Photo courtesy of Bab al Shams Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai
Bab al Shams Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai
Built in the style of a desert fortress near an endurance horseracing center 45 minutes from the city of Dubai, the family-friendly Bab al Shams Desert Resort & Spa wraps around an oasis and looks out over gently rolling sand dunes that guests explore by 4x4, horse, camel, and mountain bike. Rooms with private balconies or garden patios cluster in double-story buildings that surround courtyards, shaded corridors, and infinity pools. Stone bathtubs, wood furniture, chests, kelims, colorful textiles, and a reproduction spice souk create a Disney-meets–Bedouin lifestyle setting. For peace and quiet, stay during the week, since the main restaurant fills on weekends with locals and bus tours.
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The desert location is suited for an anti-urban escape rather than a base for exploring the city of Dubai. The nearest non-resort entertainments are thoroughbred horse and camel racing tracks. The resort has horses for all abilities, but experienced riders can rent purebred Arabian horses at the neighboring endurance stable and race track.
Need to Know
Rooms: 117 rooms; from $163. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Eight restaurants and rooftop lounges variously serve Arabic, Indian, and international cuisine. The signature Al Hadheerah restaurant is an Arabic dining theme park, decorated like a spice souk with live performances by belly dancers, oud players, and camel and falcon handlers. Gym and spa details: Satori Spa has both indoor and outdoor treatment rooms, and offers the usual (e.g., hot stone massage) and the more esoteric (e.g., ear candling) therapies. In addition there’s a gym, plus infinity, leisure, and children’s pools with vigilant lifeguards; golf putting, croquet, and archery.
Who’s it for: Active families interested in desert sports are the resort’s core guests. (The Aladdin’s Kids Club caters to children ages 5–12.) Our favorite rooms: Request an unimpeded desert view. Families will cluster in the rooms closest to the kids’ pool. Local highlight: Time a visit to coincide with Dubai’s camel and horse racing seasons (generally November through March).