Staycation Spotlight: Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa
The allure of the desert, a sense of tranquillity and a touch of luxury make a trip to Bab Al Shams Desert Resort one to add to your staycation bucket list.

Situated 45 minutes drive from Dubai International Airport and close to Al Quadra Lakes lies a spectacular desert paradise. Nestled between mighty sand dunes where wild Oryx roam free, discover Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa. 

The five-star property opened its doors in 2004 and has since captured the hearts of both residents and international travellers in search of desert adventure and Arabic hospitality. Pulling up at the fortress-like facade with its large double doors, we know we are in for a treat. Tradition blends with comfort at this retreat, and we find it hard not to be enamoured as we step into an oasis of calm. In a year where travel has been near impossible, Bab Al Shams with its rustic charm and natural landscapes provides some much-needed respite from the city and the feeling of journeying back in time.

Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa is one of a handful of desert properties that have sprung up in the last two decades and capitalises on its unique location deep in the desert sands. The interiors are modelled on a traditional fort and are replete with Bedouin knick-knacks such as carved wooden chests and complexly woven carpets that line the narrow corridors of the labyrinthine hotel. Only a quaint gift shop on the ground floor breaks the illusion, but is a handy place for picking up postcards and fridge magnets, should you wish.

WHERE TRADITION MEETS COMFORT:

The resort comprises of 43 Superior Rooms, 62 Deluxe Rooms and 10 Suites, catering to a variety of guest requirements, but all feel intimate and cosy. Accommodation is situated on either the ground floor or first level, which is accessed via stone spiral staircases complete with hanging Arabic lanterns. The charms of Bab Al Shams are inescapable. 

Our pleasantly decorated Superior Room offers a private terrace with majlis style seating overlooking a grove of palm trees. Clocking in at 37 SQM the room provides a confluence of tradition and comfort, where trinkets such as heavy wooden chests fill alcoves in the walls and camel saddle bags bring pops of colour to the otherwise neutral walls. Curved windows provide glimpses of the desert sands between swaying palm fronds, and the large king bed comes adorned with a One Thousand and One Nights style canopy. 

Modern comforts such as a flat-screen television, minibar and coffee machine are all present and correct. Subtly hidden within an ornately carved wooden dresser so as not to detract from the ambience of the room. 

The spacious bathroom impresses with its glittering brass fixtures and a deep, circular tub that is overly luxurious.

LUXURIOUS LEISURE:

You may not have visited Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa before, but we’re sure you’ve seen their impressive swimming pool on your Instagram feed. A selection of temperature-controlled bodies of water is offered for guests to luxuriate. Infinity-style in design, it’s difficult to decipher where the water ends, and the desert begins. There’s a smaller shallow pool bursting with water jets that is ideal for younger visitors. In contrast to the multi-tiered main pool with its cascading waterfalls, jacuzzi jets and tumbling torrents and makes for a central oasis flanked by verdant lawns and towering palm trees. The infinity style body of water offers striking views of the sand, especially at sunset when you can watch the resident camels wandering the dunes as the sun slopes below the horizon.

For a slightly faster pace, the on-site gym can help you to achieve your fitness goals with its small selection of free-weights and cardiovascular equipment. Why remain cooped up inside though, when the desert awaits? The resort offers a plethora of activities within its expansive grounds, including desert tennis, archery, falconry, nature walks, fat-bike riding, horse riding and desert drives – some of which incur additional costs. For younger visitors, the Aladdin’sAladdin’s Kids Club, provides children with the opportunity to explore, play and build under adult supervision.

The on-site Satori Spa is the place to be for proper relaxation, and is small and charming, provides guests with bespoke therapies within private treatment rooms at the edge of the desert. Utilising the natural environment to heighten the sensory experience, Satori Spa offers a range of signature treatments from massages to facials, along with a sauna, yoga areas and even massage tents. 

DESERT DINING:

Bab Al Shams’ remote locations leave guests with little choice but to dine on-site, but with seven restaurants available, there are plenty of options to choose from. Whether you select to dine on Italian pizza and pasta at La Dune, light bites at the Pool Bar, or indulge on sundowners at rooftop destination Al Saray Lounge, each of the restaurants boasts exemplary service and attention to detail, thus ensuring the dining experience is memorable.

Once the sun sets the resort takes on an entirely different ambience, embracing its natural location where the night sky is filled with seemingly endless constellations. We spent an enjoyable evening at Masala, embarking on a culinary journey through the North of India while dining al fresco. Masala’s outdoor courtyard with its illuminated palm trees and gurgling water features makes for a pleasant spot, and one we would specifically drive out of the city for. With the colder climate finally setting in, we relish in the rare opportunity to dine under the night sky. 

The menu features traditional Indian tandoor, curries and stands out for its abundance of vegetarian options and quirky presentation. The popular street food Masala Chat ka Thela is presented on a miniature cart, complete with spinning wheels, while the rich and robust gravy of the Murgh Tikka Makhani is not to be missed, and don’t get us started on the delightful Naan Bread. For an authentic culinary journey, we’d suggest the Tasting Menu, offering eight courses, plus sides for a very reasonable AED 195 per person.

Al Forsan, with its expansive grassed lawn, is the resorts all-day-dining restaurant, surrounded by small dunes. Open for breakfast, lunch or dinner; the extensive buffet offers something for everyone. Expect Arabic delights, Asian favourites, international dishes and a range of live stations (don’t miss the Nutella crepes at breakfast). Bespoke experiences such as the Instagram-worthy floating breakfast can also be arranged in an elevated private plunge pool, where your croissants, eggs, yoghurt and fruits will be floated to you on a buoyant tray while you relax in the water. Talk about a memorable start to the day!

A MEMORABLE ESCAPE:

Bab Al Shams, with its maze-like shady passageways, roaming camels, shadowy courtyards and trickling falaj system, offers a private oasis that feels far-removed from Dubai. The resort achieves an admirable feat in blending tradition and modernity to beautiful effect, and despite being an exceptionally busy staycation choice, the thoughtful design of the property creates a sense of privacy amidst an otherwise busy resort. 

The multi-tiered pool looking out over the desert and an abundance of outdoor activities are the reason to visit, but the welcoming and friendly team are the ones who will forge those lasting memories. 

Surrounded by the natural desert and an abundance of wildlife, Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa offers an escape from the city, in a fortress that brings to life your desert dreams.

GO: Visit babalshams.com for more information or call (0)4 809 6167 for reservations and more information.