I love warm and sunny weather and the calm of the desert. Ever since discovering the awesome Al Maha Resort in Dubai some years ago, I always wanted to go back recharging between sand dunes, Oryx and ghaf trees. That’s why I got excited when I learned about the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi desert resort which re-opened last year after a major refurbishment. It did not take long for A & me to spend some nights under the stars of the desert in Ras Al Khaima…
We arrived very early in the morning after meeting at Dubai airport and taking the Emirates chauffeur driver to the resort which is only located a quick 45 minutes drive from DXB. Luckily, our room was ready upon arrival. We got upgraded to an Al Sahari tented villa which is Ritz Carlton’s highest category, featuring unobstructed views of the desert and a remote location inside the resort. An electric buggy was taking us to the room which was set-up already to allow us to sleep a bit after a long flight – what a thoughtful move.
Bedouin styled luxury villas
The large desert resort offers four types of rooms, with the Al Khaima and Al Sahari tented villas in their highest categories. They only differentiate by their location inside the resort, comparing desert views and remoteness of location. The villas are fully equipped suites with breathtaking size and all coming with a (large) private pool. The right wing of the villa is a spacious bed- and living room with a comfy king-size bed, large living room featuring sofas, a massive TV, chairs and a working desk area complete with a fully stocked bar. The left wing hosts the largest bathroom and wardrobe that I’ve ever seen. Double sinks, a spacious rain shower, free standing tub and oversized closet – all like in a dream of 1001 nights. This wing alone easily is the size of my whole first flat back when living in Berlin. The whole villa consists of floor to ceiling windows, making everything bright and airy while allowing incredible views of the surrounding desert. The walk through is not complete without mentioning the massive wooden outside deck and pool area with a daybed, sunloungers, a dinner table and the large, temperature controlled infinity pool facing the desert. I enjoyed the bedouin style of the villa that combined classic arabian elements with incredible luxury.
Roaming inside the resort can be done with the complimentary bikes parked in front of the villa door or by calling buggy service which might make sense depending on how far away from the main building your room is located. We usually stayed at the villa but went to the main building for our full board meals or a sunset drink. As it was autumn, the temperatures were accommodating enough for us to walk but I assume it’s getting hot in the summer. The main building features most of the hotel’s facilities such as Kaheela, the main restaurant, the Moorish restaurant and the Moon Bar. The lobby (lounge) and the Spa are also situated here. The amazing Farmhouse restaurant is located in an own building by the water hole. The kids club and activity center are located a bit further away, as is the main pool area which was closed during our visit but that has just recently re-opened and is also open to day-guests looking to escape the hustle of the city.
To absolutely make sure you don’t get bored relaxing, the Ritz Carlton offers you plenty of desert-themed activities from Falconry over nature walks to dune bashing that you can choose from. I usually don’t enjoy Falconry shows but the one at the Al Wadi Desert resort was really good. I learned so much about the different kind of birds and about nature life in the UAE desert that I honestly recommend you to visit the acitivity while at the resort. On top of the acitivities at the resort you could take a complimentary shuttle to the Ritz Carlton Al Hamra beach resort should you wish to spend a day by the sea, which we didn’t do.
The only thing that was sort of a letdown during our stay at the resort was the Spa. I wanted to enquire about the treatments but the lady at the welcome desk couldn’t care less and the only treatment broschure I could find was in Arabian. Later I read some news that it’s going to re-open with a completely new concept which might be promising. I will keep that on my list to give it another try should we come back to the resort.
Desert dining options of your dreams
Staying in the middle of the desert cuts you off from external dining options but the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi falls nowhere short when it comes to quality supplies. We had a full board package and were for instance enjoying the fabulous buffet breakfast at Kaheela every morning. As we are in the UAE an incredible spread of warm and cold dishes from all nations is offered with indoor and outdoor seating. Fresh bread and pastries, excellent warm dishes, fresh eggs and juices, salads & granola – it’s hard to spot something that’s missing. Most of all, the staff was super attentive and caring which made us feel welcomed from the moment we stepped inside. The same holds true for the lunch buffet where we opted for a light Mezze most of the time but also had a delicious pasta made-to-order for us which was yummy.
Dinner reservations can be placed at all food outlets and we chose the Moroccan themed Moorish and the incredible Farmhouse for our two nights at Al Wadi. Prior to dinner, we went for sunset drinks at the Moon Bar, located at the rooftop of Moorish. I highly suggest you head there for an aperitif during sunset as you enjoy incredible views over the desert and indulge in the cozy atmosphere sipping a quality drink under the stars.
The Farmhouse restaurant (which is also open to outside guests) simply is my favourite food spot in the resort. It has an amazing design and brings you fine farm-to-table dishes in the middle of the desert. The illuminated outside seating is magical and the attentive hosts will make your evening special from starter to desert. End your evening with a drink at its own bar completed with a fire pit, gazing at the stars while occasionally a gazelle passes by. If you want to surprise your loved one they will also set up a private table near the towers and create a special dining atmosphere.
Passport & Palmtree conclusion
I felt very fortunate to be staying at the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi desert resort and loved every second of our stay. While the RC brand did not always live up to the expectations for me before, the Al Wadi is something unique and special and offers an amazing and secluded desert experience. Apart from the stunning hardware, the team makes all the difference. Inevitably I was comparing the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi with the Al Maha Desert Resort in Dubai occasionally. The comparison does not work: Al Maha has more of an intimate luxurious atmosphere for couples with only 42 rooms and highest-end service while Al Wadi is more of a resort in the proper sense with more food and activity choices and catering to both. couples and families. Still it is so huge that you hardly meet other guests other than in the restaurants. We stayed for 2 nights but I would recommend 3 nights minimum to make most of your stay as there is so much to explore and discover!