Check In: Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa
Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa is designed to make you feel like you’re entering a traditional Arabic house, with a homey and friendly vibe, feeling more like the Middle East than a lot of Dubai! The resort was built in 2005 to house Olympic horse racers competing at the nearby Dubai International Endurance City and you’ll notice the equestrian touches all around the hotel, from the girths and saddles decorating the bar to the riding boot lamps in the traditional-style rooms.
Popular with expat couples, local families and the odd Royal, this isn’t a celeb-spotting resort but there’s loads to do, like gorging on tasty Arabic cuisine! Just make sure to check the weather before you go, as staying in the middle of the desert during a sandstorm can get crazy. Here’s our insider’s guide…
The Spa: Satori Spa
The intimate spa offers a variety of signature Satori massages, facials and body treatments, plus alternative therapies including reflexology and ear candling.
The most popular treatments are the Balinese massage and Rose Bliss body treatment, which combines exfoliation with a relaxing massage to leave your skin feeling soft and your body cleansed and rejuvenated – we tried it and trust us, it’s worth every single dirham!
The hotel has a huge 1,400sq ft pool area with two infinity pools (one handily has a bar in it!) plus a kids pool. All have dramatic views over the desert and are temprature-controlled so you can take a dip any time. Non-hotel guests are welcome for Dhs350 to Dhs500.
The Restaurants: Al Hadheerah, Masala, Al Forsan, Le Dune Pizzeria
One thing this hotel does very well is food and a highlight was dinner at Al Hadeerah Desert Restaurant. Modelled after desert safari tourist camps, this luxe version boasts live cooking stations, lively entertainment and a buggy ride to get you there!
The house specialities are lamb – the best we’ve tasted in a long time – cooked underground for nine hours, and Arabic grill and seafood where you select your own fish. Entertainment includes a live band, tanoura and belly dancers (be warned, you will be made to join in!), and a show using camels, horses and goats to tell the history of the UAE. Interestingly, the camp also has a small museum about Dubai’s history, which is one of the only two museums on the topic in the UAE, the other being by Dubai Creek.
For great Indian food, head to Masala. We recommend trying the tasting menu – for Dhs250 you can sample a huge number of delicious dishes. In the evenings there’s live music from sitar and tabla players – they take requests!
Breakfast and brunch are served at Al Forsan, an international restaurant specialising in Lebanese dishes. There is also a traditional Italian pizzeria, Le Dune Pizzeria, if desert dining doesn’t take your fancy.
The Bars: Ya Hala Lobby Lounge, Pool Bar, Al Sarab Rooftop Lounge And Al Shurouq Rooftop Terrace
The focus at this hotel isn’t on drinking but there are two chill out rooftop terraces serving drinks and snacks, with amazing views over the desert. The popular lobby lounge serves teas and coffees and in good weather there’s a pool bar you can swim up to.
The first thing you notice when walking into a room is the decor, which is traditional Arabic from the cushions to the furniture. The second thing that catches your eye is a table laden with a feast of welcome nibbles, including a huge chest filled with fresh fruit, and bowls of nuts, dried fruits, Arabic sweets and chocolates.
Each room has its own terrace or balcony, an alcove filled with cushions and a huge bathtub (cue bubble bath!). In the bathroom you’ll find a stash of Meydan products, including shower gel and bath salts hidden underneath Arabic ceramic domes. A few candles complete the romantic vibe!
We recommend staying here for a weekend away with your partner or booking out a bigger suite for a short family vacay.
Dhs1,500 for a superior room, Dhs1,650 for a deluxe room, Dhs2,250 for a junior suite, including breakfast, subject to a 10 per cent service charge.
Signature spa treatment
Rose Bliss – a 90-minute body treatment starting with full body exfoliation using finely ground olive pits, a steam room session and a traditional Balinese massage with naturally blended oils, Dhs575.
Family Fun Brunch
Dhs250 including soft drinks, Dhs395 with vino, Dhs125 for kids, free for children under four; 12.30pm to 4pm every Friday, Al Forsan restaurant.
Al Hadeerah Dinner Package
Dhs495 on Fridays, Dhs425 Saturday to Thursday, 50 per cent off for children aged five to 12; 7pm to 11pm, Al Hadeerah Desert Restaurant.
Weekdays, Dhs350, weekends Dhs500 (both include lunch).
Priced per hour for adults: horse riding, Dhs300; camel riding, Dhs350; archery, Dhs100; Land Rover desert safari; Dhs500, lawn game activities (boules, table tennis, mini golf, croquet, volleyball), Dhs50; yoga, Dhs95.