When we think of the desert, deserted, or a deserter, we think of absence. A place that is without something. We know the desert to be somewhere with nothing…a barren place of sand and heat. From a distance, that assumption would be correct, but for those who know, the desert is a place of natural beauty and unexpected abundance.
The same is true for Al Maha, a place of natural beauty and unexpected abundance, in a 90 square mile reserve and National Park. It is a short drive from Dubai but you will instantly feel like you are worlds away in the secluded haven of desert tranquility.
We arrived just at sunset and are greeted with deep reds, oranges and golden toned light showering the desert sands. The name Al Maha is Arabic for Orynx, the desert antelope. In Arabia, they are mainly white and smaller than their counterparts found throughout Africa. They are found throughout the conserve and on the grounds of Al Maha. At night for safety reasons we are told to call for the convenient golf cart service but we found the full moon to be too romantic so we took the short walk holding hands and spending a few quiet moments. On our stroll, we pass by Oryx along the way and we respectfully keep our distance and are fine.
Al Maha is modeled after a Bedouin Camp and you'll find Arabic architecture, a collection of Arabic antiques, artwork, weaponry, and Bedouin handicrafts on the property. Al Maha is a perfectly complement to its desert surroundings. Each of 42 accommodations offers the ultimate in privacy. Once behind the doors of our suite, my companion and I felt that we were alone in the middle of a desert oasis. Each unit has a refreshing pool, in complete privacy, overlooking the savannah below. An antelope passes below as the warm winds quickly sooth away any stress that accompanied us on our travels.
The bedrooms are plush and spacious with beds that sinfully commit you to sleep one more hour. The bathrooms are well appointed with large bath and refreshing artesian showers.
Our dinner was a feast fit for a Sheik as we dined alfresco at their signature restaurant, Al Diwaan, under the full moon and stars overlooking the desert plain below. The international staff was very attentive and took us to our candlelit table. As there are only 42 accommodations at Al Maha, the dining space was not crowded. We overheard conversations from nearby tables in French, German, and English with Australian accents.
Al Maha is the perfect combination of accommodation, service, and experience. A real treat for us was that the room rate included two onsite activities per person. We chose two of the most popular, the Sunset Camel Trek, and the Falconry Display. Camel Trekking on the desert was an experience of a lifetime as our camels sauntered over the crest of the dune. We then enjoyed refreshments and then watched the sun create a symphony or colors as it sank into the horizon.
I’ve always loved birds of prey, they are majestic and marvels of nature. You will find falconers throughout Dubai from desert tours to the shopping mall. The falcon is one of the enduring symbols of the region. Of critical importance to the survival of nomadic Bedouin people, falconry remains an integral part of Emirati culture, dating back more than 2,000 years and recognized as the sport of nobility. Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa has around a dozen birds.
Our guide Sylvia, a transplant from a luxury desert conservatory and resort in South Africa, seems to know everything about these noble creatures. She tells us how the hawk circles high above its prey, mainly other birds, and then locks in on its prey. Next it does a death dive and rams the bird with its head and beak, knocking it out and rendering it defenseless. The Eagle she tells us, kills differently by using its powerful talons to break the spine of it’s pray. Watching the birds and learning about them was a very special experience at Al Maha.
At this point of my life, when I go on holiday, I want to go somewhere interesting where I can enjoy a special environment accompanied by exceptional amenities, meals, and service. I want to return from my vacation relaxed and personally enriched. The days of looking for a place in the middle of the night club and party scene are becoming less and less frequent. If you too are looking for relaxation and personal enrichment based on a place of surprisingly rich nature, then Al Maha is the resort for you.