Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai

Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve - Dubai - Al Ain Rd - Dubai - United Arab Emirates

The most luxurious way to experience Dubai’s desert may smash an entire holiday budget, but a stay in the Bedouin-inspired tented suites at Al Maha might well be worth it. It’s one of the best places to see desert conservation in action: Al Maha is in the heart of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, home to the UAE’s largest free-roaming herd of Arabian oryx, a species brought back from extinction in the wild through rehabilitation initiatives. Guests should keep their eyes peeled for gazelles, too—300 Arabian and 100 sand gazelles inhabit the dunes, and the more inquisitive ones often come right up to the 42 tented accommodations. Water recycling, biodiesel, and solar panels all contribute to Al Maha’s efforts to tread lightly on the fragile desert ecosystem.

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Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa

An hour’s drive from the densely packed skyscrapers and shopping malls of Dubai, Al Maha, which opened in 1999 as the United Arab Emirates’ first luxury desert resort, lies within a 55,600-acre nature reserve. Al Maha operates on the African safari model, with early morning and sunset excursions by 4x4, camel, and horseback. Linked by paved pathways to the restaurant, spa, and lobby, the resort’s 42 tented suites are spaced far enough apart from one another to feel entirely private. Decks and plunge pools provide panoramic views of sand dunes and a water hole that lures some 400 Arabian oryx, an indigenous species brought back from near extinction following 19th and 20th-century overhunting.

Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa in Dubai

Just an hour (and a world) away from the skyscrapers of Dubai city is Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, located within a nature preserve founded to protect the Arabian oryx and its habitat. Today, the spear-horned antelope freely roam the resort’s red sands. Visitors stay in luxurious, Bedouin-inspired tent suites equipped with binoculars for animal sightings and easels for the artistically inclined. During the day, staffers encourage guests to try out a variety of ancient Arab pursuits, such as camel riding, archery, and falconry. At dusk, I retired to the terrace for cocktails as gazelles congregated around an illuminated watering hole in the distance. After the sun slipped behind the mountains, I sank into my own private pool under the desert sky’s stars.

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