Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa
Old-school desert luxury just 45 minutes from Dubai
Why we like it:• This is a spectacular desert oasis that makes you feel a million miles from anywhere
• Its pool facilities are a design marvel
• The views, whether from the ground-level infinity pool or the rooftop terrace, are genuinely stunning
Location: Just the drive to Bab Al Shams gets you in the mood for its mystical delights. On our journey there from the centre of Dubai the road (Al Qudra) got increasingly – and reassuringly dramatically – covered by great gusts of sand over the tarmac, sweeping in from the wide desert expanses on either side. Had we missed the turning, we wondered (sometimes in a more accusatory tone than others). Where on Earth were we? And then, there it was. This hotel is billed as an oasis, and it doesn’t disappoint. The entrance is so discreet we felt like we’d unearthed a genuine hidden treasure. Which, it turns out, was entirely appropriate.
Character: A low-rise, Arabian-style fort set in that desert oasis – its translation being 'gateway to the sun' – Bab Al Shams is all shaded courtyards, shadowy corridors and outdoor fire pits. A smart, sharp design showcase, its modern amenities are hidden deep within its sandstone walls. It may sound like a lazy cliché and, well, it probably is, but the bottom line? On arriving we felt like Indiana Jones checking in at the end of a particularly arduous adventure.
Service: Consistently, service is right out of the top drawer. We got a warm welcome, which was made lovelier when lollies emerged to keep the kids quiet. Throughout our stay staff were friendly, patient and flexible – a far cry from the computer-says-no crowd who populate many hotels in the city. A quick phone call to reception and five minutes later our two adjoining rooms (we were a party of two adults and three children) had been re-ordered into a ramshackle luxury single space, with beds moved around so that the younger ones didn’t feel so isolated in the dark and dingy (in a great way) second room next door.
Rooms: As for those rooms, the hotel has 113. Highlights include the traditional décor that continues the historical aesthetic of the outside – the TVs, for instance, are hidden inside wooden wardrobes and deep red drapes abound. The result is seriously romantic. Even when three additional kids’ beds have been dragged into it. The antithesis of modern hotel living, the rooms here are genuine oases within the oasis. Be warned: all this deliberate darkness makes getting up in the morning deliciously difficult. Plus points, too, for the lovely sunken showers and high-end toiletries to pamper yourself with.
Restaurants & bars: There are eight to choose from, covering traditional Arabic, Indian, Italian and International cuisines, and a wide range of experiences and prices. The swim-up pool bar offers genuinely stunning, panoramic desert views, as does the Al Sarab Rooftop Lounge, which on our stay swiftly became a go-to spot for some pre-dinner drinks thanks to its relaxed vibe and the seemingly endless view. There is also a very strong Indian restaurant (Masala), an accessible family pizza place (Le Dune Pizzeria) and a casual International offering (Al Forsan). The daddy, though, is the fine-dining Arabian delight that is Al Hadheerah that boasts food cooked on live cooking stations, wood-fired ovens and spit roasts, while a live band, a Tanoura dancer, a falconry show and – at weekends – a firework display provide high-end entertainment.
Facilities: The Satori spa sent us to sleep – in a very good way indeed. It is a health club that features two couples’ treatment rooms, two individual treatment rooms, yoga areas, a sauna and a fragranced steam room. Our massage was considerably more relaxing than rigorous (at our request) and prompted the kind of sleep that had not been had in eight years – or three children, depending on your measure of time. The swimming pools, meanwhile, are an impressive piece of design, a maze of separate swimming areas that include an infinity pool, a more intimate and adult space and a central pool where water cascades down a square, overhead framework in the middle.
Activities: The hotel offers a desert safari, horse riding, archery, lawn games, falconry and a great kids' club. But for us, the highlights were a fun and not too taxing camel ride into the desert and an impromptu game of super-sized chess. This Harry Potter-esque set-up sits apart from the kids' area (which in itself is decent), by the lower pool edge, and is a monumentally addictive time-waster to accompany a few post-swim sundowners.
GET A DISCOUNT WITH HOTEL TONIGHT
Value: 150 AED
Min Spend: 400 AED
Redemption period: 14.12.2015 - 21.12.2015
Booking/Checkin period: 06.12.2015 - 23.03.2016
Markets: all markets Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa
Karin van Niekerk Feb 18, 2012 04:54 am
We were there on Valentine's day, best service ever, food was amazing, hostess Sunal was the best, and the best waiter is Subaja, know the value of treating clients the best way ever. Thank you for a lovely night.... We will definatly be back..Thanks guys for wonderful valentines day
D Sep 23, 2009 10:28 am
Superb experience. Best time to go in winters
Tinkiroo Sep 22, 2009 11:30 am
An escape from the city. Good for new comers to Dubai who are looking forward to having the Arabian experience. Love it love it love it. (except that you haven't even settled down and their customer service is alreasy trying to get feedback from you through the phone, but you can always politely ask them to go away) :)
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Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa
Ya Hala-Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa
Al Shurouq Lounge
Al Sarab Rooftop Lounge
Le Dune Pizzeria