resort’s architecture blends into the landscape. The rooms and suites wear a distinct Arabian aesthetic with patterned carpets, ornate arches and dark wood furniture. The 52 villas come with private pools — perfect for soaking in after a day of adventures in the desert. Other than dining at four restaurants, you can also enjoy a desert barbecue, take a class to learn how to cook local dishes or savor a Bedouin feast under a starry night sky.
The resort’s sunrise and sunset camel treks are a great way to experience the tranquility of the desert, while those looking for a bit more action can go fat biking on dunes.
Though it’s just a 45-minute drive from Dubai, Al Maha in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve feels like a world away, swapping views of skyscraper-studded skylines for those of date palms and rippled dunes where Arabian oryx roam. The resort’s 42 tented suites, while equipped with modern comforts, are decorated with antique timber furniture, traditional carpets and artifacts that nod to the heritage of the region. The best part? Each suite comes with a private, temperature-controlled pool overlooking the desert.
While there’s a restaurant and terrace bar, the resort offers one-of-a-kind dining experiences such as a floating breakfast in your pool or a romantic dinner set on a Persian carpet among the dunes, complete with flame torches and lanterns. You can also go on nature walks to spot wildlife, dune drives, camel treks and horse rides in the desert.
Located in Ras Al Khaimah, an emirate known for its outdoor and nature experiences, The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert offers world-class luxury in Al Wadi Nature Reserve, a protected nature reserve that spans 1,235 acres. The villas, complete with the requisite perks, such as coffee makers and complimentary Wi-Fi, are designed with Bedouin influences. Elegant lattice woodwork, neutral colors, tented roofs, mud-brick walls and traditional light fixtures make them warm, inviting spaces. Bathrooms come with large free-standing soaking tubs. Private pools and large terraces look out over the reserve, where you’re likely to spot an Arabian oryx or two, and provide plenty of opportunities to relax.
Six restaurants allow for diverse dining experiences, from a farmhouse-inspired eatery with a whiskey lounge, to a rooftop bar for shisha and sundowners to alfresco poolside dining and a swim-up bar. Plus, you can take the complimentary shuttle to visit nearby sister property The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach for more dining options.
While there are plenty of activities to keep you busy — such as horseriding lessons, desert yoga, nature walks and wildlife feeding — make time to visit the spa. Other than an extensive menu of treatments and massages, the Rainforest Experience, a 60-minute journey through 16 hydrothermal therapies, is sure to leave you feeling as good as new.
At Al Wathba Desert Resort & Spa, in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, you sleep in spacious rooms and suites that combine modern amenities with Arabesque design touches and afford vistas over orange-red dunes interspersed with shrubs as far as the eyes can see. If you’d rather enjoy those views with a cocktail in hand, there’s a swim-up bar in the infinity pool.
Along with three Arabic dining spots, there’s an Italian restaurant where you can nosh on flavorful pasta in a garden surrounded by Arabian horses.
Those looking to unwind will be spoiled for choice at Saray Spa, which maintains a range of face and body treatments and massages, in addition to saunas, steam rooms, plunge pools, salt rooms, snow caves and a traditional Turkish hammam.
Tucked away among desert dunes in the culture-rich emirate of Sharjah, Mysk Al Badayer Retreat combines contemporary rooms and tented villas inspired by caravansaries (rustic lodgings found in the desert, once used by traveling caravans in the region). The spacious tented villas come with private pools and terraces overlooking the desert.
The resort’s outdoor pool is just the spot to experience the desert while keeping cool in the water. But if it gets too warm for your liking, escape from the sun in the indoor pool. If you’re visiting with a significant other, the resort can arrange a private romantic dinner atop a desert watchtower. After dark, watch movies under the stars, gather around a bonfire or go on a stargazing tour.